Mapping Canada's Refugee Determination System: 1950-2020
In 1986, Canada was awarded the Nansen medal by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in recognition of their, “major and sustained contribution to the cause of refugees” (CCR, 2009). The Nansen medal, established in 1954, is awarded annually to an individual, group or, organization in recognition of outstanding service and commitment to the cause of refugees and displaced or stateless people (CCR, 2009). This is in part due to Canada’s ongoing commitment to improve the country’s refugee determination process to ensure an accessible, fair, and efficient determination process. Although Canada’s determination system is not without flaws, over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, the country made several amendments and improvements to the refugee determination system (RDS) through a variety of policy and legislative reforms. This report will examine the evolution of Canada’s RDS over the course of the second half of the twentieth century. Between the years 1950 to 2020, Canada saw a tremendous shift and introduction of a variety of reforms, policies, and legislation that drastically changed the RDS. Among such changes include: the adoption of the 1951 Refugee Convention; The Immigration Act of 1976; the extension of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms to non-citizens; and the establishment of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada, Canada’s immigration and refugee adjudication body. Importantly, the creation of the IRB drastically changed the terrain of refugee law and protection in Canada. As will be evident throughout the report, the IRB becomes the primary actor, in tandem with the Canadian courts, in creating guidelines, policies, and special programs that help to better secure the protection of refugee claimants in Canada. As such, this report will serve as an overview of the various reforms and will explore the impact of such reforms on Canada’s refugee determination system with a particular focus on Canada’s response to War Refugees.