A Synthesis of the Immigration and Refugee Legal Aid Research
This section provides information to set the context for the discussion of immigration and refugee legal aid provision. In particular, this section identifies the stages of the immigration and refugee determination process and changes to immigration law in Canada resulting from the IRPA.
Canada's immigration and refugee systems have three components:
- The administrative component includes processes set out in procedures or in law or regulations, which are largely administrative in nature. These processes can include activities at both CIC and the IRB. For instance, CIC interviewing of people to determine if they are admissible to Canada or eligible to be referred to the IRB, and completing administrative forms required for security or for processing claims at the IRB.
- The quasi-judicial component includes tribunal processes set out within the divisions of the IRB. Hearings are held at the IRB where an individual's claim is discussed and decisions are rendered.
- The judicial components of the system come into play when the decision of any of the divisions of the IRB is appealed to the Federal Court of Canada or the Supreme Court of Canada.
- When all Canadian remedies have been exhausted, a person can also appeal to international tribunals, such as the Committee Against Torture established under the Convention Against Torture.
All refugee claimants make use of both the administrative and quasi-judicial components of the system. However, not all cases reach the judicial component, and very few ever reach the international component Figure 2.1 (on the following page) shows the stages involved in the refugee protection determination process. These are the stages that a person claiming to be a refugee must go through in order to have their claim accepted and be eligible to apply for permanent residence in Canada. As the focus of the studies was on refugee legal aid, the diagram does not address the immigration determination process, which is similar.
Canada's immigration and refugee system is made up of policies and procedures designed to foster immigration to Canada, ensure that newcomers meet certain criteria related to Canada's skill requirements and integrate successfully into Canadian life with their families, manage access into Canada in order to ensure the health and security of Canadians and meet its humanitarian commitment towards persons in need of protection. The system is designed to include checks and balances to ensure that all people are treated fairly while minimizing abuses to the immigration and refugee protection systems.
The most recent change to Canada's immigration and refugee system has been the introduction of the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which was enacted on June 28, 2002. The IRPA will result in many changes to the refugee determination process; some of which have already occurred, while others are yet to be implemented. In some cases, respondents felt that the IRPA could have a significant effect on the demand for legal aid services or on the cost of service provision. These issues are discussed in greater detail in Section 5.2.
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