Media Release
For Immediate Release
7 April 2008
Children separated from their families by immigration rules

The Canadian Council for Refugees today denounced the blind application of an inflexible immigration rule that is keeping children separated from their parents.  Regulation 117(9)(d) excludes family members, barring them from sponsorship, if they were not examined by an immigration officer when the sponsor immigrated to Canada.

“Children deserve to be with their parents – all Canadians can agree on this.  Yet children affected by the excluded family member rule are spending years without an immigration officer even considering their interests,” said Elizabeth McWeeny, CCR President.  “This is not only inhumane, it is a clear violation of Canada’s international human rights obligations, including under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The CCR released a series of profiles of families separated by Regulation 117(9)(d), several of them refugees.  They include:

  • An Iranian refugee woman whose two-year-old daughter remains in Pakistan – her application for humanitarian and compassionate consideration was refused without any consideration of the toddler’s best interests.
  • A refugee woman with a 16-year-old son in Sri Lanka, where he is subject to discrimination.
  • A refugee family from Sierra Leone separated from their two-year-old son, who is being made to pay the penalty for his father declaring the newborn on arrival in Canada, rather than before.
  • Two teenagers in Bangladesh denied reunification with their mother, without consideration of the fact that they have been abandoned by their father, their caregiver grandmother has died and they are now living with an aunt who doesn’t want them.
  • An Afghan refugee woman separated from her husband, who is a refugee in Pakistan.  She has given birth to a baby since arriving in Canada: Citizenship and Immigration Canada has denied the baby the right to be with his father.
  • An immigrant who didn’t formally declare a common law partner because an immigration officer told him it was not necessary.
  • An immigrant, now a Canadian citizen, who has returned to his country of origin, because Canada’s immigration law will never pardon him for his failure to realize that he needed to declare his new wife to the authorities before departure for Canada.

The cases illustrate that:

  • The principal victims of Regulation 117(9)(d) are children.
  • Regulation 117(9)(d) tends to affect the most vulnerable: refugees and those subject to discrimination.  They are often in situations where they have limited access to accurate information and limited control over their lives.
  • Regulation 117(9)(d) leads to contradictions in Canada’s response to refugees: Canada resettles refugees to give them protection and a permanent home, but then rejects their family members.
  • The recourse proposed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, a humanitarian and compassionate application, is inadequate.
  • The penalty – a lifetime bar on family reunification – is disproportionate to the alleged offence.

“We have been pointing out the problems of R. 117(9)(d) to politicians and civil servants for years,” said McWeeny.  “We are deeply disappointed about the inadequacy of the response – which means that children continue to suffer needlessly.”

The Canadian Council for Refugees is calling for the elimination of Regulation 117(9)(d).

See attached backgrounder including the case profiles (

Colleen French, Communications Coordinator, 514-277-7223 (ext. 1)