What happens at my refugee hearing?

4. Understand the hearing process

The Refugee Board recently announced that it will continue to schedule all refugee hearings to be heard remotely. For more information, read the question.

Members of the Refugee Board must follow a Code of Conduct. For example, they are expected to:

  • act honestly
  • act in an ethical manner
  • conduct hearings in a respectful way
  • make sure that the hearing is fair and efficient

Your refugee hearing usually follows this order:

  1. You can ask the Board member for a pre-hearing discussion. This is an informal meeting to raise any issues you have before your hearing starts. For example:
    • You can explain that some documents haven't arrived yet or are impossible to get. Be prepared to explain everything that you did to try to get those documents.
    • You can ask to submit documents that you received late. Be prepared to explain everything that you did to try to get the documents on time. The Board member will decide whether to accept the based on how important the evidence is and whether you could have filed it on time.
    • You can explain any problems you might have during the hearing. For example, it might be hard for you to talk about or remember certain events, or it might be hard for you to talk for a long time without a rest.

    A pre-hearing also allows the Board member to ask you about any issues they are concerned about.

  2. When the hearing begins, the Board member will list all the documents they have.
  3. The Board member will ask you to make an oath or solemn affirmation that everything you will say is true. Both these options are the same in law. If you want to use a holy book from your religion, bring it with you to the hearing.
  4. The Board member will ask you to confirm that your Basis of Claim (BOC) form is complete, true, and accurate. They will also ask you to identify your signature on it. You must tell the Board member if:
    • you did not get a complete, detailed interpretation of your entire BOC
    • there are mistakes in your BOC
    • you didn't agree to everything in your BOC before you signed it
  5. The Board member will ask you questions about your refugee claim. If the Minister's Counsel is there, they will also ask you questions. Usually the Board member will ask questions first, followed by your legal representative, if you have one. Sometimes your legal representative will ask questions first if they made an application before the hearing for permission to question you first because you are vulnerable.
  6. If you have any witnesses, they can give their testimony either in person or by phone. They will answer questions from the Board member and Minister's Counsel, if there is one. Your legal representative might also ask your witnesses to clarify anything they have said.
  7. If you have a legal representative, they will make oral submissions at the end of the hearing. Oral submissions means they will explain how your refugee claim and supporting evidence helps your claim fit the definition of or . If a Minister's Counsel is participating, they will make observations about your claim as well. Sometimes these submissions are made in writing after the hearing.
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