March 14, 2017
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) recently held a consultation meeting with key stakeholders to find a strategic and collaborative way to implement several measures, including a short hearing process and new scheduling approach, that were recently announced to address the significant backlog and growing intake of refugee claims at the Refugee Protection Division (RPD).
At the meeting, IRB Chair Mario Dion opened an important discussion around a continued commitment to both fairness and timeliness in the processing of refugee claims.
Acknowledging an evolving and challenging landscape, consultation participants agreed that all parties need to work together to find ways to strategically address the growing RPD backlog and unacceptably long wait times for many refugee claimants and their families. It was acknowledged that counsel plays an important role and their participation will be critical in helping the IRB meet its challenges. It was further agreed that while the framework announced in February was an important step forward, the process will be further refined with stakeholder input. The IRB will consider the suggestions brought forward carefully and, where appropriate, apply them to operations and policies to ensure a better and more strategic way forward.
“The IRB is not alone in facing mounting pressures,” noted IRB Chairperson, Mario Dion. “Our stakeholders bring unique perspectives and ideas that together, help us all to adapt and innovate. We are grateful to be able to consider and reflect a more inclusive and collaborative approach that will invariably resolve shared problems and help us better meet our shared objectives.”
“Clearly, we are all consumed with the current landscape and how we can adjust to it,” noted IRB Executive Director Ross Pattee, who chaired the meeting from Toronto. “We are encouraged by an obvious desire to work together towards common purpose and shared goals.”
"We appreciate the opportunity to bring to the Board's attention the human faces and stories that we see behind the numbers," said Loly Rico, President of the Canadian Council for Refugees. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Board to ensure that claimants have a hearing that is quick and fair."
Stakeholders participating in the discussion included:
- Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR);
- L’Association québecoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration (AQAADI); Canadian Bar Association (CBA);
- Refugee Lawyers Association (RLA);
- Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants (CAPIC);
- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Canada;
- Canadian Association for Refugee Lawyers (CARL) and;
- Legal Aid Ontario (LAO).
Measures included in the Chairperson’s announcement:
- The RPD will redeploy up to half of its capacity to address backlog claims. The balance of the Division’s capacity will continue to be focused on addressing new cases within the required timelines.
- Under a new process, certain claims identified by the RPD as straightforward will be scheduled for a short hearing before an RPD member. The expectation is that a substantial majority of these claims will be finalized at the end of the short hearing. The provision to grant refugee protection to certain claims without a hearing will remain.
- Countries which have an acceptance rate at the RPD of approximately 80 percent or higher will be the first to be considered for inclusion in the new short hearing process.