A report that looked at how asylum claims are being processed fails to properly address issues of backlogs and workload at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Neil Yeates, a former Deputy Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, led a review of the IRB’s mandate covering governance, structure and accountability.
The Yeates Report proposes massive changes to the system,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC National President. “It should have focused on ensuring sufficient and proper resources go to the processing and review of asylum claims instead of proposing a new structure that could threaten the rights of claimants to a fair process.”
A union submission to Immigration and Refugee Minister Hussen acknowledged the growing backlog of claims and its impact on employees. It proposed some practical solutions to deal with these issues including:
- creating support positions to the decision makers
- ensuring files are organized and complete before being assigned to decision makers
- providing additional training
- improving access to hearing rooms and using technology to assist in scheduling
- designating specific case managers to deal with general enquiries
While the report recognizes the problems of under-funding and staff shortages, it proposes to address these through the increased use of temporary, casual relief which does not resolve the ongoing need for employees to support the process,” said Crystal Warner, National Executive Vice-President of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union (CEIU) of PSAC.
The report recommends the establishment of an Asylum System Management Board that would be responsible for setting the processing priorities, making resource allocations, and putting in place productivity and performance measures.
The Report also proposes the option of creating a Refugee Protection Agency run by the proposed Asylum System Management Board made up of the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) President and Refugee Agency Head and chaired by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Deputy Minister. The Agency would appear to integrate the functions now carried out by the IRB and IRCC and CBSA and the implication is the IRB would no longer determine refugee claims, only appeals.
The proposed new structure would put in place more centralized and coordinated management of the asylum system,” said Warner. “This may make the system more rigid and constrained when it comes to responding to the spikes in asylum claims, and could also threaten the independence of the IRB.”
The IRB was created following a 1985 Supreme Court decision that enforced Charter protections for migrants on arrival in Canada.
The review was launched by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in early June 2017. The final review report, dated April 10, 2018, was finally reported publicly in late June when Canada’s asylum process made the headlines during world-wide expressions of concern about the treatment of those seeking asylum in the United States and growing criticism of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement.