The Conundrum of Refugee Protection in Canada: From Control to Compliance to Collective Deterrence

James C. Hathaway, University of Michigan Law School

Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. Work published when author not on Michigan Law faculty


Canadian policy on the protection of refugees has evolved through three distinct traditions. During the first era, refugee protection was constructed as a matter of immigration control. Indeed, until the middle of the twentieth century, Canada had no law or policy specifically oriented to the admission of refugees. Refugees simply applied for permission to enter Canada under the auspices of the general immigration scheme, the primary purpose of which was to promote domestic economic interests. The erosion of this historical view of refugees as immigrants has occurred only gradually, such that even today most refugees protected by Canada must meet immigration selection criteria, in addition to showing that they are at risk in their home country.