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Refugee & Asylum Seeker Law Research Guide: Canada

This page will assist you with your research into Canadian refugee and asylum seeker law. For more detailed information on researching Canadian law in general, see our Canadian Legal Research Guide.

Canadian Statistics

Latest Canadian refugee statistical snapshot from UNHCR.

Refugee News

The latest news from the media centre of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

Latest Canadian Refugee News

News feed from UNHCR

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Refugee Research Guide

Globalex  Guide to Researching the Legal Aspects of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom

UNHCR Resettlement Handbook - Canada

Refugee Agencies & Associations

The Canadian Council for Refugees has a page which lists and links to government and non-government refugee agencies and associations.

Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers

Canadian Refugee Books in the Law Library

Journal Articles

WestlawNext Canada includes the following databases, which are both good ways to find journal articles on a topic, case or legislative provision, irrespective of the journal in which the article appears:

  1. Index to Canadian Legal Literature - an index to journal articles on a topic, case or legislative provision
  2. Journals and Law Reviews Canada  - a full text database contains articles, book reviews, annotations and case comments from multiple law reviews and scholarly journals.

Articles on Canadian law do not only appear in Canadian journals. Use also the following databases, which index hundreds of law journals.

Legal Source includes periodicals from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Abstracts and many full text articles.

LegalTrac includes periodicals from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Index only.

Interpreting the Convention refugee definition in the cases

Although a little dated, Interpretation of the Convention Refugee Definition in the Case Law, published by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada in 2005 is a comprehensive analysis of judicial consideration of the Convention refugee definition.

A great place to start....

The online encyclopaedias below are arranged alphabetically by topic. They include authoritative commentary, and link to the full text of legislation, treaties and significant cases. 

Canadian Encylopaedic Digest (CED) on WestlawNext Canada. You can browse to your topic, and also search across the whole CED, or within specific subjects.

To get to the refugee and asylum topics in CED:

  1. From WestlawNext Canada's home page, select Canadian Encylopaedic Digest
  2. Select I from the alphabetical list, and scroll to Immigration and Refugees
  3. Scroll to the topic in which you are interested, for example, Chapter VII - Refugee Protection.


​Halsbury's Laws of Canada on Lexis Advance. To get to the human rights topics in Halsbury's, scroll through the alphabetical list of topics to Immigration and Citizenship and use the + signs to open to more detailed topics - for example the topics under Chapter V - Convention Refugees and Persons in Need of Protection.


The latest edition of the Annotated Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of Canada (Carswell) contains the up to date Immigration and Refugee Protection Act together with accompanying regulations and rules, the Quebec Immigration Act SQ 2016 c 3, other relevant statutory enactments, and the latest legislative developments. It also contains casenotes on significant decisions that interpret the law and commentary reflecting all recent developments.

Canadian Refugee & Asylum Legislation

The principal legislation dealing with the protection of asylum seekers in Canada is the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (2001). The official Act, including all amendments, is available on the Canadian Department of Justice website (free access). Part 2 (ss95-115) deals with protection of refugees.

Westlaw's Canadian Encylopaedic Digest (database identifier CED) contains a table of all legislation relevant to refugees, with links to the full text of the legislation, and provides commentary and cases on the legislative provisions. Follow the directions in the box above to get to the Immigration and Refugees topic in the Canadian Encylopaedic Digest. The Tables of Statutes and Rules are in the Tables tab.

  • Tip: after checking relevant legislation on Westlaw, to ensure you use the most up to date official version of the legislation, go to the legislative provisons on the Department of Justice website.

Finding Cases on specific legislative provisions


In CANLII (open access) - navigate to the section or sub-section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, click on the hyperlinked section number and a list of citing cases will appear, with links to the full text of the cases. Alternatively, use the 'noteup' tab at the top of the screen.

In WestlawNext Canada (UniMelb staff & student access) - click on Statutes and Regulations on the home page to navigate to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and then to the provision - for example, s 97 - Person in need of protection. Click on Citing References to see all cases - these can be narrowed by sub-section, jurisdiction, citation frequency, court level, depth of treatment and treatment type.  


The latest edition of the Annotated Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of Canada (Carswell) contains casenotes on significant decisions that interpret each provision.

Courts making refugee decisions

Refugee and asylum cases are heard in the following Canadian courts:

  • Supreme Court
    • Decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada are published on the Supreme Court website from 1876 - present.
  • Federal Court of Appeal
    • Decisions are published on the Federal Court of Appeal website from 1988 to 1989 and 1996 - present.
  • Federal Court 
    • Decisions are published on the Federal Court website from 1990 to 1991 and 1995 - present
  • Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada 
    • Summaries, as well as the full-text, of a selection of these decisions are available in RefLex. RefLex is a publication of digests of recent immigration and refugee protection decisions. A selection of Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada full-text decisions is also available in CanLII.

Finding cases on a topic


Some refugee cases heard in all Canadian courts and tribunals are available as pdf replicas of the original unreported judgments on the UNHCR's Refworld website (open access).

The Canadian Abridgment on WestlawNext Canada contains over 850,000 case digests or summaries, of issues decided by the Canadian courts and administrative tribunals from the early 1800's to the present, updated daily.

The Canadian Abridgment is arranged by topic - so to find refugee law cases:

  1. select Canadian Abridgment - you will see an alphabetic list of topics
  2. scroll to Immigration and Refugees, and scroll to your topic eg: VII Refugee Protection. Clicking the links will open more detail until you select the topic in which you are interested.
  3. Once you see the hyperlink, you can link to summaries of relevant cases on point and often link to the full text of the cases.

The Canadian Immigration Cases and Decisions database on WestlawNext Canada contains Canadian federal and provincial court and tribunal decisions relating to immigration, citizenship, and the status of aliens that are selected from Carswell case law reporters, such as the Immigration Law Reporter. From the home page select Cases and Decisions and then scroll to Immigration under Topic.

  • The earliest reported case is from 1840. 
  • Comprehensive coverage of reported court cases begins 1977
  • Comprehensive coverage of unreported court decisions begins 1986
  • Comprehensive coverage of reported tribunal decisions begins 1997