As I indicated at my previous appearance on February 27, I've been the acting chair since the start of January.
Having worked at a number of administrative tribunals over the course of my career, I believe that the quality of the board members at the IRB is excellent. They are dedicated, they're hardworking, and they are proud to serve Canada.
As the committee continues to examine the appointments, training and the complaints processes, there are two critical points I would like to make about the context in which members at the IRB work.
My first point is that the kinds of issues we ask members to deal with are very serious. When a refugee claimant says they fear persecution, or even death, based on their sexual orientation, the member hearing that case often has to ask very difficult personal questions. They can't shy away from that task if they are to do their job properly. We want that member to get at the truth because we want Canada to give protection to those who need it, and we don't want Canada to give protection to those who don't.
Similarly, when a member dealing with an immigration appeal has to ask deeply personal questions in order to decide whether a marriage is real or was simply entered into to get into Canada, we want that member to get at the truth. We don't want to keep spouses apart; we want to reunite families, but we only want to do so when the marriage is genuine.
If we care about getting at the truth, then those members do have to ask tough questions. I would simply ask that the committee bear that fundamental fact in mind when considering the issue of complaints. It's all about how members do that job, how they ask those tough questions.
The members adhere to a strict code of conduct grounded in the principles of good faith, fairness, accountability, dignity, respect, transparency, openness, discretion, cultural sensitivity, and loyalty. The vast majority of members uphold that code, day in and day out, as they deal with the pressure of an unceasing and ever-growing flow of cases.
Thus, my second point is that I'd like to situate the issue of complaints in the broader context of the work of the board. Since 2009 there have been approximately 490 members who have worked or are working at the board as decision-makers, and since 2009 they have made a total of 425,144 decisions. In that time period there have been 170 complaints—so 170 complaints over 425,000 decisions. Twenty-one of those complaints were founded, and those founded complaints pertained to 14 members among 490 members who have passed through the doors of the board.
Let me be clear, we take every one of those complaints seriously.
In the past, in certain cases, we have not examined these issues as effectively or as rigorously as we should have. Following consultations with our stakeholders, we have noted that a more comprehensive complaint mechanism was needed.
The new procedure transforms a process that was muddled and complicated so as to make it clearer, more effective and more sensitive to the complainants.
The key element of this new procedure is the director of the Office of Integrity, who will report directly to the chair and is responsible for examining all of the complaints filed against members of the board.
This new complaint mechanism and the continued hard work of our members will make the board stronger and better able to serve those who appear before it.