2011 Refugee Claim Data and IRB Member Recognition Rates

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

NOTE: Due to errors in the data provided by the IRB, the 2011 Refugee claim grant rates data has been updated here: http://ccrweb.ca/en/2011-updated-refugee-claim-data

The following note and the accompanying data are provided by Sean Rehaag
Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School
12 March 2012

Data obtained from the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) through an Access to Information Request reveals vast disparities in refugee claim recognition rates across IRB Members in 2011.

In 2011, some Members very rarely granted refugee status, including Daniel McSweeney (0%, 127 decisions) and David McBean (1.9%, 108 decisions). Others granted refugee status in most of the cases they heard, including Thomas Pinkney (98.0%, 799 decisions) and Deborah Morrish (97.9%, 366 decisions).

It is important to note that some of the recognition rate variation may be due to Member specialization in particular types of cases. For example, some Members are assigned a large number of expedited cases, which generally result in positive decisions. Similarly, some Members specialize in geographic regions with especially high or low refugee claim recognition rates. For further possible explanations for variations in recognition rates, please follow the link below to an IRB explanatory note (obtained as part of a prior Access to Information Request).

Although some of the recognition rate variation can be explained by factors related to Member specialization, the tables below suggest that even when one accounts for such factors, massive disparities in recognition rates persist. The tables show that there is substantial variance for some Members between the recognition rates that would be predicted based on the average recognition rates for the countries of origins in the cases they decided, and their actual recognition rates. For instance, Daniel McSweeney (predicted: 45.3%; actual: 0%) and Michael McCaffrey (predicted: 60.7%; actual: 29.4%) had much lower recognition rates than predicted, whereas Jacques Fortin (predicted: 54.4%; actual 81.3%) and Barry Dhillon (predicted 35.4%; actual: 59.9%) had much higher recognition rates than predicted – and none of these Members decided expedited positive cases.

The data may be of use to advocates for refugees, especially in the context of debates over reforms to Canada’s refugee determination system – including discussions surrounding Bill C-31, and the importance of access to the Refugee Appeal Division for all refugee claimants. The data may also be of interest for lawyers seeking to judicially review negative refugee determinations made by Members with extremely low recognition rates.

For a discussion of the methodology used to obtain the data and to calculate the statistics, as well as a full analysis of the implications of similar data for a previous year, see Sean Rehaag, “Troubling Patterns in Canadian Refugee Adjudication” (2008) 39 Ottawa Law Review 335. This article is available via links  here: http://ssrn.com/author=404046


1. Summary of Outcomes

2. Outcomes by Country

3. Outcomes by Board Member (Alphabetical)

3a. Outcomes by Board Member (Organized by Recognition Rate, 50+ Decisions)

3b. Outcomes by Board Member (Organized by Nominal Variance, 50+ Decisions)

4. Outcomes by Country and Board Member

5. Outcomes by Board Member and Country

6. Full Data

7. IRB Explanatory Note (2008)

To be cited as: Sean Rehaag, “2011 Refugee Claim Data and IRB Member Recognition Rates” (12 March 2012), online: http://ccrweb.ca/en/2011-refugee-claim-data


  • The data was obtained through Access to Information Request A-2011-090. I thank the Immigration and Refugee Board, and in particular Eric Villemaire, Director ATIP, and Debora Eisl, Deputy Director ATIP, for their prompt and helpful assistance with the request.
  • Table 2 includes only cases resulting in a positive or negative decision, or where the application was withdrawn or declared abandoned, excluding cases otherwise decided. Tables 3-5 include only cases resulting in a positive or negative decision (i.e. only cases decided on the merits), excluding all other cases.
  • Unlike in the data obtained for previous years (see links below), the data for 2011 includes information on claims made both by principal claimants and dependents.
  • A small number of cases have duplicate entries in the data. Debora Eisl, Deputy Director ATIP at the IRB has advised that: “all decisions listed are final decisions as determined by the IRB. Perceived duplicate entries would appear for files that were re-opened due to abandonment or withdrawal, as well as any file that is sent back to the IRB from the Federal Court for a new hearing as that is how they are treated in the case management system.”
  • This year’s data refers to “recognition rates”. The term “recognition rate” is used to mean the proportion of positive decisions relative to the total number of positive and negative decisions, excluding cases that are abandoned, withdrawn or otherwise resolved. This is the standard practice for reporting outcomes by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (http://www.unhcr.org/statistics), and it is the way that “grant rates” were reported for data obtained for prior years (see links below). Moreover, in this year’s data, the term “rejection rate” is used in Table 2 in the way set out in Bill C-31, cl 58, that is to say, the number of negative, withdrawn and abandoned cases relative to the total number of cases decided. Similarly, the term “abandon rate” is also used in Table 2 to reflect Bill C-31, cl 58: abandoned and withdrawn cases relative to the total number of cases decided. Full text of the Bill is available here: http://parl.gc.ca/legisinfo/BillDetails.aspx?billId=5383493

Sean Rehaag
Assistant Professor
Osgoode Hall Law School
York University

Data from previous years



Office spreadsheet icon 1.table_.xls18 KB
Office spreadsheet icon 2.table_.xls41.5 KB
Office spreadsheet icon 3.table_.xls39 KB
Office spreadsheet icon 3a.table_.xls36.5 KB
Office spreadsheet icon 3b.table_.xls36.5 KB
Office spreadsheet icon 4.table_.xls451.5 KB
Office spreadsheet icon 5.table_.xls451 KB
Package icon 6.full_data.zip1.51 MB
PDF icon 7.irb_explanatory_note.pdf810.08 KB