As you know, the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, tabled Bill C-31 on February 16, 2012 that would bring further changes to the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other legislation that touches on immigration matters. The new legislation, as well as supporting material, can be accessed via the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website.
You will also know that this legislation is being driven by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and that, as an independent administrative tribunal, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) does not develop policy. Any questions about the Bill should therefore be directed to CIC.
We recognize that some of the proposed changes from the draft legislation could raise some concerns over timelines and processes. Please rest assured that the IRB, which has been recognized and served as a model to many other countries, will continue to meet its obligations in providing a fair process to all eligible refugee claimants who appear before it.
Our personnel, who are extremely committed and devoted to our mission and mandate, are developing innovative measures to meet the new timelines and requirements, including a significant review of our organizational structure, which is underway. As well, we will continue to develop and test new processes; for example, many of you will recall that we are currently holding a series of simulated hearings to prepare for the new Refugee Appeal Division.
We anticipate that the tighter timelines and new processes being developed for the new Refugee Protection Division will lead to the elimination of the tribunal officer functions at the Board.
Should the legislation be passed without change, the information-gathering interview would be replaced by a Basis of Claim form, which is expected to be shorter than the Personal Information Form (PIF) now being used. As a result, we would not continue with the process of staffing Interview Officer positions.
We understand that you will likely have some questions on the proposed changes and their impact on the IRB. We look forward to opportunities to discuss the changes with you in the coming months.
We will be carefully monitoring, as no doubt will you, the progress of the legislation through Parliament. In the meantime, we continue to work together under the current system and continue to focus on reducing our backlog.
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada