Jamaican Immigration to Canada

Table of Contents

Jamaican Immigration to Canada


History of Jamaican Immigration to Canada

As of 2011, there were 256,915 Jamaican Canadians, both citizens and permanent residents. This group makes up nearly a third of all Black Canadians, who in term are Canada’s 3rd largest visible minority. Also, Jamaica has been the largest source of immigrants to Canada from the West Indies. Canada has long been a destination for Jamaicans seeking a better life.

Though a few Jamaicans came to Canada as slaves prior to the abolition of slavery within the British Empire, and a few more came as labourers prior to 1900, very few Jamaicans immigrated to Canada before the 20th century. And in the early decades of the 20th century, when Canada deliberately discouraged non-white immigrants, even fewer came. In the first decades of the 20th century, the West Indian population of Canada actually decreased.

However, after World War II, Canada needed cheap labour and began trying to lure foreign workers from the British colonies. Jamaican men came here to work. They were actively recruited to help fuel the growing Canadian post-war economy. Women were also attracted through the Domestic Workers Scheme of 1955, and sought to do the same thing. Once here, Jamaican women and other foreign domestic workers began to sponsor their husbands and children so that they could join them in Canada.

So many West Indians came to Canada that, four years after the Canadian government introduced the plan to attract foreign workers, it imposed strict limitations on immigration, specifically against people from the West Indies.

But in 1962 Canada removed official racial discrimination from immigration policy and this is when emigration began in earnest. In 1967, Canada introduced a points system – a version of which is still in place today – and middle class Jamaicans soon migrated to Canada in large numbers. There were only a few thousand Jamaican Canadians in the 1960s but the population exploded and there were nearly 190,000 by 1996. In the last twenty years, the population of Jamaican Canadians has increased by over a third.

Most Jamaican Canadians can be found in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Fully one third of self-identifying Jamaican Canadians live in the city of Toronto. Large communities can be found throughout Toronto’s suburbs, particularly in Brampton, where nearly 1/8th of all Jamaican Canadians live. Other major Jamaican Canadian centres include most of the many of the major cities in Canada: Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Halifax.


Deportation Becomes a Problem

Despite the success of Jamaican Canadians one of the defining characteristics of Jamaican Canadians over the last two decades has been their rate of deportation. According to a report by Public Safety Canada, it was the twin incidents of a robbery of the Just Desserts Café and the shooting of Constable Todd Baylis in 1994 – both crimes committed by Jamaicans – that led to new, harsher immigration regulations around permanent residents who have committed crimes in Canada. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (as it is now known) was amended to allow the Canadian government to “deport a non-Canadian convicted of a crime for which a penalty of 10 years or more is available, if the person is also considered dangerous…(and) removes the right of appeal to the Immigration Appeal Board.”

After this new regulation was passed, Jamaicans in Canada were deported at higher rates than any other ethnic group in Canada; during the first two years of the regulation’s existence, 40% of all deportees deported for criminal reasons were Jamaicans living in Ontario, and most lived in the GTA. The number of Jamaicans deported from Canada since then is over 6% of the total population of Jamaican Canadians.

Table 1: Cause of Removal, Jamaican Nationals—1997 to 2014
Removal Cause Number of Removals
Criminality 1,609
Enforcement of removal order, no return unless authorized 100
Financial 76
Health 19
Human rights violations 2
Inadmissible 216
Inadmissible family member 60
Misrepresentation 102
Non-compliance with the Immigration Act 1,860
Organized crime 11
Security 1
Visa issues (none, or improper visa) 663
Total removals 4,719



How to Stop Deportation


What kind of Removal Order is it?

If you a temporary or permanent resident and you are being deported from Canada or you fear you will be deported from Canada, the first thing to determine is, what type of order did you receive? There are three types of Removal Orders:

  • Departure Order (IMM 5238): You have 30 days to leave the country – if you do not comply, this order becomes the more serious Deportation Order (see below).
  • Exclusion Order (IMM 1214B): You are not allowed to return to Canada for a set period of time (usually either 1 year or 5 years).
  • Deportation Order (IMM 5238B): You have to leave Canada now.

Please note that a Direction to Leave Canada (IMM 1217B) is not the same as either a Departure Order or a Deportation Order.


What to Do About Deportation

You should comply with any Removal Order you receive. There are standard procedures for coming back to Canada after you have left, depending upon which type of order you received, and that is usually the safer way of dealing with the issue.


Appealing the Order from Within Canada

You have 30 days to appeal any removal order issued to you, provided it was not issued to you because of one of the following reasons:

  • You were convicted of a crime and your sentence exceeds 6 months jail time;
  • You were convicted of a crime related to your involvement in an organized criminal enterprise;
  • You have been deemed a threat to Canada’s national security;
  • You have committed human rights violations.

Yes, those last two are extremely vague. Most Jamaican Canadians deported from Canada have been deported because their case fell under one or both of the first two issues.

If you can appeal, and you do so, a Member of the Immigration Appeal Division will hear your appeal. They will decide one of the following:

  • The Removal Order is rescinded and you can stay in Canada.
  • A Stay is issued and you can remain in Canada provided you comply with the terms of the Stay (which will be reviewed in the future).
  • The Removal Order was issued legitimately and CBSA can remove you from Canada.

