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Section 1: Overview

Chairperson's Message

Photo of Brian Goodman, Chairperson

I am pleased to present the 2007-2008 Performance Report for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). This report is a comprehensive review of the IRB's performance and accomplishments as set against the stated plans and priorities for 2007-2008.

The IRB is an independent administrative tribunal with unique and important responsibilities within Canada's immigration, refugee determination and administrative justice systems. The IRB deals with cases ranging from admissibility hearings and immigration appeals to refugee status determinations and detention reviews. Through its work on behalf of Canadians, the IRB contributes directly to Canada's humanitarian traditions and the security of the Canadian public.

The Board underwent considerable transition over the past year. In addition to turnover in senior management and decision-maker ranks, the caseload in all three divisions, namely the Refugee Protection Division (RPD), the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) and the Immigration Division (ID), has continued to increase. Combined with a continuing shortfall in the complement of Governor-in-Council (GIC) decision-makers in the RPD and IAD, this has resulted in a growing pending inventory and average case processing time for both divisions.

Revised selection process for GIC decision-makers

The IRB worked with other Government of Canada officials during the reporting period to establish a revised selection process for GIC decision-makers. The new process builds on the merit-based system already in place, enhancing transparency and ensuring that only candidates meeting the Board's rigorous selection criteria are recommended for appointment. During the period covered by this report, the Selection Advisory Board reviewed the applications of hundreds of candidates seeking appointment and identified qualified candidates for consideration by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Building a stronger, more flexible organization

In line with a commitment made in the 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities, the IRB launched a review of its governance framework, with the aim of optimizing its organizational design and clarifying accountabilities among its senior management positions. Recommendations arising from the review will be prioritized and acted on in the 2008-2009 reporting period.

The Board also took steps throughout the year to strengthen its operational and leadership capacity, its diversity and its flexibility. To promote ethical behaviour by decision-makers, the IRB updated its code of conduct for decision-makers following an extensive consultation process. The new code, which for the first time in the Board's history applies to both GIC and public service decision-makers, was implemented in early 2008-2009.

The IRB launched a review of its core management controls in alignment with the Government of Canada's approach to management accountability. In addition, the first element in a multi-year employment equity strategy was rolled out, involving the establishment of a mentoring program for employees who are members of designated groups.

Transforming the way we work

The IRB achieved concrete gains during the reporting period through the continued pursuit of tribunal integration and internal process improvements. Steps forward in 2007-2008 included the implementation of a new adjudicative support structure for the three divisions. This has resulted in public service employees playing an expanded role in streaming and hearing readiness efforts and in case resolution, allowing decision-makers to devote more time to their unique adjudicative functions. By adopting innovative case management and adjudicative strategies, as well as through the dedication, flexibility and hard work of our decision-makers and staff, we have improved productivity across the divisions, without compromising fairness.

Delivering results for Canadians

The Board experienced an increased workload across its three divisions in 2007-2008. Growth was particularly strong in the RPD, where the number of finalizations was lower than anticipated during the reporting period as a consequence of the lower than expected decision-maker complement. Meanwhile, projections were exceeded in both the ID and IAD, with the IAD in particular finalizing the highest number of appeals in the Board's history. As in previous years, the proportion of IRB decisions set aside by the Federal Court remained very low: less than one percent of decisions were sent back to the Board to be reheard.

The challenges ahead

With the support of the Minister and the Government, the pace of appointments and reappointments of GIC decision-makers has quickened, although the Board was still short 58 decision-makers at the end of March 2008. Significant resources will be required to address the accumulated backlog of cases. However, the commitment of the IRB's personnel and the efficiency of its operations will help to ensure our success in doing so. At the same time, we will continue to pursue key initiatives in a number of areas, including our transformation agenda, allowing us to achieve even better results for Canadians in 2008-2009.

