Canada’s Interpretation of Article 1F(b) of the 1951 Refugee Convention

On October 30, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada (the “Supreme Court“) rendered its decision in Febles v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration Canada), 2014 SCC 68 (“Febles“).  This was the first time to my knowledge that the SCC has addressed Canada’s interpretation of Article 1F(b) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Can. T.S. 1969 No. 6 (the “1951 Refugee Convention“), incorporated into s. 98 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA” or the “Act“) (other than in obiter).

Febles provides an opportune time to both summarize the principles articulated in it, as well as other significant Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal cases involving Article 1F(b) of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Image from the Aditus Foundation

Image from the Aditus Foundation

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LMIA Cap on Low Wage Employees

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (the “TFWP“) allows employers to bring foreign workers to Canada to temporarily fill jobs for which qualified Canadians are not available. After the program became increasingly controversial in 2012-13, the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada (“ESDC“) on June 20, 2014 imposed a cap limiting the proportion of low-wage foreign workers that businesses can employ.

How the Cap Works

Employers with a company-wide business size of 10 or more employees are subject to the cap.  The cap percentage is determined for each individual worksite location and is based on paid positions and total hours worked at that worksite.

Employers that are new to the TFWP or returning employers who did not have any foreign workers on staff on June 20, 2014 are capped at 10% low-wage foreign workers for each work location.

The cap, implemented on June 20, 2014, was phased in to provide employers time to transition to a Canadian workforce which means that they are limited to a:

  • 20 percent cap on the number of foreign workers in low-wage positions, or the employer’s established estimated cap (whichever is lower), if the employer hired a TFW in a low-wage position prior to June 20, 2014; or
  • 10 percent cap on the number of foreign workers in low-wage positions if the employers did not employ a TFW in a low-wage position prior to June 20, 2014.

Effectively, companies are limited to a 10% cap on the proportion of low-wage foreign workers that they can have.  The low-wage is based on a province’s median wage, which as of writing is as follows:

Province/Territory Wages prior to

April 29, 2016

2014 Wage ($/hour)

Wages as of

April 29, 2016

2015 Wage ($/hour)

Alberta $25.00 $25.38
British Columbia $22.00 $22.60
Manitoba $19.50 $20.00
New Brunswick $18.00 $18.50
Newfoundland and Labrador $21.12 $20.91
Northwest Territories $30.00 $31.25
Nova Scotia $18.85 $19.00
Nunavut $29.00 $28.92
Ontario $21.15 $22.00
Prince Edward Island $17.49 $18.00
Quebec $20.00 $20.60
Saskatchewan $22.00 $22.80
Yukon $27.50 $28.51

The calculation of the cap can be complicated, and is perhaps best summarized by this portion of ESDC’s Schedule E – Cap for Low-Wage Positions.
schedulee

The Schedule E also contains sections on how the addition of foreign workers would impact the cap.

The cap does not apply to:

  • Employers with a company-wide business size of fewer than 10 employees;
  • Employers hiring foreign workers for positions related to on-farm primary agriculture, including the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program;
  • Positions that are truly temporary (e.g. emergency and warranty positions);
  • Positions that are highly mobile or truly temporary and no more than 120 calendar days. This duration
    can be extended if an employer can demonstrate that their peak season, project or event operates
    beyond 120 days;
  • Applications supporting permanent residence under any Express Entry programs (e.g. Federal Skilled
    Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program); and
  • Certain seasonal positions.

It is also important to note that employers who are subject to the cap do not have to include the following types of low-wage foreign workers when calculating the cap:

  • LMIA-exempt foreign nationals working under Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s International Mobility Program;
  • Foreign nationals who have received a nomination certificate from a Provincial Nomination Program; and
  • Foreign workers working in low-wage positions that are exempt from the cap.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are samples of frequently asked questions that were reproduced from the TFWP Wiki below.  Please note that the information below was obtained through an Access to Information Act request, and may not be up to date.

Question – When considering the impact cap percentage, should an officer ’round’ to the nearest decimal point? Example, established cap is 10% and the impact cap is percentage is 10.1 to 10.5. Does ESDC round down to 10% and accept it, or does it just determine it exceeds the 10% cap?

Answer -When calculating the Cap or the Impact on Cap comparison calculations, the percentage should be recorded up to two decimal points, rounding accordingly.

 

Question – What should be done with LMIA applications where the employer has identified more than one location on the application – i.e. Employer A has applied for 15 workers for 3 different locations on 1 LMIA form? How will the cap be noted to ensure a cap rate is captured for each location on the LMIA form?

Answer – The employer must complete a separate application for each location of work in order for a cap to be established for each location; and each location will also have an individual cap comparison calculation to determine the effect of hiring requested TFWs based on the employer’s current staffing complement at the time of the submission of the application.

 

Question – How does previously confirmed but unfilled LMIAs (i.e. hired but who have not started work) affect the determination of business size and cap calculation?

Answer – Previously confirmed but unfilled LMIAs (that are not expired) are to be included as employees for determining the business size. Pending applications should not be included in these numbers.

 

Question – Should owners count themselves when determining their business size?

