Humanitarian and Compassionate Risk Assessments

Principles of Humanitarian and Compassionate Considerations

In the realm of Canadian immigration, Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) considerations play a crucial role when circumstances warrant a departure from the usual strict adherence to the immigration requirements. These considerations are addressed under Section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which grants the immigration officers the discretion to grant permanent resident status or a permanent resident visa to individuals based on compassionate or humanitarian grounds.

The underlying principle of H&C considerations is rooted in the recognition that rigid application of immigration law may, in exceptional cases, result in hardship that goes beyond what was intended by the legislation. To respond to such situations, decision-makers assess the unique factors presented by applicants to determine if there is sufficient cause to warrant an exemption from the usual requirements.

H&C grounds can cover a broad spectrum of factors, including, but not limited to:

  • Establishment in Canada
  • Ties to the community
  • The best interests of a child directly affected by the decision
  • Consequences of the separation of family members
  • Health considerations, including the availability of medical treatment in the applicant’s home country

However, it is important to note that the following cannot be considered under H&C grounds:

  • Assessments of risk factors that are covered in the refugee protection determination process, like persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion
  • Assessments of severe risk to the applicant’s life, other than inherent risks everyone in that country faces, which should be assessed under different provisions such as Pre-Removal Risk Assessment

The weight given to each factor may vary from case to case, allowing a flexible approach to cater to the unique situations of individuals who may not fall clearly into other immigration categories. The H&C assessment is therefore not only a recognition of the multifaceted nature of an individual’s circumstances but also a testament to Canada’s commitment to embracing compassion within its immigration policies.

All H&C applications are highly discretionary and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Detailed, credible, and substantiated information should be provided to support the claim for H&C considerations. It is crucial for applicants to understand that the H&C process is not a substitute for nor an alternative to all other immigration paths but is rather a mechanism to alleviate undue, undeserved, or disproportionate hardship.

Evaluating Individual Circumstances in H&C Assessments

When evaluating individual circumstances in H&C assessments, immigration officers are tasked with a thorough review of various aspects of the applicant’s life. Each case is scrutinized to ascertain the degree and nature of hardship that could ensue if the requested relief were not granted. Detailed documentation and clear, compelling narratives are critical in painting a vivid picture of the applicant’s situation.

The assessment considers a wide range of factors that could affect the applicant and his or her dependents. Factors taken into account include, but are not limited to:

  • Establishment in Canada: The extent to which the applicant has settled in Canada, including employment history, community involvement, and the presence of close family members in the country.
  • Ties to the Community: The relationships and networks that the applicant has built within the community, such as volunteer work, participation in local organizations, and integration into the local culture and society.
  • The best interests of a child directly affected by the decision: The well-being of children involved is a primary consideration. This includes their education, health, emotional development, and the impact that a negative decision could have on their stability.
  • Consequences of the separation of family members: The impact of potential separation from family members in Canada, particularly those dependent on the applicant for care or support.
  • Health considerations: Accessibility and quality of medical treatment for any existing health issues in the applicant’s home country compared to Canada. This includes psychological and emotional health factors.

Furthermore, H&C applications often involve complex legal considerations. The following elements are crucial in ensuring a strong application:

  • Detailed Personal Narrative: A comprehensive account of the applicant’s circumstances that helps establish the seriousness of their situation and the level of hardship they could face.
  • Substantiated Evidence: Documentation and evidence to back up the claims made in the application, including medical reports, letters of support from community members, and other relevant documentation.
  • Compelling Reasons: A clear demonstration of how the applicant’s situation differs from others and why an exemption or special consideration is justified on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
  • Legal Submissions: A legal argument that ties the individual circumstances of the case to the requirements and objectives of the H&C considerations under the IRPA.

Applicants should be mindful that a successful H&C application must be based on exceptional circumstances. It is insufficient to simply claim hardship; the hardship must be significantly greater than the ordinary inconveniences or difficulties experienced by others facing similar situations.

It is recommended that applicants facing complex or borderline cases seek professional legal counsel to assist with their claims. Legal professionals with experience in immigration law can help to identify and articulate the strongest aspects of an applicant’s H&C application. It is through a combination of personal narratives, evidence, legal arguments, and alignment with humanitarian values that applicants stand the best chance of succeeding in their pursuit of H&C relief.

Challenges and Best Practices in Risk Evaluation

Confronting the intricacies of Humanitarian and Compassionate risk evaluations involves understanding the complex challenges and developing best practices to mitigate these challenges. The holistic approach taken in these assessments is subject to a high degree of subjectivity. Consequently, this discretion can lead to inconsistencies in how cases are interpreted and decided, potentially affecting the outcome for applicants.


  • Subjectivity and Variation: The discretionary nature of H&C decision-making can result in different outcomes for similar cases. Decision-makers’ perspectives and interpretations of humanitarian factors can vary widely.
  • Documentation and Evidence: Applicants face the challenge of providing sufficient and credible evidence to support their claims. Substantiating the circumstances that warrant humanitarian consideration often requires a variety of documentation that may be difficult to obtain.
  • Balancing Evidence and Narrative: Striking the right balance between compelling personal narratives and objective evidence is crucial. Applicants may struggle to articulate their stories in a way that resonates with decision-makers while still supporting them with evidence.
  • Cultural and Language Barriers: Language proficiency and cultural differences can impact an applicant’s ability to effectively convey the context and severity of their situation.
  • Legal Complexity: Navigating the legal framework and understanding the broad criteria outlined in immigration policy adds a layer of complexity for applicants, many of whom may not have legal representation.
  • Keeping Current: The landscape of immigration law is continuously evolving, and new precedents and regulations can influence the outcome of H&C assessments.

Best Practices:

  • Comprehensive Submissions: Applicants should include detailed personal statements and narratives that highlight specific humanitarian concerns, supported by substantial evidence including affidavits, medical reports, and letters of support.
  • Legal Representation: Engaging with an immigration lawyer or consultant can greatly increase the likelihood of success. Professionals specialized in Canadian immigration law are equipped to navigate the complexities and can articulate a case persuasively.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Applications should be prepared with an awareness of cultural differences, and, where necessary, translations and explanations of cultural context should be provided.
  • Continuous Updates: Keeping the application updated with new evidence or changes in circumstances can strengthen the case as it demonstrates ongoing hardship or strengthening ties to Canada.
  • Understanding the Process: Being well-informed about the legal process, timelines, and potential pathways for appeal can prepare applicants for the possible stages of their H&C assessment.
  • Alignment With H&C Values: Ensuring that the application aligns closely with the values and objectives of the H&C provisions will help cement the applicant’s position as deserving of an exemption.

Understanding the blend of subjective and objective elements in H&C risk assessments is paramount. Applicants must endeavor not only to tell their story but also to construct a robust legal and evidentiary foundation for their claims. It’s through awareness of the challenges and adherence to best practices that individuals can navigate the complex landscape of humanitarian and compassionate assessments with greater assurance.