Canada’s commitment to the world

Opinion & Analysis Sep 16, 2004 at 3:10 pm

Canadian Immigration Views
By Berto Volpentesta

TORONTO–Canada’s refugee determination process may be one of the best models in the world. Canada is a signatory to several international agreements and has incorporated into its domestic policy, statutes and regulations many aspects of the international agreements as an outright display of Canada’s commitment to the world. In fact, Canada’s current commitment to refugees is expressed clearly in so much that one of the objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is, “to recognize that the refugee program is in the first instance about saving lives and offering protection to
the displaced and persecuted.”

The problem is that of all the people who present themselves to Canada for protection how can we tell which really need protection. For those who are overseas we have Citizenship and Immigration Canada screening those in need and attempting to help wherever they can. For those who manage to make their way to Canada we have the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), Refugee Division.
Those who wish to make a refugee claim can do so by declaring that to any Immigration Officer usually at the time they enter Canada but often after entering Canada. For administrative purposes, centres have been set up specifically for making these claims. Once determined eligible CIC make some case notes and issues a departure order. The importance of this order is significant. It is an order to leave Canada. However, since the person has made a claim to protection, their order will be stayed until the IRB can hear their claim.

Claims to protection are based on the United Nations convention on refugees where the claimant must be a person who is outside their home country (or habitual residence if stateless) and unable or unwilling to return due to a well founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular social group. Canada has also added another category for persons who are in need of protection. These are people who if removed from Canada would be subjected to torture, cruel or unusual punishment or a risk to their lives.

If a claim is refused at the IRB the departure order issued at the beginning becomes effective and the claimant has to comply within 30 days. Many clients decide to pursue other avenues to delay their departure such as an appeal to the Federal Court or a Pre Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA), but claimants must be invited to submit a PRRA.

Many clients also submit applications to stay in Canada based on humanitarian and compassionate factors. After all, some claimants may have been in Canada for several years, may have gotten married and had children in addition to working steadily, going to school, helping out in their communities and may not have any life left in their home country. Some of these are successful. A great many are not. And, most importantly, this type of request does not delay your departure.
People who go down this refugee claim path are usually limiting their potential to do anything else and all persons who are considering making this application should consider whether there is a more appropriate method to achieve what they want. Far too often I get referrals to my office of clients having gone through the entire process only to come to the day when they must leave Canada and they don’t believe it. All they have gained was the opportunity to work in Canada for a year or two but they may have given up much more. Perhaps this has become Canada’s substitute for a low skilled labour program. Like the need for labour that brought the early Chinese here to build our railways today the refugee claimants provide the way Canada keeps taxi cabs on the road, kitchens cooking and clean, our homes clean and our lawns green and the rest of Canadians’ hand’s clean.
Consider carefully all options before you make the choice. Know what is likely to happen and prepare for alternatives sometimes (often) this includes making a plan for how you can come back to Canada under a proper program.

Oh, and if a claimant fails to follow the order that was issued to them at the beginning of the process, that simple instruction turns into a deportation order. And this does not fit well into any future plan of return to Canada.

Has Canada’s commitment to the world really turned into Canada’s low skilled labour supply means? Looks that way often, but then again, of all the claimants who seek Canada’s protection, how can you really know which really needs protection?

Have a question? Send them to Berto Volpentesta or to the editor.

Berto Volpentesta of SV Canada Immigration Specialists has been a practicing consultant in Toronto since 1991 and is a Member, Director and 2nd Vice President of the Association of Immigration Counsel of Canada and a Registered Member of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants # M041214. You can reach him at (416) 398-8882.