Refugee camp

Federal Government May Soon Reduce Eligibility Restrictions For Refugee Claimants

Documents Suggest Canada Will More Easily Accept Refugees Who File an Intersectional Claim

Canada's federal government is possibly looking at loosening restrictions for those seeking refugee status in Canada, according to the Toronto Sun. 

In a recent column for the Toronto Sun, political columnist Lorne Gunther reported that the publication had obtained exclusive access to an internal document that Richard Wex, chairperson and chief executive officer of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, shared with immigration and refugee officials.

The documents reveal that the government would weaken most grounds for denying an asylum seeker refugee status. 

More specifically, immigration officers responsible for reviewing refugee claims, along with decision-makers who oversee immigration and refugee-related appeals, will be instructed to more closely consider asylum seekers who have filed an “intersectional” claim.

An intersectional claim means an applicant is citing “race, religion, indigeneity, political beliefs, socioeconomic status, age, sexual orientation, culture, disability, or immigration status,” that “impact an individual’s lived experience of discrimination, marginalization or oppression” as their reasoning for filing a refugee claim in Canada.  

This means that refugee claimants would not be required to prove that they meet the United Nations' definition for “refugee," nor prove that they are at risk of death or torture should they be returned to their home country. 

Adjudicators must also take a ‘Do No Harm’ approach during hearings and demonstrate “compassion, cultural humility, and patience in order to avoid [retraumatizing]” refugee applicants. This includes taking into consideration the fact that physical and/or emotional trauma, often experienced by asylum seekers, can result in memory gaps and difficulty recollecting certain pieces of information. Such trauma was described in the documents as "intense feelings of fear, terror, helplessness, hopelessness, and despair” that are perceived “as a threat to the person’s survival.”

If this occurs, refugee claimants may still be granted refugee status unless an immigration officer or judge has solid evidence that an applicant has falsified details on their application. 

While Canada is already considered a world leader when it comes to resettling refugees, these new guidelines are yet another step in the right direction and will make the refugee application process easier for many who have experienced trauma. 

Refugee woman in refugee camp

Immigration Minister Says Canada Has ‘Moral Imperative’ to Resettle 40,000 Afghan Refugees But No Direct Pathway to Canada Has Been Implemented

Canada Doubles Initial Afghan Resettlement Target 

The Canadian federal government is pledging to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees from high-risk groups, because Canada has a “moral imperative” to help the people of Afghanistan, according to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. 

"Canada is once again showing its capacity to be a global trailblazer by being the first country in the world to launch a humanitarian resettlement program that specifically focuses on women, on girls, on LGBTI and targeted minorities,” said Mendicino.

 The announcement was made by Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau during an address in front of the United Nations. During the address, he compared the current situation in Afghanistan to the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis that saw 44,000 Syrian refugees resettled in Canada.

“Canadians overwhelmingly called on us to do more. And in response to their generosity and welcoming spirit, we have now committed to welcoming 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada,” Garneau said.

However, Canada has failed to create a program or pathway that allows Afghans to apply to Canada, for example, something similar to the Health Care Pathway that was implemented earlier this year. This is much needed because many Afghans have not been able to get out of their country, or, if they have, the standard resettlement programs will be very difficult, uncertain and lengthy process. 

The recently announced figure is double the initial Afghan resettlement target announced back in August. Back then, the federal government announced plans to resettle 20,000 Afghans from vulnerable groups, including:

  • Female leaders
  • Human-rights advocates
  • Journalists
  • LGTBQ individuals
  • Those belonging to persecuted religious groups
  • Families of interpreters already resettled in Canada
READ MORE: Canada to Resettle An Additional 20,000 Afghan Refugees

Mendicino has stated that more than 2,500 Afghan refugees have already been resettled. No timeline has been provided for when the remaining 37,500 refugees will be resettled, however, the resettlement will be facilitated through both private sponsorship and government sponsorship.

Mendicino says that the goal is for Canada to resettle refugees who have already fled Afghanistan. However, some asylum seekers who have yet to escape Afghanistan may be eligible, as Canada continues to help Afghan residents flee the country through overland routes. Yet the government has not yet managed to create any concrete program to which those individuals can apply directly. This was recently an issue discussed on the CBC’s National by Ms. Arghavan Gerami, advocating for the implementation of such a program. 

Canada's efforts to resettle Afghan refugees have been fuelled by the Taliban rapidly gaining control of Afghanistan, causing tens of thousands of residents to flee.

Canada flag hanging in front of the Peace Tower

2021 Canadian Federal Election – Immigration Promises from the Liberal Party

Immigration Commitments Included in the Liberal Party's Official Platform

With Justin Trudeau winning a minority government in Canada's recent federal election, it's important to take a look at where the governing party stands on immigration.

To help give you a better understanding of what to expect going forward, we will go over the Liberal Party's official platform released during the lead-up to the September 20 election.

Where The Liberal Party Stands on Immigration

The Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, lists the following commitments  on its website as part of its official platform:

Strengthening Family Reunification and Reducing Processing Times

When it comes to family reunification, the Liberal Party promises the following:

  • Reduce processing times for immigration applications to under 12 months

  • Create electronic applications for family reunification

  • Build a new program that will provide spouses and children abroad with visas while they are waiting for their permanent residence applications to be processed.

Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

"We stand with citizens and activists around the world who are risking their safety to demand democratic rights and freedoms and will continue to promote democracy and human rights alongside civil society and international partners," states the party's website.

Here are a few ways the Liberal Party will address this issue:

  • Establish Canada as a safe haven for those facing persecution by resettling those fleeing political or security crises. This includes human rights defenders, journalists, feminists, LGBTQ2 activists, members of religious or ethnic minorities, and other persecuted groups

  • Expand the immigration stream for human rights defenders and ensure safe passage and resettlement

  • Resettle Afghan citizens fleeing the Taliban and increase the number of eligible refugees from 20,000 to 40,000.

Matching Workers With Jobs

The Liberal Party will continue to prioritize economic immigration to fill labour shortages by:

  • Reforming economic immigration programs and expanding permanent residence pathways through Express Entry for international students and temporary foreign workers

  • Expanding the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot and bring in 2,000 skilled refugees to fill labour shortages in high-demand employment sectors like health care

  • Creating a Trusted Employer system that will help streamline application processing for Canadian companies hiring temporary foreign workers

  • Expanding and improving the Global Talent Stream program by streamlining permit renewals, maintaining a 2-week processing time, and establishing an employer hotline

  • Continuing to work with Canada's provinces, territories, and regulatory bodies to help improve foreign credential recognition

These are all of the immigration commitments outlined by the Liberal Party in the official platform listed on its website. It will be interesting to see how many of these promises the federal government will fulfill over the next two years.

Wooden gavel

Court Orders That IRCC Took Too Long For Couple’s Immigration Application

Rare’ Case Sees Federal Court Ordering IRCC to Make Decision

It is no secret that immigrants can face long wait times throughout the application process as they wait to hear from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). In a rare case, the Federal Court agreed with two individuals – Ghufran Almutadi and Abdulrhman Taskia – that the processing time of their application for refugee protection was unreasonably long.

The couple had first applied for permanent residence in Canada in 2016. They were born in Syria and had moved to Saudi Arabia where they got married, but remained Syrian citizens.

After facing financial problems in 2015, their status in Saudi Arabia became tenuous, but they feared returning to Syria would put them at risk of government persecution. Ms. Almutadi and Mr. Taskia therefore came to Canada in 2016 seeking refugee protection and shortly thereafter their status was approved by the Refugee Protection Division. Days later, they applied for permanent residence.

After waiting a year and a half the couple received their instructions for a medical examination in 2018, which they completed and filed within a month. But over the next 3 years they heard nothing in response – no updates or indications of what may be causing a delay.

The couple made two enquiries on their file between 2017 and 2021, though they were unsuccessful in learning what the problem was.

In February 2020, the couple applied for judicial review. Specifically, they requested that the Federal Court order IRCC to make a final decision on their application within seven days. The couple also asked that IRCC pay $7,500 in legal fees.

During judicial review, IRCC revealed that the reason they had taken so long was because of the need for a security review. The couple said they had family members linked to the Muslim Brotherhood which could have led to their persecution in Syria.

After analyzing whether the processing delay was longer than normal, whether there was a suitable justification, and the impact the delay has had on the couple, the Federal Court agreed with the claimants and declared the delay unreasonable. IRCC was ordered to make a final decision within 30 days and pay $1,500 in costs.

There are plenty of steps applicants can take to potentially decrease their wait time lengths. For example, ensuring that your application is accurate and organized may increase the likelihood that it is processed more quickly. You may also wish to reach out to an immigration lawyer, as these professionals can identify and deal with any issues that might come up in advance.

Canada-U.S border signage

When Border Security Goes Too Far: Balancing Security with The Right to Privacy And Equal Treatment

What Should Government Border Officials Have Access To, And When Does It Get Too Much?

When you go to the border, the government can access this set of information for national security.

  • Your name
  • Date of birth
  • Citizenship
  • Address
  • Mode of travel
  • Purpose of travel
  • Value of goods purchased abroad

Allowing access to this type of information is quite standard and necessary to keep countries safe.

Computers analyze passage records to identify individuals who have unusual travel habits. On subsequent journeys, customs authorities and law enforcement personnel may target these individuals for closer inspection.

If you're stopped for a secondary inspection or search, further information will be gathered and entered into the database. This includes the following:

  • The reason for the additional screening
  • The results of any search
  • The border official's interview notes
  • Details of any action taken
  • The names of your travel companions.

We need to develop ways to enable the equal application of new technologies, such as facial recognition and fingerprint verification, across disparities in gender, age, mobility, and ethnicity, to promote the security of all travellers.

Studies from the Canadian Bar Association, the federal government, and the UN General Assembly show that these new automated AI systems can draw racist and sexist judgments, and this has far-reaching consequences in immigration scenarios. The European Union’s recently cancelled pilot project iBorderCRTL demonstrated this. A court case was filed after the AI-powered lie detector deployed at the border was extensively criticized for discriminating against people of colour, women, children, and individuals with impairments.

It's understandable why the government wants to put these technologies in place to ensure that anyone entering the country will not put Canadians in danger. But there is a fine line between protecting the public and maintaining privacy rights and constitutional protections

Meanwhile, the CBSA works with little transparency and no effective review procedures, ostensibly for national security and border control reasons. It is crucial for an oversight mechanism to be in place in instances where abuse occurs and a fair balance between privacy and security interests is not maintained.