Profile of Government-Assisted Refugees

Did you know that, GARs are people who have valuable skills and knowledge that can benefit our community?

Prior to 2002, government-assisted refugees (GARs) were initially selected for resettlement in Canada based on whether they met certain criteria that would facilitate their ability to establish (i.e. official language fluency, relevant work skills, family members in Canada).  However, with the enactment of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) in 2002, GARs were selected based on their need for protection rather than their ability to resettle.  The result of this action was a higher number of GARs arriving in Canada with significant high needs, which include (but are not limited to):

  • Having lived in rural, non-western, non-industrialized environments and refugee camp living conditions
  • Experienced trauma, incarceration, torture or witnessed atrocities:
  • Numerous health (including serious and acute conditions) and mental health needs (i.e. post-traumatic stress)
  • Low literacy skills and lack of formal education
  • Little to no fluency in Canada’s official languages
  • Diverse family composition (including extended families and single parents with a larger number of children)

GARs arrive from a variety of source countries that have been affected by political instability, violence, war and civil unrest, and may lack access to basic services such as health care due to the precariousness of the country’s environment and infrastructure. 

GARs are also diverse in terms of their previous living conditions, with a majority having lived in refugee camps and in non-western living environments.

While almost half of GAR arrivals are adults over age 25 years, a significant number are youth and children, whose settlement needs differ from those of adults and thus often require additional specialized supports.  

GARs also differ in terms of their family composition.  Some GARs arrive as single cases while others arrive as a family unit – either as single-parent, two-parent or extended families.  Each type of GAR case composition encounters issues and challenges in the resettlement process. 

Due to lack of consistent health care services in their previous countries of residence, as well as GARs’ experiences with traumatic and/or violent events, a majority of needs identified by GAR clients are related to health (both physical and mental health).  These health concerns, in turn, can delay or interfere with GARs’ successful resettlement. 

A majority of GARs arrive in Canada having no English language fluency, and many arrive having no prior formal education and/or are illiterate in their first language.  These challenges can create difficulties for GARs in accessing community services and in general integration into Canada.

GARs also speak a variety of languages as a result of the diversity of source countries.  Some of these languages are also not commonly found in Canada, creating challenges in the provision of interpretation when required.