Research: Refugee Rights

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Want to learn more about the rights of refugee in Canada?

A Half Welcome, CPJ's 2017 report on private sponsorship issues in Canada highlights refugee sponsorship agreements holders' (SAHs) top concerns with federal government policy.   

Canadians’ interest in private sponsorship has soared in response to the surge in refugees resulting from the Syrian civil war. Many citizens and permanent residents formed sponsorship Groups of Five, and some community groups also sponsored refugees. While this attention served to revitalize the PSRP, it also raised concerns about the efficiency of the program. It revealed the policy challenges which impact the ways private sponsors can engage with, and contribute to, Canada’s overall humanitarian efforts.

There are currently over 100 sponsorship agreement holders in Canada (excluding Quebec) and a large percentage of these are churches or church-connected groups. 

CPJ's 2017 survey of these SAHs found the following major barriers to refugee resettlement in Canada:

Long Wait Times

Over 97% of the SAHs who responded to our study were concerned with the long wait period from when an application is filed and when it is assessed to the eventual arrival of the sponsored refugees. One SAH mentioned that some groups have been waiting for about six years to receive the families they are sponsoring.

Recommendation: The government must ensure that SAH, Groups of 5, and Community Sponsor applications are processed in a timely manner. Additional financial and personnel resources should be allocated to processing centres to speed up processing times. 

Long Wait Times for Non-Syrian Applications

Many also call for attention to the long wait currently impacting many non-Syrian applications, considering the government’s plan to resettle many Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016. SAHs consider this to be inequity in private sponsorship, and urge the government to ensure more balance in this regard. 

Recommendation: The processing of backlogged applications from global visa posts should be the government’s priority for the next three years.

Allocation Limits

There is an incredible surge in private sponsorship interest, but there are not enough spots to sponsor refugees. SAHs raised concerns about the allocation limits placed on the resettlement of privately sponsored refugees in 2017, noting that this impedes refugees’ opportunities for safety. 

Recommendation: The government must provide SAHs with a three-year levels plan that provides estimates on the number of refugees from all sponsorship categories to be resettled within this period. 

Travel Loans

The loan repayment program is still inequitably implemented. The government offers refugees a loan to cover transportation costs to Canada, medical exams, fees for travel documents, and other service fees. They must begin to repay the loans within 30 days of their arrival in Canada. Currently, only Government Assisted Syrian Refugees do not have to repay travel loans. 

Recommendation: The government must totally waive the loan repayment requirement for all refugees, to ensure that the program treats all refugees fairly.​

Reclaiming Protection

There has been a large increase in the number of refugee claimants who have arrived in Canada from the U.S. throughout the past year. The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) allows the Canada Border Services Agency to return refugee claimants to the U.S. under the premise that refugees should make their claim in the first "safe" country in which they arrive. But as  U.S. border officials continue to separate migrant children from their families, there is much reason to believe that the U.S. is no longer safe.

This report details how the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) has restricted access to refugee protection, put refugees in danger, and failed to uphold their rights to receive a fair hearing in Canada.

Safe Third Country Agreement: FAQ

Current immigration developments south of the border call for a closer look at the relationship between Canada and United States immigration policy. The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), in operation since 2004, was created under the assumption that both countries tackle immigration in the same way. 

In light of recent policy changes, it's important to be informed about what the STCA means for refugees who may seek refuge in Canada from the United States.

Here's what you need to know. 

A Half Welcome

A Half Welcome April 2017
Download the report (PDF)

This report examines the main policy challenges Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) face today. Drawing on the responses SAH representatives provided through interviews and a survey, this report highlights four main areas of concern: long wait times, wait times for non-Syrian applications, allocation limits, and travel loans.

"The Invisible Victims"

Invisible Victims  July 2015
Download the Report

This study demonstrates the severely negative effects that a minimum residency requirement for social assistance would have on refugee claimants in Canada. After conducting a survey of service providers who work directly with refugees as well as gathering personal testimonies from claimants, the report provides ample evidence that the policy would be inadvisable on economic, humanitarian, and legal grounds.

"Private Sponsorship and Public Policy"

Cover September 2014
"Private Sponsorship and Public Policy" is a survey of church connected sponsorship agreements holders, those two assist refugees in their resettlement. It outlines their top concerns with government policy including wait times, health cuts, and consultation. 
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