For immediate release
26 June 2018
The CCR strongly opposes IRB Review proposal undermining the independence of the refugee determination system
The Canadian Council for Refugees responded with alarm to the proposal in the newly released IRB Review Report to remove refugee determination from the Immigration and Refugee Board. The CCR calls on the government to reject this option, and to commit to maintaining the IRB as an independent quasi-judicial tribunal responsible for refugee determination.
“People’s lives hang on decisions in the refugee determination system,” said Claire Roque, President. “We are not talking about traffic violations, we are talking about a decision that may determine whether a person lives or dies. When we make such important decisions, we need to guarantee due process and the basic protections of an expert and independent tribunal.”
The current Canadian determination system was created in the wake of the 1985 Supreme Court Singh decision, which found that refugee claimants are entitled under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to a just refugee determination process, including an oral hearing. This led to the creation of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The report asks whether a quasi-judicial tribunal is the best model: the CCR says that the answer is clearly “yes” – now more than ever we need to preserve the independent tribunal that is regarded as a model internationally.
We call on the government, in responding to the IRB Review, to follow the best Canadian traditions of fairness, respect for due process and dignity of the person, and compassion. The complex and painful realities of refugees cannot be adequately addressed through a process that focuses on systems and efficiencies.
The current challenges facing the Canadian refugee determination system are the result of successive governments failing to make the right choices. In 2012 substantial changes were made to the refugee determination, which were criticized by the CCR and other refugee advocates as being unfair and ineffective. Some of the measures were struck down by the courts as contrary to the Charter. There was general agreement, including in government evaluations, that some aspects of the process simply didn’t work (notably the Country of Origin regime). However, in 2017, instead of introducing the changes that all agreed were necessary, and increasing the resources of refugee determination in line with increased claims, the government chose to launch the IRB Review, knowing that it would create a refugee backlog. As a result, thousands of refugees have been suffering prolonged delays, often separated from their families.
The CCR welcomes some of the recommendations in the report, including the need for resourcing of the system to follow increases and decreases in claimant numbers, and measures to keep families united.
The CCR continues to urge the government to provide a fair and independent refugee determination system, adequately resourced to allow refugees a decision within a reasonable time. The faster people are recognized as refugees, the faster they can contribute to their full capacity to the Canadian economy.
The CCR will closely monitor the next steps following the release of the report. We are counting on the government to preserve the best aspects of Canada’s refugee determination system.
Joint letter concerning the need to preserve refugee determination at an independent IRB by the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), Amnesty International Canada (English Branch) and the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA): http://ccrweb.ca/en/letter-independence-refugee-determination
Letter from the Canadian Bar Association
CCR’s submissions to the IRB Review http://ccrweb.ca/en/irb-review-ccr-submissions