Who can make a claim for refugee status in Canada?

Every person is entitled to protection from persecution. Canada has recognized this basic human right since 1951 when it signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (the Geneva Convention). The right to life, liberty and security of the person is also enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) decides who is a Convention Refugee or a person in need of protection. Convention Refugees are outside their home country or the country they normally live in. They are not able to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on:

  • race
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • nationality, or
  • membership in a social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation.

A person in need of protection is a person in Canada who cannot return to their home country safely. This is because if they return, they would be subject to a:

  • danger of torture
  • risk to their life, or
  • risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Officers who review the initial refugee claim will decide if it will be referred to the IRB. The IRB is an independent board that decides immigration and refugee matters.

What you need to start a refugee claim in Canada

You need to show who you are and why you are asking for protection.

WHO? – You must have at least one original identity documents (I.D.) from your country of origin. For example: Passport or travel document, birth certificate, marriage certificate, school records, national I.D. cards, voter registration card.

If you don’t have any of these, ask someone in your home country to send you one. Immigration officials will keep the originals of your documents and provide you with copies.

WHY? – Example: persecution, government in your country cannot or will not protect you, lack of safety in another area of your own country.

IMPORTANT – You must declare even false documents that were used to travel or to enter Canada.

For further reading

Download the ‘Refugee Hearing Preparation: A Guide for Refugee Claimants’ in English, Spanish, Farsi or Arabic.

You can also download the ‘Refugee Claimants in British Columbia//FAQs‘ in English.

If you need help understanding the refugee claim process, please contact an SOS staff member at 604-255-1881 or email: contact@sosbc.ca.