Terms and definitions related to refugee protection

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Agent of torture
An important element of the definition of torture is that the pain or suffering amounting to torture must be inflicted by or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. However, the risk of torture need not be from the State government itself, and may arise, for instance, from an errant police force, the military or quasi-public actors (e.g. tribes responsible for enforcing locally accepted customs, particularly in countries where the rule of law is non-existent).
Anchor relative
(in context of Safe Third Country Agreement [STCA])
A family member of the person seeking refugee protection, who is in Canada and who qualifies under the definition of family member pursuant to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA).
Arrival at a land border port of entry
Includes persons entering or attempting to enter the country through a port of entry (whether or not they present themselves for inspection); and persons apprehended or continuously observed crossing the land border by a port official within the physical boundaries of the port or in the immediate vicinity of the port. Includes persons who "run the port" after having ignored Primary Inspection Line instruction to report for Secondary Examination.
An individual who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to more than one gender. Some bisexual individuals may also identify as pansexual.
Child in need of protection
In the context of child welfare, a child in need of protection is a child, as determined in the respective provincial jurisdiction, who may be at risk of abuse or has been abandoned, deserted or neglected, and includes children who are suspected to have been smuggled and trafficked.
An individual whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.
A person who claims refugee protection in Canada.
Community of settlement
Community of settlement refers to the village, town or city and surrounding areas where the refugee is expected to settle. The term “community” is used because there may be situations where the sponsor does not live directly in the same village, town or city but could be considered to reside in the same general community. In determining the community of settlement, the paramount consideration should be the sponsor’s ability to provide adequate, in-person support to the refugee, taking into account the distance between the sponsor and the refugee.
Convention Against Torture (CAT)
Means the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, signed in New York on December, 1984.
Convention refugee
A98, also based on the Refugee Convention, excludes from this definition persons who:
  • are recognized by the authorities in the country in which they have taken residence as having the same rights and obligations of persons possessing the nationality of that country
  • have committed a crime against peace, a war crime, a crime against humanity, a serious non-political crime outside their country of asylum prior to their admission to that country as a refugee
  • have been guilty of any acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN
A co-sponsor is a person or organization that partners with a sponsorship agreement holder or community sponsor to share responsibility for sponsorship support, per the sponsorship undertaking. Both are jointly and severally liable to fulfill the sponsorship obligations.
Country of citizenship
Country of citizenship is the country with which the applicant has the legal bond of nationality. In many cases, this will be the country in which the applicant was born or the country that has issued the applicant’s passport.
Country of former habitual residence
The term implies a situation where a stateless person was admitted to a given country with a view to continuing residence of some duration, without necessitating a minimum period of residence. Former habitual residence is only relevant when a claimant is stateless. It is parallel to the phrase ""country of nationality"" for claimants who have a nationality.
Country of last presence (STCA)
That country, being either Canada or the U.S.A., in which the refugee claimant was physically present immediately prior to making a refugee claim at a land border port of entry.
Cruel and unusual treatment or punishment
The concept of ""cruel and unusual treatment or punishment"" is found in section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Therefore, jurisprudence interpreting section 12 is applicable. For guidance in interpreting this see the PRRA section of Connexion.
Dependant of the principal applicant
The dependant of the principal applicant is a person who, in respect to the principal applicant, meets the definition of family member set out in subsection 1(3) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).
Designated country (STCA)
R159.3 states that the U.S.A. is designated under paragraph 102(1)(a) of the Act as a country that complies with Article 33 of the Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture, and is a designated country for the purpose of the application of paragraph 101(1)(e) of the Act
Designated Country of Origin (DCO)
Countries as designated under A109.1(1) by the Minister that do not normally produce refugees, respect human rights and offer state protection. Claims from DCO applicants will have their RPD hearing within 30 to 45 days of referral to the IRB and will not have access to the RAD.
Destination matching request (DMR)
The destination matching request (DMR) is the process used for visa offices to request and/or confirm the final destination in Canada where Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs) will be resettled.
Diverse sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE)
Individuals who are perceived to have a sexual orientation or gender identity or expression that does not conform to socially accepted SOGIE norms. Such individuals include, but are not limited to, lesbians, gay men, and bisexual, trans, intersex and queer individuals.
Family member in context of exception to STCA

Includes spouse, sons, daughters, parents, legal guardians, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews (does not include in-laws).

