Business resumption: return to productivity

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​The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) is largely a paper-based organization that relies on hearings to issue the majority of its decisions on immigration and refugee matters. As a result of COVID-19, the IRB suspended all hearings, other than detention reviews, on March 17, 2020 until late July. The IRB has developed a plan to return to productivity by increasing its ability to work remotely, including by expanding remote hearings across Divisions, and implementing measures to allow a safe return to the workplace. Going forward, IRB will continue to hold remote hearings where possible to minimize the number of employees and visitors onsite, to ensure the safety and protection of government employees and those who appear before the Board.

Becoming digital

Past activity highlights

  • Deployed enhanced collaboration tools (MS Teams) for all employees
  • Resumed remote admissibility hearings (ID)
  • Remote hearings pilot (RPD and IAD)
  1. Strengthen tech infrastructure to enable all employees to work remotely and support virtual hearings (July)
  2. Evaluate remote hearing pilots and scale up (RPD and IAD) (August)
  3. External Scanning agreement signed (September)
  4. Internal Scanning temporary team hired and trained (target 7000 files) (September and December)
  5. Recovery plans finalized for Divisions and tier 1 business enabling functions (October)
  6. Electronic exchange (e-Portal) Wave 1 launched to Counsel (October)
  7. Preparation for e-Portal Wave 2 (appellant / claimant / DR) and Wave 3 (Portfolio Partners) (November)
  8. External Scanning begins (target 17,000 files by March 31, 2021) (December)

Return to workplace

Past activity highlights

  • Workplace Health and Safety measures approved for return to occupancy
  • Mail and partial registry return in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal
  • Resumption notice issued for all regions for RPD/IAD
  1. In-person RPD/IAD hearings resumed in Vancouver (hybrid model) (July)
  2. In-person RPD/IAD hearings resumed week of August 3rd in remainder of sites (hybrid model) (August)
  3. Notice to appear posted to external website (August)
  4. RPD/ID resumed full in-person hearings IAD continued hearings using hybrid model (September)
  5. Survey results identifying employees needing to return to workplace (September)
  6. Regional OHS meeting and union consultation (October)
  7. Planning for return to all buildings (November)


Phase 2

  • Resumption of in-person hearings
  • Implemented from July to September

Phase 3A

  • Return of employees requiring a physical presence due to productivity, ergonomic, or specialized equipment needs
  • Implemented between September through December

Next Phases

  • Phase 3B
    • Return of employees who would prefer to work onsite
  • Phase 4
    • The future of the workplace


  • Resurgence of COVID-19 implications on operations
  • Reduced in-person occupancy for both IRB employees and in-person hearings (to adhere to distancing requirements)
  • Technology platforms to support new hearing room configurations
  • Availability of interpreters and other supporting services
  • Dependencies / support from OGDs and stakeholders
  • Culture shift and change management
  • Technology dependency on Share Services Canada

2020-21 Projected finalizations

Refugee protection
Low End36,000
High End44,000
Refugee appeal
Low End9,000
High End11,000
Immigration appeal
Low End2,160
High End2,640
Admissibility hearing
Low End810
High End990
Detention reviews
Low End7,200
High End8,800

Key drivers and limiting factors


  • Success of remote hearing pilot
  • Volume of decisions not requiring a hearing


  • 2020–21 intake

October 28, 2020