Author: Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB
Last Updated On: December 9, 2023

The Non-Comparative Approach to Refugee Claims in Canada

Refugee Claims in Canada

A young woman, Achan, hails from South Sudan and is now in Canada, hoping to gain refugee status. She fled her homeland’s ongoing conflict. She didn’t face direct persecution, though. However, Achan fears for her life due to the conflict’s random nature. Furthermore, the government’s inability to protect citizens has left her vulnerable. However, she holds no specific political or religious views that would put her at risk; the lawlessness and armed groups around her cause great concern. She has learned about the Non-Comparative Approach to refugee claims and is curious about its implications for her case. She wonders how this principle might apply to her fear and situation, focusing on her experience rather than comparing it to others.

Defining the non-comparative approach to refugee claims

The Non-Comparative Approach in the context of refugee claims in Canada evaluates an individual’s need for protection based on their specific circumstances without comparing their situation to that of the general population in their country of origin. Consequently, this approach focuses on the personal risk and fear that an individual claimant experiences due to threats of persecution rather than assessing the risk relative to the broader conditions of their country.

The non-comparative approach acknowledges that a person may be a refugee even if they do not face a risk significantly different from the general risks faced by other civilians in their country. However, they must demonstrate a profound and personal threat to their life or freedom.

Where is the root of this approach to refugee claims?

The Non-Comparative Approach has its roots in the “Ali v. Canada” decision from 1999 by the Federal Court of Appeal.

The decision acknowledges the importance of assessing a refugee claim based on the individual’s circumstances and experiences rather than making comparisons with the general population or situation in the claimant’s country of origin. This approach emphasizes the uniqueness of each claimant’s experience and the need for personalized assessment in determining refugee status. The ruling aligns with the principle that refugee status determination should focus on the claimant’s personal risk and fear of persecution. Paragraph 4 of the ruling mentions important points regarding the non-comparative approach to refugee claims, namely:

  • Definition: The non-comparative approach assesses refugee claims, specifically for civilian non-combatants in civil war situations, as described in the IRB Guidelines from March 7, 1996 (Revoked ​January 5, 2022).
  • Guideline Adoption: This approach aligns with the third principle in Salibian v. Canada (1990), decisions of the Court of Appeal in Rizkallah and Hersi, Nur Dirie, and the definition of a Convention refugee.
  • Individual Assessment: It focuses on the individual circumstances of the claimant rather than comparing their risk level to that of others in similar situations or groups.
  • Convention Refugee Status: Examines whether the claimant’s fear of persecution is related to a Convention ground without comparing it to the general indiscriminate consequences of civil war.
  • Avoids General Victim Label: A claimant should not be generalized as a “victim” of civil war without analyzing their personal circumstances and any group affiliations they may have.
  • Emphasis on Personal Circumstances: The approach centers on whether the claimant’s fear of persecution is due to a Convention ground, ensuring a personalized assessment of their refugee claim.

The main factors in a non-comparative approach to refugee claims

Generally speaking, we could consider the following factors in assessing refugee claims. Of course, we are focusing on those circumstances in civil unrest or other adversities that affect the population as a whole:

  • Individual Focus: We must evaluate a refugee claim based on the specific risks and circumstances faced by the individual claimant. Therefore, refrain from comparing their situation to the general population.
  • Context of Civil War or Widespread Violence: The non-comparative approach becomes crucial in civil wars or widespread violence.
  • Distinct Personal Risk: We must recognize that a person can be a refugee, even from a region of generalized violence. However, they must demonstrate a special, personal risk to themselves.
  • Avoids Generalization: The non-comparative approach avoids diluting an individual’s claim by the broader context of violence or conflict in their home country. Consequently, it ensures a thorough and personal assessment.
  • Case-by-Case Assessment: The authorities must assess each refugee claim on its merits. Therefore, they must consider the unique experiences and threats the claimant faces.
  • Compatibility with International Refugee Law: This approach aligns with the principles of international refugee laws. Such laws focus on the need for protection based on individual circumstances.
  • Serious Harm: The focus is on the severity of the harm the claimant might face rather than comparing the level of risk with others.
  • Risk of Harm: It assesses the reasonable possibility of the claimant encountering the anticipated harm without comparing the risk level to others.
  • Nexus: It involves linking the harm the claimant might face to one of the Convention grounds, regardless of whether others may be targeted for similar reasons.

More reading: Chapter 4 of the IRB legal resources.

Assessing Achan’s Eligibility for Refugee Status in Canada

Let’s explore the hypothetical story I shared at the beginning of this article. The chances of Achan securing protection in Canada under the non-comparative approach depend on several factors. Of course, these factors relate to her individual circumstances and how they align with the criteria for refugee status as defined by Canadian immigration law.

