Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)


After many years of heated debate and the shock of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in 2002 the Canadian parliament passed the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), replacing the Immigration Act of 1976. The measure had two general purposes: to redefine the criteria by which immigrants would be admitted and to provide the government with specific tools for denying entry to potential terrorists or deporting them once they were discovered.
The IRPA established three basic categories (family class, economic class, refugee class) to correspond with its objectives of reuniting families, contributing to economic development, and protecting refugees. Under reunification provisions, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident can sponsor a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner; a dependent child, including a child adopted abroad; a child under 18 to be adopted in Canada; parents or grandparents; or an orphaned child under 18 who is a brother, sister, niece, nephew, or grandchild and is not a spouse or common-law partner. Two classes were established for economic immigrants: skilled workers and business immigrants. To be considered a skilled worker, potential immigrants had to qualify according to a points system evaluating language, education, and other integrative factors; must have “at least one year of work experience within the past 10 years in a management occupation or in an occupation normally requiring university, college or technical training as described in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) developed by Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC),” and “have enough money to support themselves and their family members in Canada.” Business immigrants were chosen “to support the development of a strong and prosperous Canadian economy, either through their direct investment, their entrepreneurial activity or self-employment.” Investors were required to have a net worth of at least $800,000, and entrepreneurs of $300,000, along with certain levels of business experience. Self-employed applicants were required to demonstrate their ability to contribute at a “world-class level” to Canada’s cultural life or athletics, or through the “purchase and management of a farm in Canada.” The measure also provided guidelines for admitting 20,000–30,000 refugees or displaced persons annually.
The measure explicitly acknowledged the “shared responsibility” of the federal government and provinces in formulating immigration policy and established a mechanism for the development and publication of federal-provincial agreements regarding the number, distribution, and settlement of permanent residents. Under these provisions, the Canada Quebec Accord gave Quebec sole selective powers for skilled applicants and business-class immigrants and full responsibility for integration services, while stipulating that the federal government remained responsible for defining immigration categories, determining inadmissibility, and enforcement. As a result of frequent abuses of the 1976 system, the new act required careful monitoring of the immigrant flow; an annual report projecting the number of foreign nationals who might become permanent residents in the following year, the number of permanent residents in each class in provinces that have responsibility for selection under a federal-provincial agreement, the linguistic profile of new permanent residents, and the number of people granted permanent residence on humanitarian grounds; and a gender-based analysis of the immigration program. The act also established the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) as an independent, quasi-judicial administrative tribunal with a mandate “to make well-reasoned decisions on immigration and refugee matters efficiently, fairly and in accordance with the law.”
The second major purpose of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was to protect Canada against potentially hostile immigrants. The act provided that after enactment of the measure on June 28, 2002, all new permanent residents would receive permanent resident cards, which they could apply for after October 15, 2002, and that effective January 2004, the cards would be required for reentry of permanent residents who had traveled outside Canada. The act also provided for the removal of anyone involved in “organized crime, espionage, acts of subversion, terrorism, war crimes, human or international rights violations, criminality and serious criminality.” In addition, the measure made it easier for immigration officials to detain people on “reasonable suspicion” of failing to appear for possible deportation proceedings, of posing a risk to the public, or of refusing to give information to the immigration service.

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