Refugee Protection Division (RPD) Proceedings

Overview of the Refugee Protection Division Process

The Refugee Protection Division (RPD) is a branch of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) tasked with determining the eligibility of individuals claiming refugee protection within the country. The RPD process begins when a person in Canada files a claim for refugee protection or when they are referred to the RPD by immigration officials after making a claim at a port of entry.

Upon initiation, claimants receive a Basis of Claim (BOC) form, which they must complete and submit within a specified timeframe. This form is a critical component of the procedure as it outlines the reasons why the claimant is seeking refugee protection, including details on their fear of persecution and the conditions in their home country.

Following the submission of the BOC form, the RPD evaluates the claim. This evaluation is a combination of reviewing the form, supporting documents, and the claimant’s testimony during a hearing. An RPD member, who is not a judge but an official with the authority to make decisions on refugee claims, presides over the hearing.

Claimants are expected to provide credible and truthful information throughout the process. To aid their case, they may present evidence such as identity documents, any evidence related to their claim, and witness statements. Furthermore, claimants have the right to be represented by legal counsel, which can include lawyers or registered immigration consultants.

The refugee hearings are generally held in person, but in certain circumstances, they can also occur via video conference. The hearings are not open to the public to protect the privacy of the claimants, and the atmosphere is meant to be non-adversarial, focusing on facts and evidence rather than procedural competitiveness.

The RPD’s decision on the claim is based on whether the claimant meets the definition of a Convention Refugee or a person in need of protection as defined under Canadian immigration law. Convention Refugees are individuals who, due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, cannot or do not wish to return to their home country. A person in need of protection is someone who faces a personal risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if they were to return to their home country.

If the RPD accepts the claim, the claimant is granted protected person status and can apply for permanent residence in Canada. Should the claim be rejected, claimants may have the option to appeal the decision or seek a judicial review by the Federal Court, depending on the circumstances of their case.

The RPD process is designed to be fair and impartial, taking into account the unique circumstances of each claimant. It is a vital mechanism that upholds Canada’s commitment to human rights and its international obligations to protect refugees facing persecution.

Steps in the RPD Claim Assessment

Initiating the Refugee Protection Division Claim Assessment requires claimants to first establish their identity and grounds for seeking asylum. Critical to this is the accurate and thorough completion of the Basis of Claim form. Following this primary step, the RPD’s claim assessment unfolds through a series of methodical stages, meticulously structured to ensure due process and adherence to Canadian immigration laws.

Upon submission of the BOC, the claimant enters a preparatory phase leading up to the hearing. This phase includes:

  • Gathering of evidence: Claimants are required to compile and submit any documentary evidence in support of their claims. This may range from personal identification documents to detailed accounts of the situation in their home country.
  • Disclosure of evidence: The rules stipulate that the claimant must provide their evidence to the RPD and to the Minister’s counsel before the hearing. Likewise, if the Minister intends to intervene at the hearing, they must disclose their relevant information to the claimant.
  • Legal representation: While claimants are not mandated to have legal representation, it is highly recommended. Lawyers or registered immigration consultants can provide invaluable support in navigating the complex legalities and procedures of the RPD process.

The substantive assessment of the claim occurs during the refugee hearing, where the following steps are undertaken:

  • Testimony: Claimants personally testify before an RPD member, relating their experiences and elucidating the grounds of their claim. This oral testimony can be pivotal to the outcome of their case.
  • Cross-examination: If the Minister decides to intervene, the Minister’s counsel may cross-examine the claimant and any witnesses. Such intervention often relates to issues of credibility or exclusion from refugee protection.
  • Final arguments: After the presentation of all evidence and testimonies, the claimant or their legal representative may make final arguments, emphasizing the strengths of their case and why they meet the refugee or person in need of protection definitions.

Following the hearing, the RPD member deliberates on the testimonies and evidence presented. The decision-making process assesses the credibility of the claimant, the evidence submitted, and the risk the individual would face if returned to their home country. Every claim is evaluated against the definitions of a Convention Refugee and a person in need of protection, taking into account:

  • The nexus to one of the five grounds for persecution as set out in the Refugee Convention.
  • The objective basis of the fear of persecution or harm.
  • The subjective fear of the claimant.

The RPD decision is reflective of an intricate balance between assessment of risk and adherence to legal definitions. A positive decision leads to the claimant obtaining protected person status, and thus eligibility to apply for permanent residency in Canada. In contrast, a negative decision can be challenged through an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division or a judicial review by the Federal Court, provided that the claimant meets the requisite criteria for such further appeals. The RPD assessment process underscores the commitment to procedural fairness while upholding the integrity of Canada’s refugee protection framework.

Rights and Responsibilities of Asylum Seekers During RPD Proceedings

Individuals seeking asylum in Canada have specific rights and responsibilities that are integral to the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) proceedings. These rights ensure that claimants receive a fair and just consideration of their claims, while their responsibilities are essential for the integrity and efficiency of the asylum process.

Among the key rights of asylum seekers are:

  • The right to fair and impartial hearing by the RPD.
  • The right to legal representation during proceedings, with the option to retain a lawyer or a registered immigration consultant.
  • The right to have an interpreter if the claimant is not proficient in English or French.
  • The right to present evidence and testimony that supports their claim for protection.
  • The right to confidentiality throughout the process, ensuring their private information and the details of their claims are not publicly disclosed.
  • The right to a reasoned decision in writing, which explains the RPD’s decision on their claim.

Meanwhile, the responsibilities of asylum seekers are equally crucial:

  • Submitting the Basis of Claim (BOC) form truthfully and in a timely manner, providing clear and detailed information about their fear of persecution.
  • Providing all relevant identity and travel documents, if available.
  • Gathering and disclosing all evidence supporting their claim both to the RPD and to the Minister’s counsel in the prescribed time before the hearing.
  • Attending all hearing dates, and if unable to do so, promptly informing the RPD to request a rescheduling. The failure to appear may result in the claim being declared abandoned.
  • Fulfilling the requirement to inform the RPD of any changes in contact information, legal representation, or any other information that might affect their claim.
  • Being prepared to testify and respond to questions from the RPD member and possibly the Minister’s counsel. This includes the responsibility to be candid, consistent, and clear about their experiences and their need for protection.

Adhering to these responsibilities is paramount for claimants as any deviation can potentially impact the credibility of their claim and, ultimately, the decision made by the RPD. Asylum seekers are therefore advised to diligently follow the protocols laid out by the Canadian immigration system to enhance their prospects for achieving refugee protection status within Canada. A clear understanding of both the rights afforded to them and the responsibilities expected of them can significantly influence the efficacy of the RPD proceedings and their outcome.