Until recently, refugees in Canada have correctly assumed that a positive determination would entitle them to remain in Canada permanently. In fact, until legislative changes in 2012, once a refugee obtained permanent resident status, refugees were guaranteed the right to remain in Canada permanently unless the claimant violated Canadian law, which in some cases resulted in revocation.
However, in 2012, the government radically altered the landscape and implemented new Cessation legislation, which was purportedly introduced to combat refugee fraud. The legislation was intended to combat those who were found to be Convention Refugees, but then returned to their home countries immediately after obtaining their status, thus demonstrating their claims were likely fraudulent.
The alarming fact is, despite the government’s assurances to the contrary, Cessation applications are being made by the government to revoke Permanent Resident status of refugees who have returned to their home countries even where the return takes place 20 or 30 years after their permanent resident status was issued.
For example, imagine a refugee claimant from Chile who arrived in Canada in the 1980s. In 2010, more than 30 years after the claimant’s arrival in Canada and some 20 years after the country was transformed into a working democracy, the claimant returns to Chile for the funeral of his father. As a result of the aforementioned legislative amendments, such a trip renders the claimant vulnerable to a Cessation application, which if successful, results in the automatic revocation of the claimant’s Permanent Resident status. Thus, despite making a perfectly legitimate refugee claim, having lived in Canada for nearly his whole life, having never committed a crime and lived his life as a “permanent” resident, the claimant could be deported.
This dramatic example of how the Cessation legislation is used by the government is neither far-fetched nor unlikely. It points to the danger of broadly worded legislation left in the hands of bureaucrats unfamiliar with the context within which the legislation was born. Legislation which was specifically enacted to combat fraud is now being used to deprive very long term Permanent Residents of their right to remain in Canada.
What can Refugees do to protect themselves?
1) Claimants must make every effort to obtain citizenship at the earliest possible time. Citizenship cures this vulnerability. No cessation application can be brought against Citizens.
2) If you are subject to a Cessation application retain an experienced refugee lawyer at the earliest possible time. Your lawyer will put Immigration on notice that you will vigorously fight any such application and challenge the government’s abuse of process.
3) Do not give up! Many cases only succeed at the Federal Court level where you can seek Judicial Review of a negative RPD decision. Often it is not until the Federal Court application that an actual lawyer from the government pays attention to your file.