June 20th is World Refugee Day
by Michael Scott
Canada is one the leading countries in support for refugees displaced by war and natural disasters. We should be rightly proud of the reputation of our country as an international leader in resettlement and integration. The theme of this year’s celebration of June 20th is “Whoever, Wherever, Whenever.” Everyone has the right to seek safety (http://unhcr.org/world-refugee-day, html). Since 1980, Canada has welcomed one million refugees and continues to open its hearts and borders to those in danger and need.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his address on World Refugee Day: “Today, I invite all Canadians to reflect on the values that make our country a top destination for those in search of a better life: peace, freedom, equality, and above all a hope for a better future. We will continue to show the world what it means to be Canadians by continuing to provide those in need with a safe place to call home. Refugees are integral to the fabric of our communities across the country; they start businesses, volunteer to help those who need it, and contribute fully to our local economies. Canada is better for it.”
It is too easy for some to lose sight of our country’s proud tradition of helping the displaced. We have only to remember Canada’s response to the Soviet suppression in Hungary in 1956 or in Czechoslovakia in 1968 or the plight of the boat people who fled Vietnam by sea in the late 1970s. We continue to address the crises of the day from the war in Syria, to the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan to the current invasion of Ukraine. Canada responded to all these and other international crises. Canada welcomed over 74,000 Syrian refugees between 2015 and 2020 as well as over 16,000 Afghans since 2021 and 43,000 Ukrainian nationals to date, displaced by the ongoing Russian invasion. The world continues to be a dangerous place for displaced refugees, but Canada remains open and honours the theme of “Whoever, Wherever, Whenever.”
Everyone has the right to be free from the threat from war, violence, or persecution. The United Nations drafted protocols for the treatment of affected persons in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, which are both signed by Canada. The measures include a cornerstone principle of non-refoulement: Article 33 stipulates that Canada and other signatories must carry out risk assessments prior to the removal of non-citizens from Canada who allege the risk of persecution, torture, or other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment if they are returned to their home country. Other rights include: the right to work; the right to be housed; the right to be educated; and right to access public relief and assistance; the freedom of religion; the right to access the courts; the freedom of movement within the country of settlement; and the right to be issued identity and travel documents.
Canada’s immigration Act (IRPA) contains the following description of who is a Convention Refugee: IRPA s.96: “A Convention refugee is a person who, by reason of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, (a) is outside each of their countries of nationality and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to avail themself of the protection of each of those countries; or (b) not having a country of nationality, is outside the country of their former habitual residence and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to return to that country.” The following section 97 covers Protected Persons or those who submit refugee claims from inside Canada based on a fear of returning to their home country. All claims are vetted,
Canada is not perfect, but its efforts to provide a safe haven for refugees and fair adjudication are laudable. Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments (noted above) are a reflection of Canada’s continuing support for refugees. The theme words of “Whoever, Wherever and Whenever” are something for Canadians to keep in their hearts, minds, and sentiments such as words coined by leaders of world religions such as Moses and Jesus, “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Canada is a “doer of these words, not hearer only.”
Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.