Weighing Evidence - Chapter 4: What It Means to 'Weigh' Evidence


For the purposes of this paper, "to weigh evidence" means to assess the reliability and probative value of evidence that has already been determined to be relevant. The probative value of evidence is its value in assisting in determining the matters in issue.

Evidence is the vehicle through which facts in issue are proved or disproved. Not all evidence is equally helpful in assisting a decision-maker to make findings with respect to the matters in issue. That is why evidence must be weighed, with the more trustworthy and probative evidence given more weight in coming to a decision on the matters in issue.

The determination of the weight to be assigned to evidence involves the application of common sense.

EVIDENCE SHOULD BE WEIGHED IN LIGHT OF ALL OF THE EVIDENCE IN THE CASE AND THE ISSUES TO BE DECIDED. Evidence may be given full weight, partial weight, more or less weight than other evidence, or no weight at all. Evidence is weighed against other evidence to determine which evidence is more reliable.

Ultimately, the weight of the evidence will be used to determine whether the burden of proof has been met in relation to each element of the definitions of Convention refugee and person in need of protection or the elements of the relevant provision of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or Regulations. With respect to the RPD, decision-makers should keep in mind that evidence which may not be probative with respect to one protection ground, and therefore given little weight in coming to a finding on that particular ground, may be probative to a decision on one of the other protection grounds.

When weighing evidence, a decision-maker may wish to consider the following steps;

  1. Identify the determinative issues.
  2. Sort the evidence by its relevance to those issues.
  3. Weigh the evidence for its probative value and reliability.
  4. Give reasons for ascribing more or less weight to particular evidence.
  5. Make clear findings of fact.
  6. Apply the appropriate legal tests to the evidence found to be probative and reliable.

NOTE: Some of the factors considered in weighing the reliability of evidence, will also have been considered in determining the credibility of the evidence.