On June 29, 2010, Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, received Royal Assent. This Bill provided the most significant changes to Canada’s refugee law in several years. Getting it through Parliament proved to be extremely contentious, and it took a last minute deal between the Conservatives, the NDP, and the Bloc to pass it. It is now law, though many of its provisions have yet to take effect.
The Bill introduced significant changes to Canada’s refugee system, including:
- Replacing the 28 days to prepare a Personal Information Form with an information-gathering interview which will occur no sooner than 15 days after a claim has been made;
- Reducing the wait for a hearing from approximately 18 months after arrival to 90 days after the informational interview for most claimants;
- Allowing the government to designate certain countries of origin. Whether a country is designated or not will depend on the approval rate of refugee applications from that country. If a claimant comes from a designated country, than their hearing will occur 60 days after the informational interview;
- Creating a Refugee Appeal Division. Decisions on appeals will be held within 120 days of the original decision unless a hearing is held. Decisions on appeals from people from designated countries of origin will occur within 30 days;
- Allowing the Refugee Protection Division to declare a refugee claim as being manifestly fraudulent. If this occurs, then the time for appeal will be 30 days;
- Removing people within 12 months of a final negative decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board;
- Limiting the ability to make either a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment application or an application for a Temporary Resident Permit for an individual who has received a final negative decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board so that he/she can only make such a decision if he/she has not voluntarily left or been removed from Canada during that one year;
- Creating a program that will provide assistance, including monetary, to failed refugee claimants to facilitate their travel home and reintegration in their source country;
- Increasing refugee resettlement by more than 2,500 per year.
Most of these changes have not yet come into effect. However, some have. The changes that have come into effect are listed below. They only affect refugee claimants and H&C claimants that were made on or after June 29, 2010.
- Refused refugee claimants can no longer request a Temporary Resident Permit if less than 12 months have passed since their claim was last rejected (or determined to be withdrawn or abandoned.)
- It is no longer possible for applicants to submit more than one Humanitarian & Compassionate application at a time;
- Fees must be paid in order for an application to be complete, however, the Minister may waive this requirement on his own initiative;
- When examining requests for Humanitarian & Compassionate consideration from foreign nationals in Canada, H&C decision makers will no longer be able to consider risks contained the convention refugee section or the person in need of protection section of the Act. Anyone seeking to make a claim based on risk of persecution, risk of torture, or risk of cruel or unusual treatment or punishment must to do in the refugee process, not the H&C process.