Answer – When determining if a business has 10 or more employees company-wide, the count should include all employees on payroll and the vacant position. If the owner has a paid position, they should be included.

 

 

Question – When calculating “Determining the Effect on the Cap”, does the 4 consecutive weeks prior to LMIA submission have to be the 4 weeks prior to the application date or can there be a gap?

Answer – Ideally there should be as small a gap as practically possible for the purposes of this calculation. According to the CAP Directive the employer should provide data from the 4-week period “immediately prior” to the date the application was signed. W-T is interpreting “immediately prior” as allowing up to a 2 week gap between when the application is signed and the four consecutive weeks used by the employer for determining the effect of the CAP. In addition, two weeks may also be allowed between when the application is signed and when the application is received.

 

Question – If the staffing complement listed on Schedule E changes between the date of signature and the date of assessment, how does the officer proceed with assessing the cap?

Answer – The effect calculation will be assessed based on the four-week period used prior to the date of signature, and NOT the date of assessment.


Establishing that Someone is a Refugee

Section 96 of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “IRPA) defines a refugee as being a person who, by reason of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, is outside each of their countries of nationality and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to avail themself of the protection of each of those countries.  A refugee also includes though who do not have a country of nationality, but who are outside of their country of former habitual residence, and, because of the same fear, are unwilling to return to that country.

Refugee law is very complicated, and components of it are the subject of numerous blog posts on this website.

In this post, I hope to cover some of the major jurisprudence involving the interpretation of IRPA s. 96.

Past Persecution vs. A Future Fear

It is important to understand that refugees need to have a forward looking fear of returning to their country of origin.  The existence of past persecution will not create a rebuttal presumption that someone have a reasonable objective or subjective fear of persecution.

In Fernandopulle v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2005 FCA 91, the Federal Court of Appeal explicitly held that a person establishes a refugee claim by proving the existence of a well-founded fear of persecution for one of the reasons listed in section 96 of the IRPA and that proof of past persecution for one of the listed reasons may support a finding of fact that the claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution in the future, but it will not necessarily do so. If, for example, there is evidence that country conditions have changed since the persecution occurred, that evidence must be evaluated to determine whether the fear remains well founded.



Section 7 of the Charter and Deportation

Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter“) provides that:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

There have been several Supreme Court of Canada (the “Supreme Court“) and Federal Court of Appeal decisions involving s. 7 of the Charter and deportation.

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Section 97 Refugees

Refugee practitioners colloquially refer to their clients as being either s. 96 or s. 97 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”) refugees. Section 96 of IRPA provides that a person who is recognized by the Geneva Convention as being a convention refugee shall be conferred refugee protection. Section 97, meanwhile, provides that a person who is in need of protection shall also be afforded refugee protection in Canada.
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Determining Whether a Marriage Is Genuine

Arguably the most important part of any spousal or common-law sponsorship application is establishing that a relationship is not encompassed by s. 4(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227 (“IRPR”), which provides that:

4. (1) For the purposes of these Regulations, a foreign national shall not be considered a spouse, a common-law partner or a conjugal partner of a person if the marriage, common-law partnership or conjugal partnership

(a) was entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the Act; or

(b) is not genuine.

Despite the importance of applicants demonstrating that their relationship is genuine and not entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (the “Act”), there are no set criteria which determine whether an application is bona-fide. As the Federal Court noted in Koffi v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2014 FC 7 (citations removed)

It is well established in the case law of this Court that there is no specific criterion, or even a set of criteria, to determine whether a marriage is genuine pursuant to section 4 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. It is exclusively up to the visa officer to determine the relative weight to grant each of the factors, based on the facts, to ensure the inherent logic of the applicant’s story according to the particular clues, or references made by the applicant himself, meaning the encyclopedia of references, a dictionary of terms, a picture gallery of the applicant’s file in addition to an assessment to determine whether the facts on file taken together create harmony or discord.

Notwithstanding the fact that there is no set criteria for IRPR r. 4(1) analysis, numerous Immigration Appeal Division (“IAD”) decisions have noted that a non-exhausted list of factors includes:

  • the compatibility of the spouses;
  • the development of the relationship;
  • communication between the appellant and the applicant;
  • financial support;
  • the spouses’ knowledge of each other;
  • visits by the appellant to see the applicant;
  • the presence of the applicant’s family in Canada;
  • the applicant’s previous attempts to land in Canada;
  • previous marriages; and
  • the cultural context.

While the burden of proof is on an applicant to establish that a relationship is bona-fide, officers should not presume at the outset that a relationship is mala-fide. As well, while visa officers are entitled to consider and weigh numerous factors when assessing a sponsorship application, the jurisprudence is also clear that officers must be alert to an applicant’s unique circumstances, including cultural customs, dating habits, and financial circumstances.

For example, as the Federal Court noted in Lhundup v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship),  2017 FC 224, it would be unreasonable for an immigration officer to unduly focus on the difference in age between a married couple.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has produced training materials to officers on how to spot non-genuine relationships.  Thankfully, most officers show much more common sense in assessing these applications than what their training materials suggests should be how they assess applications.