Separated children must be reunited with a parent in Canada in 6 months or less

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Press release

21 April 2021

Separated children must be reunited with a parent in Canada in 6 months or less

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) called today on the federal government to establish a standard of 6 months to reunite separated children with a parent in Canada. Currently, many children wait years to be reunited with one or both parents in Canada, while the government processes the immigration application.

The long wait is particularly unacceptable for children who are separated from both parents. In some cases, both parents have been forced to flee as refugees, leaving their children temporarily with a grandparent, another family member or even a neighbour. In other cases, one parent has died or is otherwise not available to care for the child, and the parent in Canada struggles to look after their child at a distance.

“Every minute that a parent and child are separated is time that is lost forever – it is a suffering that harms the spirit, it is an impossible wound to heal,” said Dorota Blumczynska, CCR President. “We cannot allow our bureaucracy and long processing times to force children to wait indefinitely to be reunited with their loved ones.”

One mother, who has already been waiting almost two years for immigration processing in order to reunite with her children, says:

“I am frightened for my children, they are not safe, they cannot go to school, they are at risk of being kidnapped. They are constantly saying that they want to see me … it breaks my heart.”

Another mother says:

“Nowhere in the whole world should parents and children be separated for such a long time. The children I carried are not with me. What I feel inside me every day, the emotional pain, prevents me from being the person I can be. My children are at risk and I live in fear and desperation.”

Canada is legally obliged under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to deal with family reunification applications “in a positive, humane and expeditious manner” (article 10).

In the case of people who made a refugee claim in Canada and who were accepted, they must seek family reunification by applying for permanent residence for themselves and for their family members, whether in Canada or abroad. According to current processing times, the parents in Canada can expect to wait 23 months for their permanent residence – only after that will their family members overseas be able to finalize processing and travel to Canada. The government does not disclose the processing times for family members overseas.

In the case of resettled refugees, family members from whom they have been separated can be processed through a One Year Window application. The government similarly does not disclose these processing times.

Media contact:

Andréa Viens, Communications Coordinator, media@ccrweb.ca

Further information

Read some profiles of some separated families