Refugee Protection Division (RPD) Hearings 

Canadian government and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act recognize that the refugee program is, first and foremost, about saving lives and offering protection to the displaced and persecuted.

To fulfill its international legal obligations with respect to refugees, Canada offers safe haven to persons with a well founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group (such as abused women or gays and lesbians, to name a few) as well as those at risk of torture or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Persons who fear persecution in their home country (or country of their habitual residence), in order to seek refugee protection, must first be outside of that country and must be unable or, due to a well founded fear, unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country (or return there).

A claim for refugee protection may be made in Canada at ports of entry or at inland offices at any time throughout the administrative or admissibility hearing process until a removal order is made.

Upon receiving a positive decision regarding a claim for refugee protection, a claimant is eligible to apply for permanent residence, family sponsorship and travel documents.

A claim for protection may also be made outside of Canada, at a Canadian Embassy or High Commission, under the Convention refugee abroad class and members of the Humanitarian-protected persons abroad class.

Changes to the Canadian Refugee System
In 2012, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act (Bill C-31) and the Balanced Refugee Reform Act introduced two main changes to the landscape of the Canadian refugee system. Firstly, claimants arriving from countries of origin designated by a Minister as unlikely to produce refugees will have a difficult time proving their case. Secondly, refugee claimants arriving to Canada in groups of two or more could be, at Minister’s discretion, designated as “irregular arrivals”. According to the new legislation, designated foreign nationals who come as “irregular arrivals” face mandatory detention. If “irregular arrivals” are in fact determined to be refugees by the Immigration and Refugee Board, the new legislation also imposes a minimum five-year delay before they can apply to obtain permanent residence.

The new legislation also imposes tighter timelines for refugee claimants to submit their claims. Claimants have 15 days to submit their Basis of Claim forms (if claiming at the port-of-entry) and 45-60 days to prepare for the hearing (depending on whether they come from a designated country). Even tighter timelines exist for the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) in case a refugee claim is refused.

It is also important to consider whether filing of a Convention Refugee Claim is indeed the best option. Given the fact that most claims are now determined (or are supposed to be determined) within approx. 60 days and, if not successful, removal proceedings begin shortly thereafter, with no possibility of applying for either H&C or PRRA within the first 12 months after obtaining the negative decision, it is necessary to clearly determine the strength of a potential refugee claim and the realistic likelihood of success, relative to other options, such as the H&C application.

For all these reasons, and especially in light of the recent changes, it is imperative that an experienced immigration/refugee lawyer is sought immediately.