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Refugee Rights Day

Honourable senators, I rise today to recognize Refugee Rights Day, which took place on April 4 this year. It is an annual day to commemorate the Supreme Court’s signing of the 1985 Singh decision, one that is deeply tied to our values of equity as Canadian citizens.

The Singh decision was a milestone decision for refugee rights in Canada. It involved seven appellants, six of whom were named Singh. They were citizens of India claiming refugee status based on their fear of persecution due to political beliefs. In this decision, the Supreme Court found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees. The court decided that “everyone” includes refugee claimants under section 7:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Honourable senators, Canada has been enriched by the many Canadian citizens who once started their lives as refugees. There are former Governors General who are notable examples.


Since the Singh decision, Canada’s refugee system has won the reputation of being one of the fairest in the world. We have created the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, which independently makes decisions on refugee claims following oral hearings. Subsequent court decisions have also recognized that the Charter protects people from hardships such as deportation to persecution.

Each year Canada provides asylum to more than 10,000 persecuted persons and welcomes another 12,000 refugees from abroad.

Honourable senators, I am pleased to say that our government has been diligent in upholding our reputation as a leader in refugee protection. In December, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act and the Balanced Refugee Reform Act came into force. This legislation brings about major reforms to Canada’s refugee system, providing timely decisions to eligible refugees.

Honourable senators, I wish to commemorate the twenty-eighth anniversary of Refugee Rights Day and hope that we continue to work towards protecting the rights of refugee claimants in Canada.