Resource Person: Jennifer Stone
Staff Lawyer, Neighbourhood Legal Services
333 Queen St. East, Toronto, ON
Tel: 416-861-0677 x236
Email: stonejlao [dot] on [dot] ca
By way of introduction, the following brief background of Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program by the Canadian Council for Refugees is helpful:
The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program is one of the key ways in which Canada contributes towards finding protection and a durable solution for the world’s refugees. As underlined in the Canada Gazette notice, the overwhelming response of Canadians through this Program to South-East Asian refugees led to the Canadian people being awarded the Nansen Medal just over 25 years ago, in 1986. Canada’s reputation as a welcoming country resettling many refugees continues to depend in significant part on this Program.
The situation today has changed in many ways since the Program was launched in the 1970s, but one thing that remains constant is its unique capacity to engage Canadians directly in resettling more refugees than would otherwise be able to find a home in Canada. This capacity will gain in importance in the coming years, given the Government of Canada’s welcome commitment to increasing the numbers of refugees resettled.
Because the Program is a volunteer one, inviting Canadians to contribute their time and resources, it is important that it be designed and managed with a view to facilitating sponsorship. Canadians have many options for volunteering, and there are many projects that community organizations can take on: it is therefore important to encourage and promote Canadians getting involved – and staying involved – in resettlement through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
In order to be eligible for resettlement in Canada, a refugee must belong to one of these categories:
Convention Refugees Abroad are persons who meet the refugee definition in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereafter the 1951 Convention): those who have a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or a membership of a particular social group. Refugees in this class can apply if they live outside their home country, or the country where they normally live, and have, within a reasonable period of time, no durable solution other than resettlement in Canada.
The Country of Asylum Class is for persons in refugee-like situations who do not qualify as Convention Refugees. To qualify under this category, the refugees must be outside their home country or the country where they normally live; be seriously and personally affected by civil war, armed conflict or massive violations of human rights and unable to find an adequate solution within a reasonable period of time. Individuals in this category are mainly identified and referred by private sponsorship groups.
Please note that the former Source Country Class was repealed in October 2011. Click here for further information.
Also note that in December 2011, the Canadian government pre-published proposed changes to Canada’s PSR program. Comments were invited which Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration is presently considering. These changes would require all Group of Five and Community-sponsored refugees to show “proof of recognized Convention Refugee status”. This proposal is troubling for many reasons, and would bring confusion to the two currently recognized classes of eligible persons for resettlement. For further information please see the CCR comments.
Refugees accepted for resettlement to Canada must have enough money for basic necessities (e.g., lodging, food, shelter, and clothing). Self-supporting refugees do not receive financial and other support from the government but are eligible to take part in government programs for newcomers, such as language instruction and orientation services.
Refugees selected for resettlement to Canada can also be sponsored by the government and/or a private sponsoring group. Three types of sponsorship exist:
Government assisted: the costs are fully funded by the government. Government-assisted refugees are Convention Refugees Abroad whose initial resettlement in Canada is entirely supported by the Government of Canada or Quebec. The government provides refugees with financial support and essential services in the form of accommodation, clothing, food and resettlement assistance for up to one year from the date of arrival in Canada, or until the refugees are able to support themselves.
- Private sponsorship: the refugee sponsorship is fully funded by private sponsoring groups. They are responsible for all material and financial support, and for providing emotional support and orientation during the sponsorship period (usually the refugee’s first 12 months in Canada), or until the refugees become self-supporting. Privately sponsored refugees are Convention Refugees Abroad and members of the Country of Asylum Class whose resettlement in Canada is supported by:
- Groups of Five (G5) which are groups of five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents, who are at least 18 years of age and who live in the community where the refuges are expected to settle.
- Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) which are established organizations that have signed a Refugee Sponsorship Agreement with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. There are currently over 75 SAHs across Canada, ranging from religious organizations to ethnocultural groups and other humanitarian organizations. SAHs may recognise Constituent Groups (CGs) to sponsor refugees under its agreement.
- Any organisation, association or corporation which has adequate financial capacity and is based in the community where the refugee is expected to live can sponsor a refugee as a Community Sponsor.
In private sponsorship, refugees may be identified directly by the sponsoring group (sponsor-referred cases), or may be indentified and referred to the sponsoring group by the visa office (visa office-referred cases).
