What Is A Refugee?

A refugee is not an immigrant: while both immigrants and refugees seek residency in a foreign country, immigrants are people who have chosen to relocate to another country. A refugee is something quite different.

The term “refugee” was defined by the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which outlines the obligations of signatory countries to persons who fall under its mandate. Canada has adopted the definition of a refugee outlined in the Convention as a person who has been forced to flee their country of nationality or country of habitual residence because they have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. In the new legislation, this is called a Convention Refugee, (in reference to the UN Convention.) [1]

The new legislation also creates the category of a person in need of protection which, broadly speaking, protects those facing torture, a risk to their life, or a risk of cruel and unusual punishment in their country of origin.[2]

Unless otherwise noted in this booklet, the term “refugee” will be used to refer both to Convention Refugees and persons in need of protection.

The full section of the legislation outlining the definition of a Convention Refugee and a person in need of protection is provided at the end of this handbook. Please read this section as there are many important aspects of the definition which are best understood by thorough examination.


For the full text of the convention click here