Troubling Patterns in Canadian Refugee Adjudication

Ottawa Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 2, 2008

31 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2009

See all articles by Sean Rehaag

Sean Rehaag

Centre for Refugee Studies, Refugee Law Lab & Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Date Written: September 4, 2009


This article uses data obtained from Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board [IRB] to calculate the refugee claim grant rates of individual IRB adjudicators.The data reveals that, in 2006, grant rates varied significantly across adjudicators.Some adjudicators accorded refugee status in virtually all cases they heard; others granted refugee status rarely, if at all. The article explores several explanations offered by the IRB for refugee claim grant rate variations. These explanations relate to patterns in case assignment due to adjudicator specialization in particular types of cases from particular regions of the world. The author contends that while patterns in case assignment do affect grant rates, they do not account for the full variations evident in the data. Rather, outcomes in refugee adjudication appear to hinge, at least in part, on the identity of the adjudicator assigned. The author draws three main conclusions from the data on refugee adjudication in 2006. First, further empirical research should be undertaken to verify the results of the study and to identify specific features of adjudicator identity that affect refugee claim outcomes. Second, the appointment process for IRB adjudicators should be carefully scrutinized in light of grant rate disparities.Third, given both the grant rate disparities and the life and death stakes involved in refugee adjudication, it is imperative there be opportunities to meaningfully review negative first instance refugee determinations. To this end, the government should immediately implement the provisions in Canada’s immigration legislation that establish a Refugee Appeal Division at the IRB.

Keywords: refugee, law, Canada, sucess rates, inconsistencies, refugee appeal division, empirical

Suggested Citation

Rehaag, Sean, Troubling Patterns in Canadian Refugee Adjudication (September 4, 2009). Ottawa Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 2, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Sean Rehaag (Contact Author)

Centre for Refugee Studies, Refugee Law Lab & Osgoode Hall Law School, York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3


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