Evidence of meeting #98 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was board.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paul Aterman  Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board
Greg Kipling  Director General, Policy, Planning and Corporate Affairs Branch, Immigration and Refugee Board

12:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

I would say no, and that's why we've revamped it. I think what we have is a much stronger process now, because the chair's ultimately accountable for the reputation of the organization. The chair is ultimately the person who has the responsibility of ensuring that the integrity of the decision-making process is respected and that the integrity of the board's reputation is also respected.

The buck stops there. I think, with the benefit of hindsight, the process in the past was multi-layered and a bit bureaucratic.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Thank you.

I do want to take a moment to thank Mr. Kipling, who was here last time and was very helpful in providing some information to us, so thank you for that.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you.

Mr. Tilson for five minutes.

February 27th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

I want to echo comments made by Gary on Salma, and we on this side obviously wish her well and a speedy recovery.

Mr. Chairman, one of the reasons this study is taking place, at least for some of us, is this media piece from Global News by Messieurs Hill and Russell, with the heading “Lawyers allege ‘sexist,’ ‘aggressive’ behaviour by powerful immigration, refugee judges”.

I'm sure the board had a fit when they saw that.

Could you comment on this, because it's not very...? The whole issue we're talking about is building confidence in the board, just like the public wants to have confidence in the judicial process and make sure that the Judicial Council makes decisions, which they have done, and that the law society makes decisions.

Can you comment on this piece? It's very devastating about the decisions that have been made—and these aren't decisions on the merits of the case; these are comments that have been made about the conduct of hearing officers. If this piece is right, they were all dismissed, maybe for good cause.

12:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

First of all, as you've indicated, it wasn't something that the board was pleased to read about at all. The reputation of other decision-makers gets dragged down by single incidents like that.

The one thing I can tell you with the benefit of hindsight is there's an area that I think the new process will have corrected, and it's this. Typically what happens is we don't have difficulty dealing with instances where there's a blatant and obvious disrespectful comment. Those are the easy cases to deal with.

The difficult ones are ones where the member is in the hearing room and they feel that they have to pursue a line of questioning that is very personal and delves into the personal details of a claimant, and that's what happens when we deal with cases involving things like sexual orientation or domestic violence. The counsel will say this is a disrespectful and inappropriate line of questioning. The member's perspective on that is I have to do my job, I'm asking some tough questions. There's an overlap there.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

The questions that Global News mentioned were really inappropriate. I assume there's a transcript made of these hearings and that you or someone would have had an opportunity to look at the transcript. I'm sure you would agree with me. I don't want to read them because they're inappropriate. I'm sure you found them inappropriate.

12:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

Absolutely.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

What happened to this hearing officer? How was he reprimanded for these comments that he made to this person?

12:20 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

In that instance, he was given specific training on the board's gender guidelines after the complaint.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

That's what the article said.

Then I return to the piece that's in here—and you've mentioned it in your opening remarks—about the integrity person. Is that a person or is it a group of people?

12:25 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

It's a person, and that person has some support.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

It's a person. That person investigates allegations such as were made in this piece and then the integrity person reports to the chair.

12:25 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

Under the new process.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

The chair makes the decision.

12:25 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

Correct, under the new process. That's been in place in the last two months.

The cases you're referring to were dealt with under the old process.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

I understand that.

You're a member of the Ontario Bar. The Ontario Bar hears all kinds of complaints from people against their lawyers, such as they charge too much or something. Many of them are frivolous cases, but the serious ones comes to light and the public hears about those things.

I don't think we're hearing about those serious cases in the board.

12:25 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

I think that's a valid criticism, which is why what we're doing under the new process is publicizing the reasons for a decision where a determination is that the code was breached or that it wasn't breached.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

I read some of these thing and they're like four lines long. They don't say much. Are you going to improve on that and how?

12:25 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

Yes, by providing detailed reasons that set out what the allegation is and what determinations were made as to whether or not the complaint was founded.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

I'm afraid I need to end that one.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Tabbara.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

I want to continue on the line of questioning of my colleague, Mr. Anandasangaree.

Can you tell us what kind of training programs currently exist for training board members on cultural sensitivity and gender identity, because when you were answering the question by my colleague, you said that the process now is much stronger after being revamped.

Can you tell us what that process is? What has been revamped?

12:25 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

What's been changed is the complaints process, and the complaints process has been changed in the following ways. The chairperson has direct accountability for the complaints now through the director of integrity. Complaints made today go to the director of integrity, and the director of integrity advises the chairperson right away. The director of integrity is the one who investigates the complaint. No longer do we have the complaints investigated by regional managers. It's the person in the chairperson's office who does the investigation. The chairperson is the one who ultimately makes the determination as to whether a complaint is founded or not. We don't any longer have multiple levels of review in the process, which should make it faster.

It will be more transparent accounting. What we've done in the past is to provide on the board's website a very cursory description of the number of complaints made and whether they were founded or not. There is no explanation of what the nature of the complaint was and the reasoning behind the board's determination as to whether it was founded or not. Now, we will produce the reasons. They will be anonymized, because we need to protect the privacy of all of the individuals involved. However, any reader will be able to look at that and see that the board received a complaint on this date, this is what it was about, this is how it was adjudicated, this is how it was decided.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

How is that different from the previous system? If you had multiple levels of review, that sounds like a good thing.

12:25 p.m.

Acting Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board

Paul Aterman

With the benefit of hindsight, it is not necessarily because essentially what would happen is one decision would just confirm the other one, and the more decisions that were there, the less reluctance of the organization to examine those and take a harder look at them.

If it goes directly to the chairperson—the chairperson is accountable to the public, to Parliament and the buck stops there. That's a significant difference.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

My next question is about decision-makers.

I've been reading an article that I have here, and there are certain decision-makers for whom 54% of all claims have had no credible basis. Then there are other decision-makers for whom 28.6% of claims have had no credible basis.

Is there an oversight body that looks at these cases and takes a certain percentage of the decision-maker's cases to see if they're in line, or does this go on for many years? Do they maybe need to look at other training to see if the decision-makers have close percentages?