Much of the media attention towards Bill C-31 – the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act – has been focused on its shortening of the time periods for processing refugee claims and its removal of some appeal rights for refugee claimants that were supposed to be introduced under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act. This past week, members of the immigration bar raised concerns about another questionable change. In short, Bill C-31 will make it so that refugees who became permanent residents of Canada will lose their permanent residence status if their refugee status ceases.
Currently, the Immigration and Refugee Board may cease a person’s refugee status. Amongst other reasons, it may do so if the reasons for which the person sought refugee protection have ceased to exist, or if the person reavails himself to the protection of his country of origin. Until now, the cessation of refugee status did not result in the loss of permanent resident status. Accordingly, ceasing a refugee’s refugee status was rarely pursued where the refugee had become a permanent resident.
Bill C-31, however, changes this. It provides that when the IRB ceases a refugee’s refugee status, then the former refugee also loses his/her permanent resident status. Bill C-31 also provides that such an individual would be inadmissible toCanada. Through omission it also provides that there will be no appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division, meaning that humanitarian & compassionate grounds (such as hardship and establishment inCanada) cannot be considered in deciding whether to revoke the person’s permanent resident status.
This will apply to refugees who made their claims in Canadaand to those who were resettled to Canadafrom refugee camps from abroad. It would apply to refugees who recently obtained status, and to refugees who became permanent residents many, many years ago.
Before jumping to conclusions about whether this is or is not good law, it is useful to present some examples of when someone’s refugee status might be ceased.
Tisha is a Tamil fromSri Lanka. In 2008, she arrived inTorontoand claimed refugee status because of the ongoing war inSri Lanka. In 2010 Tisha’s refugee status was approved. She became a permanent resident later that year. She has lived continuously inCanadasince arriving in 2008. She runs a restaurant that employs 15 people. In 2012, the IRB determined thatSri Lankawas now safe for Tamils because the civil war had ended. It ceased her refugee status.
Wang is a Chinese citizen who is a Catholic. In 2008, he arrived inVancouverand claimed refugee status. He married a Canadian in 2009. His claim was approved in 2010, and he became a permanent resident in 2011. Wang immediately returned toChina, and has lived there while working abroad for a Canadian company since. In 2012, the IRB determined that Wang was no longer at risk of persecution for being Catholic, and ceased his refugee claim.
Kim is fromKorea. She fled an abusive husband who was a high ranking official in the government, and also had ties to the mafia. Her refugee status was approved in 2006, and she became a permanent resident of Canada in 2008. She has two Canadian born children, and is the director of aCanada– Korean business association. In 2011, her husband died. In 2012, the IRB determined that Kim was no longer at risk of persecution in Korea.
As a result of Bill C-31, all of the above individuals would lose their permanent resident status and be removed fromCanada.
When looking at the above three scenarios some may question why it is relevant where the individuals worked. However, it is important because permanent residents do not live in a vacuum. They become members of their local community, and conduct their affairs with the legitimate expectation that their residency inCanada is permanent, or at least subject to their control.
Bill C-31 throws a wrench in this. It provides that refugees who became permanent residents can lose their permanent resident status and be removed from Canadathrough no fault of their own. The loss of status is not predicated on the refugee having lied. Rather, it is based on circumstances beyond their control. Furthermore, there will be no degree of establishment or hardship that the permanent resident can show to keep his status.
Even if one does not believe that Canada does not owe anything to people who are not Canadian citizens, then one should still question whether the automatic revocation of permanent resident status with no appeal right is a good thing for Canada. There will be the economic costs to Canada in the form of employees and employers abruptly having to leave. There will also be personal costs to Canadians dependent on them.
To me, the solution to the above-mentioned problems appears obvious. If the government is determined that the cessation of refugee status should lead to a loss of permanent resident status, then it should provide an appeal right to the Immigration Appeal Division where humanitarian & compassionate considerations can be considered.
I cannot think of a single, strong reason why it should not do so.