Canada - Refugees

Canada offers refugee protection to people in Canada who fear persecution or whose removal from Canada would subject them to a danger of torture, a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

The refugee protection system in Canada is based on the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which states that Canada’s objectives with respect to refugees are to:

  • recognize that the refugee program is in the first instance about saving lives and offering protection to the displaced and persecuted;
  • fulfill Canada’s international legal obligations with respect to refugees and affirm Canada’s commitment to international efforts to provide assistance to those in need of resettlement;
  • grant, as a fundamental expression of Canada’s humanitarian ideals, fair consideration to those who come to Canada claiming persecution;
  • offer safe haven to persons with a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, as well as those at risk of torture or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment;
  • establish fair and efficient procedures that will maintain the integrity of the Canadian refugee protection system, while upholding Canada’s respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all human beings;
  • support the self-sufficiency and the social and economic well-being of refugees by facilitating reunification with their family members in Canada;
  • protect the health and safety of Canadians and to maintain the security of Canadian society; and
  • promote international justice and security by denying access to Canadian territory to persons, including refugee claimants, who are security risks or serious criminals.


Convention Refugees are people who are outside their home country or the country where they normally live, and who are unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation.

Person in need of protection is a person in Canada whose removal to their home country or country where they normally live would subject them personally to a danger of torture;  risk to their life; or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.


Officers receiving a refugee claim decide whether it is eligible for referral to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), an independent administrative tribunal that makes decisions on immigration and refugee matters. The IRB decides who is a Convention refugee or a person in need of protection.

The refugee claim may not be eligible for referral to the IRB if the applicant has been recognized as a Convention refugee by another country to which he/she can return; or has been granted protected person status in Canada; or has arrived via the Canada-United States border;[i] he/she is not admissible to Canada on security grounds, or because of criminal activity or human rights violations; or has made a previous refugee claim that was found to be ineligible for referral or rejected by the IRB; or the applicant abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim.