Protecting Vulnerable Individuals: Canada’s Refugee Law

Seeking asylum in Canada? The process of making a refugee claim can be complex and intimidating. It is important that individuals understand the procedure and requirements for making an asylum claim because the process begins the very moment you state, ‘I need refugee protection’.

Understanding the Refugee Process in Canada

What many individuals can overlook is that the refugee process begins the moment you request protection. You are often required to provide statements or an overview, verbally, about your fear of persecution, or agent of persecution. Often when giving these statements at a port of entry or what you believe to be an informal setting, you are giving evidence that forms part of your claim as the officer’s notes. 

Challenges Faced by Asylum Seekers in Canada

Individuals seeking protection are often scared, nervous and unsure about the system. This can lead to erroneous statements, or confusing dates, times, places and names, which can have an impact on the claim later. 

Once protection is requested, you are required to complete and submit a ‘Basis of Claim form’ often referred to as the BOC. This might be the most important document in your entire claim, it is the foundation of your claim, it must be detailed, complete and true. 

Requirements of a Canadian Refugee Claim

Making a refugee claim means that you are explaining in detail the threats and fears you face, who the agent of persecution is, have you already been persecuted, and if so, provide details about the number of times, places, and dates you were persecuted. You must also explain whether you sought state protection, or why it was not available, if you tried to relocate, if you did not, explain why not. You must also provide a detailed summary of your family members, whether you are in touch with them or not. 

Canadian Refugee Eligibility and Hearing Process

To determine whether you are able to make a claim, you must undergo an eligibility hearing. You can make a claim if you are in Canada and not subject to a removal order.

Also, your claim may NOT be eligible to be referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) if you

  • are recognized as a Convention refugee by another country that you can return to
  • were granted protected person status in Canada
  • arrived via the Canada–United States border
  • have made a refugee claim in another country, as confirmed through information-sharing
  • are not admissible to Canada on security grounds or because of criminal activity or human rights violations
  • made a previous refugee claim that was not found eligible
  • made a previous refugee claim that was rejected by the IRB
  • abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim

Preparing for Your Hearing

If you meet the eligibility criteria, your BOC is referred to the IRB. After being referred it can take many months, up to a year or more, to have your hearing scheduled. It is also your responsibility to keep your BOC up to date during this time, ensuring that any new threats or changes of circumstances are amended in your BOC. 

Evidence Collection for a Stronger BOC

While waiting for a hearing date, it is crucial to collect all the evidence and information you have to support your BOC and your fear of persecution. Evidence can include affidavits, letters, pictures, newspaper articles, personal identity documents, audio clips, health records, police records and any other document that can establish the facts in your BOC. 

You must ensure all details in the documents match those of your BOC. The more details of your BOC that you can confirm with your evidence, the greater the chance you will be found to be credible. All of your evidence must be submitted 10 days prior to the hearing of your claim. 

The Hearing Process

The Refugee Protection Division (RPD), a branch of the IRB will be the one to hear your claim. A claim is generally scheduled for an in-person or virtual hearing. Most hearings are scheduled for a three-hour time slot and are not open to the public. The usual parties present at a hearing include the claimant(s), the Board Member deciding the claim, an interpreter if required, and at times, the Minister’s Counsel. Hearings are private and confidential; a claimant should not worry about having to share their story or most personal details with more than the parties to the proceedings.

Importance of Legal Representation in Canadian Refugee Claims

A refugee hearing can be complicated, stressful, and hard to navigate without a thorough knowledge of the procedure and law. Having a representative means they can help you compile and submit all the right evidence, help you prepare your testimony/evidence, assist in hearing preparation by doing mock hearing preparation and finally be there to support you on your hearing day. A representative is able to help with any last-minute concerns or legal issues raised by the RPD. They are also there to present your case and give compelling legal arguments on your behalf.

You only get one real chance at making your claim and having it heard, having the support of a representative to ensure you put your best foot forward will increase your chance of success!

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