The complainant appeared before the member as counsel for a refugee claimant at a remote hearing of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD).
The complaint related to the member’s insistence at the hearing that counsel sit either beside or behind the claimant so that both counsel and the claimant could be seen by the member during the hearing. More specifically, it was alleged that:
- The member’s manner was insulting
- The member suggested that counsel would do something to jeopardize the integrity of the hearing if the member could not see counsel
- The member had little regard for the risk posed to the complainant who is over 60 years of age and at a heightened risk from COVID-19
- The member did not read the Remote Hearings Pilot Project – Guide for Parties or deliberately refused to apply it
Following receipt of the complaint, the IRB revised the “RPD Virtual Hearings – Guide for Members”. The revised Guide acknowledges that it may not be possible for a claimant or counsel’s webcam to show counsel and claimant on the screen simultaneously. In the context of presiding over virtual hearings during the pandemic, the revised Guide encourages members to adopt a flexible approach that prioritizes the health of the parties. Members should exercise their discretion in a manner that respects physical distancing and should not require participants to be on the screen at the same time if to do so would interfere with COVID-19 health measures.
The Ombudsperson contacted the complainant to discuss the revisions to the Guide and to determine whether the complainant wished to pursue other issues raised in the complaint. The complainant indicated that their primary concern related to health and safety and there were no other outstanding issues.
This complaint was considered informally resolved and the file was closed