Immigration (refugees and migrant workers) and Xenophobia

The church does not have an overarching policy on immigration, but has made several statements and advocates for the need to protect vulnerable people, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers and members of their families. The Presbyterian Church in Canada is an official Sponsorship Agreement Holder with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, enabling Presbyterian congregations to sponsor refugees to resettle in Canada.
Xenophobia, an irrational fear of other racial, ethnic or religious groups, is incompatible with Christian discipleship.

This page contains content on Immigration, Migrant Workers and Refugees.

Principles that General Assembly has endorsed on immigration and opposing xenophobia

  • Immigration policy should not be centred around restrictive economic and racial factors, but rather on a responsible endeavour to share our resources and develop creatively our potential for a society rich in social, cultural, moral and spiritual values. (A&P 1975, pp. 469-475, 40)
  • All human beings are valuable persons and any attempt to measure the value of human life in economic or educational terms provides an opportunity for a display of injustice, prejudice, arrogance and racism. (A&P 1975, pp. 469-475, 40).
  • Trends of increased hate crimes and a rise in white supremacism in Canada are troubling. Racism and xenophobia must be rejected in favour of inclusive and anti-racist communities. (A&P 2021, pp. 427-430, 38)
  • The Presbyterian Church in Canada work to find ways to eliminate racism and xenophobia in its policies and practices. (A&P 2021, pp. 427-430, 38)

Select Action of the Church

2021: Presbyterians were encouraged to study xenophobia and racism, and online radicalization for hate groups in Canada, especially the rising number of white supremacists or neo-Nazi groups, and the ways the church can contribute to stop it. (A&P 2021, pp. 427-430)

2019: The church expressed concern regarding the use of Security Certificates. Security Certificates refer to an immigration process applied for the purpose of removing permanent residents or foreign nationals from Canada who are deemed by the Government of Canada as a threat for reasons of national security, violating human or international rights or involvement in organized crime. One concern is the classified nature of the proceedings – someone may not know why they have been detained or deported. Another concern is related to the lack of transparency regarding how Canadian officials receive information leading them to believe an individual poses a threat and particularly if information has been gained from other governments through the use of torture or ill treatment. Acting on such information would place Canada in contravention of its international obligations to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, and violate Canadian law. (A&P 2019, p. 385, 14)

2009: General Assembly advocated with the Government of Canada regarding progress in implementing the preferred occupations[1] list, which is intended to ensure that prospective immigrants with training in one of the listed occupations are able to find employment in that field. The Moderator wrote to the Ministers of Citizenship and Immigration of the Governments of Canada and Ontario acknowledging recent collaborative initiatives addressing the settlement needs of immigrants in Ontario with professional credentials, stating the church’s continued concern for the wellbeing of immigrants and urging that the barriers that prevent immigrants from using their professional credentials be removed. (A&P 2009, pp. 345-351)

1986: The General Assembly recommended that resources be provided to members explaining the need for new immigrants in Canada and dealing with the twin “myths” that immigrants create unemployment and that Canada stands in jeopardy of being overrun with immigrants. (A&P 1986, pp. 370-373, 56)

1965: General Assembly expressed concern that “immigration policy is too highly selective” and urged the Government of Canada to review its immigration policy with a view to permitting “less skilled persons of all races and ethnic groups to enter Canada as immigrants.” (A&P 1965, pp. 351, 75)

Principles that General Assembly has endorsed about migrant workers and against human trafficking

  • Migrant workers are a part of Canadian and global communities and should be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of their legal status in a country. (A&P 2007, pp. 278-80)
  • Migrant workers and their families are vulnerable to exploitation and human rights violations and are in need of greater protection in host and transit countries. (A&P 2007, pp. 278-80)
  • Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery and the church opposes human enslavement. (A&P 2021, pp. 334-339, 40)

Selected actions of General Assembly

2021: The church encouraged the Government of Canada to implement its National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking; sessions and individuals were invited to do the same. Congregations were encouraged to learn more about human trafficking, including about how to recognize and report it. (A&P 2021, pp. 334-339, 40)

General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to sign and ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Domestic Workers Convention No. 189 (establishing worldwide standards and protections for domestic workers). (A&P 2021, IAF)

2019: General Assembly encouraged the Government of Canada to provide fairer treatment for workers under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program; ensure consistency in the quality of the treatment of migrant workers within all provinces and territories; develop pathways to permanent residence for migrant workers; and re-consider signing and ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. (A&P 2019, p. 29, 292-294.)

