Fast, Fair and Final: Reforming Canada's Refugee System

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Link: http://maytree.com/spotlight/fast-fair-and-final.html
By: Peter Showler
Org: Maytree
Date: 2009

Making refugee decisions is an incredibly difficult task.

The proposal presented in this paper suggests a different approach that is based on three pillars: 1) a good first decision, 2) a reliable appeal, and 3) the prompt removal of failed claimants. It builds on the strengths of the current system, namely that it is accessible, provides a good first decision, and grants legitimate refugees permanent residence. It also addresses the system’s weaknesses including that IRB members are politically appointed, there is no appropriate appeal in place, refugees often have inadequate or poor counsel, and there are an excessive number of ineffectual administrative stages before removal occurs.

Overview

Canada’s refugee claim system is too slow - it can take up to eight years to finalize a claim. On average, it requires 18 months for a first decision at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) because of a backlog of 60,000 claims. Thousands of refused claimants remain in limbo for years, waiting for redress from their refused claim or for removal from Canada. The delays hurt legitimate refugees and can attract frivolous claims. They rob us of the credibility we need to meet our legal and moral obligations to protect individuals who are escaping violence, torture or death.

With the proposed changes, refugee claims would be decided in six months, reviewed in four months and removed within three months of a negative appeal decision. The new refugee system would produce accurate and fair decisions, and result in the timely removal of failed claimants.

This paper recommends that the government minimize the number of steps in the refugee process, by creating a strong system that would remove the need for the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment, ‘back-end’ Humanitarian and Compassionate applications (H&C) and their associated judicial reviews. It recommends the creation of a new Refugee Tribunal with two divisions, a Refugee Claim Division and a Refugee Appeal Division, to replace the IRB. The tribunal members would be appointed solely on merit. The Refugee Claim Division would employ informal procedures to allow refugees to tell their story, and each claimant would be represented by a lawyer. Under this proposal, refugee claims would be decided in six months, reviewed in four months and removed within three months of a negative appeal decision.

View the September 10 online news conference (webcast).

Video Backgrounders

View these interviews with Peter Showler, the report author:

Strengths of Canada’s in-land refugee system

Weaknesses of Canada’s in-land refugee system

Fast, Fair and Final: Reforming Canada’s Refugee System

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