Reform of rules on refugees’ loss of status urgent following new court decision

Media release

For immediate release
4 May 2016

Reform of rules on refugees’ loss of status urgent following new court decision 

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) today called on the government to move urgently to amend the law in the wake of the Federal Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Bermudez. The Court found that the government is legally obliged in certain circumstances to try to strip refugees of their status in Canada and that only Parliament can fix the problem.

Mr Bermudez is facing a cessation application (loss of refugee status) which if successful will mean he also loses permanent residence and faces removal from Canada. The Court found that officers cannot consider the situation of his Canadian spouse or three Canadian children even though the family's primary breadwinner could lose the right to work and remain in Canada. The family finds itself in this situation not because Mr. Bermudez has done anything wrong, but because of changes made in 2012 to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which mean that people who are no longer refugees also lose their permanent residence.

“The law is clearly absurd: Canadians do not want to see law-abiding former refugees stripped of their status – even people who have Canadian children or spouses – simply because they no longer need Canada’s protection,” said Loly Rico, CCR President. “Refugee status is supposed to give people protection, but the Bermudez decision shows that permanent residents who came as refugees are actually more vulnerable to loss of status than other permanent residents. Former refugees now feel very insecure because of the threat of cessation: they thought that having permanent residence meant that they were safe in Canada, but since 2012 that is no longer true.”

“This law wastes millions of dollars to fund a search through Canada’s inventory of old refugees to see who can be disposed of, regardless of how well established they are in Canada, and for no purpose,” said CARL President Mitchell Goldberg. “This needs to stop. Targeting recognized refugees for loss of status is particularly offensive at a time when Canadians are coming together to commit their own personal funds, and the government has devoted substantial resources to protect  refugees in need. The Bermudez decision entrenches a law that has no purpose other than to harass vulnerable refugees.” 

Pursuing cessation and vacation applications became a priority for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) after 2012, and special funding was set aside for this purpose, reported to have been as much as $15 million over four years. The 2012-13 Supplementary Estimates show that $2.8 million was allocated to the CBSA and $1.8 million to the Department of Justice. It is unclear whether the government has tracked the cost of the large increase in cessation applications to other agencies and institutions including the Federal Court, the Immigration and Refugee Board and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada).

Documents recently released under the Access to Information Act confirm that officers at Citizenship and Immigration Canada have been trained to look for cessation cases among those applying for permanent resident cards or citizenship or seeking to sponsor family members. Cases are deliberately put on hold while cessation applications are pursued. While extra resources have been dedicated to stripping refugees of their status, shortages of resources have led to refugees facing long delays to receive permanent residence and reunite with family members.

At the end of December 2015 there were 256 cessation cases pending at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The cessation measures also apply to resettled Syrian refugees, who could face loss of status in Canada if they are shown in the future to no longer be refugees.

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Janet Dench, CCR Executive Director, 514-277-7223, 514-602-2098 (cell),

Mitchell Goldberg, CARL President, 514-844-7528,




2012 changes relating to cessation

The provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act relating to cessation (or loss of refugee status) did not change in 2012. What changed was the consequence of cessation: it resulted in automatic loss of permanent residence (except if cessation was based on change of circumstances in the country of origin). Following this, the Canada Border Services Agency made cessation and vacation applications a priority. The CBSA received additional funding and recruited other government agencies to support their goal of referring 875 cessation and vacation cases per year to the Immigration and Refugee Board. This is articulated in the CBSA “Performance and Intelligence 100% Action Plan”, recently disclosed through the Access to Information Act.

Although people who are no longer refugees have done nothing wrong, the current law treats them as worse than criminals. A permanent resident who faces loss of status because they have been convicted of a crime may have a right to an appeal where they can ask for humanitarian consideration. A person who loses status through cessation has no right of appeal and cannot apply for humanitarian consideration after losing status.

Now the Federal Court of Appeal has ruled in Bermudez that the government cannot consider humanitarian factors before proceeding with an application to strip the person of status through cessation.

For more information

CCR, Cessation: stripping refugees of their status in Canada,

CARL, Briefing Note On Cessation Submitted To Minister McCallum 

Some situations in which cessation applications are pursued:

  • A woman with a Canadian spouse and child, who had lived in Canada for 10 years, faced loss of status because she had made four visits to her country of origin, to attend to sick or elderly family members or for a funeral.
  • A man found to be a refugee applied for a passport from his country of origin because the government told him he needed one in order to apply for permanent residence. (The IRB rejected the cessation application).
  • An Afghan who had fled the Taliban made visits to Afghanistan after the Taliban lost control. He faced cessation on that basis.
  • A woman accompanied her husband who was a refugee to Canada. She herself was not at risk of persecution but she received refugee status as the family member of her husband. She faced cessation after she visited her home country.
  • An older man whose family is in Canada had his citizenship application held up while the government tried to strip him of his status on the basis that he had made visits to his country of origin. (The Federal Court found that citizenship officials had acted illegally in suspending his application: Godinez Ovalle v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 935 (CanLII),


Cessation applications Finalized by the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2015






Total Finalized






















Cessation applications pending at the IRB end December 2015