By: Kerry Molitor
There have been recent news reports about Convention Refugees and Protected Persons losing their refugee status because of something called cessation. Many people are confused about what cessation is and how it relates to Canadian immigration. In order to understand cessation, we must go back to the basic definitions of a few immigration terms.
Who is a Convention Refugee?
Convention Refugees are people who have left their country of nationality or country of the last residence if they are stateless (having no country of citizenship). They must have a genuine fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion and/or membership in a particular social group (e.g. women, families, occupational groups, homosexuals, etc.). Finally, they must be unable or afraid to seek protection from the police or government of their country of nationality.
Who is a Protected Person?
A Protected Person also called a Person in Need of Protection is someone inside Canada who is in danger of torture, a risk to their life, or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if they were returned to their country of nationality. Convention Refugees in Canada are also considered to be Protected Persons.
What is reavailment?
Reavailment happens when someone who is a Protected Person contacts or enters the country they are afraid of, or if they obtain protection from a third country.
What is Cessation?
Cessation happens when the Canadian government tries to take away someone’s Protected Person status because they have returned to the country where they said they were in danger.
Why would anyone contact or enter a country where they are in danger?
In my practice, I see two main reasons why people have reavailed themselves. The first reason is that they return to their home country to visit a relative who is dying or has just passed away. Protected Persons in this situation weigh the risk of persecution and torture against the risk of never getting to say goodbye to their loved one. Often they will take the risk and return to their home country.
The second common type of reavailment is when Protected Persons contact their country of nationality to renew a passport or obtain an identity document. When they do these things they are asking for help from a government that cannot protect them from harm or that is actively harming them.
How to people who have reavailed themselves get caught?
The most common scenario of reavailment is when someone enters their country of nationality to see a relative and gets a stamp in their passport showing when and where they entered that country. These people are likely to get caught when a Border Security Officer sees that stamp in their passport when they re-enter Canada.
What happens when cessation proceedings start?
Proceedings will start when the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) discovers possible reavailment and takes action on behalf of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly CIC) to have a cessation hearing.
Usually, cessation proceedings are brought against people waiting for Canadian permanent residency, though in exceptional circumstances the government can start cessation proceedings against Canadian permanent residents. Canadian citizens are not affected by cessation.
How will they prove that cessation occurred?
The Canadian government will examine three main things at a cessation hearing. The first is voluntariness: did the person reavail themselves freely or were they forced to reavail themselves by circumstances outside their control? The second is intention: why did the person reavail themselves? The third is reavailment: did they actually return to their country of nationality?
What happens when someone is found to have reavailed themselves?
If the Protected Person is not yet a permanent resident, they will have their refugee status taken away and be forced to return to their country of nationality. If the Protected Person is already a permanent resident, the government will start the process of taking away their permanent resident status.
The consequences of reavailment are serious and anyone facing reavailment proceedings should seek professional assistance immediately or risk losing their Canadian status.