On 4 June 1969, Canada belatedly signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 18 years after it was adopted by the United Nations, and 15 years after it entered into force.

In the 40 years since Canada became a party to the Refugee Convention, it has gained the enviable reputation of being a world leader in protecting refugees.

In fact, there has been good and bad in Canadian responses to refugees, both before and after signing the Refugee Convention.


1987 A group of Sikhs arrived by boat in Nova Scotia and claimed refugee status. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney issued an emergency recall of Parliament for the tabling of Bill C-84, the Refugee Deterrents and Detention Bill. Despite the so-called emergency, the draconian bill was not passed for a full year.
1987 Canada ratified the Convention Against Torture.
1989 Changes to the Immigration Act came into effect, creating a new refugee determination system and the Immigration and Refugee Board.
1993 The Chairperson of the Immigration and Refugee Board issued Guidelines on Women Refugee Claimants fearing Gender-related Persecution. Canada was the first country in the world to issue such guidelines.  Non-governmental organizations including the Canadian Council for Refugees were active in drawing attention to the need for gender sensitivity.
1999 The flight of thousands of Kosovars led the UNHCR to request countries to offer them “safe haven”.  Canada responded enthusiastically, taking in over 5,000.
2002 The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came into force – for the first time in Canadian history, the immigration legislation recognized refugees in its title.  However, the articles of the law giving refugees the right to an appeal were not implemented.
December 2004 The Safe Third Country Agreement between the US and Canada came into effect.
4 June 2009 40th anniversary of Canada signing the Refugee Convention


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