Interfaith Call to Action – Asylum with Dignity for Refugee Claimants

By Citizens for Public Justice

Together, as people of faith, we call on the Canadian government to implement a national plan for refugee claimants that provides essential housing, social support and upholds the rights of refugee claimants. 

Globally, Canada is positioned as a leader in welcoming and resettling refugees whose applications are approved overseas. The same cannot be said for refugee claimants—those who arrive seeking protection within our borders. Despite having the knowledge and resources needed to support refugee claimants, our government has no coordinated plan to respond, reacting instead with short-term, costly, and inadequate housing solutions without providing access to support services or adequate legal aid. 

News of refugee claimants sleeping on the streets, leading in some instances to tragic deaths while awaiting shelter in the cold weather, must be a wake-up call to us all. Without a comprehensive plan for refugee claimants, the Government is putting thousands at risk. 

In 2023, the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) processed 51,848 refugee claims and received a total of 137,947 refugee claims. About 78% of the claims processed were accepted. Although numbers change year-over-year, we know two things for certain: Canada can expect to receive thousands of refugee claims every year from people exercising their internationally-protected right to seek asylum; and the vast majority of those who submitted a claim are found to be in need of protection by the RPD.

The lack of a coordinated response from all three levels of government fails those who have a right to asylum and puts local governments and community groups in short-term reaction mode. In addition, policies of deterrence such as the expansion of the US-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) signal an intention to abdicate our responsibility towards those fleeing persecution and imminent danger. Canada is enriched by immigrant communities that have contributed to its diverse cultural fabric. The negligence of our obligations to asylum seekers is at odds with the image of a country that is welcoming to all.

Religious organizations have a long history of advocating for the admission of displaced and persecuted people to Canada. Faith groups intervened in the landmark Singh case in which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied to everyone physically in Canada, including asylum seekers. Almost 4 decades later, the Canadian Council of Churches joined the Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International Canada in challenging the STCA on the grounds that it precludes rights guaranteed by the Singh decision. Sustained interfaith support towards those seeking protection within our borders has continuously influenced the in-Canada asylum system.   

All of our religions teach the fundamental worth of every human being and the responsibility towards those fleeing persecution. Without a comprehensive national plan for refugee claimants, the Canadian government fails to uphold and protect the rights of individuals seeking asylum. 

Alongside civil society organizations and advocates across the country, we call on the Federal Government to implement the Canadian Council for Refugees’ National Plan for Asylum with Dignity, which includes the following five pillars: 

  1. Establishing reception centres in cities with large numbers of claimants to orient arrivals and coordinate services, in collaboration with provincial and municipal governments and civil society.
  1. Providing sustained federal funding for short-term and transitional housing for refugee claimants, scaling up the successful experiences of civil society, diaspora and community groups to complement provincial and municipal efforts
  1.  Making refugee claimants eligible for the support services offered to other newcomers under the Settlement Program run by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
  1. Ensuring that adequate legal aid coverage is available for refugee claimants in all parts of the country supported by multi-year funding.
  1. Streamlining the initial stage of the claims process and eliminating the backlog in the subsequent determination process with small but significant adjustments.

It’s time for Canada to provide a dignified welcome to those seeking safety within our borders. As people of faith, we denounce the harms inflicted on thousands of refugee claimants due to a lack of planning and coordination. We have the resources and expertise to do better.  As many wealthy nations in the world shrug off their international human rights responsibilities to asylum seekers, Canada must pave the way by implementing a national plan that provides essential housing, social support and upholds the rights of refugee claimants.


Signatures from leaders of faith organizations and community members


Join faith leaders and community members across Canada in calling for the Government to end the human rights violations in immigration detentions. Add your signature!

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