ARCHIVED – Backgrounder — Canada’s resettlement programs

Each year, people from around the world are forced to flee their homeland to escape persecution or severe human rights abuses. Often, these people become permanently displaced refugees and are never able to return home. These refugees often spend many years—sometimes decades—in squalid refugee camps or urban slums. They wait patiently for the chance to immigrate to Canada or other countries legally.

With the passage of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, Canada is increasing the number of refugees resettled from abroad by 20%, or about 2,500 each year. The Government-Assisted Refugees Program (GAR), under which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees refers refugees to Canada for resettlement, will be expanded by 500 refugees. A further 2,000 resettlement places are also being added to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program. These increases will bring the number of refugees resettled to Canada annually to as many as 14,500. Canada's program for refugees to resettle here legally went from being one of the most generous in the world, to being even more generous.

Canada is a global leader in resettlement. For example, Canada was the first country to resettle Rohingya from Bangladesh and has now welcomed close to 300 refugees. Canada has resettled more than 3,900 Karen from Thailand and we are in the process of resettling up to 5,000 Bhutanese refugees from Nepal. In addition, CIC has increased Nairobi’s 2011 PSR target to allow the resettlement of up to 1,000 refugees, or approximately 20% of the global PSR resettlement level, which is a very significant number to be allocated to one mission.

In 2009, in response to the ongoing situation in Iraq and requests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Canada agreed to more than double the number of refugees we will be resettling through our mission in Damascus, where most Iraqi refugees apply. These measures will continue until 2013. As a result, in 2009, we resettled more than 1,400 Iraqi refugees through the government-assisted program and another 2,500 were sponsored by Canadians and permanent residents of Canada under the private sponsorship program. In 2010, 1,700 Iraqi refugees were resettled through the GAR program and a further 2,300 Iraqis arrived via the PSR program.

Thirty years ago, thanks to the outpouring of support from Canadians, the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program came into being as we welcomed more than 60,000 refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia who were fleeing communism. More recently, Canada welcomed the remaining Vietnamese who had been living in the Philippines without status since the late 1970s, based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

In total, through the private sponsorship program, Canada has welcomed more than 200,000 refugees from all over the world, over and above the number of refugees resettled through the Government-Assisted Refugees Program. All of these individuals who immigrated to Canada through our resettlement programs waited patiently in the queue for the chance to come to Canada legally. They followed the rules.

The Government will stand up for these refugees’ rights to be processed in a fair and orderly fashion, consistent with our laws and values—and not allow human smuggling operations to result in people jumping to the front of our immigration queue.

For more information on Canada’s resettlement programs, please visit our website at


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