Refugee Rights

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As Canadians we are at our best when we treat refugees fairly and with respect and compassion. We must return to the better parts of our tradition of welcoming refugees.

Human Rights Day Statement: What About Refugee Rights?

Historically, Canada has been known for its excellence in refugee protection. In 1986, the UN’s annual Nansen Refugee Award was given to the “people of Canada” in recognition of outstanding service to the cause of refugees. Canada remains the only country-as-laureate in the award’s 60-year history.

Last year, our country received global commendation for the successes of our private sponsorship of refugees program. Country representatives from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States came to Ottawa for three days, to learn more about Canada's private sponsorship program.

While Canada sets a good example on the international front, a number of challenges still impede our private sponsorship work at home. For instance, Sponsors are often met with long application wait times (with little communication on their applications), and there's a limit of 1,000 for applications in 2017. These could restrain the level of response sponsors can give in support of refugees in flight from danger.

CPJ calls on the government to ensure that private sponsors are better able to navigate policy and political requirements in their work. Any policy barriers to sponsorship will harm refugees — the very ones whom we seek to help.


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

CPJ's has released a report on the policy challenges to private sponsorship in Canada. The report highlights for main areas of concern many Sponsorship Agreement Holders have with the private sponsorship program.

Long wait times for applications in process, especially for non-Syrian cases, is a challenge SAHs want the government to address speedily. SAHs also find it troubling that there are constraints to the number of applications they can submit, given the readiness of many Canadians to support refugees today.

Lastly, SAHs do not believe refugees should have to repay travel loans, as this impedes their successful socio-economic integration into their new communities. Overall, SAHs want government policies on refugee resettlement to be equitable for refugees. Read more

Policy Statements

Want to understand how Christian values can translate into policy that protects the rights of refugees in Canada?

Read CPJ's statements and letters defending the rights of refugees and newcomers in Canada. Read more

Take Action

Want to take concrete steps towards defending the rights of refugees?

It’s time to change the conversation about refugees in Canada. They have often endured incredible hardships and deserve our government’s protection — not suspicion, mandatory detention, or exclusion from urgent medical care. Read more

Stand up for refugees! Tell your MP that you support calls to review Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. Use the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue's Action Centre to call, write, or tweet to you MP, requesting that they ask the Minister to monitor and review the Safe Third Country Agreement, and explore other favorable refugee resettlement opportunities.


Want to know what CPJ staff have been saying on refugee rights

Keep up-to-date with the latest news and views from CPJ on refugee rights. Read more


What We Do

CPJ works to educate the public — especially churches — on the ever-changing landscape of refugee legislation in Canada. Through research, policy monitoring, and publishing, we bring attention to the impact of legislative change on refugees and claimants, and on the groups who sponsor and support them to come to Canada.

We speak out against policies that disregard the rights and pre-migration experiences of refugees and newcomers to Canada. We also engage with parliamentarians to bring a public justice and human rights framework to the issues.

CPJ provides timely analysis and research on refugee rights. Contact Joe Gunn for more information.

Recent Actions

2017: CPJ wrote a letter to Immigration Minister, Hon. Ahmed Hussen, to reconsider Canada's Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, in light of recent immigration tensions in the US, and the impact these could have on fair hearings for refugee claimants there. CPJ noted that the agreement violates Canada's values of non-discrimination and equality on religious, national, and cultural basis.

2016: Cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program in 2013 left many refugees and refugee claimants without needed medical treatments. In defending the cuts, the government cast refugees as “bogus” and as “fraudsters” trying to take advantage our healthcare system. CPJ advocated for these cuts be be rescinded and celebrated when funding was fully restored in 2016.

2015: CPJ called for Canada to live up to its ongoing commitment to welcome one out of every 10 of all resettled refugees globally and resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees. In January 2015, the minister of Citizenship and Immigration announced that Canada would aim to meet this exact goal over the following three years.

2015: CPJ released "The Invisible Victims," a study demonstrating the severely negative effects that a minimum residency requirement for social assistance would have on refugee claimants in Canada

2014: CPJ released "Private Sponsorship and Public Policy," an in-depth research report outlining the political barriers to church-connected refugee resettlement in Canada

2014: Faith groups, including CPJ, responded to reports that the Canadian federal government was only looking to resettle Syrian refugees from the country’s religious minorities. In the "Inter-faith Statement on Syrian Refugees," faith leaders supported the Canadian Council of Refugees in affirming and insisting that discriminating by religion is unacceptable. 

2014: CPJ joined 160 organizations from across Canada have to oppose parts of federal Bill C-43. An open letter was sent to Finance Minister Joe Oliver calling for the withdrawal of sections 172 and 173 in this bill, which would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance benefits for refugee claimants and others without status in Canada.  CPJ also wrote to the Premiers of each province and territory calling for them to protect refugees from these cuts and not implement the changes Bill C-43 allows them to make. We collected these responses here.

CPJ also submitted a brief to Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration entitled, "Protecting the Vulnerable: A call to safeguard social assistance for refugee claimants" expressing our deep concern regarding sections 172 and 173 of the omnibus Bill C-43.

2013: CPJ helped get Canadian church leaders involved in the Human Rights Day Statement on refugee rights, a powerful letter signed by 47 prominent Canadians urging the government to return to its strong tradition of refugee protection.

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