The Credibility and Authoritativeness of Documentary Information in Determining Refugee Status: The Canadian Experience
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofInternational journal of refugee law ; vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 6-33.
Publisher(s)Oxford University Press
This article reviews the origins of the Documentation, Information and Research Branch (the 'Documentation Center') of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), established in 1988 as a part of a major revision of the procedure for determination of refugee status. The Documentation Center conducts research to produce documents describing conditions in refugee-producing countries, and also disseminates information from outside. The information is available to decision-makers, IRB staff, counsel and claimants. Given the importance of decisions on refugee status, the article looks at the credibility and the authoritativeness of the information, by analyzing the structure of information used. It recalls the different types of information 'package' produced, such as a country profiles and the Question and Answer Series, the Weekly Madia Review, the 'Perspectives' series, Responses to Information Requests and Country files, and considers the trend towards standardization across the country. The research process is reviewed, as are the hiring criteria for researchers, the composition of the 'collection', how acquisitions are made, and the development of databases, particularly on country of origin (human rights material) and legal information, which are accessible on-line. The author examines how documentary information can be used by decision-makers to draw conclusions as to whether the claim has a credible basis or the claimant has a well-founded fear of persecution. Relevant caselaw is available to assess and weigh the claim. The experience of Amnesty International in similar work is cited for comparative purposes. A number of 'safeguards' are mentioned, which contribute to the goal of impartiality in research, or which otherwise enhance the credibility of the information, and the author suggests that guidelines might be drafted to explain and assist in the realization of these aims. Greater resources might also enable the Center to undertake the task of 'certifying' the authoritativeness of sources. The author concludes that, as a new institution in Canadian administrative law, the Documentation Center opens interesting avenues for the future. Beacause it ensures an acceptable degree of impartiality of its research and the documents it produces, it may be a useful model for others tribunals adjudicating in fields where evidence is either difficult to gather, or is otherwise complex.