Brian Goodman

Management Representation Statement

I submit for tabling in Parliament the 2007-2008 Performance Report for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

This document has been prepared based on the reporting principles contained in the Guide to the Preparation of Part III of the 2007-2008 Estimates: Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports:

  • It adheres to the specific reporting requirements outlined in the Treasury Board Secretariat guidance;
  • It is based on the IRB's Strategic Outcome and Program Activity Architecture that were approved by the Treasury Board;
  • It presents consistent, comprehensive, balanced and reliable information;
  • It provides a basis of accountability for the results achieved with the resources and authorities entrusted to it; and
  • It reports finances based on approved numbers from the Estimates and the Public Accounts of Canada.

Brian Goodman

Summary Information

Reason for existence

Who we are

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) is an independent administrative tribunal that reports to the Parliament of Canada through the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

As an organization responsible for applying administrative justice, the IRB adheres to the principles of natural justice, and its decisions are rendered in accordance with the law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This mandate is reflected in our mission, vision and values, which help shape our corporate priorities and identify the qualities we strive to embody. It also guides our day-to-day decisions and ensures that everyone and their work at the IRB are aligned with our mission and our vision for the future.

Table 1.1: The IRB's Mission, Vision and Values

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada is an independent tribunal established by the Parliament of Canada. Our mission, on behalf of Canadians, is to make well-reasoned decisions on immigration and refugee matters, efficiently, fairly and in accordance with the law
We will excel in everything we do and will deal simply, quickly and fairly with everyone. Through innovation and flexibility, we will be a leading-edge administrative tribunal and a creative partner in building the future of the Canadian immigration system
  • Excellence in delivery
  • Valuing people
  • Open, honest, timely communication
  • Relevant, responsive and accountable management
  • Working together effectively

As Canada's largest federal tribunal, the IRB consists of three divisions, each with its own mandate under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

  • Refugee Protection Division (RPD)
  • Immigration Division (ID)
  • Immigration Appeal Division (IAD)

The IRB employs approximately 928 people in its national headquarters office and regional offices. Through each division, the IRB delivers a simpler and faster form of justice than that provided by the courts, but with no less attentiveness to the rigour of the law. The IRB is a human rights tribunal, and the men and women who work at the Board respect the human dignity of all those who come before it.

The IRB is fully committed to applying fairness to all aspects of its work, which in turn means being just, lawful, honest, open and acting without bias. This includes recognizing that some individuals who appear before our Board have experienced very difficult circumstances, and respecting the diversity of cultures of individuals who appear before the IRB. Most importantly, it means recognizing that the determination of each case directly and profoundly affects people's lives.

Benefits to Canadians

Immigrants and refugees have always made significant contributions to Canada's growth and development. In the delivery of its mandate, the IRB benefits Canadians in three important ways:

  • Its hearings on refugee claims ensure that Canada accepts those in need of protection in accordance with international obligations;
  • Its hearings on admissibility and detention reviews help ensure the security of Canadians; and
  • Its independent mechanism for resolving sponsorship, removal order and permanent residence status appeals ensures fairness of process for appellants and their families.

Through the decisions it makes, the IRB also contributes more broadly to the quality of life of Canada's communities by strengthening our country's social fabric, and by reflecting and reinforcing core values that are important to Canadians. These include respect for:

  • Human rights
  • Equality
  • Fairness
  • Peace
  • Rule of law
What we do

Based on the Program Activity Architecture (PAA), the work of the IRB and its divisions is conducted through four program activities; the first three are responsible for all the tribunal decisions made at the Board.

