Canadian Refugee Procedure/About this text

There are many books about the substance of refugee law, in Canada and internationally. They cover subjects such as what it means to have a well-founded fear of persecution and when a claimant has access to adequate state protection. This is not one of them. This is a book about the legal processes involved in claiming refugee status in Canada, focusing particularly on the Refugee Protection Division Rules of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Tens of thousands of people file a claim for refugee protection in Canada every year. The ensuing process that they navigate is governed by the set of laws described herein.

Refugee admission is described as an area of immigration law that "remains controversial" and is "difficult to administer".[1] As Clayton Ma notes, refugee procedures in Canada have been characterized by speedy policy changes, often occasioned by "new governments and shifting popular opinions".[2] That said, in recent decades, such policy changes and procedural innovations have taken place against the stable background of Canada's international commitments, particularly the commitments enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention. The policy change in this area of law means that rules and processes are regularly under development and in flux. This can be a challenge for claimants and lawyers both - as Jeremy Bentham observed, "miserable is the slavery of that people among whom the law is either unsettled or unknown."[3] This text strives to assist with remedying such a condition, primarily by describing the law as it exists (lex lata) but also by providing descriptions inflected by a conception of the law as it should be (lex ferenda). This discussion strives to include consideration of historical context. In this way, this text is influenced by the observation of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. that "The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience" and as a result focuses on the history and evolution of the rules in question over time.


  1. Troper, Harold. The Canadian Encyclopedia, s.v. "Immigration in Canada", Last Edited September 19, 2017,
  2. Encyclopedia, The Canadian. "Canadian Refugee Policy".  The Canadian Encyclopedia, 10 November 2020, Historica Canada. Accessed 30 December 2020.
  3. Mindus, P. (2020). Towards a Theory of Arbitrary Law-making in Migration Policy. Etikk I Praksis - Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics, 14(2), 9-33.