If you do not qualify to appeal, you should leave Canada and return when you are able.


Returning to Canada After You Were Deported or Asked to Leave

If you want to return to Canada, when and how depends upon what order you received:

  • Departure Order: If you complied with the 30 day notice AND received your Certificate of Departure (IMM 0056), then you can return to Canada without an Authorization to Return to Canada (ARC). Whether or not you will be allowed in depends upon the circumstances of the Removal Order. However, if you failed to comply with the time limit or you didn’t or forgot to register your departure, this order becomes a Deportation Order (see below).
  • Exclusion Order: If your Exclusion Order was for 1 year, and you did not travel to and try to enter Canada within that year, and you received a Certificate of Departure, you do not need an ARC and you can return to Canada. If you tried to re-enter Canada while you were excluded and/or you didn’t get a Certificate of Departure, you need an ARC.
  • Deportation Order: If you were deported, you need an ARC to come back to Canada.

If you do not need an ARC, you should still be prepared to convince the visa officer (if you need a visa) and the CBSA offer (at the port of entry) of why you should be allowed into Canada even though you were previously asked to leave.


Getting an Authorization to Return to Canada

If you need an ARC, it’s not just a matter of completing a form. (The form also depends upon which visa office is. You will have to request the form from the High Commission of Canada in Kingston. You cannot download it.) You need to prove to the officer that you should return to Canada. We strongly recommend getting legal assistance for the ARC request as, if it’s rejected, this will cause more problems for you in the future.


How to Claim Refugee Status

A refugee is someone who needs protection and/or who cannot return to Jamaica due to the possibility of persecution or due to ongoing human rights violations by the Jamaican government or by people or groups in Jamaica.

In order to claim refugee status, you need to prove your identity and you need to prove that you would be in danger if you return to Jamaica. The burden of proof is entirely on you.


Filing a Refugee Claim

There are a lot of forms necessary to complete to start the claim:

You must complete all of these and provide all required supporting documentation or your claim will be denied. Here is some of the additional information you will need to provide:

  • A list of your family, including your spouse, your parents, any siblings and any dependent children;
  • Your work or study history (and any other “activities”) for the last ten years – if you leave any gaps your application will be denied;
  • Your residence history (exact physical addresses) for the last ten years – if you leave any gaps your application will be denied.

It is highly recommended that you hire a lawyer to complete the Basis of Claim. Refugee claimants are eligible for legal aid. You will need to contact your provinces legal aid services to apply for legal aid. Local settlement services can help you complete the forms and get legal aid.

Where you submit your application depends upon which province you are in.


Eligibility Interview for Refugee Status

You will also have to attend an interview at an IRCC office. Unlike with most IRCC interviews, this interview cannot be rescheduled. If you miss this interview, your claim will be rejected and your appeal to stay in Canada as a refugee will be over. We cannot stress this enough: attend the interview.

You will need to bring the following:

  • Your original ID documents, i.e. passport(s) and any other ID you have – you must hand over all passports and travel documents;
  • 4 passport-sized photos.

At the interview the following will happen:

  • You will be given medical exam forms;
  • You will receive the Refugee Protection Claimant Document, which gives you health coverage until your case is heard;
  • You will received a conditional Departure Order (if you abandon your claim or it is rejected you will have to leave Canada within 30 days);
  • Your ID documents will be taken from you and you will receive a Notice of Seizure (see below);
  • You will be fingerprinted;
  • You will receive a date for your Refugee Hearing.



Determination of Eligibility, Notice of Seizure and Notice to Appear

If you are eligible for refugee status, you will receive a Determination of Eligibility and a Notice of Seizure.

The Determination of Eligibility will be your proof of status in Canada until your refugee application is approved or denied. DO NOT LOSE IT. IT IS YOUR SOLE PROOF OF STATUS AND CANNOT BE REPLACED. Guard it as if you would guard your money.

You receive the Notice of Seizure because IRCC will seize and hold your identification documents through the application process. The Notice lists all documents confiscated. You must hand over your ID documents so that you cannot travel during the application process.

The Notice to Appear will have your hearing date and location on it. The hearing date should be about 2 months after you receive the Notice to Appear as Jamaica is not a Designated Country of Origin. You must submit all evidence you wish to be considered no less than 10 days before the hearing date. You must also submit a language preference at this time. Regardless of whether or not you are using a lawyer, you will need to present a case to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).


Refugee Status Hearing

The hearing lasts approximately 3 and half hours and has 5 parts:

  1. Introduction: The Member from the IRB will introduce all present and explain the hearing process to you. You are required to swear an oath. If you wish to swear the oath on your Holy Book, you must bring it with you.
  2. Questions: The Member will question you, followed by the Minister’s Counsel (representing IRCC) and your lawyer (if you have one).
  3. Witness Questions: If you have provided witnesses, these witnesses will be questioned by the same people.
  4. Comments: You (or your lawyer) will then have the opportunity to explain how you fit the definition of a Refugee or Protected Person.
  5. Decision: The Member will either render a decision orally while you are present or make a decision later. In both cases, you will receive a Notice of Decision in the mail.

If your application is denied, the conditional Departure Order will be in effect, and you will have 30 days to leave Canada.

If your application is approved you will be able to apply for permanent residence as a refugee.



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