Table 1.2: The IRB Division Mandates

Refugee Protection Division (RPD) Program Activity
  • Renders quality decisions in a timely manner on claims for refugee protection made by persons in Canada. In making these critical decisions, Canada fulfils its obligations as a signatory to a number of international human rights conventions
  • Makes decisions on applications for vacation and cessation of refugee status
  • Meets the information needs of decision-makers by providing and making publicly available current and reliable information related to human rights and to refugee and migration issues
Admissibility Hearings and Detention Reviews Program Activity
  • Conducts admissibility hearings for foreign nationals or permanent residents who seek entry into Canada, or who are already in Canada, and are considered to be inadmissible
  • Conducts detention reviews for foreign nationals or permanent residents who are detained for immigration reasons
Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) Program Activity
  • Hears appeals of sponsorship applications refused by CIC
  • Hears appeals from certain removal orders made against permanent residents, Convention refugees and other protected persons, and holders of permanent resident visas
  • Hears appeals by permanent residents against whom a CIC officer outside of Canada has decided that they have not fulfilled their residency obligation
  • Hears appeals by the Minister of Public Safety from decisions of the Immigration Division at admissibility hearingss
Corporate Management and Services Program Activity
  • Supports the three IRB decision-making program activities through a range of human resources, legal services, communications, strategic planning, audit and evaluation, risk management, values and ethics, financial services, information technology, and management activities
  • Provides the IRB with efficient management processes and administrative services while promoting organizational effectiveness
  • Ensures that all corporate management services are integrated into the business of the IRB

IRB Logic Model

What we do, what we produce and the impact of these activities are captured in the following diagram. It represents a dynamic process in which information is shared throughout the IRB to ensure that everyone in the organization is focused on the appropriate activities and outputs in order to achieve the expected results and benefits for Canadians.

Figure 1.1: The IRB Logic Model

Logic Model diagram

(Click on image to enlarge)

Summary Table

The following table highlights the IRB single strategic outcome, as well as the financial and human resources managed by the IRB during the reporting period. It also summarizes the four strategic priorities that have been developed and realized by the Board in order to achieve this outcome in 2007-2008.

Table 1.3: IRB Summary Table

Strategic Outcome
Single Strategic Outcome (Based on legislated mandate)
Provide Canadians with well-reasoned decisions on immigration and refugee matters efficiently, fairly and in accordance with the law
Financial Resources
2007-2008 ($ millions)
Planned Spending Total Authorities Actual Spending
113.7 118.3 103.3
Human Resources
2007-2008 (Full-time Equivalents)
Planned Actual Difference
1,025 928 (97)

Strategic Priorities
2007-2008 Strategic Priorities
Name Type Performance Status
1. Consolidate the integration of the work of the Board's divisions to ensure quality, consistency and fairness in the efficient resolution of cases in a time of transition Ongoing Successfully met
2. Continue to build an organization that strengthens its operational and leadership capacity, its diversity and its flexibility Ongoing Successfully met
3. Continue to improve adjudicative and case management strategies including the implementation of Stage 1 of the Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) Ongoing Successfully met
4. Implement a horizontal and fully integrated management plan that reflects the IRB's current reality Ongoing Successfully met

Program Activities by Strategic Outcome

The IRB's four program activities were successfully carried out with the goal of achieving the Board's strategic priorities and outcome. The following table outlines the financial resources that were planned and actually spent for each activity and their linked contributions to the priorities described earlier.

Table 1.4: IRB Program Activities by Strategic Outcome

Program Activities by Strategic Outcome
($ millions)
Expected Results Performance Status Planned Spending Actual Spending Contribute to the Following Priority
Strategic Outcome: Provide Canadians with well-reasoned decisions on immigration and refugee matters efficiently, fairly and in accordance with the law
Refugee Protection Program Activity
Quality decisions rendered and cases resolved in a timely manner regarding refugee protection claims made in Canada
Successfully met 85.5 75.4 Priority 1, 2 and 3
Admissibility Hearings and Detention Reviews Program Activity
Quality decisions rendered and cases resolved in a timely manner regarding admissibility hearings and detention reviews
Successfully met 15.2 12.7 Priority 1, 2 and 3
Immigration Appeal Program Activity
Quality decisions rendered and cases resolved in a timely manner regarding immigration appeals
Successfully met 13.0 15.2 Priority 1, 2 and 3
Corporate Management and Services Program Activity Successfully met Note 1 Note 2 Priority 1, 2, 3 and 4

Note 1: The total Corporate Management and Services planned spending was $24.9M (or 22% of planned spending) and included $14.5M for personnel, $2.7M for the Employee Benefit Plan (EBP) and $7.7M for other operating expenditures. The amount of $24.9M was proportionally reallocated to the other program activities: $18.7M to Refugee Protection, $3.3M to Admissibility Hearings and Detention Reviews and $2.9M to Immigration Appeal. The reallocation was based on respective budget expenditures trends.

