New restrictions mean families will be broken apart

Media release

For immediate release
30 July 2014

New restrictions mean families will be broken apart

The Canadian Council for Refugees today expressed its disappointment at the narrowing of the definition of dependent child in the immigration rules, starting August 1st . The maximum age is being reduced from 21 to 18 years and the exception for full-time students is eliminated.

“Newcomer families will be broken apart, and young adult children will be left behind,” said Loly Rico, President. “I wonder how many Canadian parents would think their 19 or 20 year old children were old enough to look after themselves and no longer be considered part of the family. For children of refugees, the new rules mean not only that they are separated from their family, but also that they remain in a dangerous situation.”

Key concerns include the following:

  • Unmarried children aged 19, 20 or 21 years are usually still part of the family (economically, socially and psychologically) and need their parents’ support.
  • In many societies it is difficult and even dangerous for single young women to live alone.
  • Refugees are forced to flee danger and face multiple losses and disruptions. Forcing refugees to leave their young adult children behind exposes them to risk, as well as causing hardship for all the family.

The reason given for dropping young adult children is that dependants who arrive in Canada at a younger age earn more in the long term than those who are slightly older. The CCR questions the focus on economic factors: Canada’s immigration program is also about protecting refugees and reuniting families. Refugees and immigrants contribute more than just economically. Separating families also has economic costs, which have not been evaluated in the government’s analysis.

The CCR welcomes the introduction, in the final version of the regulations, of “lock-in dates” for people in multi-step immigration processes. For refugees who wait years for their resettlement application to be processed overseas, or for their claim in Canada to be determined, this means that they won’t  be separated from their child who turns 19 during the long wait. (The CCR has prepared a table to explain the implications of the lock-in date)

The CCR’s comments on the original proposed changes are available at

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Janet Dench, 514-277-7223, ext. 2,