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Humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications and refugee claims: how are they different?

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What is a refugee claim?

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) decides refugee claims made in Canada. A claimant must prove to the IRB that they are either a Convention refugee or a person in need of protection. If a claim is successful, the claimant is found to be a protected person and can apply for permanent residence.

Convention refugee

A Convention refugee must show a well-founded fear of being persecuted based on at least one of these things:

  • race
  • religion
  • nationality
  • political opinion
  • membership in a particular social group — for example, someone might belong to a social group based on their gender, sexual orientation, or relationship to a family member who is politically active

A Convention refugee may be afraid of being persecuted either by government authorities or others. A claimant who fears persecution by others must show that their government cannot or will not protect them.

Person in need of protection

A person in need of protection is someone who would likely face at least one of these things if they are forced to return to their home country:

  • torture
  • a risk to their life
  • a risk of cruel and unusual treatment
  • a risk of cruel and unusual punishment

If the claim is based on one of the last 3 situations of risk, they must show all of the following:

  • Their own government will not adequately protect them.
  • The risk affects them personally. It is not a general risk faced by others in the country. For example, the risk is not the result of a famine or civil war.
  • The risk is not the result of laws, such as being punished for committing a crime, unless these laws do not meet international standards.
  • The risk is not caused by their country being unable to give them the medical care they need, unless this is because of persecution or discrimination.

To prove that they are a Convention refugee or a person in need of protection, a claimant must also show that there is no place in their country that they could get to safely, where they would be free from the risk that they face, and where it would be reasonable to expect them to live. This is called the "internal flight alternative".