In Focus Lecture: Canadian Refugee law – who is it protecting?

Presented by MAP in partnership with UBC Centre for Migration Studies

Canadian Refugee Law: Who is it protecting?

It is an established legal principle that refugees present at or within Canada’s borders are entitled to basic protection under Canadian law. Where precisely these borders lie, however, is far from clear. Dr. Arbel will discuss how legal measures like the Multiple Borders Strategy and the Safe Third Country Agreement restrict access to refugee protection in Canada, and erode the protections that would otherwise be available to refugee claimants under Canadian law.  Dr. Arbel will also discuss how access to refugee protection has been further restricted with the onset of COVID-19, and what we may expect when as pandemic measures begin to ease and the Canadian border re-opens. 

Speakers for the lecture

Efrat Arbel, Associate Professor. University of British Columbia

Efrat Arbel is Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law. She publishes and teaches in refugee law, prison law, constitutional law, and tort law. Her primary research examines how legal rights are negotiated and defined in liminal legal spaces like the border, the detention center, and the prison.

Prior to joining the Allard School of Law, Dr. Arbel completed her masters and doctoral studies at Harvard Law School, where she was recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, and was Canada Research Fellow with the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs. She held a postdoctoral appointment at the University of British Columbia between 2012-2014, with visiting terms at the Oxford Center for Criminology (2013) and the European University Institute (2014).

Currently, Dr. Arbel is examining the application of the law of torts to immigration detention, is principal investigator on a SSHRC funded IDG project examining the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement (through collaboration with Deborah Anker at Harvard Law School) and is also a research collaborator with colleagues Benjamin Goold and Catherine Dauvergne on a SSHRC funded project, Finding a Place for Rights: An Independent Evaluation of the Impact of the Beyond the Border Initiative on Human Rights at the Canada-US Border.   

Combining her academic work with legal practice, Dr. Arbel is engaged in advocacy and litigation involving refugee and prisoner rights. She has served on subcommittees with Westcoast LEAF and on the executive of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. She provides expert opinions and consultations to various government agencies. She is also a frequent media commentator on refugee and prison issues, and has been cited by numerous media outlets, including The Globe and MailNational Post, and The New York Times.

Dr. Arbel is affiliated with UBC Migration, the newly launched Research Excellence Cluster at the University of British Columbia.

Astitwa Thapa, Student, UBC Peter Allard School of Law

Astitwa grew up in Kathmandu and holds a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Hons) degree from the University of Manitoba. Astitwa is a passionate social justice advocate who worked for leading environmental NGOs in Winnipeg, where he fought for climate justice and advocated to improve food security.

After joining Allard, Astitwa volunteered for the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program, where he assisted low-income clients on a wide range of criminal and immigration files. He is about to graduate from the Allard School of Law and is looking forward to his articles at BC Prosecution Services.

Our Moderator: Amanda Aziz, Immigration and Refugee Lawyer

Amanda is an immigration and refugee lawyer and also works as a part-time Staff Lawyer with the Migrant Workers Centre. She is a long-time advocate for migrant justice, is the proud daughter of immigrants and has supported many families in navigating their immigration status in Canada. She has appeared regularly before all levels of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada as well as the Federal Court of Canada and has testified before federal standing committees of the House of Commons and Senate.

Amanda has worked with organizations supporting women and workers’ rights, including the West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund, the BC Government and Service Employees Union and the Canadian Labour Congress, and is a member of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers National Executive and the Canadian Bar Association Provincial Executive. She is also a regular volunteer with Rise Women’s Legal Clinic and is actively involved with Vancouver’s sanctuary city movement, advocating for access to services for all regardless of immigration status. 

Prior to her life as a lawyer, Amanda represented students at the national level, advocating for accessible post-secondary education. She received her law degree from the University of Victoria in 2014.

You can download background information for the event here: LINK


>>> Call to Action: Support the advocacy campaign by Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers to provide border access for refugees: see

Presented by MAP in partnership with UBC Centre for Migration Studies