Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court of Canada Reiterates Importance of International Law

In September, the Supreme Court of Canada reiterated the importance of international law in administrative decision-making. In Mason v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), the Court found that the Immigration Appeal Division is required to interpret and apply the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act “in a manner that complies with Canada’s international human rights obligations, including Canada’s non-refoulement obligations under Article 33 of the Refugee Convention.”  

The case was brought by two individuals who the government argued were inadmissible on security grounds under s. 34(1)(e) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), after they were charged with – but not convicted of – crimes. If a person applying for refugee status is found inadmissible under IRPA, they are ineligible to have a claim for refugee protection assessed. This means that a person can be excluded from refugee protection and could be sent back to their country of origin, even if they might face persecution in their home country. However, under the Refugee Convention, Canada is prohibited from returning anyone to a country where they are at risk of persecution, unless they pose a danger to the security of the host country or are convicted of a serious crime. Neither individual was alleged to pose a danger to Canada’s security or convicted of a serious crime.  

Amnesty International Canada intervened in this case to champion Canada’s international law obligations, including with respect to refugee protection. The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that administrative decision makers – like the Immigration Appeal Division – are constrained by international human rights treaties that Canada has signed, particularly when interpreting the IRPA. This constraint exists regardless of whether individuals make arguments about international law to the decision maker. The Court emphasized that the failure to consider the Refugee Convention when interpreting IRPA is a crucial omission.  

Amnesty International Canada considers the judgement to be a victory for refugee rights and for the recognition of international law domestically. Amnesty International Canada remains committed to ensuring that Canada’s international human rights obligations are upheld.