Not Just the Facts: Adjudicator Bias and Decisions of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (2006-2011)

by Innessa Colaiacovo

Executive Summary

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) is Canada’s largest administrative tribunal. The Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the IRB is responsible for the adjudication of refugee claims made from within Canada.  In accordance with its obligations under international law, Canada grants protection to persons who have a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. In addition, a person may request protection in Canada on the basis of his or her fear of torture, risk to life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. Acceptance (approval) rates of claims vary widely across members of the IRB, with some granting asylum in less than 10 percent of cases, and others granting asylum in more than 90 percent of cases. Despite this fact, there is a lack of analysis exploring whether grant rates vary systematically in relationship to observed characteristics of adjudicators. This paper presents statistical analysis of over 68,000 refugee claims adjudicated by 264 members of the board from 2006 to 2011. It finds that the probability of acceptance is associated with individual members’ characteristics including education, gender, and professional experience, when holding constant the claimant’s country of origin, gender, and the year and regional office of adjudication. The findings suggest that the identity of the adjudicator affects whether or not an individual receives asylum. 


ISSN 2330-2488 (Online), 2331-5024 (Print)  © 2016 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York

Journal on Migration and Human Security: a publication of The Center for Migration Studies of New York
307 E 60th Street New York, NY 10022