Tag Archives: migration policy

Canadian Refugee Law 101 – Essential Resources

19 Oct

The recent interest in Canadian refugee law, sparked by the arrival of a boat full of Sri Lankan migrants off the west coast of Canada, has led to a renewed debate about whether Canada is too “lax” about refugees.

An important element missing from the debate is a basic understanding of  how the refugee process works in Canadian law. Below is a basic list of resources (web sites) to learn more about this topic.

1.0 The basic legal framework for Canadian refugee law is contained in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

2.0 Canada’s international obligations to protect refugees arise from the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, which Canada became a party to on June 4, 1969.

3.0 A great resource to understanding how Canada’s refugee process works is the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada website.

4.0 The Canadian Council for Refugees website advocates on behalf of refugees in Canada and does an excellent job of highlighting the key issues which refugees face.

5.0 Canadian refugee law does not operate within a vacuum but is influenced by and influences the body of international refugee law. There are numerous sites which place Canadian refugee law within an international context. Some sites of note are a Guide to International Refugee Law Resources on the web by Elisa Mason. Ms. Mason has also prepared other resource guides on the topic of refugee law which are detailed and useful.

6.0 The website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is, of course, an essential website for anyone trying to understand the complex laws and processes which govern the rights of refugees.

The above list is only a beginning but should provide a basic overview.


Metropolis British Columbia – research and policy

1 Oct

I am on the Board of Directors of Metropolis British Columbia (MBC). MBC is a research body which based at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. It has two co-directors, Krishna Pendakur from SFU and Miu Yan from UBC.

At today’s Board meeting, we grappled with some interesting issues related to the relationship between migration research and policy.

In the case of immigration law, the federal government plans legislation and programs to meet certain policy goals. The provincial governments also have an increasing policy role given the growth of Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP’s) where the provinces set their own policy priorities for temporary and permanent immigration.

For example, if Canada has a shortage of audiologists, then a possible policy goal would be to encourage the immigration of audiologists to Canada by changing the laws so that applications by audiologists are fast tracked, etc. As a lawyer, most of work my interaction with policy is when it is implemented. For example, I get retained to facilitate the audiologist’s application to enter Canada.

For many academic researchers, the policy implications of their work simply do not exist (the work does not relate to policy at all) or they do not see/are not interested in the policy implications. For the latter group, how does MBC make the tweezing out of policy implications more sexy, more of an imperative? These are some of the questions the Research Committee will deal with over the next few weeks.

My own involvement with the nexus between research and policy was as one of the investigators of a Metropolis funded research project (also funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia) in 2007-2008. The topic was “The Impact of Security Based Racial Profiling of Muslims” researched and authored by Alnoor Gova and Rahat Kurd. The project consisted of gathering and assessing a number of in depth interviews with the “subjects” of racial profiling. In the process of assembling the project parameters, there was an intense awareness that the project had to have practical policy implications. The research was in aid of formulating policy responses.

Some of the practical policy suggestions which came out of the research were:

1. That all government agencies involved in security issues (including the
CBSA and CIC) publicize their policies and practices regarding racial
2. That all government agencies involved in security issues keep records of
their practices and make such records available so that the Canadian community
can assess claims about government practices.
3. That community agencies providing services to newcomers to Canada also
provide human rights education so that individuals who are likely to be
targeted are aware of their legal obligations.
4. That targeted funding be made available for such training.
5. That security agencies engage in regular conversations regarding their
policies and practices with communities that are likely to be particularly
affected by these policies.
6. The place of birth identification be removed from Canadian passports.
7. The all government agencies involved in security issues continue to pursue
diversity hiring.
8. That mainstream media be encouraged to portray accounts like the ones
we heard during this project to provide some balance to security profiling
in the media.

Since the publication of the study, the challenge has been to follow up with government to ensure that the dialogue between the report recommendations and actual implementation, continues.