As a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Canada has an obligation to protect genuine refugees.

According to the Geneva Convention, a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

Canada has obliged itself to protect genuine refugees, that is, not to send them back to persecution. People who get to Canada on their own can claim refugee protection at any border point, or inside Canada, at a Canadian Immigration Visa Office.

Some typical examples of refugee cases include:

  • Members of minority religious groups or ethnic minorities who fear persecution from the general population or non-governmental organisations where the police are unable or unwilling to protect them.
  • Members of an opposition political party who fear retribution because of their political opinion or their refusal to support the government.
  • People who are persecuted by a powerful criminal gang or mafia such as drug traffickers.
  • Homosexuals who are persecuted simply because of their sexual orientation.
  • Women who fear beatings from their husbands, violence or other serious forms of punishment from other family members.
  • Women who refuse to conform to expectations such as arranged marriages, dress code and genital mutilation. In fact Canada is a world leader in recognising gender-based persecution and has issued guidelines to ensure that these claims are dealt with in a fair and sensitive manner.

In all the above cases refugees must explain what persecution they fear and why they cannot receive protection from their government.