Last Updated on July 19, 2012 by Steven Meurrens

The Federal Court has affirmed in Yang v. Canada, 2012 FC 849 that there is no good faith requirement in refugee claims.

For example, refugee claimants from countries where apostasy is a crime (such as Iran) can credibly claim persecution based on the fact that they converted from Islam regardless of what their motivations for converting were.

Even where claimants convert for opportunistic reasons, they are still entitled to protection if they can establish a well-founded fear of persecution on a Convention ground.

The decision re-iterated the Ghasemian v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2003 FC 1266 ruling which stated that:

Mrs. Ghasemian says that the Board also erred when it looked at her motive for conversion and applied the wrong test by rejecting her claim on the basis that it was not made in good faith i.e. she did not convert for a purely religious motive. She relies on the decision of the English Court of Appeal inDanian v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, [1999] E.W.J. No. 5459 online: QL.

In that case, the English Court of Appeal found that even though Mr. Danian’s “refugee sur place” claim was based on outspoken political opinions, allegedly made for the sole purpose of supporting his claim, the tribunal still had the obligation to determine whether he would face persecution if returned to his country of origin.

Although the decision in Danian, above, is not binding on this Court, I find its reasoning quite persuasive and agree that opportunistic claimants are still protected under the Convention if they can establish a genuine and well-founded fear of persecution for a Convention ground.

 I note, however, that in Danian, above, the Court also said that the fact that a claimant has manipulated his or her situation in order to make a refugee claim may still be relevant to the issue of credibility.

Obviously, this may have a significant impact on a claimant’s ability to establish the existence of a subjective fear of persecution if the only evidence in that respect is his or her testimony.