Instructor(s): Hilary Evans Cameron

For graduate students, the course number is LAW7076HS.

Note: This course satisfies the International/Comparative/Transnational course requirement.

The Refugee Convention, born of compromise, is deliberately vague. As a result, there is rich debate within the academy and in the courts about who deserves refugee protection. The first part of this course will give an overview of Canadian refugee law, with a focus on the more heated aspects of this debate: Do people in danger have a duty to ask the authorities in their own country for help before seeking Canada’s protection? If so, how poor must their country’s response be before Canada is obliged to step in? Do claimants have a duty to ask for refugee protection in the first safe country that they reach, or at the first opportunity? How diligent must they be in bringing their claims forward? Students will come away with an understanding of the most important conversations taking place within the Canadian jurisprudence, and in particular, of the conflicting conceptual frameworks that underlie its deep divisions.

The second part of this course will be devoted to an equally important, and equally divisive, aspect of refugee law that, in contrast, has received very little academic attention. Most refugee status decisions hinge on findings of fact, yet there has been little serious study of the law that governs how refugee status decision-makers should make sense of the evidence before them. Most crucially, how should they decide whether a claimant is telling the truth or not? This course will explore the unique challenges that credibility determination poses in the refugee context; will look in detail at the entrenched conflicts within this area of Canadian jurisprudence; and will propose a new way of understanding what the law of fact-finding is trying to accomplish inside a refugee hearing room and why.

The final part of this course will consider how the first two inform one another, and how they together shed light on a widely recognized problem within the Canadian refugee determination system. Refugee status decisions in Canada, and elsewhere, are characterized by enormous disparities in decision-makers’ grant rates. With an understanding of what motivates the divisions in the jurisprudence, and with an understanding of how fact-finding operates in a refugee hearing, students will be in a position to appreciate why, on a structural level, the Canadian system cannot help but produce inconsistent decisions, as well as decisions that are vulnerable to influence and abuse.

Class participation 20% (10% contributions to discussion, 10% attendance) and three short comment papers of 2,500 words each (80%). One paper will be due at the end of each part of the course, and will respond to the readings in that section.

At a Glance

Second Term



19 JD


W: 4:10 - 6:00