Operating Context and key risks

Operating contect

The IRB carries out its work in an environment where shifting migration patterns, domestic legislative changes and other factors have an impact on the number of cases received and their complexity.

Refugee claims and appeals

This has been especially the case for the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) and the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD), where rising intake reflects global migration patterns that have in recent years been marked by unprecedented refugee flows around the world. For its part, the Board experienced significant pressure in fiscal year 2018-19 as refugee claim intake continued to substantially exceed funded capacity to process claims. Indeed, last year the IRB received the highest volume of refugee protection claim referrals in its 30-year history. As a result, a backlog of approximately 74,000 claims accumulated by the end of that fiscal year, resulting in wait times for refugee claimants that currently stand at close to two years.

The Refugee Appeal Division also faced a significant and growing inventory of claims, as its workload consists largely of appeals against negative RPD decisions. At the end of fiscal year 2018-19, this backlog stood at over 7,500 appeals, resulting in an average wait time of close to one year.

Temporary funding was provided in Budget 2018 and Budget 2019 to hire additional decision-makers and support staff to increase refugee claim and refugee appeal finalizations and bring output capacity closer to projected intake thereby slowing the growth of the backlog.

As a result of this additional funding, the IRB’s capacity to finalize RPD and RAD cases is projected to double between Fiscal Year 2018-19 and 2020-21. However, this funding, though significant, does not yet align with intake volumes at the RPD. This temporary funding will only allow the RPD to slow the growth of the backlog. It will only become possible to stop backlog growth when claim intake and decision-making capacity are fully aligned.

Admissibility hearings, detention reviews and immigration appeals

The Immigration Division (ID), responsible for conducting admissibility hearings and detention reviews of individuals detained for immigration reasons, has a proven track record of keeping pace with claim intake and meeting legislative time limits for detention review hearings. However, as recommended in an internal audit conducted in 2018, related to the way the ID manages, conducts and decides detention reviews, the ID is actively implementing a wide-ranging action plan to address deficiencies identified in its processes.

The Immigration Appeal Division had substantively eliminated a longstanding backlog of unresolved appeals, the product of a historic shortfall in GIC decision-maker appointments and reappointments, combined with sustained elevated intake over a number of years. Through the Division’s focused efforts to increase output together with a recent decline in intake and efforts towards early resolution of cases, the IAD has cut pending appeals in half and its focus has shifted towards improving the timeliness of case processing so that most appellants receive a decision within 12 months of filing their appeal.


Key risks

Key risks
RisksRisk Response StrategyLink to the Organizational Core ResponsibilityLink to Organizational Priorities
Capacity to resolve refugee cases in a timely mannerIn addition to Budget 2018 funding, which helped increase capacity to finalize 32,000 claims, the RPD’s case management initiatives helped increase capacity to finalize more cases. This limited the growth of their backlog, and helped ensure more timely resolution of cases.
The RAD received GIC appointed decision makers and improved its case management strategies, which contributed to increased capacity to resolve appeals in a timelier manner.
P1 Refugee Protection Decisions
P2 Refugee Appeal Decisions
Priority 1: Limit the growth of the refugee determination backlogs
Capacity of internal services to support programsInternal services supported programs by ensuring that human and financial resources, technological, information management and training tools were in place to support new staff and initiatives linked to priorities. Investments were made to system enablers in such areas as IT, resulting in practical tools like digital files and decision databases.P1 Refugee Protection Decisions
P2 Refugee Appeal Decisions
P3 Admissibility and Detention Decisions
P4 Immigration Appeal Decisions
Internal Services
Priority 1: Limit the growth of the refugee determination backlogs
Priority 2: Eliminate the backlog of immigration appeals.

Capacity to resolve refugee cases in a timely manner.  Both the RPD and RAD have been managing intake that exceeds their capacity, which has made it difficult to limit and reduce their respective backlogs. This risk was identified as high because it threatens the organization’s ability to meet its mandate of timely adjudication of refugee cases. This risk affects refugee claimants, who face longer wait times, and partner departments who share in the management of the system.

The RPD and RAD increased finalizations with the support of several case management strategies, including the use of task forces, additional GIC appointments, and temporary funding from Budget 2018. The effective elimination of the legacy backlog and the backlog in the IAD has also positioned the IRB to devote its focus to resolving cases within internal and legislated timelines.

Long term mitigation strategies were developed in cooperation with partner departments including the development of an Asylum System Management Board (ASMB) and an Integrated Claim Analysis Centre (ICAC), both of which have helped to strengthen coordination between portfolio departments in order to make refugee claim processing more efficient.

Capacity of internal services to support programs. To support a sharp increase in decision-making capacity, internal services implemented a comprehensive action plan to expand the number of hearing rooms and offices in all regions, onboard new personnel, improve the case management system, and upgrade IT infrastructure. The capacity of internal services to deliver was at risk due to the pressures associated with the ongoing centralization of common services and the ambitious scope of program needs. Risk mitigation involved close partnership with the Divisions, portfolio departments, and Shared Services Canada to ensure that resources and activities appropriately aligned with the IRB's plans.