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Speeding up family reunification for refugees

Two sections of the CBA team up with the Canadian Council for Refugees to propose a unique, cost-effective solution for the federal government to address the prolonged separation of refugee families

Child looking out a window

In a nutshell

Protected persons who initiate refugee claims in Canada face delays of up to four years to reunite with immediate family members. These delays have far-reaching consequences. Unlike immigrants, they cannot visit their home countries because of the risks they face there. The CBA sections and the CCR propose that the government issue temporary resident permits to dependents of protected persons, thereby avoiding lengthy and difficult family separations. This would offer an accessible, equitable, and cost-effective way to achieve the objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) while fulfilling Canada’s international obligations to children.

The best interest of the child

The submission, co-authored by the CBA’s Immigration Law and Children and Youth Law sections and the CCR, highlights Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It calls on federal officials to prioritize the best interests of the child in decision-making, as affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1999 ruling Baker v. Canada.

By the numbers

Current processing times are 29 months for principal applicants and 47 months for dependents abroad. The delays are attributed to “immigration levels set far below the actual number of applications,” causing pending applications to be deferred to subsequent years.

The proposal

The letter recommends using ministerial instructions to issue temporary resident permits under Section 24 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This approach would:

  • Increase procedural fairness.
  • Reduce the number of cases litigated before the Federal Court.
  • Help meet Canada’s obligations under the UNCRC.

If implemented, this measure would allow dependents of protected persons to:

  • Reside in Canada.
  • Access work and study permits.
  • Benefit from provincial health coverage.

Read the submission.