For many years, Canada has fostered the resettlement of refugees and those in refugee-like situations through government sponsorship. Officials with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) working abroad identify individuals who are in need of Canada’s help and who are likely to be able to establish themselves successfully in Canada. In most cases, a referral from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is required before an applicant will be considered.
Two other categories of refugees also exist. Privately sponsored refugees are assisted by groups of Canadians or by organizations with an agreement with CIC. As well, many people arrive in Canada and make inland refugee claims. This paper concerns solely the first category of refugees mentioned, government-sponsored (or government-assisted) refugees, and their potential entitlements.
2 Who is Eligible for Humanitarian Resettlement in Canada?
Currently, there are two subcategories of government-sponsored refugees or people in similar situations who may be admitted to Canada as permanent residents on humanitarian grounds. These two groups are:
- The Convention Refugees Abroad Class – Members of this class must be in need of resettlement (that is, there is no reasonable prospect now or in the near future of another permanent solution for them) and must meet the definition of Convention refugee: they must be outside their own country and have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular group.
- The Country of Asylum Class – Members of this class must be in need of resettlement, be outside their own country and must have been, and continue to be, seriously and personally affected by civil war, armed conflict or a massive violation of human rights. In essence, the class addresses people in refugee-like situations who do not qualify as Convention refugees.
3 The Resettlement Assistance Program
Government assistance to refugees selected overseas is provided through the resettlement assistance program (RAP), which has two components. First, CIC provides funding to service-providing organizations for direct services, such as initial reception, orientation and assistance with finding permanent accommodation, navigating the new community, shopping and other basic life skills. The second component consists of income supports for eligible refugees, explained in detail below.
3.1 Income Support Eligibility
To be entitled to income support, an individual must be selected to come to Canada as a government-sponsored refugee under one of the subcategories set out above. It must be determined that he or she has insufficient funds to meet basic needs – food, rent, clothing and household effects – and must also commit either to directly enter the work force or to enrol in employment or language training programs. Eligible newcomers are generally provided assistance for a maximum of 12 months. However, up to 24 months may be authorized in special circumstances or for special-needs cases that have been assessed abroad.
CIC makes it clear to program beneficiaries that income support is not an automatic benefit, but rather a privilege that carries with it an obligation on the part of the recipient to make serious efforts to become self-sufficient. According to the department, assistance may be refused, reduced or discontinued in the following cases:
- refusal, without just cause, to take advantage of training or services recommended by CIC;
- refusal, without valid reasons, to actively seek work or accept any reasonable job offer;
- quitting a job without just cause;
- receipt of employment income by any member of the family beyond that allowable under the program guidelines;
- possession of assets beyond those normally possessed by persons requiring financial assistance; or
- a change in the family situation or living arrangements such as marriage, family breakdown, death, birth, someone leaving Canada or new family members arriving.
3.2 The Amount of Assistance Provided
Recipients are given an initial start-up cheque for clothing, household items, bedding, staples, telephone installation and furniture. In lieu of money, the actual goods may be provided. The cheque also includes loans for the last month’s rent and for utility and telephone deposits. In addition, one month’s living allowance is provided, which includes funds for food, transportation, incidentals and rent.
For basic household needs, a one-time payment is provided as follows:
- $1,330 per single recipient without accompanying dependants
- $2,340 per single recipient plus 1 dependant
- $2,665 per single recipient plus 2 dependants
- $1,960 per couple without accompanying dependants
- $2,455 per couple plus 1 dependant
- $2,945 per couple plus 2 dependants
- $3,515 per couple plus 3 dependants
- $350 for each additional dependant
The special allowances that may be provided include the following:
- Clothing allowance (basic)
- $325 per adult
- $250 per child
- Clothing allowance (winter)
- $175 per adult
- $125 per child
- School start-up
- Special diet allowance
- Newborn allowance
- Maternity allowance
- $75/month for up to 9 months
- Children under 6 years old
- Transportation allowance
- School allowance
- $20/month per school-age child and young adult attending kindergarten to grade 12
- Funeral/burial expenses
- To be determined by the CIC RAP officers
In addition to the start-up allowance and special allowances, RAP includes monthly allowances for basic food, shelter and other expenses, such as bus passes and school fees. Under the program, the food and shelter portion of the income support money is guided by the maximum prevailing social assistance rates within the province or territory of residence. As of 1 October 2014, in Ontario, for example, a single individual would receive a shelter allowance of $376 and a basic needs allowance of $280, for a total of $656 a month. Government-sponsored refugees are not eligible to receive provincial social assistance benefits while receiving RAP income support.
3.3 The Income Support Agreement
In order to receive income support, individuals must sign an Income Support Agreement. They are required to show that they understand the terms and conditions of the agreement before being given their first cheque. A copy of the standard agreement is included as an appendix to this paper.
3.4 Health Care
The Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) offers basic health care coverage to refugees for a limited period. Government-sponsored refugees receive hospital, health care professional, and laboratory, diagnostic, and ambulance services through the IFHP until they can qualify for provincial or territorial health insurance plans. If they are receiving income support from the RAP, government-sponsored refugees are also entitled to supplemental benefits similar to those received by individuals on social assistance in Canada: prescribed medications, limited dental and vision care, devices to assist mobility, and psychological counselling. Supplemental benefits are covered for as long as the person receives income support.
The Canadian government provides financial support and immediate essential services for thousands of refugees annually. Recent figures for government-sponsored refugees are as follows:
Government-Sponsored Refugees: Intake, 2009-2013
||Number of Government-Sponsored Refugees
||Percentage of Overall
Note: a. The overall refugee class includes government-sponsored refugees, privately sponsored refugees, refugees landed in Canada, and dependants of refugees abroad who are granted permanent resident status.
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, “Canada – Permanent residents by category, 2009–2013,” Preliminary tables – Permanent and temporary residents, 2013.
* An earlier version of this document was prepared by Benjamin R. Dolin, and the document was previously updated with the assistance of Michel-Ange Pantal, both formerly of the Library of Parliament. [ Return to text ]
† Papers in the Library of Parliament’s In Brief series are short briefings on current issues. At times, they may serve as overviews, referring readers to more substantive sources published on the same topic. They are prepared by the Parliamentary Information and Research Service, which carries out research for and provides information and analysis to parliamentarians and Senate and House of Commons committees and parliamentary associations in an objective, impartial manner. [ Return to text ]