Selective Concern: An Overview of Refugee Law in Canada

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Until the middle of this century, Canada had no law expressly directed to the admission of refugees: displaced and persecuted persons were subject to the general immigration scheme, which was designed primarily to promote Canada's domestic economic interests. In this article, the author traces the evolution of Canada's refugee law, and evaluates it in the context of Canada's international obligations and espoused humanitarian concerns. The author argues that refugee law in Canada has evolved as an outgrowth of the traditional policy of promoting immigration in the interest of domestic economic development. It is suggested that while Canada's commitment to its ideological allies and to the advancement of international human rights law have attenuated the narrowness of this focus on self-interest, domestic advantage remains the cornerstone of Canadian refugee policy.


Reproduced with permission. Originally published as: Hathaway, James C. "Selective Concern: An Overview of Refugee Law in Canada." McGill Law Journal 33, no. 4 (1988): 676-715. Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty.