Dependent minors – Guardianship protocol

Canada is committed to protecting children from abuse and exploitation. Children who are not in care of a parent and come to Canada as refugees may be particularly vulnerable. The Guardianship Protocol spells out procedures that visa officers and settlement officers must follow in these situations.

The best option for most minor refugees who are separated from their families is to reunite them with their immediate family, if possible. In cases where there are no family members in the country they reside in nor in their country of origin, the officer should try to reunite them with immediate family members in Canada. Visa officers work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and staff from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to determine whether resettlement is the best solution. If one of these children is resettled in Canada, the officer must ensure that long-term arrangements have been made for their care.

The basis for the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the “best interests of the child”—also a central part of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The guardianship protocol uses this principle as well.

The protocol addresses the importance of integrating child refugees into authentic family relationships. The support this relationship provides will protect minor children and give them a safe environment until they reach the age of majority.

Summary of the Guardianship Protocol

  • IRCC staff will encourage the adult caring for a dependent minor to become the child’s legal guardian so that there is a clearly defined relationship between the two. This will help ensure the child receives care and protection until they reach the age of majority.
  • Children under 10 who travel to Canada under the provisions of the Guardianship Protocol must be accompanied by a responsible adult. In some cases, exceptions may be allowed. Family members or relatives in Canada must cover all costs associated with the minor’s travel.
  • Minors are consulted and given an opportunity to express their views about the arrangements being made.

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