A Study on the Immigration and Refugee Board’s Appointment, Training, and Complaint Processes

As displacement and forced migration increases, the willingness to share in the responsibility to provide vulnerable people a safe haven to rebuild their lives is decreasing, especially amongst the wealthiest nations in the world. Canada has thus far gone against that trend, remaining a welcoming nation with a humanitarian spirit. However, the trust Canadians have in the system is at risk of being lost if the situation with irregular migrants is not managed properly.

In June, the committee undertook a study seeking to improve and strengthen the integrity of the IRB.

Chronic underfunding of the IRB has reduced the capacity for the IRB to hear claims in a timely fashion, resulting in a backlog of 53,000 that is growing at the rate of over 2,000 per month. Given this situation, the NDP would have liked this study to include an examination of IRB funding. Unfortunately, this was not part of the mandate.

Throughout the study it was clear that the IRB must remain independent and adequately funded to ensure it can fulfill its mandate timely and efficiently. While I agree with the general direction of the report’s recommendations, key recommendations brought forward by witnesses pertaining to the call for a truly independent complaint and disciplinary oversight mechanism were ignored as the committee adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach. A number of other valuable insights were also overlooked; hence the NDP has put forward 10 additional recommendations in a supplementary report. These would strengthen the IRB, provide its members with better training, and increase the transparency and accountability of the IRB to the public.

Recommendation 1:

That the government of Canada provide stable, adequate, long-term funding to the IRB to ensure that highly competent Board Members can be attracted and retained.

Recommendation 2:

That all Board Member vacancies be filled expeditiously.

Recommendation 3:

That the government of Canada work with the IRB to institute an equity hiring program to increase Board Member diversity so as to ensure the IRB is more reflective of the people appearing before it.

Recommendation 4:

That the government of Canada further de-politicize the IRB appointment process by replacing the current GIC appointment model with that of the U.K.’s Judicial Appointments Commission.

Recommendation 5:

That the government of Canada work with the IRB to institute periodic training reviews as part of the ongoing professional development of members to ensure that the training is being absorbed, and if not, follow-up training can be provided in a timely manner.

Recommendation 6:

That the government of Canada work with the IRB to implement a fully-independent complaints investigation mechanism.

Recommendation 7:

That the independent complaint body report its findings within 90 days of a complaint being lodged. Should the body require additional time for an investigation, the individuals involved should be notified of this, and made aware of the status of the investigation.

Recommendation 8:

That the government of Canada work with the IRB to put in place a mechanism to examine the effectiveness any given sanction has had on the sanctioned IRB member prior to fully reinstating them to ensure the issue has been adequately addressed.

Recommendation 9:

That the government of Canada work with the IRB to review and implement an updated list of sanctions and the guidelines describing when each sanction is appropriate; and that possible sanctions escalate up to and including termination, including for GIC appointees.

Recommendation 10:

That the government of Canada work with the IRB to produce an annual public reporting of any and all founded complaints and their corresponding sanctions against IRB members.

The IRB holds a vital role in Canada’s immigration system and the system as a whole provides a model that many nations in the world can look to, hence the importance of ongoing examination of the IRB so that we can do right by vulnerable people in search of safety in Canada.

Latest posts

CIMM#93: Closed Work Permits and Temporary Foreign Workers and Briefing on Recent Changes to International Student Policy and Plans for Future Measures

On the question around student housing, I absolutely think that it is essential for institutions and provinces do their part and I think that the federal government should show leadership and perhaps initiate a program wherein the federal government contributes a third of the funding, institutions provide a third of the funding, and the provinces and territories provide a third of the funding towards the creation of student housing, both for international students and domestic students. That way you can have a robust plan to address the housing needs of the students.

I'm going to park that for a minute and quickly get into the students who were subject to fraud. We have a situation in which students have now been cleared and found to be genuine by the task force, but they have not gotten their passports back yet. I don't know what the holdup is, and I wonder if the minister can comment on that.

Second, there are students who are still waiting to be evaluated by the task force, and the task force work can't proceed because they might be waiting for a date for the IRB to assess the question on their permit on whether or not it was genuine or whether or not there was misrepresentation. They are consequently in a situation in which people are just chasing their tails and they can't get to the task force.

On that question, will the minister agree that instead of making people go through that process with the IRB, the task force evaluation can move forward first so that they can be found to be either a genuine student or not a genuine student?


CIMM#92: Closed Work Permits, Temporary Foreign Workers and Committee Business

I want to thank the special rapporteur for joining us today at committee. I also very much appreciate your coming to Canada and looking into this issue.

As many of the witnesses have said to us, the issue around the immigration system as it's set up, with the closed work permit approach, is that it actually sets these workers up for exploitation. From that perspective.... It's not to say, as the Conservatives would suggest, that you were alleging that all employers abuse workers. I don't believe you said that at any point in time; rather, I think the issue is about the immigration system that Canada has.

Instead of having this closed work permit situation, what would you say is the remedy to address the exploitation that many of the migrant workers you spoke with directly experienced?


Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, United Nations, As an Individual
Tomoya Obokata

My recommendation is, certainly, to modify the closed nature of the program. If the workers are able to choose their employers at their own will, that reduces the instances of abuse and exploitation.

More importantly, whether it's closed or not, employers have to comply with the relevant legal obligations. I accept that a large number of employers already do. It's those others who do not who require further attention from the provincial and federal governments to see whether they can take appropriate law enforcement actions against those who breach labour standards legislation.


Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

With respect to exploitation, one of the issues that migrant workers are faced with is that they don't have full status here in Canada; they have only temporary status. One issue that has been identified is the closed work permit. The other issue is in terms of having rights. Being able to have their rights protected also means that they have to have status here in Canada.

How would you suggest the policy side of things should be amended to ensure that these migrant workers have their rights protected?

CIMM#91: Government's Response to the Final Report of the Special Committee on Afghanistan and Committee Business

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I thank the committee members for supporting the last motion.

I have another motion that I'd like to move at this point. Notice has been given for it. It reads as follows:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee invite the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities and relevant officials together for two hours, or invite the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship with relevant officials for two hours, and the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities to appear separately with relevant officials for one hour to update the committee on:

(a) the work of the task force addressing the exploitation scheme targeting international students as many students are still reporting that they are in limbo and have not heard back from officials about their status;

(b) the measures taken by IRCC and institutions to help prevent and protect international students from fraud schemes;

(c) the justification to increase the financial requirements for international students by more than 100% to $20,635;

(d) the justification for putting a cap on international study permits; and

(e) the plans to address the housing crisis for international students and efforts made to collaborate with provinces, territories and post-secondary institutions.

I think the motion is self-explanatory on all elements, and I think we would benefit from having the two ministers appear before our committee. We've also deliberated this issue at length at another meeting, so in the interest of time, I won't revisit all of those points.

I hope committee members will support this motion.


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