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Description found in Archives
Sous-fonds part of
[1975 - 1988]
Place of creation
Scope and content
Sous-fonds consists of records maintained by the Refugee Status Advisory Committee. This is a preliminary description; please see the linked accession record for details.
Conditions of access
Copyright belongs to the Crown. Credit the Library and Archives of Canada.
Creator / Provenance
Biography / Administrative history
The Refugee Status Advisory Committee was established by the Immigration Act of 1976 (S.C. 1976-77 c. 52 s. 48), for the purpose of advising the Minister in respect of any case where a person claims to be a Convention refugee. A Convention refugee refers to any person who is a refugee according to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees signed at Geneva 28 July 1951: a person who, by reason of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, either (a) is outside the country of his or her nationality and is unable or, by reason of such fear, is unwilling to avail him or herself of the protection of that country, or (b) not having a country of nationality, is outside the country of former habitual residence and is unable or, by reason of such fear, is unwilling to return to that country. The Immigration Act of 1976 was proclaimed on 10 April 1978, and the Refugee Status Advisory Committee became operational that same month. The Act included several clauses specifying how refugee status was to be determined (S.C. 1976-77 c. 52 s. 45-48). If a person claiming to be a Convention refugee would otherwise be issued a removal order or departure notice, his or her claim, made under oath, along with a transcript of the examination was to be referred to the Minister for a determination. The Minister would then refer the claim and the examination transcript to the Refugee Status Advisory Committee for a recommendation.
In the Department of Employment and Immigration's Annual Report from 1978-1979, the task of the Refugee Status Advisory Committee (RSAC) was stated as follows: to examine all claims to refugee status within Canada, ensuring that no person claiming refugee status was deported in contravention of the provisions of the United Nations Convention. Between 1979 and 1985 RSAC received between 1100 and 5101 claims of refugee status yearly. In the Department's Annual Report from 1978-1979, it was noted that RSAC refered cases of persons not considered to be refugees according to the United Nations Convention definition to a special review committee to determine if there were compassionate or humanitarian reasons for allowing them to remain in Canada as refugees. Persons found to be refugees were normally permitted to remain in Canada as permanent residents. In cases of negative decisions, claimants could apply to the Immigration Appeal Board for a re-determination of their claim. Through the 1980s, the determination of refugee status in Canada was the subject of ministerial attention. On 18 November 1981, the Minister released a Task Force report on the Determination of Refugee Status in Canada. As a result of that report, the composition, structure and operational procedures of the RSAC were amended. The RSAC became independent of the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, in the sense that RSAC was to report directly to the Minister through its Chairman. By May 1982 the restructuring of RSAC subsequent to the report was completed. Later that year the RSAC moved into premises physically separate from the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission. Ministerial attention to the procedures used in refugee determination continued, however. In 1983 the Minister appointed Professor Ed Ratushy (Director of Human Rights Eduation and Research Centre) to advise on the determination of refugee status; in 1984, the Minister appointed Rabbi W. Gunthe Plaut to propose ways of enhancing the refugee determination system. Throughout the 1980s, the claims received each year that the Committee was unable to address was of special concern. By 1 April 1986 there were 3526 claims labelled "backlog." The backlog, combined with the finding of the Supreme Court of Canada in Singh et al. v Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration) ( 1 S.C.R. 177), contributed to the dissolution of both the Refugee Status Advisory Committee and the Immigration Appeal Board, and to the eventual creation of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
The merger of the Refugee Status Advisory Committee and the Immigration Appeal Board, into the new Immigration and Refugee Board, involved procedural and institutional changes spanning 1986, 1987, and 1988. The Minister made an announcement on the new Refugee Determination System on 21 May 1986. As of that date, all cases in the refugee determination backlog qualified for a case-by-case administrative review, while all claimants arriving in Canada after that date received refugee determination under a new process known as "fast track." A Task Force was established in conjunction with those changes, and was responsible for all aspects of the revised refugee determination system, including drafting legislative changes, transitional politices, and training. The legislation to merge the Immigration Appeal Board with the RSAC was introduced in 1986, but it was not until 1988 that Parliament amended the Immigration Act of 1976 through Bill C-55 to create the new Immigration and Refugee Board. The Refugee Status Advisory Committee was officially disbanded as of 31 December 1988. The new Immigration and Refugee Board was officially created 1 January 1989. One of the divisions of the new Immigration and Refugee Board was the Convention Refugee Determination Division.
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