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Osgoode Professor Sean Rehaag's study raises concerns about bias on refugee board

Osgoode Professor Sean Rehaag's study raises concerns about bias on refugee board

If you were a refugee seeking protection in Canada, you wouldn’t want to cross the path of David McBean, wrote the Toronto Star March 4, in a story about a new York study that shows evidence of bias among different adjudicators on the Immigration & Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada:

According to an analysis of IRB data obtained through an access-to-information request, McBean was one of a handful of board members who granted asylum in fewer than 10 per cent of cases last year, said the Star. The others were Anna Brychcy (6.45 per cent), Pasquale A. Fiorino (6.93 per cent), Michele Pettinella (6.67 per cent), Edward Robinson (4.29 per cent), Carolyne Wedgbury (9.66 per cent), Andrea Wojtak (2.94 per cent) and Colleen Zuk (9.46 per cent).

“There is a concern of bias,” said Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Sean Rehaag, who obtained and analyzed the data. “It is an issue if the case outcome hinges on who made the decision. You’re lucky if you had Cathryn Forbes (who granted asylum in 35 out of 35 cases). If you had David McBean, you would have no chance.”

Individual claimants may vary in their personal profiles and circumstances of persecution even if they are from the same country. However, the discrepancies remain when Rehaag controlled the variables such as the country of origin of the claimants.

Rehaag said his data also showed that those claimants who had legal representation at the asylum hearing tended to have a much higher success rate (48.58 per cent) than those who were unrepresented (11.79 per cent). Refugee board members are appointed by the government from a pool of qualified applicants who must pass an exam to prove their knowledge of immigration and refugee issues. The terms are between one and three years. They are paid in the range of $102,300 and $120,400 a year.

Rehaag is also a member of the Centre for Refugee Studies.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.