July 12, 2019

Bill C-97, Division 16: Tightened Restrictions on Inland Refugee Claims

Posted by Legal Team - Bellissimo Law Group PC

On 21 June 2019, Parliament passed Bill C-97, also known as “An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures.”

Division 16 of Bill C-97 introduced many important amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). This post will highlight some of those IRPA amendments.

Note that this post is not intended to be a complete account of the IRPA amendments – and certainly not a replacement for personalized legal advice. You should speak with an immigration lawyer before making any decision about your immigration or refugee matters. Further, how the amendments will be implemented remains to be seen, and the amendments may be implemented in ways that are not obvious from the text of Bill C-97 alone.

People seeking immigration advice should also read up on how Bill C-97 changes the regulation of immigration consultants, which is not covered here.

1. New Ground of Ineligibility for Inland Refugee Claims

People seeking refugee protection after coming to Canada will no longer be able to make a refugee claim to the Immigration Refugee Board (IRB) if they previously requested refugee protection from certain foreign countries.

Before C-97, asylum-seekers were already ineligible if they made a previous refugee claim inside Canada, or if they had successfully received protection abroad (among other grounds). Now, ineligibility has been extended to people who tried to claim abroad but never succeeded in those claims.

The rule only applies to foreign countries that have an information-sharing agreement/arrangement with Canada “to assist in the administration and enforcement of their immigration and citizenship laws”. Exactly what this means and which countries this covers remains to be tested. However, it certainly includes the USA, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

The rule is also limited to claims made after C-97 was introduced on 19 March 2019.

People found IRB-ineligible under this new rule will only be able to submit applications for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA). Unlike IRB proceedings, PRRA applications allow much less time to collect evidence, and had much lower rates of success. However, unlike most PRRA applications, a PRRA application by someone found IRB-ineligible under the new rule will be entitled to a hearing.

People affected by the rule are also barred from applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (not to be confused with a Visitor, Study, or Work visa/permit) during the processing of any PRRA application.

This expanded ineligibility rule is troubling. There are several situations why someone who genuinely needs protection might have claimed elsewhere but not succeeded in getting or maintaining protection:  

  • Some countries will accept refugee claims, but delay processing of those claims indefinitely.
  • Some countries do not recognize the same grounds for protection as Canada (ex. the USA does not protect survivors of state-endorsed domestic violence, whereas Canada does)
  • A refugee may flee their country to seek protection, only to find their persecutors followed them to a second country.
  • A refugee may flee their home country to make a claim, but return after it seems persecution has ended – only to realize there is still persecution and flee again (ex. where a promising new government eventually turns out just as bad as the oppressive one they replaced)

2. Federal Court proceedings will extend the time refused asylum-seekers are barred from making H&C, TRP, and PRRA applications

If a refused refugee claimant asks the Federal Court the review an IRB refusal, and the Federal Court does not rule in their favour, it will extend the time they are barred from making certain applications.

If someone makes a refugee claim to the IRB, and that claim is refused by a division of the IRB, they cannot make certain immigration applications until one year has passed from the last refusal. Previously, a refused refugee claimant could ask the Federal Court to review the IRB’s refusal without extending that one-year bar – even if the Court’s decided against the claimant. This has now changed. If the Federal Court rules against the claimant, or if the claimant withdraws/abandons their Federal Court proceedings, the bar will be renewed for one year from that moment.

Applications that fall under the one-year bar are as follows:

  • An application for Permanent Residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds
  • An application for a Temporary Resident Permit
  • An application for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment

Fortunately, the exceptions to the one-year bar have not changed. It will not apply to people who would be denied life-sustaining medical care if removed, or people whose removal would hurt a child’s best interests.

3. To pressure foreign governments into cooperating with removals from Canada, Temporary Residents can be targeted

If the Canadian government believes that the government of a foreign country is unreasonably refusing/delaying the issuance of travel documents to their citizens who are in Canada, the government now has an explicit power to stop accepting applications for Worker, Student, or Visitor status from citizens of that country in retaliation – and even suspend or terminate in-process applications.

This move appears designed to pressure foreign governments into providing the travel documents necessary to remove their citizens from Canada.

4. New listed immigration objective

IPRA now lists an additional 12th objective for Canada’s immigration system: “to maintain, through the establishment of fair and efficient procedures, the integrity of the Canadian immigration system”. Interestingly, this has been a stated goal of Canada’s refugee protection system since 2003 in slightly different terms, but not a stated goal for immigration generally.

For more information on Refugee Claims, please click here.