Policy Statement on Official Languages and the Principle of the Substantive Equality of English and French

Table of Contents

  1. Purpose
  2. General
  3. Use of Official Languages in the Hearing Room

1.  Purpose

The purpose of this policy statement is to outline the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada’s (IRB) approach with respect to the use of official languages in the proceedings of its four divisions. This policy statement brings together in a single instrument information previously issued by the IRB with respect to the use of official languages in the proceedings of its four divisions.

2. General

As both a federal administrative tribunal and a federal institution, the IRB is committed to meeting its obligations with respect to the use of official languages in all proceedings. Both the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms establish official languages rights for parties as well as for individuals who are otherwise involved in IRB proceedings, such as witnesses and Counsel.

Recognizing that provisions establishing language rights must generally be given a broad and liberal interpretation, the IRB will ensure respect for English and French as the official languages of Canada and ensure equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in the administration of justice, in communicating with or providing services to the public and in carrying out the Board’s work.

The language rights of parties are substantive rights that are distinct from their right to procedural fairness. Consequently, any issue or request concerning the use of either official language will be examined by the IRB independently of considerations of procedural fairness, although the language skills of the parties may nonetheless be considered when examining procedural fairness issues.

3.  Use of Official Languages in the Hearing Room

Individuals who are the subject of a proceeding before the IRB have the right to choose the official language of their proceeding, and may request a change in the language during the course of the proceeding as provided for in the rules of the Divisions.

All persons in the hearing room are free to speak the official language of their choice, including counsel for the subject of the proceeding. At the request of any party to the proceeding, the IRB will make arrangements to provide interpretation from one official language to the other, taking into consideration third language interpretation may also be required for the case.

When allocating resources based on operational requirements, the IRB will take into account the principle of the substantive equality of English and French.