Who Will Be at Your Refugee Hearing?

Only certain people can be at your refugee hearing:

The IRB-RPD Member

A Member of the IRB-RPD runs the hearing and decides to accept or reject your claim. The Member is expected to treat you with respect and care. The Member reads your BOC Form and looks at all your evidence before and at the hearing. They ask you questions before deciding your claim.

Legal representative

Your legal representative might be a lawyer, an immigration consultant, or a representative without fee. In Quebec, a notary public, or in Ontario, a paralegal may be able to represent you. While the Member is asking you questions, your legal representative can explain things to you. But usually they must wait to ask questions until after the Member is finished. You must be prepared to answer the Member yourself.

Minister’s Counsel

The Minister’s Counsel is an employee of either the CBSA or IRCC. They might come to your hearing or they might just send documents. If a Minister’s Counsel is involved, it is because they have concerns:

  • about who you are or about your documents,
  • that you are not telling the truth, or
  • that you are a criminal or in a terrorist organization.

Before the hearing, the Minister’s Counsel must send you or your legal representative a Notice of Intervention. In the notice, they explain how and why they are involved. You should get the notice at least ten days or more before your hearing. Read it carefully and be prepared to speak about it. If a Minister’s Counsel is at your hearing, they will likely ask you questions.


The role of the interpreter is to make sure that everyone understands each other clearly. Even if you understand English or French, it is a good idea to have an interpreter to avoid mistakes. IRB interpreters do not share information about you or your claim with anyone outside of the hearing room.

The IRB-RPD will get you a free professional interpreter in your language and dialect. If you did not say that you wanted an interpreter in your BOC form, you can still ask for one. Write to the IRB-RPD ten days or more before your hearing to ask for one.


You can have witnesses at your hearing to speak about your claim. A witness is a person who is able to confirm what happened to you. They can be in Canada or in another country. A witness can also be an expert about issues related to your refugee claim.

Choose your witnesses carefully with the help of your legal representative. Make sure to prepare them before your hearing. Let your witnesses know that what they say must be true. 

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 necessary) ten days or more before the hearing. Give them:

  • The name of your witness
  • A short statement about why they are speaking 
  • Your relationship to the witness
  • How long you think they will speak

You can invite one or more observers to your refugee hearing for emotional support. This could be a friend, a relative, or a member of your community.

At your hearing, the Member asks observers to say who they are. But observers are not allowed to speak and must be quiet during the hearing. They cannot also be a witness.

Your children 18 years or younger

Children under 18 years old do not have to go to the refugee hearing unless the Member asks them to. For a videoconference hearing, be sure to have someone care for your young children away from where you are.

Designated Representative

The IRB-RPD names a Designated Representative to represent minor children or adults who cannot understand the refugee process. The Designated Representative protects their rights and acts for them at the hearing. The IRB-RPD usually chooses a parent as the Designated Representative when a child’s claim is joined with their parent’s claim.