Policy and Procedures Directorate,
Section 164 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) provides that "where a hearing is held by a Division, it may, at the Division's discretion, be conducted in the presence of, or by means of, live telecommunication with, the person who is the subject of the proceedings." Furthermore, subsection 162(2) of the IRPA provides that "Each Division shall deal with all proceedings before it as informally and quickly as the circumstances and the considerations of fairness and natural justice permit."
Videoconferencing is an accepted technology that has been in use for many years in legal institutions throughout Canada—including courts, administrative tribunals and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). In 2004, the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) released its Policy on the Transfer of Files for Hearings by Videoconference as a means of effectively distributing its work where resources were available in order to provide a fair hearing at the earliest opportunity. All divisions have acquired experience conducting proceedings by videoconference and this technology has proven to be beneficial in allowing the IRB to make well-reasoned decisions on immigration and refugee matters efficiently, fairly and in accordance with the law.
It is the IRB's position that provided that it is carried out in accordance with appropriate technological and procedural standards, videoconferencing:
- does not affect the quality of the hearing or decision-making. All participants in videoconference proceedings (including counsel, interpreters, and witnesses) are considered to be present, and evidence is assessed in each case the same way as when all participants are in the same location; and
- respects the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness. This includes the right to be heard by an unbiased decision maker, the right to know the case that must be met; and the right to present evidence, question witnesses and make representations.
The continued use of videoconferencing at the IRB will support:
- Increasing internal operational flexibility through the proper allocation of resources in response to shifting workload demands;
- Improving efficiency to deal with changing inventory as effectively and as expeditiously as possible, while maintaining procedural fairness;
- Assisting in the allocation of scarce resources through the use of videoconference for proceedings in itinerant locations;
- Improving access to proceedings for persons appearing before the IRB, in particular those who may be precluded from attending proceedings in person due to circumstances beyond the control of the IRB (for example, where there is a vulnerable person or limited access to detention facilities);
- Improving access to proceedings for members of the public and media to observe IRB proceedings, as appropriate (for example in situations where there is wide public interest and a single hearing room may not be able to accommodate all those in attendance); and
- Providing an alternative method for holding IRB proceedings where the safety and security of participants may be at risk,
The IRB remains committed to ensuring that satisfactory technological standards and procedural safeguards are in place and observed through the continuous review and improvement of videoconferencing technology and on-going training and monitoring.
Brian Goodman, Chairperson
15 December 2010