Note 2: The limited number of GIC decision-makers available reduced operating and salary expenditures in two core program activities. This created an opportunity to improve corporate management services and practices. The total Corporate Management and Services actual spending was $29.0M (or 28% of actual spending) and included $17.4 M for personnel, $2.9M for the Employee Benefit Plan (EBP) and $8.7M for other operating expenditures. The amount of $29.0M was proportionally reallocated to the three main program activities: $21.8M to Refugee Protection, $3.9 M to Admissibility Hearings and Detention Reviews and $3.3M to Immigration Appeal. The reallocation was based on respective budget expenditures trends.

Performance Summary

Overall, the IRB accomplished its mission during 2007-2008. All major program activities delivered the results that had been set and expected. Canadians were provided with well-reasoned decisions on immigration and refugee matters, efficiently, fairly and in accordance with the law. Alternative ways to resolve cases more efficiently were also introduced. Thousands of individuals who satisfied the legal requirements for protection in Canada were granted safe haven. Admissibility hearings, detention reviews and removal order appeal hearings enhanced the safety and security of Canadian communities. The resolution of sponsorship appeals provided certainty for appellants and their families, and enriched Canada's social and cultural fabric.

Although the objectives were all successfully met, the IRB faced a number of significant challenges in doing so. Numerous refugee claims and immigration appeals could not be heard or decided upon in a timely manner because of the shortfall of Governor in Council (GIC) appointed decision-makers and an increasing caseload. The IRB has responded to this situation by supporting the work of the Selection Advisory Board and identifying qualified GIC candidates for the Minister's consideration. The IRB also pursued its integration agenda and made several internal process improvements, which resulted in increased productivity. However, even with these greater efficiencies, the pending inventory continued to increase for a second consecutive year.

Operating Environment

During 2007-2008, the IRB carried out its mandate within a complex and ever-changing environment. Both international and domestic factors continue to influence the IRB's operating environment and context. For example, conflicts and country conditions abroad can result in refugee movements, which in turn affect the number of refugee protection claims made in Canada. The same is true of unanticipated shifts in international migration patterns, which can affect the number of people seeking admission to Canada.

Refugee populations

The 2007 Global Trends report, published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), shows that the steady decline in refugee numbers witnessed since 2002 was reversed in 2006 when numbers started increasing again. By the end of 2006, there were an estimated 9.9 million refugees. One year later, the global figure of refugees stood at 11.4 million, including 1.7 million people considered by UNHCR to be in a refugee-like situation.

In Canada, the increase in refugee protection claims seen in 2006 continued into the 2007-2008 reporting period, with Mexico, Colombia and Haiti representing the top source countries for refugee protection claims. The Americas accounted for well over half of all claims referred and Mexico continued to comprise an increasing portion of all IRB referrals at nearly 25 percent.

Figure 1.2: Refugee Claims Filed (2003-2007)

Refugee Claims Filed (2003-2007)

(Click on image to enlarge)

Changing workloads

Responding to the increased number of refugee protection claims and immigration appeals, the IRB has been increasing its emphasis on an integrated approach to the management and processing of all of its cases. At the same time, the refugee caseload is becoming more complex, driven by mixed migration, broader grounds for protection, security concerns and fraudulent documentation.

Growing trend of family sponsorships

Immigration continues to be very important for Canada, as immigrants represent an increasing part of the population. Canada's population of immigrants is expected to reach between 7 and 9.3 million by 2017. In this context and given the Government of Canada's priority of promoting family reunification, family-class sponsorship applications have increased at Canadian visa posts around the world. As a result, the IRB will continue to experience a high number of family sponsorship appeals.

Safe third country agreement

The Safe Third Country Agreement has been in effect between the United States and Canada since the end of 2004. Under the agreement, refugee protection claimants who travel through the United States or Canada by land, with some exceptions, are required to make their claims in the country where they first arrived. The IRB has been closely monitoring the litigation surrounding this agreement as a change in the agreement or its legal status could have an impact on the number of refugee claims referred to the RPD as well as the distribution of those claims across the country.

Appointment of decisions-makers

Due to a series of transitions in government between 2004 and 2007, the IRB has experienced a decline in the rate at which GIC decision-makers are appointed and reappointed to the Board. The resulting shortfall in decision-makers has served as a major contributing factor to the growth of the pending inventory, to about 42,000 claims waiting and 9,600 appeals waiting as of the end of the reporting period.

The shortfall has affected overall productivity, increased average processing times and challenged the Board's ability to provide timely services in both official languages and meet its obligations under the Official Languages Act (OLA).


Public interest in the IRB's work continues, along with a greater demand for accountability and transparency in government. In December 2006, the Government of Canada brought into force the Federal Accountability Act (FAA). As noted in the April 2006 Speech from the Throne, this Act changes the existing system of oversight and management by strengthening the rules and institutions that ensure transparency and accountability to Canadians. The IRB continues to respond to this demand by improving performance reporting and implementing modern management practices (e.g. risk management and core management controls). Furthermore, the IRB has been strengthening its management accountability in the areas identified by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) Management Accountability Framework (MAF) Assessments.

Protocol addressing decision-maker conduct issues

The IRB was the first federal administrative tribunal to institute a formal process for addressing complaints about the conduct of decision-makers appointed to the IRB by the Governor in Council. Instituted in 1999, the Protocol Addressing Member Conduct Issues recognizes that high standards of conduct are required of public officials, such as IRB decision-makers, whose decisions profoundly affect people's lives.

In 2007-2008, 12 complaints were filed under the Protocol. Of these complaints, nine were found not to fall within the scope of the Protocol, one was founded, one was founded in part and one was unfounded. No appeals were filed.

Government-wide initiatives

During 2007-2008, the IRB continued to implement government-wide initiatives aimed at improving public sector management and management practices in order to enhance the organization's overall performance. Particular emphasis was placed on building infrastructure in the areas of management, human resources, information technology and communications. These initiatives will continue in fiscal year 2008-2009 with the full implementation of the Government of Canada's Management, Resources and Results Structure (MRRS) Policy and the development of procurement and assets management policies and directives. The IRB will also continue to modernize its HR management practices and implement further initiatives related to the renewal of the public service and employment equity. These measures support the IRB's efforts to build the requisite management and organizational capacity to sustain a high volume of resolutions and decisions by ensuring that the necessary infrastructure and best management practices are in place.

Portfolio management

As partners within the immigration and refugee portfolio, the IRB, CIC and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) continued to collaborate on operational matters while respecting each other's distinct mandates and the IRB's independence (see Figure 1.3). The portfolio approach has created opportunities for effective communication and coordination. Relationships within the portfolio reflect strengthened efforts in this regard on issues relating to the overall management of the portfolio and take into account evolving case management initiatives designed to meet ongoing challenges.

The IRB, CIC and the CBSA have negotiated a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which will more clearly define their institutional relationships and reflect the current operational environment and priorities. The agreement was signed in April 2008. This MOU will build on the IRB and CIC Administrative Framework Agreement, which has been in place since December 1996 and which defined the administrative relationship between the two organizations.

