December 2, 2013

The first of 1000 Tibetan refugees arrive in Canada

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

On Friday November 29, 2013, the first 17 of 1000 Tibetans arrived in Ottawa and Toronto as a part of a new federal program that will allow them to become permanent residents of Canada.  This follows a request by the Tibetan-Canadian community to sponsor and help find permanent homes for displaced Tibetans living in harsh, isolated areas of northeastern India.

In 2007, Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa to ask for help with refugee resettlement.  In December 2010, then Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made the announcement that Canada will welcome up to 1000 Tibetan refugees from Arunachal Pradesh, India over a five year period.

Canada is working with the Project Tibet Society to coordinate Canadian sponsorship for each of the applicants. The organization is working to match private sponsors to each applicant and is actively fundraising to provide housing and financial assistance to the 1000 Tibetan refugees. The resettlement is to be at no additional expense to the Canadian Government, so finding private sponsors is vital to ensuring all 1000 of the Tibetan refugees finds a permanent home in Canada.  So far they have secured funding for the first 90 Tibetan applicants.

Those arriving in Canada will still be subject to standard immigration eligibility requirements including security, criminal, and medical inadmissibility screening. Applications will be approved by the Canadian High Commission in Delhi, India. Those meeting the eligibility criteria will be granted permanent residence. In time they will also be eligible to apply for full Canadian citizenship.

The Dalai Lama himself was presented with honorary Canadian citizenship by the Government of Canada in 2006. He is one of only six people ever to have this honour bestowed upon them.  He has lived in exile in northern India since 1959 to escape Chinese religious persecution in the Autonomous Region of Tibet.

The next wave of Tibetans is due to arrive by December 15, 2013, followed by a third group in April 2014.  The entire resettlement is expected to be complete by May 2016. To help preserve the Tibetan culture here in Canada, those arriving will be settled in five areas with an existing Tibetan cultural community including Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, and Vancouver Island.