April 4: Refugee Rights Day in Canada

Did you know that April 4th is Refugee Rights Day in Canada?

At the 1951 Convention, the United Nations defined a refugee as a someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

Additionally, the Convention lays down basic minimum standards for the treatment of refugees, without prejudice to States granting more favourable treatment. Such rights include access to the courts, to primary education, to work, and the provision for documentation, including a refugee travel document in passport form.1

Refugee Rights in Canada

In Canada, April 4 commemorates the date of the landmark Singh decision of 19852, where the refugee claimants argued in the Supreme Court of Canada that the then current refugee determination system was in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 7, which states that  

'everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,'

and the Canadian Bill of Rights Section 2e, where

'no law of Canada shall be construed or applied so as to … (e) deprive a person of the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice for the determination of his rights and obligations.'

Women and Refugee Status

According to the Women's Refugee Commission, four out of five of the world’s nearly 45 million displaced people are women, children and young people.3  Women refugees also face added marginalization stemming from gender-based violence, gender discrimination, reproductive and maternal health, and lower levels of literacy.  Even when women have achieved protected immigration status, they still continually face the threats of violence, harassment, and discrimination.4

What can you do?

Please check out the Canadian Council for Refugee5 for events and calls to action to protect refugee rights.  The Canadian Council for Refugees is a non-profit umbrella organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada.

For additional information, you can also check out the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Association in Canada Teacher's Guide, and the Women's Refugee Commission's factsheet.  For statistical data, please check out the UNHCR's Statistical Yearbook for 2010 on refugees, asylum seekers, displaced persons, and stateless persons.



1. http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf
2. http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/eng/media/newsnouv/2009/pages/singh.aspx
3. http://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/docs/wrc_general_fact_sheet.pdf
4. http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c1e2.html
5. http://ccrweb.ca/RRDayresources.htm