Case No. 19-020

The complainant appeared before the member as an interpreter who provided interpretation services at a Refugee Protection Division (RPD) hearing.

The hearing was conducted in French. The complainant interpreted from French to English for the claimant’s English-speaking counsel; the member was bilingual.

The complaint alleged that the member’s tone of voice and body language during the hearing was unacceptable. The member allegedly rudely interrupted the complainant while she was interpreting, and at one point told her: “If you do not know how to say ‘basic claimant form’ [sic]”, then you do not need to be here.” The complainant submitted that she was intimidated by the member’s behaviour, and felt the member bullied and belittled her. The complaint also alleged that the member told the claimant in an unacceptable tone, that the claimant should have requested an interpreter in her first language because she did not understand French.

The Office of Integrity forwarded the complaint to the Chairperson for a decision on whether the allegations were within the scope of the complaints process under paragraph 5.5 of the Procedures for Making a Complaint About a Member(Complaints Procedures).

The Chairperson decided that the allegations were within scope and referred the complaint to the Director of the Office of Integrity (the Director) for investigation.

The member was invited to provide the Director with a response to the complaint and subsequently provided written comments. The Director listened to the audio recording of the proceeding and reviewed the parties’ submissions. The Director prepared a draft investigation report containing preliminary findings of fact and analysis, and provided both parties an opportunity to comment on the report. The member confirmed that he did not have any comments on the draft report; the complainant provided written submissions. The Director then prepared a final investigation report.

In the investigation report, the Director concluded that there was no breach of the Code of Conduct for Members of the IRB (Code of Conduct) for the following reasons:

  • There were substantive deficiencies in interpretation (including with respect to terms that are fundamental to refugee hearings at the IRB). Interpreters are paid to provide an expert level of interpretation services. Members must ensure that proceedings are fair, orderly, and efficient. Problems with interpretation may lead to a member’s decision being overturned, or can lead to a hearing having to be rescheduled and heard again. The errors or lack of accuracy in interpretation were liable to result in confusion or a lack of procedural fairness.
  • As regards the allegation that the member rudely interrupted the complainant, the member exercised diligence when he intervened to provide the exact English terminology and to correct errors in the interpretation in order to ensure – for reasons of fairness and the integrity of the hearing – that what was being said was clear to the listener (i.e., claimant’s counsel). The member appears to have been frustrated with the situation, and was direct and at times curt when speaking to the complainant. However, the member was not trying to belittle or humiliate the complainant. Neither his choice of words nor his tone could be characterized as berating or frightening. His comments were not inappropriate in the circumstances.
  • The member did not act disrespectfully or use an unacceptable tone when he adjourned the hearing. The member exercised diligence when he asked the claimant whether she would prefer an interpreter in her first language, explained to the claimant and her counsel that he had concerns about the claimant’s comprehension of French, and adjourned the hearing in light of the claimant’s difficulties in understanding his questions. His tone of voice was calm, and no malicious or rude undertone was detected.
  • On balance, the member’s conduct was not disrespectful or inappropriate.

The investigation report was provided to the Chairperson. He was satisfied that the investigation was thorough and fair. The Chairperson accepted the conclusions in the report and found that there was no breach of the Code of Conduct.

Both parties were informed about the resolution of the complaint through decision letters from the Chairperson.

The complaint was dismissed, and the file was closed.