Reunite refugee families this Refugee Rights Day

4 April 2017

Reunite refugee families this Refugee Rights Day

On Refugee Rights Day 2017, the Canadian Council for Refugees is drawing attention to the need for equal access to family reunification for refugees.

In December 2016, the government announced faster processing for spousal sponsorships. But no measures have been announced to expedite family reunification for refugees (overseas dependants of refugees recognized in Canada, and family members of resettled refugees in the “one year window of opportunity”). Yet, refugees regularly wait much longer for processing than Family Class sponsored spouses.

Canada’s immigration system treats families unequally:

  • By immigration category: slower for refugees and live-in caregivers.
  • By region: slower in Africa and some other regions.
  • By law: Excluded Family member rule (Reg. 117(9)(d)).

Family separation has devastating impacts on mental health and impedes the ability of refugees and other newcomers to integrate in Canada. Family members of refugees are often themselves at risk of human rights abuses at home, or are living in a precarious situation in another country.

Family separation also leads to lost economic opportunities – for the affected families and for Canada as a whole.

In one recent case, the children of refugees resettled to Canada in April 2014 are about to join their parents this April 2017, three years later! While Canada processes their papers, these children have been living on their own in Addis Ababa, supported by money sent each month by their father.

The Canadian Council for Refugees is calling for:

  • Faster family reunification for refugees and live-in caregivers.
  • Public data on processing by region and category
  • Elimination of Excluded Family Member rule.

For more information:

About Refugee Rights Day:

April 4th is celebrated each year in Canada as Refugee Rights Day because it is the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1985 Singh decision. In this decision, the Supreme Court found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees. The Court decided that ‘everyone’ includes refugee claimants in the sentence: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.’