The following people do NOT qualify for private sponsorship:
People already in Canada: Such persons seeking Canada’s protection as refugees should contact their local Citizenship and Immigration Centre for information on how to make a refugee claim.
- People who were the subject of a previous sponsorship application and were refused, unless their circumstances have changed (e.g., new information, which was not presented in the previous application has come to light; or the Canadian laws affecting the case have changed).
- People deemed to be Convention refugees by another country and allowed to live there permanently.
- People who fled persecution or civil war some time ago but who can now integrate into the country where they are residing or can return home safely.
Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) the government funds the sponsorships with private sponsoring groups providing logistical and moral support. The JAS program enables (SAHs) and their (CGs) to partner with the Government in the resettlement of refugees particularly those who are identified as having special needs. Community Sponsors are not eligible for JAS programs.
Additional Sponsorship Opportunities
- Women at Risk (WAR) Program was set up to ensure that refugee women applicants are not disadvantaged regarding the resettlement opportunities and throughout the resettlement process. The persecution or harassment some women experience may be solely gender-based. While applicants must qualify as Convention Refugees Abroad or members of the Country of Asylum class, they may not fully meet the requirement to demonstrate an ability to establish themselves in Canada in the short or medium term. They may then require additional assistance to successfully resettle, or they may have faced trauma and violence that has left them emotionally vulnerable and in need of extra assistance. Women at Risk may come as government-assisted, as privately sponsored, or under a Joint Assistance Sponsorship.
- Urgent Protection Program (UPP) Refugees who qualify for resettlement in Canada and are in need of urgent protection because of immediate threats to life, liberty or physical safety are resettled on the expedited basis required by their particular circumstances. The UNHCR or another recognized referral organization refers UPP cases to Canadian visa offices abroad. Thereafter, a decision to resettle the refugee can be made within 24 hours. CIC tries to ensure that these cases are en route to Canada within three to five days of referral to the mission or, given local challenges, as soon as possible. Resettlement to another country is considered when the CIC is unable to provide immediate protection.
- Family Class Sponsorships: are processed faster, do not require that the persons meet the refugee eligibility definitions, do not require that the persons be able to establish themselves, and the persons have appeal rights. Persons who are the close relatives (spouse, dependent children, orphaned minor brothers and sisters) of someone already in Canada, should usually be sponsored by that family member. However, Family Class Sponsorships cannot be used for extended families. In this case, a Family Class Sponsorship is not possible. However, note that Canada recently placed a moratorium on parent- and grandparent sponsorships. Instead parents or grandparents of Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents, if eligible, can apply for a 'super visa' which would allow for multiple entry up to two years. The child/grandchild in Canada must make a minimum level of income, and the parent/grandparent must pass a medical exam and provide their own private medical insurance. Please click here for further information.
Family members include spouse or common-law partner and dependent children:
- Spouse: This is a person of the opposite sex to whom the applicant is legally married.
- Common-law partner: is the person who is living in a conjugal relationship with another person either of the opposite sex or same sex, and has done so for a period of at least one year.
- Common-law partners who have been separated for reasons beyond their control (for example, civil war or armed conflict) should also be included on the application. Separated family members may be reunited in Canada if they apply within one year of the date the Principal Applicant (PA) arrived in Canada.
- Dependent children: Dependent children may be the refugee’s own children or those of the refugee’s spouse or common-law partner. To be considered dependent, the child must:
- be under the age of 22 and not have a spouse or common-law partner; or
- depend substantially on the financial support of a parent and have been continuously enrolled and in attendance as full-time students in a government-accredited post secondary institution since before the age of 22 (or since marrying or entering into a common-law relationship, if this happened before the age of 22); or
- depend substantially on the financial support of a parent since before the age of 22 and unable to provide for themselves due to a medical condition.
De facto dependants do not meet the definition of family members but are considered to be an integral part of the family unit. Such individuals should be included in the sponsorship. They must be the dependants of a PA who has been determined to be a member of one of the two refugee classes mentioned above. The de facto dependant must meet the definition of refugee in his own right even when a dependency relationship is established. If the de facto relationship cannot be established, then the refugee must be assessed in his/her own right as a refugee.