Bordering on Legality: Canadian Church Sanctuary and the Rule of Law

Sean Rehaag


 This paper examines church sanctuary incidents in Canada involving unsuccessful refugee claimants seeking to avoid deportation.The author contends that when faith-based communities develop formal screening mechanisms to determine who among the many that request it is accorded sanctuary, they apply similar norms and procedures as those found in Canada’s official refugee determination process.The author argues that although sanctuary practi­ces are often criticized as a form of civil disobedience that poses a threat to the rule of law, it is also possible to under­stand sanctuary practices as a means through which faith-based communities prevent the state from violating both Canadian and international refugee law, thereby uphold­ing rule-of-law norms.

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