About UNHCR Canada

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1950. 

Photo: © UNHCR/Darren Calabrese

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. UNHCR has operations in more than 137 countries and territories.

For decades, UNHCR has faced crises in many countries. We’ve provided life-saving assistance to asylum-seekers, refugees, internally displaced and stateless people. For millions forced from home, UNHCR saves lives and builds better futures.

The 1951 Refugee Convention is the key legal document that forms the basis of our work. Ratified by 145 State parties, including Canada, it defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.

Our office in Canada opened its doors in 1976 and works in four key areas:


We observe Canadian asylum practices and policies in order to promote the highest standards of protection for refugees and asylum-seekers. 

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Learn more about our work to protect refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons

UNHCR works with governments and civil society to strengthen Canada’s asylum system in a way that guarantees access to a fair and efficient process for asylum-seekers. We seek to end the detention of asylum-seekers and advocate for alternatives to detention. We work closely with the Canadian government to implement best practices in the development of asylum systems in other countries. We also assist them to improve the collection and analysis of data regarding asylum-seekers, refugees – including resettled ones – and stateless persons in Canada. 


We find durable solutions that enable refugees to live their lives in dignity and peace. They can include voluntary repatriation, resettlement and integration. 

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Learn more about our work in finding lasting solutions for refugees

Every year, UNHCR refers thousands of refugees in need of resettlement to a number of countries, including Canada, one of the largest resettlement-receiving countries in the world. In Canada, we partner with the Canadian government, civil society, community-based groups and businesses to advocate for resettlement and additional immigration pathways through private sponsorship, the granting of scholarships for refugees, and the engagement of private businesses. 


We inform and educate Canadians about the situation of refugees and other displaced persons, as well as the work of UNHCR in the field. 

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Learn more about our communications work

We create public information and educational materials to keep Canadians informed and to build support for refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons, and stateless persons. We share their stories through various media channels, public events and online, and we seek the support of the Canadian public and government to bolster our advocacy efforts for our operations around the world. 


We encourage the Canadian public and the Government of Canada to provide financial assistance to UNHCR programs worldwide. 

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Learn more about our fundraising work

UNHCR is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, principally from governments, but also from corporations, foundations and individuals. We actively raise funds in Canada and engage the public in the plight of refugees and displaced people. UNHCR Canada is a Qualified Donee as defined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which allows us to issue tax receipts when you make a cash donation. Learn more about how we fundraise and where your money goes. 

Stay alert and report fraudsters who are offering you resettlement, financial or other kinds of assistance, fake documents or fake claims in exchange for money or other favours. All UNHCR services are free of charge. Do not trust anyone or any organization asking you to pay for the services of UNHCR or its partners. 

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