Member complaints (and GRTF)

​​​​Key messages

  • The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) takes all complaints it receives very seriously.
  • Although I cannot speak to individual cases for privacy reasons, members of the committee and Canadians can be assured that appropriate steps have been taken with the cases in question, and in some cases those individuals are no longer with the Board.
  • On the broader issue, while not representative of member conduct at the IRB, the Board is undertaking a suite of measures to strengthen the quality of adjudicative processes, such as:
    • Strengthened monitoring of hearings to identify training needs and strengthened performance management.
    • Undertaking a third-party review of its recently-improved complaints process.
    • Updating SOGIE and Gender guidelines
    • Establishment of a Gender Related Task Force with enhanced expertise and awareness to ensure gender related claims are consistently adjudicated in a respectful and trauma-informed manner
    • Mandatory training for refugee decision-makers on gender-related issues for claims involving violence against women.)
    • Establishing Quality Centres in both the RPD and RAD with a mandate to monitor and analyze trends and improve adjudicative quality and consistency, through the enhancement of training, mentorship, performance management, and adjudicative strategies.

Background – Questions & answers (Complaints):

Q. What is the IRB doing to ensure members conduct themselves in a manner that ensures fair and quality decision-making

  • All Members are accountable to the Chairperson for adhering to the IRB’s Code of Conduct for Members, which sets out their responsibilities and obligations.
  • When an individual would like to file a complaint about the conduct of a Member, they are able to submit a complaint in writing to the the IRB.
  • The IRB has bolstered the independence of this process over the last two years by assigning responsibility for administering and investigating complaints to the Office of the Ombudsperson, which reports directly to the Chairperson, and is independent of the Divisions whose Members are the subjects of complaints.
  • As part of the process, and as a transparency measure, the IRB publishes an annual report regarding the complaints process and the status of all complaints received.
  • As of March 31, 2020, a total of 49 complaints about Members were received out of 145,000 issued decisions.
  • In addition, the IRB is undertaking a third-party review of the current complaints process, which is consistent with recommendations from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. The Board has engaged the services of a third party to begin a formative evaluation of the process.

Q. What has been done following media reports that some decision-makers’ lines of questioning and comments last year were inappropriate

  • The IRB acknowledges that the statements made by the members as reported in media last year were not appropriate, and as such, took appropriate measures.
  • The members were removed from hearing cases, and were provided training.
  • Internal reviews were immediately launched under the IRB’s Code of Conduct.
  • The reviews were grounded in the principles of adjudicative independence in decision-making, principles of due process, and accountability of member conduct.
  • One of the members in question resigned and is no longer with the IRB.
  • The other member is not currently presiding over hearings pending the results of the internal review, which is active and ongoing. The Privacy act precludes me from sharing any further information.

Background – Questions & answers (GRTF):

Q. What is the Gender-Related Task Force and why was it put in place

  • Established as a priority supporting the Board’s Growth and Transformation agenda, with the objective to enhance quality and consistency in decision making.
  • Specifically, the Gender-Related Task Force aims to bring enhanced expertise and awareness to the adjudication of gender-related refugee claims and ensure gender-related claims are consistently adjudicated in a respectful and trauma-informed manner to avoid re-traumatizing the claimant.

Q. How many employees are part of the Task Force

  • The Task Force is comprised of 24 experienced and highly qualified decision-makers from all regions; these are Western, Central and Eastern regions. 

Q. What kind of training do decision-makers receive on Gender-related issues

  • All new Members receive training on adherence to the Chairperson’s Guidelines, which includes the Chairperson’s Gender Guidelines.
  • As part of the Board’s priority to strengthening quality in decision making, all RPD members have undergone training on the Chairperson’s Gender Guidelines (Chairperson Guidelines 4: Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution).
  • This training was held nationally in January and February 2020 during professional development days for all RPD members and focused on a number of topics, including:
    • application of the Guidelines
    • questioning
    • sexual assault law
    • myths and stereotypes about victims
    • the effects of trauma on victim memory
    • unconscious bias and cultural competency
  • In addition, Gender-Related Task Force members received extensive, specialized, evidence-based training from subject matter experts including lawyers and practitioners in trauma-informed practice.  
  • They were trained to be mindful of the possibility of re-traumatization of victims of gender-related persecution, questioning witnesses in a trauma-informed manner, being aware of impediments to witness testimony in gender-based claims and being prepared to apply appropriate procedural accommodations to aid with witness testimony.  
  • They also received training on cultural humility, addressing myths and stereotypes surrounding the behaviour of victims of domestic violence, the effects of trauma on memory, unconscious bias, and cultural competency.
  • These sessions were offered by leading Canadians, including:
    • Professor Efrat Arbel, who has published studies on gender and refugee law;
    • Dr. Lori Haskell, a psychologist who has trained Canadian judges, police and other authorities on trauma-informed practice; and
    • Professor Chantal Tie, a specialist on refugee adjudication and cultural competency.

Q. When did Task Force members begin hearings on gender-related claims

  • Decision-makers began hearings on October 26, 2020.
  • We have put in place a monitoring process for this program to assess the quality of the outcomes during the first year of implementation. 

Q. Have stakeholders been consulted on the Task Force mandate

  • We consulted with internal and external stakeholders, including our IRB Consultative Committee and subject-matter experts, on the scope and work of the Task Force.

Q. Are there other initiatives underway to support adjudication of gender-related claims​

  • On November 16, 2020, the IRB published a review of the way it is implementing Chairperson’s Guideline 9: Proceedings Before the IRB Involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identify Expression [SOGIE].
  • The review began in 2019 as a best practice for policy instruments, ensuring that they are applied in a manner that supports high quality decisions.
  • We are also currently leading an extensive review of the Chairperson’s Guideline 4 – Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution. This review involves the national and internal review of best practices, case law analysis as well as broad consultations.