Posted on - Sep 08, 2015

By Catherine Sas, Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

The tragedy of young Alan Kurdi and his mother and brother is made even more acute in that it could have been avoided entirely. Without the need for slogging through either the international or Canadian refugee determination systems and ascertaining whether the Kurdi family are political or economic refugees, Canada’s immigration legislation, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) has the power to provide relief. What is necessary is for the will of our Minister of Immigration and his visa officers around the world to use the tools they have at hand. S. 25 of IRPA is such a tool.

S. 25 is the provision of IRPA that gives the Minister of Immigration and his visa officers the power to allow any permanent resident application on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate considerations, particularly in the best interests of a child directly affected. I have no personal knowledge of the circumstances of any application that went to Minister Alexander on behalf of the Kurdi family, residing in Vancouver who sought to bring their family to Canada to live with her. But I can assure you that section 25 provides the legal jurisdiction to allow such a request.

In a pivotal decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999, Baker, Madame Justice L’ Heureux –Dube held that a decision maker in a humanitarian and compassionate application made pursuant to s. 25 ” must be alive, alert and sensitive” to the best interests of a child. Immigration lawyers routinely invoke these potent words in support of humanitarian and compassionate relief.

In recent years, Ministers of Immigration have provided special measures in circumstances of natural disaster to permit Canadian families to bring their relatives to Canada where they can demonstrate that their families have been directly affected. The earthquake in Haiti, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the earthquake in Nepal are recent examples of such compassionate relief where immigration officers were directed to be facilitative in re-uniting families outside of the normal immigration processes. If we can do this in situations of natural disaster what stops us in circumstances of political crisis?

Canada’s Immigration laws already provide humanitarian and compassionate relief for compelling situations that particularly directly affect children. We just have to encourage our visa officers around the globe to utilize the power of s. 25 of IRPA and facilitate family reunification in such dire times.


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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