Refugee claims in Canada show inconsistent approval

The Immigration Refugee Board is a special body that decides whether a refugee claimant can stay or be deported back to the country where he fled for fear of persecution and torture. However, a study by Professor Sean Rehaag, an Associate professor from the York University Osgoode School of Law showed that there was a very significant inconsistency in the decision rates of the different adjudicators assigned to hear the cases at the IRB.

In his study, he cited Daniel Sweeney as having approved none of the 127 cases he handled in 2007. David Mcbean on the other hand approved only 2 cases out of 108. From 2008 to 2010 he rejected all 169 cases assigned to him.

To highlight the inconsistency the study cited Jacques Fortin who had an approval rate of 81.3 percent (out of 269 decisions) while Harriet Wolman had an approval rate of 77.8 percent out of 189 decisions.

To be fair it was noted that some of the adjudicators decisions were affected by specialization and geographical considerations. Others were given expedited cases while others were given cases that were more in line with their specialization. Still, the findings show a very big difference in the approval rates of some adjudicators that tend to show that getting a yes from the board is really more a matter of luck rather than merit.
In my opinion this study shows the importance of having a consistent and standardized procedure in adjudicating cases.

The adjudicators themselves should be trained and be judged on the basis of their performance. Some cases really call for rejection, but statistically speaking a percentage of zero should raise a red flag that will alert the IRB on how a particular adjudicator is performing his role. Is there a manifest bias or is he simply handling cases that are not within his personal competence or expertise?

The system of assigning adjudicators in Canada should be reviewed to ensure that these people are rotated to different geographical regions. This will prevent the situation where claimants will try to lodge their claims in a particular geographical are over the other because they believe they have a better chance of being approved based on the approval rate of that region.

The IRB adjudicators should also be hired on the basis of merit rather than political patronage. Adjudicators deal with life and death situations. Therefore it is important that it hires people with the skill, and the heart to perform this duty. Placing members on the board just to repay a political favor prevents the board from doing what it is supposed to do because some of its members are not fit to do the task.

As the IRB is tasked with the approval or rejection of a claimant it is important that it maintains a reputation for credibility. Its decisions should be beyond reproach and appeals made against its decisions should be based on questions or law rather than bias or discrimination. Claimants who perceive that they will not have a fair chance of presenting their case in the IRB will most likely go enter the country illegally and stay underground simply because it would be more convenient to do so.

It is a situation where the Canadian immigration system would have failed not because of its institutions but because of the people that it hired to run the system.

Tony Santiago
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

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