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Immigration Tribunals Slowed by Vacancies

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According to a former chairman of the organization, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) is being hampered significantly by a high number of vacancies. There are currently 41 vacancies on the 156 member board.

The IRB is an independent administrative tribunal responsible with providing judgements on immigration cases. The bulk of the IRB’s work deals with assessing the merits of the applications of refugee claimants. Members of the board are not hired directly but are instead appointed by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration following a screening process. The applicants for jobs on the IRB go through a merit-based evaluation system and if successful, they enter a pool of candidates from which the government may choose.

Peter Showler, who served as Chairman of the IRB between 1999 and 2002 stressed a concern about the high number of vacancies in the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB. Showler suggested that the increased pressure on existing members of the board increases each member’s caseload, impeding their work in either the speed or quality of their judgements. Current IRB chairman Jean-Guy Fleury has also stated that the vacancies are causing a slowdown in processing time. Speaking in front of a parliamentary committee, Mr. Fleury lamented that without enough employees, he would not be able to fulfill his goals for the organization in improving processing times.

The IRB was responsible for processing 22 000 refugee claims in 2006. Processing times currently sit at an average of 11 months, lagging behind a stated goal of 6 months.