Providing protection to human rights defenders at risk


The Government of Canada’s Government-Assisted Refugees Program, under which refugees are selected for relocation to and granted permanent residence in Canada, is a critical and often life-saving intervention.

Through the new dedicated refugee stream for human rights defenders, which provides a safe haven for human rights defenders at risk who are fleeing persecution in their home country, the Government of Canada will resettle up to 250 human rights defenders per year, including their family members.

To be considered for this stream, individuals must be referred to the Government of Canada by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). To reach human rights defenders most in need of protection, the Government of Canada is working with Front Line Defenders and, leading experts in the field of protection for human rights defenders. These organizations will work together with the UNHCR to identify human rights defenders most in need of resettlement.

Individuals must also meet all admissibility requirements, including security screening and medical examinations to enter Canada. In addition, they must be Convention refugees, which means that they are:

  • outside their home country and
  • cannot return to their home country due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on
    • race
    • religion
    • political opinion
    • nationality or
    • membership in a particular social group (such as gender, sexual orientation)

Individuals cannot apply directly for resettlement or make a claim at a Canadian mission or embassy.

The Government of Canada has engaged with 30 Canadian organizations over the past year to hear their recommendations as we developed this stream. Canadian organizations will have an important role to play in helping resettled human rights defenders with their integration into Canadian society, including by supporting community connections and their continuation of human rights work when they arrive in Canada. Through this stream, Canadian human rights defender protection experts will also work with to identify those most in need.

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