Canadian refugee adjudicators asked ‘‘insensitive’ questions: report


Marco Mendicino

Eight Canadian adjudicators at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) violated their code of conduct over the past two years, according to an IRB report.

The report includes findings that an adjudicator was “blunt and insensitive” when questioning a female refugee claimant who alleged she was raped.

“So are you sure you were raped?” the adjudicator asked, according to the report. “Do you know who the father is?”

The report said the adjudicator also asked the woman why she had been ” in counselling for so long and had been seeing so many counsellors.”

The complainant  who had appeared as counsel for the refugee claimant   said that questions posed by the member were inappropriate, displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of domestic violence, and displayed a lack of sensitivity towards claimants who have experienced gender-based violence.”

The refugee claim was based on physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a former partner

The Board’s report concluded that the adjudicator could have approached these questions with “greater regard for sensitivity and the claimant’s dignity.”

The adjudicator  in this matter was not disciplined because her employment at the board “came to an end” shortly after the investigation was completed, the report said.

Commenting on the issue, Alexander Cohen, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, told The Caribbean Camera that ” eveyone in Canada deserves to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity – and it’s especially important to be sensitive to the trauma experienced by those who have come to this country to escape conflict and persecution.

” Canada is now a global leader in welcoming the world’s most vulnerable and the Immigration and Refugee Board’s role is critical in ensuring each asylum claim has a fair hearing.

“Central to this is ensuring that the IRB maintains the highest standards of accountability and transparency. Over the past few years, we’ve taken many important steps to ensure everyone making a claim at the IRB is treated with fairness, respect and dignity.”

“We’ve been clear,”  Cohen said, ” that the conduct in these cases from the last report is totally unacceptable. These cases have been independently investigated, appropriate action was taken by the IRB, and certain members are no longer with the board.

He also  notes that ” the IRB continues to make significant strides in improving their approach to these sensitive cases. The fact that the IRB received nearly half as many complaints in 2020 as it did in 2019 and 2018, and the lack of new complaints around gender-based violence in this report, are encouraging signs they are on the right track.

“Of course, there remains work to do and we’ll make sure it gets done.”