Canada recognizes common-law and same-sex spouses for the definition of family member in application of the STCA.

See also: Claimants who have family members in Canada.

Gay man
An individual who identifies as a man and whose physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is primarily to other individuals who identify as men. Some women use gay to describe their same-sex attraction.
The characteristics, attitudes and behaviours that are socially or culturally associated with a person’s sex. The categories and specific characteristics associated with gender may vary culturally. An individual’s gender includes gender identity and expression, both of which can be fluid and flexible. An individual’s gender identity and expression may or may not conform to the socially accepted gender norms of their culture.
Gender expression
How a person expresses or presents themselves in ways that may be associated with gender, including how a person is perceived in relation to gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, makeup, body language, mannerisms, gait and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of communicating gender. How a person expresses their gender may change.
Gender fluid
An individual who is flexible about their gender identity rather than committing to a single gender. They may fluctuate between genders or express multiple genders at the same time.
Gender identity
Each person’s internal and individual understanding of their gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender identity may be the same as, or different from, their birth-assigned sex. A person’s understanding of their gender may change.
Government-assisted refugees (GARs)
Government-assisted refugees (GARs) are resettled refugees from abroad who are supported through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP).
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has a primary mandate to make arrangements for the organized movement of foreign nationals, including refugees, displaced persons and other individuals in need of international migration services. It arranges transportation and medical examinations for refugees. In some locations, the IOM provides an in-depth Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) Program on a contractual basis to refugees and foreign nationals before they arrive in Canada.
Individuals whose physical sex characteristics, such as their reproductive or sexual anatomy or chromosome patterns, do not conform with typical notions of female or male sex. These patterns may become apparent at birth, may develop later (at puberty or in adulthood), or may remain unrecognized.
Joint assistance sponsorship (JAS)

The JAS program enables sponsoring groups to partner with CIC in the resettlement of refugees who, because of special needs or circumstances, are expected to require an extended resettlement period and support over and above that which is provided either through government assistance or regular private sponsorship alone.

Under the JAS program, private sponsors provide resettled refugees with orientation, significant settlement assistance, and emotional support to supplement the financial assistance and immediate and essential services available through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP). JAS cases receive support for a period of 12-24 months, or, in exceptional circumstances only, up to 36 months.

Legal guardian (STCA)
For a claimant who has not attained the age of 18 years, legal guardian means a person who has custody of the claimant or who is empowered to act on the claimant’s behalf by virtue of a court order or written agreement.
An individual who identifies as a woman and whose physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is primarily to other individuals who identify as women.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI)
An acronym that combines concepts of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and intersex. Such individuals include, but are not limited to, lesbians, gay men, and bisexual, trans, intersex and queer individuals.
Nexus is the requisite link between the alleged persecution and the Convention grounds (i.e. race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular socia group or political opinion).
A spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine–identities that are outside the gender binary
Notification of arrival transmission (NAT)
A coordination tool that allows for necessary arrangements to be made at a port of entry (POE) reception including travel to the final destination and planning for services upon arrival in the community of destination.
One-year window of opportunity (OYW)
The one-year window of opportunity (OYW) provision ( R141) facilitates the reunification of non-accompanying family members (spouses and children) with refugees who have been resettled in Canada as members of the Convention refugee abroad class or country of asylum class.
A gender identity not limited to one gender. A person with this identity may feel their identity encompasses all possible genders at once.
Individuals who may feel physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to individuals regardless of their gender or sex.
Permanent resident in Canada
The permanent resident in Canada is the person who has already arrived in Canada and is now submitting an application for their family member abroad to join them in Canada.
Person in need of protection

A person in Canada whose removal to their country or countries of nationality or, if they do not have a country of nationality, their country of former habitual residence, would subject them personally to:

