Who Will Be at Your Refugee Hearing?

Refugee hearings are private and confidential.

Only the people listed below can participate in your refugee hearing:

The IRB-RPD Member

A Member of the IRB-RPD will preside over your hearing and make the decision to approve or deny your application for refugee protection in Canada. All Members receive special training on refugee protection and are expected to treat the claimants who appear before them with respect and compassion. The Member will read your BOC and review all your evidence before and during the hearing.  At the hearing the Member will ask you questions before making a decision.

Legal representative

Your legal representative might be a lawyer, an immigration consultant, or a representative without fee. In some parts of the country a notary public (Quebec only) or a paralegal (Ontario only) may be permitted to represent you. Your legal representative will assist you in preparing for your refugee hearing and presenting your case to the IRB-RPD. Your legal representative may clarify some things during the hearing, but most often your legal representative is expected to ask questions after the Member finishes with their line of questioning to you. It is important that you are prepared to answer the Member directly.

Minister’s Counsel

The Minister’s Counsel is an employee of either the CBSA or IRCC. They may participate in your refugee hearing in-person or by providing written submissions only. If a Minister’s Counsel participates in your hearing, they will argue that you should not be given refugee status. The Minister’s Counsel may participate in your claim for a number of reasons:

  • They think you are not telling the truth
  • They have questions about your identity or your documents
  • They think you have committed a crime or belong to a terrorist organization.

If a Minister’s Counsel is participating in your hearing, they must send you or your legal representative a Notice of Intervention in which they explain how and why they are participating in your refugee claim. This notice must be provided at least 10 days or more before your hearing.  Read this notice carefully and be prepared to respond to their concerns. If a Minister’s Counsel is present on your hearing day, they will likely ask you questions.


The role of the interpreter is to make sure that you and all the other participants in your hearing understand each other clearly. Even if you understand English or French reasonably well, it is a good idea to have an interpreter present to avoid misunderstandings. IRB interpreters will not share information about your identity or your case with anyone outside of the hearing room.

The IRB-RPD will provide a professional interpreter in your language and dialect for your refugee hearing at no cost to you, if needed. If you did not indicate that you wanted an interpreter on page 9 of your BOC form and you later decide you would like an interpreter, make a request to the IRB-RPD in writing 10 days or more before your hearing. 


You are permitted to invite witnesses to participate in your refugee hearing. A witness is a person, in Canada or in another country, who is able to confirm what you have said in your refugee claim about what happened to you in your country. A witness could also be an expert in questions related to your refugee claim.

Choose your witnesses carefully and with the assistance of your legal representative, if any, and make sure to speak with them before your hearing to prepare. Let your witnesses know that they will be expected to give testimony that is true, accurate and correct.

If you would like to invite a witness to your hearing, you or your legal representative must write to the IRB-RPD (and Minister’s Counsel if they are participating in your hearing) 10 days or more before the hearing and include the following information:

  • The name of your witness
  • The reason for their testimony (for example, if they know about the situation you faced in your country)
  • Your relationship to the witness (if any)
  • How long you think their testimony will take.

You are permitted to invite one or more observers to your refugee hearing to provide you with emotional support. This could be a friend, relative or member of your community.

At your hearing, the Member will ask observers to identify themselves. The observers you invite to your hearing are not allowed to speak and must remain quiet during the hearing. Observers may not also be witnesses.

Your children 18 years or older

Currently your children under 18 are not required to attend the refugee hearing unless they are specifically asked to attend by the Member. Be sure to have someone to care for your small children in a place separate from where you will participate in the virtual hearing.

Designated Representative

The Designated Representative is expected to protect a claimant’s interests and represent them at the hearing. The IRB-RPD will provide minors and adults who are not able to understand the refugee process with a Designated Representative. The IRB-RPD will normally appoint a parent as the Designated Representative for a minor whose claim is joined with their parent.