2012 Refugee Claim Data and IRB Member Recognition Rates

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The following note and the accompanying data are provided by Sean Rehaag, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.

13 May 2013

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 2012.

In 2012, some Members very rarely granted refugee status, including Daniel McSweeney (1.3%, 80 decisions) and David McBean (2.0%, 51 decisions). Others granted refugee status in most, if not all, of the cases they heard, including Gilles Guenette (100.0%, 572 decisions) and Cathryn Forbes (100.0%, 54 decisions).

Some of the recognition rate variation is 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 of variations in recognition rates, please follow the link below to an IRB explanatory note, which was provided with the response to the 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 country of origin and the number of expedited claims, 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: 42.6%; actual: 1.3%) and Silvie Roy (predicted: 48.6%; actual: 12.2%) had much lower recognition rates than predicted, whereas Jacques Fortin (predicted: 62.5%; actual 95.0%) and Christian Boissonneault (predicted 37.1%; actual: 69.5%) had much higher recognition rates than predicted – and none of these Members decided expedited positive cases.

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


To be cited as: Sean Rehaag, “2012 Refugee Claim Data and IRB Member Recognition Rates” (13 May 2013), online: http://ccrweb.ca/en/2012-refugee-claim-data.


  • The data was obtained through Access to Information Request A-2012-00180. I thank the IRB, and in particular Eric Villemaire, Director ATIP, and Debora Eisl, Deputy Director ATIP, for their assistance.
  • Table 2 includes only cases resulting in positive or negative decisions, or where applications were withdrawn or declared abandoned, excluding cases otherwise decided. Tables 3-5 include only cases resulting in positive or negative decisions (i.e. only cases decided on the merits), excluding all other cases.
  • Statistics (including recognition rates) for this year include only principal applicant claims (i.e. excluding associated claims by family members of principal applicants). However, for interested researchers, the data file includes a list of associated claims (if any) for each principal applicant claim.
  • There were 184 duplicate records in the original data provided. These records have been removed.
  • The data refers to “recognition rates”. The term “recognition rate” is used to mean the proportion, expressed as a percentage, 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 both “recognition rates” and “grant rates” were reported for data obtained for prior years (see links below).
  • Canada’s refugee determination system has recently been revised. Claims referred to the IRB after 15 December 2012 are subject to the revised system. As part of the revisions, there is a new cohort of decision-makers at the Refugee Protection Division (RPD). Some prior RPD Members have been appointed as part of the new cohort of decision-makers. Others will continue to hear legacy cases in 2013 (i.e. cases referred to the IRB prior to 15 December 2012). In addition, a number of prior RPD Members have been promoted to hear appeals at the newly established Refugee Appeal Division. A list of current Members for all IRB divisions is available here: http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/ENG/BRDCOM/MEMCOM/Pages/index.aspx


Sean Rehaag
Associate Professor
Osgoode Hall Law School
York University

Data from previous years

2011 (Updated)
2011 (Original)