The process to initiate a refugee claim/claim for protection in Canada is relatively straightforward.
There is a lot of information about how Canada determines refugee protection on line.
A starting point would be information on CIC's website here.
Additional resources are available at the IRB's website here.
Here's a publication from the Library of Parliament - dated but useful here.
In essence, once an individual within Canada (either arriving at the airport, making a claim at an inland immigration office (eg. CIC at Harry Hays building downtown Calgary) or making a claim at the US/Canada border - but is an exemption to the Safe Third Country Agreement) informs CIC of an intention to make a refugee claim, the refugee eligibility determination process begins.
This may take different permutations. For example, in Calgary, once you notify CIC of your intention to claim refugee protection at their offices at Room 170 220 4th Ave SE (Harry Hays bldg) they will give you a date several weeks away for an 'eligibility interview'. You will also need to complete a one page form indicating the refugee applicant's name, date of birth and whether they require an interpreter. If required, CIC will provide one for the eligibility interview date. They will give you refugee eligiblity forms ("Information on Individuals Seeking Protection") to complete:
The applicant (aka claimant) will be required to bring the completed forms along with 4 passport sized photographs for the interview. At the interview, current practice appears to be to go through the forms line by line to confirm the information provided. This is slightly tedious. Counsel is allowed to be present, but their sole is strictly circumscribed - they are not to make submissions or otherwise interfere with the immigration officer.
The claimant will also be asked to set out briefly the reasons for making the refugee claim. This can achieve relative importance later, especially if there is a material omission, contradiction or other discrepancy between the information provided at the eligiblity interview and the individuals refugee claim with the Immigration and Refugee Board.
The officer is really looking at whether this individual is eligible to make a refugee claim and whether the claim can be referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board for a refugee hearing - the officer isn't there to determine whether the claim is any good, or really even meritorious. Elibility is determined by ensuring (see section 101(1) and (2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act):
- Refugee protection hasn't already been conferred on the claimant, or already rejected (no repeat claims);
- A prior claim was ineligible to be referred or was withdrawn or abandoned;
- The claimant has been recognized as a Convention Refugee by another country and can be sent or returned to that country; and
- The claimant is inadmissible on grounds of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality or organizaed criminality (there's also a section dealing with serious criminality, when it applies, and when it doesn't apply to render a claim ineligible).
Once the claim has been determined to be eligible, a different officer takes over and completes the necessary paperwork, including the issuance of a removal order (which is stayed until after the refugee claim, and is affected by other statutory/judicial stays). The claimant is provided with his or her Personal Information Form (available on the IRB website) and other instructions, including medical instructions. The PIF is due 28 days from the determination of eligiblity and must be submitted to the Vancouver IRB office (in the case of claims made in Western Canada). Once proof of filing of the PIF is received, an applicant can apply for a work permit - which is sent to CPC Vegreville. The initial work permit of a refugee does not require the payment of the $150 fee.
In the case of a claimant who is exempt from the Safe Third Country Agreement and makes his or her claim at the border, he or she will likely be required to complete the eligiblity forms then and there and provided with the PIF and sent on their way. This is likely the same MO of CIC at the airport.
Adequate identification is necessary and will be seized by CIC. The claimant will be provided with a Notice of Seizure and a certified copy of the seized document.
The IRB of course will determine whether the claimant is someone requiring protection pursuant to s. 96 and 97 of the Act. Use Canlii.org to review the exact language of these particular and important sections.
One of the difficulties in having such a free, open and transparent country such as Canada is that the information that is available to assist a genuine refugee is also avaiable to concoct a fraudulent claim.