Opening Remarks for
Richard Wex, Chairperson
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
To the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts
OAG 2020 Spring Reports:
Report 1 – Immigration Removals
November 24, 2020
Thank you, Madame Chair.
I am joined today by Mr. Greg Kipling, Deputy Chairperson of the Immigration Division.
I would like to start by also thanking the Office of the Auditor General for their report and the insight it provides.
While none of the report’s recommendations are directed at the Immigration and Refugee Board, we welcome the opportunity to speak with you about our organization, the relationship between the work of the IRB and CBSA’s removal program, and answer any questions you may have.
Before jumping into the issue at hand, I would like to provide you with a brief overview of our mandate, our current operating context and the Board’s strategic directions.
The IRB is Canada’s largest independent administrative tribunal with a mandate to resolve immigration and refugee cases fairly, efficiently and in accordance with the law. We have a staff of some 2,000 across the country – including 500 adjudicators – and a current budget of approximately $300M/year.
We are a high-volume administrative tribunal issuing some 60,000 cases a year across four separate divisions.
The Board’s decisions are almost always life changing, from deciding whether someone is granted refugee protection from the country against which they are alleging persecution; to deciding whether an individual is inadmissible to and, therefore, removable from Canada; to whether someone, detained by CBSA for immigration-related reasons, should continue to have their liberty restricted or released into the community. The Board’s mandate is important both at an individual level by virtue of the nature of its decisions, but also at a broader level in playing an important role in upholding Canadians’ confidence in our immigration and refugee determination systems.
As many of you are aware, our operating context has been quite challenging over the past few years. Much like elsewhere around the world, Canada’s asylum system has faced significant pressure, with refugee claims growing exponentially and far exceeding the funded capacity to process such claims. This has resulted in ever growing inventories and longer wait times, raising questions around access to justice and public confidence in the system as a whole.
Strategic Directions: Growth and Transformation Agenda
In response to these and other challenges, the IRB in early 2019 developed and implemented a fairly ambitious multi-year Growth and Transformation agenda.
In terms of growth, Budget 2019 provided some $200M in additional temporary funding over two years for the IRB, to address the recent surge in asylum claims and slow the growth of the refugee claims inventory and wait times from where they would otherwise be.
As we work to grow the organization and maximize the use of the temporary investments, we are also focused on transformation, defined by three strategic directions:
- improved productivity, characterized by a culture of increased operational awareness and results;
- enhanced quality in decision-making; and
- strengthened management, including improved governance through the Asylum System Management Board with IRCC and the CBSA, which allows us to work through common issues requiring coordinated responses.
I am pleased to report that results to date across all four Divisions have met or exceeded ambitious performance targets including those associated with the recent investments.
At the Refugee Protection Division, for example, the Board finalized over 42,000 refugee claims last year – some 10,000 more claims than 2018/19. And the Board finalized some 11,000 refugee appeals, more than double the number of appeals finalized at the Refugee Appeal Division the previous year.
These gains represent better access to justice for tens of thousands of people waiting for certainty in their lives.
Audit Findings Related to the IRB
The audit under consideration today deals with immigration removals. Removal orders, or decisions that may impact whether removal orders are brought into effect, are issued by each of the IRB Divisions. They cover a range of potential circumstances, including those where the Board finds someone to be inadmissible, or where refugee claimants are ultimately found not to be in need of protection. The effectiveness of CBSA’s removals program is based, in part, on the timely sharing of such IRB decisions.
The audit examined the sharing of such IRB decisions with the CBSA in the context of their removal program and I was reassured that the OAG found no issues with the information shared by the IRB. That said, we are committed to and are currently taking steps to further strengthen our information sharing practices with both IRCC and CBSA across the immigration and refugee determination system.
Madame Chair, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today; my colleague Mr. Kipling and I will be pleased to answer any questions that Committee members may have.