2010: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to develop and implement a national strategy to combat human trafficking (specifically in the sex trade). (A&P 2010, p. 606, 26)

2007: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to sign the International Convention of the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Congregations were encouraged to use fair trade products as one tangible response to an unjust global order that forces many people to migrate. (A&P 2007, p. 278-280)

Principles that General Assembly has endorsed about refugees

  • Every person coming to Canada seeking protection of life and limb should be allowed to make a refugee claim; every person physically present in Canada who claims refugee status should receive a fair hearing; every person denied refugee status should have the right to appeal the decision. (A&P 1987, pp. 340, 59-60)
  • Non-discrimination is a foundational principle of the refugee policy in Canada and an integral part of the PWS&D mission statement. (A&P 2010, pp. 504-6, 27)
  • Visas should not be required in cases where people applying for them must place themselves at serious personal risk. (A&P 1987, pp. 340, 59-60)
  • Congregations are encouraged to sponsor refugees under the sponsorship agreement of The PCC and the GOC. (A&P 1979, pp. 214, 65)
  • Presbyterians considering offering sanctuary to an asylum seeker whose claim for refugee status has been rejected and who faces a risk of persecution if returned to their country of origin, should: 1) have an independent review of the evidence confirming the risk; 2) have exhausted all of the legal and political recourses as outlined in the PCC’s statement on Sanctuary ; 3) follow appropriate decision-making procedures of the church. (A&P 2006, pp. 330, 39-40)

Selected actions of General Assembly

2023: General Assembly adopted recommendations that the International Affairs Committee and the Life and Mission Agency Committee work together to allocate $50,000 to agencies that help to settle people who identify as LGBTQI+ and seek refuge in Canada and that congregations be encouraged to consider responses in their local communities to acts of hate and harm towards the LGBTQI+ community and sponsorship support of LGBTQI+ refugees. (A&P 2023, p. 23)

Background information: In 2023 the Government of Uganda passed an Anti-Homosexuality Act. General Assembly wrote to the Government of Canada expressing support for Canada’s call to Uganda to revoke the Act, and encourage the Government of Canada to do everything possible to support the LGBTQI+ community in Uganda and around the world by working with partners supporting communities in situations of vulnerability and persecution.

2019: General Assembly commended the Government of Canada for placing sanctions on seven Myanmar military officials, for its pledge of $300,000,000 in aid for Rohingya refugees and for becoming the first country in the world to declare the actions of the Myanmar military against the Rohingya as an act of genocide and seeking an increase to the amount of aid for Rohingya refugees. It also asked the Government of Canada to consider invoking Article VIII of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide against the Government of Myanmar. (A&P 2019, p. 29, 274-276)

2018: General Assembly affirmed Canada’s humanitarian assistance in support of the Rohingya. (A&P 2018, pp. 281-283, 22)

2016: General Assembly commended the Government of Canada for its response to refugees through increased humanitarian support and resettlement in Canada. (A&P 2016, p. 39)

2015: General Assembly advocated that the number of Government-sponsored refugees match the number allowed through private sponsorship and for Canada to increase its contribution to the UN High Commission for Refugees. (A&P 2015, pp. 302-4, 27)

2006: General Assembly adopted guidelines [link to document] for congregations considering providing sanctuary to refugees whose claims have been denied, and who are at risk of persecution in their home country. (A&P 2006, pp. 330, 39-40) General Assembly expressed its dismay to the Government of Canada for failing to set up an appeal process as set out in the Refugee Protection Act. (A&P 2006, p. 41)

1997: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to increase the number of sponsorship spaces for Sudanese refugees in light of human rights violations. (A&P 1997, p. 321)

1992: General Assembly asked the Governments of Canada and Quebec to relax immigration laws for Yugoslav refugees stranded in camps in Hungary due to the war in Yugoslavia. General Assembly advocated with Canada that an appeal process for refugees whose cases were denied be enacted. (A&P 1992, pp. 41-42)

1991: General Assembly adopted a report regarding protestations made to the Government of Canada about the discontinuing of loans to refugees, contrary to the master agreement the church had signed. (A&P 1991, p. 490)

1989: The 115th GA endorsed the Canadian Council of Churches’ challenge of the new regulations governing refugees under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (A&P 1989, pp. 360-361, 27; 382-384, 64)

1987-1988: General Assembly called on the Government of Canada to uphold the human rights of refugees entering Canada. General Assembly commended to congregations: the continuing need for ministry to refugees through sponsorship; study and action on the root causes of refugees; explore the connections between racism and resistance to refugees in Canada. It also called on the GOC to give asylum to refugees from Central America. (A&P 1987, pp. 340, 59-60; A&P 1988, pp. 368, 51; 450, 34; A&P 1988, pp. 365, 35)

1984-85: General Assembly noted the current extent of refugee problems in Africa, the Middle East, Central America and South-East Asia GA appointed a special committee to discuss with the Government of Canada a broader and more humane application of the criteria under which asylum seekers could access an amnesty currently offered by the government. General Assembly asked the Government of Canada to declare a period of amnesty for all those residing without documentation [illegally] in Canada who were not a security risk. (A&P 1984, pp. 388-389; A&P 1985, pp. 38-39)

1980: General Assembly encouraged congregations sponsoring refugee families to take a particular interest in refugees with disabilities, and called on the Government of Canada to extend its maximum one-year assistance to such a period of time that will assist refugees with disabilities to reach their maximum level of functioning. (A&P 1980, pp. 207, 45)

1981: General Assembly, in recognition of the difficulty refugees faced in paying transportation costs of about $700 per person, called on congregations to exert influence on the GOC to “give relief to those refugees who are finding the repayment of their transportation costs a heavy burden.” (A&P 1981, pp. 214, 65)

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