  • a danger of torture within the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention against torture)
  • a risk to the person’s life
  • or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
Pre-Removal Risk Assessment
An assessment of risk of return offered to most persons facing removal from Canada. Refer to sections 112 to 114 of the IRPA and the PRRA section of Connexion.
Primary office
The primary office is the office that is largely responsible for the processing of an application at that moment. In the context of privately sponsored refugee applications, while the sponsorship application is being processed by the Resettlement Operations Centre in Ottawa (ROC-O), the primary office is the ROC-O. Once a decision on the sponsorship application has been made, and the application is transferred to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) office abroad, the primary office is changed to the IRCC office abroad.
Principal applicant
The principal applicant is the family member abroad of the permanent resident in Canada who is applying for permanent residence, under the OYW Program.
Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program
Through the PSR program, Canadian citizens and permanent residents are able to provide additional opportunities for refugees living abroad to find protection and build a new life in Canada, beyond those that can be supported by the government. Under the PSR program, a private sponsor commits to:
  • receiving the refugees
  • providing them with lodging, care, settlement assistance and emotional support, usually for up to a 12-month period
Protected temporary residents class (PTR)

The PTR class includes:

  • persons authorized to enterCanada under IRPA on a temporary resident permit for protection reasons after making an application for a visa under the Convention refugee abroad class or country of asylum class
  • those who entered Canada on a Minister's permit under the former Act for protection reasons

Persons authorized to enter Canada under this class can acquire permanent residence from within Canada. After making a positive selection decision, and issuing a TRP, visa officers must send the original immigration file to CPC-Vegreville for finalization. A copy is kept at the visa office.

Refugee Appeal Division (RAD)
The Refugee Appeal Division of the IRB determines appeals made by either a refugee claimant or the Minister against a decision of the RPD to allow or reject a claim for refugee protection.
  • Refer to the RAD Rules for more information.
Refugee Convention
The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, signed in Geneva on July 28, 1951, and the 1967 Protocol to the Convention, signed in New York on January 1, 1967.
Refugee Protection Claimant Document (RPCD)
A document printed on the controlled IMM 1442B form, that identifies the person as a client of Canada’s refugee protection system. An RPCD is issued to persons whose claims are eligible for referral to the IRB; or ineligible, in the case of a person who may be entitled to apply for PRRA. If applicable, the RPCD will indicate that the person is eligible for coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program. The RPCD is also used by clients to support applications for certain provincial benefits.
Refugee Protection Division (RPD)
The Refugee Protection Division of the IRB hears eligible refugee claims and determines whether there is a need for refugee protection. They also make decisions on Minister’s applications for vacation and cessation of refugee status. Refer to the IRB website for more information.
Refugee status claim (STCA)
A request from a person to the government of either Canada or the U.S.A. for protection consistent with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its Protocol, the Convention against Torture or other protection grounds in accordance with the respective laws of each country.
Refugee status claimant (STCA)
Any person who makes a refugee claim in either Canada or the United States.
A representative is someone who is located in the refugee’s community of settlement and is appointed to represent the sponsor in the community, in accordance with the scope and action of representation agreed on by the representative and sponsor. This agreement is documented in the “Appointment of Representative(s) in Expected Community of Settlement” form [IMM 5956]. An example of 2 representatives is a married couple in the community of settlement.

A representative is not a party to the sponsorship and is not liable to fulfill the sponsorship obligations. All signatories to the sponsorship undertaking remain jointly and severally responsible for the sponsorship, and the appointment of representatives in no way removes the sponsoring group’s obligations to fulfill all responsibilities, per the sponsorship undertaking and outlined in the settlement plan (see subsection 153(3) of the Immigration, Refugee and Protection Regulations).
Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP)
RAP is a contribution program with two main components:
  • income support and
  • a range of immediate essential services.
Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA)
Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America for cooperation in the examination of refugee status claims from nationals of third countries, signed on December 5, 2002, and in force as of December 29, 2004. Refer to the in-Canada claims for refugee protection section of Connexion for information on the STCA.
Separated child
Refers to a child under the age of 18 who is separated from both parents, or from their legal guardian, but not necessarily from other relatives. A separated child may therefore include a child accompanied by adult family members other than their parents.
A status assigned at birth based on biological markers of sex, including reproductive and sexual anatomy and chromosomes. Sex is typically designated as male or female. Sex can also refer to intersex.
Sexual orientation
A person’s physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to, and/or intimate relations with, individuals of a different gender, the same gender, no gender, or more than one gender. A person’s understanding of their sexual orientation may change.

