Critical Spaces in the Canadian Refugee Determination System: 1989-2002
Posted: 4 Jul 2008
Date Written: March 2008
This paper draws its conclusions from a multidisciplinary study of the refugee determination process in Canada, the aim of which was to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the system and to explore means of improving it through an in-depth analysis of the diversity of attitudes and perceptions of different actors involved in the process. The basic hypothesis is that the legitimacy of the action of the Immigration and Refugee Board (hereafter IRB) is challenged because of a series of disagreements on the way it operates. Using interviews with former Board members, as well as with other professional actors of the system (lawyers, NGO workers, interpreters, health professionals), we try to understand better the parameters of the problems facing the IRB on three sets of issues: the appointment and renewal of Board members; the relationships between Board members within the IRB; the evaluation of the evidence by Board members. All issues relate mainly to the principles of independence and impartiality of the IRB, as an expert administrative tribunal. In particular, using the idea of critical space as a conceptual framework, this study tries to ascertain more precisely how critical spaces within the IRB were being used in order to foster a common culture of independence and impartiality within the institution, or not. This study covers the period 1989-2002: it signals reforms accomplished since and suggests more means for improvement.
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