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Clarity and plain language

Make sure the quality assurance framework for designated representatives is user-friendly, including for non-lawyers, says the Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association.

Two professionals reviewing and signing documents at a well-lit office table.

The Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association, in a letter to Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, says the proposed quality assurance framework for designated representatives is essential to protect the rights of vulnerable individuals before the IRB. This is especially true when paired with adequate training and continued education. Still, the Section believes it can be improved and offers a few recommendations.

In its current form, the complaint process isn’t as user-friendly as it could be. It appears intimidating for someone who’s not a lawyer, especially in situations where a power imbalance exists between the complainant and the designated representative. “The CBA Section recommends a plain-language approach to ensure the process is accessible for self-represented complainants without legal training.”

For instance, instead of referring to the Code of Conduct for Designated Representatives, the form could simply include a summary of the expected responsibilities of a designated representative and standards of conduct. “This will enable complainants to frame their concerns and highlight relevant information in the complaint,” the letter says. As well, the form should include a question or area to suggest remedies to assist complainants.

As far as timing for dealing with complaints, the Section recommends the framework replaces the proposed “as quickly as thoroughness permits” with firm timelines.

More details needed

To help potential complainants understand the process, the framework should be clarified and offer details on who conducts internal reviews and what role registrars play in the process. As drafted, the framework is silent on the issue of notification of a complaint. Information should be added “on whether the subject and counsel will be notified (when they are not the complainants) and on their ability to respond to the complaint.”

Given the importance of disclosure and opportunities to respond for procedural fairness, the framework should give more information on notification and response in cases where systemic issues have been identified about a particular designated representative.

Lastly, the framework should contain clear information on the impact of filing a complaint on the guarantee of fairness in the IRB proceeding, including for instance whether the IRB hearing would be suspended during an investigation. “The CBA Section believes it would be inappropriate to proceed in cases where a DR is alleged to not be fulfilling their responsibilities or acting inconsistently with the Code of Conduct,” the letter concludes.