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Guidelines for trauma-informed adjudication

Recommendations on dealing with vulnerable persons appearing before the IRB


In a new letter, the Immigration Law Section of the CBA answers questions from Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, or IRB, about procedures with respect to vulnerable persons appearing before the Board.

When it comes to identifying barriers and their impact on a person’s ability to participate fully in proceedings, the Section believes the guidelines should be “client-centric, not procedure-centric.” This means keeping as many accommodation options open as possible and not reproaching clients for not requesting accommodations at earlier points in the proceedings.

“The Board should recognize that accommodation is a fluid concept that often varies with an individual’s particular needs at a given time,” the letter reads. In addition, to encourage honest, candid and detailed accounts during testimonies, the Section says the Board should respect a vulnerable person’s right to privacy, in particular by communicating the process to request an anonymized hearing, as well as the process to request accommodations, in the Guideline for the benefit of self-represented individuals.

The Section recommends making it clear to Board members that avoidance of stereotypes should be in favour of the client. “Members should treat clients with compassion and generosity, and be open-minded in their perceptions. It is not helpful if the Board minimizes the client’s vulnerability because it is invited to avoid stereotyping,” it writes. “The fact that they own a home and have a successful business, for example, does not take away the challenges they face during a hearing.”

Generally speaking, the CBA Section is pleased to see trauma-informed adjudication explicitly highlighted in Guideline 8 and to see many of its past recommendations on the review of Chairperson accepted. It notes the wording could be modified to acknowledge how a Board member’s tone and demeanor can impact the process, including the need to respond to verbal cues and body language in a way that creates a safe space.