Below is a message sent on January 31, 2020, from Richard Wex, Chairperson of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), to the IRB's
consultative committee, on the issue of quality in decision-making.
As you may know, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) has been the subject of recent media reporting focusing on decision-maker conduct, and the quality of decision-making.
This presents me with a timely opportunity to connect with stakeholders and update you on the Board’s work relating to quality decision-making. I believe it’s important that you are aware of the significant efforts currently being taken by the Board to ensure we are fulfilling our statutory mandate to resolve refugee and immigration cases efficiently, fairly, and in accordance with the law.
Decision-making in refugee and immigration cases is recognized as one of the most difficult and important in the field of administrative law, often involving life-altering consequences. This is why the Board’s decision-makers undergo a merit-based and rigorous selection process. Only a very small percentage of those who apply are hired. Decision-makers then follow an extensive training program and receive ongoing professional development, mentorship and performance management. This rigour has earned the Board a global reputation for high quality and fairness in its decisions.
Last year, the Board issued over 70,000 decisions across its four Divisions. In making these decisions, Board Members are expected to behave professionally and demonstrate integrity, while producing fair decisions, quickly. It’s important to bear in mind that in the vast majority of cases our decision-makers conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism. That said, the IRB recognizes that it can always do better and is committed to enhancing the quality of its decision-making. These efforts are all that much more important as our decision-maker complement grows with the rising number of claims. In this context, we are introducing important additional measures to strengthen quality in our decision-making including new adjudicative quality centers to better monitor trends to identify training needs; strengthened monitoring of hearings to promote quality assurance; as well as annual and transparent third- party reviews of the quality of the Board’s decision-making.
In recent weeks, the media has brought to our attention a limited number of gender-related cases, some of which have already been reported on, in which certain lines of questioning are of concern. While the cases being raised by the media are by no means systemic or representative in nature, they point to an area requiring immediate attention – all the more so given the IRB’s proud history of being global leaders in developing guidelines for decision- makers on how best to conduct hearings for refugee claimants raising gender-related issues. As a result, we are taking the following initial steps to address the issues raised: First, the IRB is implementing mandatory refresher training for all of its refugee protection decision-makers on gender-related cases. Second, the Board will establish, in consultation with stakeholders, a dedicated team with specialized training relating to gender-related claims. And third, we will review and update the Chairperson’s Gender Guidelines, again in consultation with stakeholders, later this year.
The media has also raised questions about the Board’s ability to hold decision-makers accountable for poor conduct or performance. It is important to note that IRB decision-makers are independent in their decision-making functions – this is a key feature of the Canadian system. Recourse is available to the Refugee Appeal Division and, as appropriate, the Federal Court when claimants believe that errors have been made. However, and to be clear, when performance or conduct issues of a decision-maker are identified, stakeholders and members of the public can be assured that they will be appropriately addressed by management, following principles of fairness and due process.
Lastly, the media report raised questions with respect to the IRB complaints process, including revisiting the idea of a new external complaints body. As you may recall, the IRB recently strengthened its public complaints process by establishing an Office of Integrity, independent of the adjudicative Divisions, which reports directly to me. As added transparency measures, the Office now publishes an annual report regarding all complaints received and the complaints mechanism will be undergoing a review by a third party later this year. Stakeholders will be consulted as part of this review, and I am personally committed to making any changes required to further strengthen the system. I would also note that any new complaints body external to the Board involves a number of considerations, legislative changes and ultimately government approval. As Chairperson entrusted with ensuring that the public has confidence in the IRB, I will continue to work to ensure that the complaints process remains transparent and fair.
I would like to underscore that the IRB is facing its most challenging operating context in its 30- year history, marked by global migration patterns and an unprecedented number of people seeking access to our immigration and refugee protection system. You will recall that in response, the Board announced in late 2018 a multi-year Growth and Transformation agenda focused on improved productivity, enhanced quality in decision-making, and strengthened management. Over the past two years, the IRB has introduced a range of initiatives as part of that agenda – from claim intake to recourse – resulting in improved quality in decision-making, while consistently meeting or exceeding ambitious productivity commitments across the four IRB Divisions.
Our plans in support of improved quality in decision-making highlighted above form part of the IRB’s Growth and Transformation agenda. As we implement our agenda, we are listening to our employees and those who interact with the Board to improve how we deliver our business. This work is ongoing and we are committed to advancing our plans and priorities in consultation with our stakeholders.
I am proud of the dedication and quality of the work of our decision-makers and staff who daily perform difficult jobs in a very challenging operating context. I would like to thank you, our stakeholders, for your ongoing support. We will be reaching out to you to assist us in continuing to position the IRB for success.
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada