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June 27th, 2018

NDP Strongly Supports the Independence of the Immigration and Refugee Board

Jenny Kwan, NDP Critic for Multiculturalism, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, issued the following statement:

“New Democrats strongly oppose recommendations in the Report of the Independent Review of the Immigration and Refugee Board to strip the IRB of its authority to conduct refugee status determination. Although efforts to improve our system are always welcomed, we must not eliminate the independence in Canada’s internationally respected asylum system in the name of efficiency.

When it comes to human beings who could face torture, persecution, or death if returned to their home countries, the government has a moral and legal obligation to properly assesses every case based on the individual circumstances of each refugee claimant. Putting refugee determination under the discretion of a Minister, so that decisions are subjected to the political persuasion of the day, would be an irresponsible blow to Canada’s independent asylum determination system. Let us not forget that the IRB was created in the wake of a Supreme Court decision which found that refugee claimants are entitled to a fair refugee determination process under the Canadian Charter.

We must recognize that the challenges before the IRB are not new and reforms to the system have failed to address one key factor: the need to increase capacity so that the IRB can effectively do its job. Over the years, both Liberal and Conservative governments have chronically underfunded the IRB. Instead of supporting the work of the IRB, the government has severely hampered the IRB’s ability to do its job through underfunding and failing to appoint new Board members. Earlier this year, there remained 26 vacancies on the Board with one position having been vacant for nearly 3,000 days in Calgary, and one for over 500 days in Toronto. As an IRB member makes about 150 decisions a year, the Calgary vacancy alone represents 1,200 decisions that have not been made.

I have been calling on the government for over two years to increase funding to the IRB, which is now dealing with a backlog of almost 60,000 cases, a number that continues to grow rapidly. Instead, the government has been slow to recognize the needs of the IRB, providing no plan or measures to facilitate the expansion of the IRB's capacity despite record refugee numbers globally.

I call on the government to reject calls to undermine the independence and impartiality of the IRB as an administrative tribunal, fill the vacancies on the Board, and immediately meet their funding needs. Canada needs a refugee system that is fair, compassionate and at arms-length from the government.”