Figure 1.3: The IRB, CIC and CBSA Portfolio

The IRB, CIC and CBSA Portfolio

(Click on image to enlarge)

Partners and agencies

The IRB continued to work closely with the Minister's office and central agencies, including the Privy Council Office on GIC appointments of decision-makers and the TBS on program management and accountability. The IRB also worked with Public Works and Government Services Canada on procurement and accommodation issues and with the Public Service Commission, the Canada Public Service Agency and the Canada School of Public Service on human resources management issues. In addition, the IRB played a leading role in the organization of the 2008 annual conference of the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (CCAT), with the Chairperson acting as conference co-chair. The CCAT annual conference provides an opportunity for tribunals across Canada to share best practices and new approaches to emerging issues in administrative justice.


In an effort to enhance its interaction with stakeholders, the IRB reviewed how it coordinated its consultative activities. The introduction of a new consultative framework allowed the IRB to further improve its consultative mechanisms in order to better manage its relationships with stakeholders and facilitate the sharing of information between regional offices and headquarters.

The IRB's Consultative Committee on Practices and Procedures (CCPP) continued to provide the opportunity for regular contact between the IRB and non-governmental stakeholders. The CCPP provides a forum for consultation, advice, information-sharing and the discussion of issues of mutual concern regarding the Board's practices and procedures. The IRB proposed adjustments to the CCPP for a renewed focus on quality exchanges on issues of national concern. The Committee is composed of representatives from the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Bar Association, the Refugee Lawyers Association, the Quebec Immigration Lawyers Association, the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants and the UNHCR.

IRB regional offices maintained relationships with local stakeholders, including immigration consultants, bar associations, refugee and refugee law associations, UNHCR regional representatives and non-governmental organizations.

International context

The IRB has established an international reputation for expertise in refugee determination. Consistent with our mandate and resources, the IRB maintained an active international presence in three main areas:

  • Participation in specialized multilateral fora: the IRB regularly participates in meetings of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges, the UNHCR Executive Committee and the Intergovernmental Consultations on Migration, Asylum and Refugees.
  • Bilateral intergovernmental relations: the IRB exchanges information and best practices with a number of other refugee-receiving countries, including Austria, Australia, Costa Rica, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
  • Transfer of expertise/capacity-building partnerships: the IRB is involved in a multi-faceted partnership with the UNHCR whereby IRB personnel provide training and guidance on refugee status determination to UNHCR field staff. Discussions are also taking place on the possibility of expanding this partnership to capacity-building initiatives involving nascent national refugee authorities.
Link to Government of Canada outcome areas

Canada's federal organizations play an important role in contributing to the quality of life of Canadians. All government policies, outcomes, departmental mandates and programs are directed at fulfilling this role. The IRB makes important contributions to the Government of Canada's outcome areas, which are presented in the following diagram.

Table 1.5: IRB Program Activity Links to Government of Canada Outcome Areas

IRB Strategic Outcome
Provide Canadians with well-reasoned decisions on immigration and refugee matters efficiently, fairly and in accordance with the law
Government of Canada Outcome Areas
A Safe and Secure World through International Cooperation
  • Through the work of the Refugee Protection Program Activity, Canada accepts those in need of protection. Canada provides a safe haven to persons with a well-founded fear of persecution, as well as to those who face a danger of torture or a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment
Safe and Secure Communities
  • Through the work of the Admissibility Hearings and Detention Reviews Program Activity, the IRB recognizes the consequences of the decisions it makes with respect to enhancing public safety and protecting Canadian citizens. It is with this sense of responsibility that the IRB maintains the balance between individual rights and the security of Canadians *
A Diverse Society that Promotes Linguistic Duality and Social Inclusion
  • Through the sponsorship and residency obligation appeals work of the Immigration Appeal Program Activity, the IRB recognizes the contributions of immigrants to the strength and vitality of Canadian society and culture, as well as the Government of Canada's commitment to family reunification. Canada is a country enriched by the many different origins of its population
* Through its removal orders work, the Immigration Appeal Program Activity also contributes to the Safe and Secure Communities outcome area.