  • Individual Fear and Risk: Achan’s personal fear for her life due to the conflict’s random nature is a critical factor.
  • Government’s Inability to Protect: The South Sudanese government’s inability to protect its citizens, leaving Achan vulnerable, is significant. This suggests she may not have state-provided safety options within her country.
  • Lack of Specific Political or Religious Affiliation: Despite lacking specific affiliations that would typically put her at risk, her fear and risk due to general lawlessness and the presence of armed groups are still relevant.
  • Assessment of Personal Circumstances: Her case will be evaluated on its own merits, considering her unique experiences and fears rather than being compared to the broader situation in South Sudan.
  • Application of Non-Comparative Principles: Understanding how this approach applies to her situation, Achan’s concern is whether her fear and the risks she faces are sufficiently serious and personal to warrant protection.

While the Non-Comparative Approach offers a more individualized assessment, the outcome of Achan’s claim would ultimately depend on how convincingly she presents her case and whether it meets the legal criteria for refugee status under Canadian immigration law. Of course, a strong Basis of Claim and Narrative could help. The decision would be made by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), considering all aspects of her claim.

Let us help!

I have represented many clients in their refugee claims in Canada. Moreover, I have dealt with several other immigration and visa complications. Please consider booking a consultation session or filling out the following form.

    Welcome! We're here to help you with your immigration concerns. Please provide some initial information to help us understand your situation and guide you better. Your journey towards resolving immigration issues begins here.

    Personal Information

    Full Name (required)

    Email (required)

    Confirm Email (required)

    WhatsApp number (optional)

    Immigration Concerns

    Are you inadmissible to Canada?

    YesNoI don't know

    Have you received a removal order from Canada?

    Yes, DepartureYes, ExclusionYes, DeportationYes, type unknownNoI don't know

    Any other issues (select all that apply)?

    Do you believe humanitarian and compassionate grounds apply to you?

    YesNoI don't know

    Please explain the issue briefly:

    Additional Resources

    Upload a file that could help us better understand your situation - only PDF, JPG or PNG and less than 0.5MB. Examples of helpful documents include: refusal letters, other correspondence from immigration authorities, etc.

    Your Next Step

    If you prefer to discuss your situation directly, you can book a consultation session with Al Parsai. Please note that the consultation is not free. By submitting this form, you're taking the first step towards receiving professional guidance on your immigration journey. We will review your information and advise if it is best to book a consultation with him.

    We take your privacy seriously. Your information will only be used to assess your situation and to contact you.

    Client Testimonials

    We are proud to have a rating of 4.8/5 based on tens of reviews. Here's what one of many of our satisfied clients had to say about our services:

    A testimonial by a satisfied consultation client.

    You can find more reviews by searching for "Parsai Immigration Services" on Google.

    Related Posts

    Understanding the Roles of Immigration Practitioners in Canada

    Jul 23, 2024

    Business Visitor Entry Under CUSMA for U.S. and Mexican Citizens

    Jul 21, 2024

    Can You Get Express Entry CRS Points with a Trade Certificate?

    Jul 20, 2024

    Navigating Skilled Trades and Licensing in Canada for Immigration

    Jul 18, 2024

    Would you please fill out our free assessment form if you wish to visit or move to Canada? We will review it for free, but we will contact you only if we find an opportunity for you. Alternatively, you may book a consultation session. Consultation sessions are not free, but you will receive formal immigration advice from a licensed practitioner.

    Al ParsaiAl Parsai, LLM, MA, RCIC-IRB
    Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
    Adjunct Professor – Queen’s University – Faculty of Law
    Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
    Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada

    Fill our Free Canada Immigration Assessment Form in your language!

    This article provides information of a general nature only. Considering the fluid nature of the immigration world, it may no longer be current. Of course, the item does not give legal advice. Therefore, do not rely on it as legal advice or immigration advice. Consequently, no one could hold us accountable for the content of these articles. Of course, if you have specific legal questions, you must consult a lawyer. Alternatively, if you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment.

    The characters and places in the articles:
    All the characters and locations in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Therefore, any resemblance in names, dates, and places is coincidental.

    Important Notes:
    For our official addresses, trust this website only. We currently do not have offices outside Canada. Therefore, anyone who claims to be our agent is committing fraud. Also, note that we do not issue any work permits or study permits or similar documents. The government of Canada has the sole authority to issue such material.

    Click to read the disclaimer.

    Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB

    Al Parsai is a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University (Osgood Hall Law School). A respected member of CICC, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.