Candice Malcolm: Former immigration judge has ‘grave doubts’ about IRB reforms

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(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

As first reported in the Sun, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has introduced a new process for determining the eligibility of asylum seekers arriving in Canada.

This streamlined process means, in some cases, that a refugee claimant will be approved without a hearing in front of an immigration judge.

While the IRB is defending this controversial practice, a former immigration judge is speaking out about the security implications of scrapping the in-person hearing.

In an exclusive interview with the Sun, retired IRB judge Lloyd Fournier discussed his “uneasiness” with the federal government’s handling of the surge in illegal border crossings and asylum claims this year.

When an asylum seeker arrives in Canada, claiming to be a refugee and asking for our help, that person must demonstrate that he or she is a bona fide refugee.

Canada has an extensive legal system set up to determine if the asylum seeker is eligible to be a refugee.

As Fournier notes, the face-to-face hearing in front of an IRB judge serves two important purposes: To confirm the accuracy of the information in a refugee application and to determine the credibility of the person making the claim.

Without the face-to-face hearing, the credibility of an asylum seeker is never tested.

“Credibility is always an issue in determining refugee claims,” said Fournier, a former Liberal-appointed IRB judge.

“In fact, in the majority of the cases that I determined, credibility was the singular determinative issue,” he said.

A formal hearing is an integral part of weeding out those who are trying to enter Canada under false pretenses.

In his experience, Fournier explained, often times “contradictions became apparent when oral testimony differed materially” from a “claimant’s sworn statements”.

Rather than skipping steps to make it easier for an asylum seeker, Fournier argues Canada should be looking to implement stricter rules, especially because the system is already stacked in favour of accepting refugee claimants.

“The ground work leading up to the hearing and determination is a very well-oiled and publicly funded process, involving a professionally-trained lawyer and a network of translators — all funded from the public purse”, he said.

Without a face-to-face hearing, a case is determined by two factors: The “well-oiled machine” that produces the written application, and an initial security review.

But the initial security review also has limits.

Screening migrants from war-torn regions and failed states is incredibly difficult.

Poor and conflict-ridden countries lack reliable security sources to share information about a migrant’s past.

In addition, many asylum seekers are facilitated by human smuggling rings that provide fake documents.

Fournier confirmed that during his time on the bench, he “witnessed numerous cases of false identity documents, including fake and falsified national passports.”

“I have grave doubts that security vetting can possibly have taken place,” he said about the countries...(READ MORE)