The UNHCR defines a "stateless person" as a person who is not considered to be a national of any State under the operation of its law. The status of statelessness is not one that is optional for a person; in other words, one cannot “choose” to be stateless. As per the UNHCR Guidelines, to be stateless is to be without nationality or citizenship. Stateless persons include the de jure stateless, defined as a person “who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”, and the de facto stateless, which refers to those persons “with an ineffective nationality or those who cannot establish their nationality.”

  • Statelessness and refugee status are not identical. Some refugees may be deprived of or renounce their nationality, but for many the formal link with the country of nationality remains. Officers should not consider a refugee applicant stateless only because the officer is unsure about the applicant’s nationality. Genuine statelessness has a specific meaning in international law and, when encountered, should be a factor in the eligibility determination.
Temporary Suspension of Removals (TSR)
Imposed by the Minister of Public Safety, a TSR halts removal to a country or a place where there is a generalized risk to the entire population, such as war, civil unrest or environmental disaster. Individuals who are unsuccessful in their refugee claim or inadmissible for most other reasons, and who under normal circumstances would be subject to removal, are allowed to stay in Canada temporarily.
An umbrella concept that refers to any individual whose gender identity or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. This concept includes, but is not limited to, individuals who have made bodily changes using surgical, medical or other means, or who plan to make bodily changes to align their sex characteristics with their gender identity; individuals whose gender identity does not align with their sex assigned at birth but who have no wish to change their physiology; people who identify as having multiple genders or as not having a gender; individuals whose gender identity changes from time to time; or people with any other gender identity that is not in line with socially accepted norms of expected behaviours based on gender. Gender identity is different from sexual orientation, and a trans individual may be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or asexual.
Tribunal Officer
Officer whose responsibilities include reviewing case files, and conducting research and interviews for the Immigration and Refugee Board. The officer attends hearings and presents evidence and submissions to the panel when refugee claims are heard. See Rule 16 of the Refugee Protection Division Rules.
Unaccompanied Minor
A child under the age of 18 who does not have their parents or legal guardian present at the time they make a refugee claim in Canada.
Unaccompanied minor (STCA)
A claimant who has not yet reached the age of 18 and is not accompanied by their mother, father or legal guardian and has neither a spouse nor common-law partner and does not have a mother, father or a legal guardian in Canada or the U.S.A.
An undertaking is an obligation by the private sponsor to provide financial and settlement assistance, lodging and other basic necessities in Canada for a refugee who meets the requirements of R139, and for the refugee’s accompanying family members, for the period determined in accordance with R154(2) and R154(3). The duration is usually a 12-month period, but can be extended to up to three years, depending on the needs of the refugee
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
A humanitarian and non-political organization mandated to lead and coordinate international action for the world-wide protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems. UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees and stateless persons. The UNHCR also monitors Canada’s, to ensure compliance with the 1951Convention and provides guidance on its implementation.
Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR)
Multilateral treaty to codify consular practices that developed through customary international law, numerous bilateral treaties, and a number of regional treaties. Article 36 of the VCCR requires that foreign nationals who are arrested or detained be given notice "without delay" of their right to have their embassy or consulate notified of that arrest. For more information, refer to Enforcement sections on Arrest and detention without a warrant by a peace officer, Procedure following arrest and detention and Notice of rights conferred by the Vienna Convention.
Vulnerable means, in respect of a Convention refugee or a person in similar circumstances, that the person has a greater need of protection than other applicants for protection abroad because of the person’s particular circumstances that give rise to a heightened risk to their physical safety or well-being (R138).

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