Appeal Alternatives in the New Refugee System

Canada’s refugee application process underwent significant changes in 2013. In December of 2012, the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) was added to the previous application process. This was part of a broader group of changes to the Canadian Refugee System that will be discussed here in a series of upcoming blog posts.

With this new appeal process, applicants who have received a negative result from the Refugee Protection Division may have their case re-examined by a panel of 1 or 3 RAD members. This appeal will usually be paper-based, and the panel will only review the evidence that was presented at the initial hearing and any new evidence that did not exist or was not reasonably available when your refugee claim was rejected.

Before RAD, refugee applicants could only appeal a negative refugee decision to the Federal Court. The Federal Court only hears about 10% of appeals, and does not give reasons for the appeals it doesn’t hear. RAD has allowed many more appeals will be reviewed while the option for judicial review is still available which overall helps ensure a fair process for all applications.

In 2013, there were 700 refugee appeals heard in Canada, or about 58% of all appeals that were filed. The remaining appeals are pending. This is anticipated to increase to about 70% in 2014 to 2016, according to CIC projections.

Of course there are requirements to appeal through RAD. If you have received a negative refugee decision with written reasons you have 15 days to file a Notice of Appeal, and you must perfect the appeal within 30 days of receiving a negative decision by filing an Appellant’s Record. An appellant kit with necessary forms and documentation in several languages can be found here, and if your refugee approval has been challenged by the Minister, visit this link to find the forms and documentation you will need.

Canada has an obligation to protect refugees and persons who need protection. The introduction of the RAD was part of a wider government led reform of the refugee system, which also saw the introduction of the Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) list, which limited the rights of appeal for refugees from countries on the DCO list. The program was heralded as a way to remove potential for abuse and reduce the excessively long wait times for refugee decisions to be made. These changes have has not been without controversy. There are many in the legal community who have questioned the use of this categorical approach and raised the issues that certain groups may be adversely affected by these new changes.