Attending an alternative dispute resolution conference at the Immigration Appeal Division

​​​​Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) means trying to resolve an immigration dispute without a formal hearing. The goal is to resolve the appeal simply, quickly, and fairly.

An alternative dispute resolution conference is a meeting. It is shorter and less formal than a hearing. ADR conferences can be scheduled more quickly than formal hearings. If you can resolve your appeal this way, you will not have to go through a hearing.

Not all appeals are right for alternative dispute resolution. The Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) only calls for an ADR conference when it believes there is a chance that an appeal could be resolved without a hearing.

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How an ADR conference is different from a hearing

At an ADR conference, the IAD's role is not to decide the appeal. It is simply to facilitate discussion between you and the Minister's counsel. The conference is an opportunity to reach an agreement to resolve the appeal.

A hearing is more formal.  A hearing is presided by an IAD member who will make the final decision on your appeal.  Witnesses can be heard and questioned by the parties.

An ADR conference takes about one hour. Formal hearings usually take three hours or more.

Participants

  • You, and your counsel, if you have one
  • An interpreter, if you have requested one
  • The Minister's counsel. This person represents either the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or the Minister of Public Safety. It depends on what your appeal is about.
  • A representative from the IAD called an Early Resolution Officer (ERO). This person is neutral and unbiased. An ERO is there to facilitate the conference.

At the ADR conference, you and the Minister's counsel each say why your appeal should be allowed (settled in your favour) or not allowed. You will answer questions about your appeal.

Unlike formal hearings, there are usually no other witnesses. But in some cases, the person you want to sponsor may be asked to participate in the ADR conference to answer some questions. At the end of the ADR conference, the Minister's counsel will either consent to the appeal or the appeal will continue to a hearing.

How appeals are selected for ADR

The IAD selects an appeal for ADR when:

  • the IAD thinks that the Minister's counsel might agree that, if there was a formal hearing, your appeal could be allowed, or
  • the IAD thinks that, once you understand why the IAD member would probably deny your appeal at a formal hearing, you might choose to withdraw it

The IAD selects appeals for ADR by doing a careful review of the appeal file. We may contact you for more information. In some cases, the IAD may also contact the Minister's counsel to discuss whether an appeal is suitable for ADR.

If your appeal is selected, you will receive a Notice to Appear. This notice tells you when and where your alternative dispute resolution conference will be.

“Opting in” to ADR

If you have new and important information that you did not have when you first appealed, you can ask for alternative dispute resolution, even if the IAD has not offered it to you. The Minister's counsel can do the same.

In a written request, explain why you believe your appeal might be resolved at an ADR conference. Give information or documents to support your request. You must copy everything to the Minister's counsel. The IAD will look at your request and decide if your appeal should be included in the ADR process.

“Opting out” of ADR

If the IAD selects your case for ADR, but you believe there is little chance of resolving it without a formal hearing, you can ask to “opt out” in writing. The Minister's counsel can do the same. You must explain to the IAD why your appeal is not right for alternative dispute resolution. Copy everything you send to the Minister's counsel. They must do the same for you.

How you will attend

You can attend either in a virtual meeting using Microsoft Teams, in person, or by phone. If you want to change the way you are scheduled to attend, you must write to the IAD and explain why you want the change. The IAD must receive your request at least 10 days before the conference.

Prepare for your alternative dispute resolution conference

Review your appeal file well before your ADR conference. This way you will be prepared to explain why you think your appeal should be allowed. For example:

  • Review the refusal letter or removal order you received from the Minister. Make sure that you understand the Minister's reasons. If you do not, you can call the ERO for help.
  • Review any notes from the immigration officer. These notes are in the appeal record you have received from the Minister's counsel. They could be identified as Global Case Management System notes (GCMS notes), which are the notes from the immigration officer.
  • If you believe mistakes were made in deciding your case, be prepared to discuss these mistakes at the conference.
  • Prepare any questions you may want to ask about information in the refusal letter or the immigration officer's notes.
  • Be prepared to discuss any special circumstances in your case.

Provide documents

Documents can be very important in making your case at the ADR conference. Providing documents is called disclosure. If you have documents that you have not shared yet, the IAD and the Minister's counsel must receive them at least 10 days before the ADR conference. To prepare the documents, follow the steps in the guide Preparing and disclosing documents for your appeal.

The types of documents that can help your appeal depend on the reasons why your case was originally denied. Preparing your case for the IAD describes some of the more common types of appeal and what information might help to support them. You can also ask for guidance from the ERO on the type of documents that could support your case.

If you need an interpreter

If you asked for an interpreter when you filed your Notice of Appeal, one will be present for your alternative dispute resolution conference. If you have not asked for an interpreter yet, you must do so in writing. Send your request to the IAD at least 10 days before the date of the conference. Explain what language and dialect you need. The IAD will provide an interpreter at no cost to you.

What will happen at the conference

  1. The ERO will open the meeting and explain the process.
  2. The ERO will ask you questions about your case.
  3. Be prepared to explain why you think the appeal should be settled in your favour.
  4. The Minister's counsel will ask you questions.
  5. You can make some final remarks or clarify any point relevant to your case.
  6. If you have a counsel, they can ask you questions to clarify what you have said.
  7. The ERO will meet privately with the Minister's counsel. They will discuss whether the appeal can be resolved without a formal hearing.
  8. If you wish, you can ask to meet privately with the ERO. They may give you a neutral opinion on the chance of your appeal succeeding if it goes to a hearing.
  9. When you are back together, the Minister's counsel will give their recommendation.

What happens if the recommendation from the Minister's counsel is in your favour

  1. The ERO will prepare an ADR Agreement. This document briefly gives the reasons why all parties agree your appeal should be allowed.
  2. Both you and the Minister's counsel will review the agreement.
  3. You, your counsel (if you have one), and the Minister's counsel will sign the agreement or verbally confirm the agreement.
  4. After the conference, a member of the IAD will review and approve the agreement.
  5. You will receive a final written decision allowing your appeal.

What happens if the recommendation from the Minister's counsel is not in your favour

  1. The Minister's counsel will briefly give their reasons and then leave the conference.
  2. You and your counsel will have to decide whether to withdraw your appeal or go ahead with a formal hearing.
  3. The ERO will give you a neutral assessment of the chances that your appeal could succeed at a formal hearing.
  4. If you choose to go ahead with a hearing, the ERO will explain the hearing process. They will also give you a sense of how long you will have to wait for your hearing date.

Information from the ADR conference is confidential, but there are exceptions

If you decide to go ahead with your appeal, the Minister's counsel cannot use the information that you provided for the conference at the hearing.

But there are four exceptions to this rule. The information you have provided can be used if:

  • you agree to share the information at the hearing
  • the Minister's counsel can get the information some other way (for instance, it is already publicly available)
  • the information is about an offence you have committed under immigration legislation
  • the information is about something you have done that is against the IAD rules of practice

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