Prepare for Your Hearing

Learn what evidence can support your refugee claim. Understand what the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada looks for to make a decision. Gather your evidence before your hearing.

Do All Claimants Have a Hearing?

The IRB-RPD handles some refugee claims more quickly than others. The IRB-RPD may review your claim quickly if:

  • most claims like yours or from your country are usually approved,
  • it is easy to find out your identity, 
  • the evidence about risk is clear, and 
  • it is unlikely that any complicated issue will come up.

The IRB-RPD may decide that:

  • a hearing is not needed to approve your refugee claim,

OR 

  • only a short hearing is needed to decide your claim.

They will send you a notice that your claim is in the File Review Process (FRP).

If your claim is put in the FRP, IRB-RPD will ask you or your legal representative to send them the rest of your evidence within 15 days. You must also sign a confirmation form and return it with your evidence.

After the IRB-RPD gets your form:

  • They may decide your claim without needing a hearing. You or your legal representative will get a Notice of Decision saying your claim is accepted.

OR

  • They may offer you a short hearing if they decide that your refugee claim:
    • has only one or two important issues to discuss, and 
    • can be decided in a hearing that is under two hours.

Claims that can have a short hearing

The IRB-RPD will choose your claim for a short hearing when most claims like yours or from your country: 

  • are accepted, 
  • are NOT accepted, 
  • usually only have one or two issues to discuss, or
  • do not have complicated legal issues or facts.

The IRB-RPD will send you a special Notice to Appear. If you think your hearing needs more than two hours, ask for a longer hearing right away and explain why. If the IRB-RPD agrees, they will give you a longer hearing on the same day, or on a later date.sdgds

Claims that cannot have a short hearing 

You will have a regular refugee hearing if:

  • CBSA does not have your security details yet
  • A Minister’s Counsel wants to be at your hearing
  • The IRB-RPD:
    • has told the Minister there might be a serious issue with your claim 
    • is not sure of who you are
    • does not trust what is in your documents
  • Your claim does not match information about your country
  • The Member decides there are complicated issues or facts

How to Send in Your Evidence

If you have a legal representative

If you have a legal representative, they usually send documents for you. Do not send anything to the IRB-RPD without showing it to your legal representative. They can help you decide which documents are important. Make sure you give them enough time.

If you do not have a legal representative

Follow the steps below (if you are not using the online portal for your claim): 

  • Make sure all of your documents are on 8.5 x 11 inch, letter-size paper. Typed documents must be at least size 12 font.
  • Put your documents together and number the pages from first to last.
  • Add a cover page with your name and address, the date, your IRB-RPD file number, a list of all your documents, and their page numbers.
  • Make a copy of your document package.  Keep the original. If a Minister’s Counsel will be at your hearing, make another copy.

Send one copy of your document package to the IRB-RPD in your region:

If you live in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories

Fax
  • 604-666-3043 if your documents are under 50 pages long.
    • Keep your original documents and proof that the documents were faxed.
Mail
  • IRB–RPD, 300 West Georgia Street, Suite 1600 Vancouver, BC V6B 6C9
    • Keep your original documents. Mail your document package from a Canada Post office. Ask for priority service. You will need to pay a fee. You will get a receipt and be able to track delivery. Be sure to mail your package early so it arrives on time.
Email
  • [email protected]
    • Follow these instructions carefully: You must send your documents as attachments in PDF format. The PDF files cannot be over 20MB. In the subject line, put your UCI number (and your IRB-RPD number and hearing date if you have one) and what documents are attached. Do not write anything in the body of the email.
Electronic filing
  • Your legal representative may use the Canada Post e-post Connect to send in your documents.
Courier
  • IRB–RPD, 300 West Georgia Street, Suite 1600 Vancouver, BC V6B 6C9
    • If you cannot use any of the other options, you can use a courier service. Keep your original documents and the receipt.
  • Do not take your documents to the IRB–RPD office.

If you live in Ontario (except Ottawa and Kingston)

Fax
  • 416-954-1165, 416-973-9307, or 416-973-4013 if your documents are under 50 pages long.
    • Keep your original documents and proof that the documents were faxed.
Mail
  • 74 Victoria Street, Suite 400 Toronto, Ontario  M5C 3C7
    • Keep your original documents. Mail your document package from a Canada Post office. Ask for priority service. You will need to pay a fee. You will get a receipt and be able to track delivery. Be sure to mail your package early so it arrives on time.
Email
  • [email protected] ​​
    • Follow these instructions carefully: You must send your documents as attachments in PDF format. The PDF files cannot be over 20MB. In the subject line, put your UCI number (and your IRB-RPD number and hearing date if you have one) and what documents are attached. Do not write anything in the body of the email.
Electronic filing
  • Your legal representative may use the Canada Post e-post Connect to send in your documents.
Courier
  • 74 Victoria Street, Suite 400 Toronto, Ontario  M5C 3C7
    • If you cannot use any of the other options, you can use a courier service. Keep your original documents and the receipt.
  • Do not take your documents to the IRB–RPD office.

If you live in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nunavut, Kingston (Ontario), Ottawa (Ontario)

Fax
  • 514-283-0164 if your documents are under 50 pages long.
    • Keep your original documents and proof that the documents were faxed.
Mail
  • IRB-RPD, Guy-Favreau​ Complex, 200 René-Lévesque Blvd. West, East Tower, Room 102, Montréal, Quebec H2Z 1X4
    • Keep your original documents. Mail your document package from a Canada Post office. Ask for priority service. You will need to pay a fee. You will get a receipt and be able to track delivery. Be sure to mail your package early so it arrives on time
Email
  • [email protected]
    • Follow these instructions carefully: You must send your documents as attachments in PDF format. The PDF files cannot be over 20MB. In the subject line, put your UCI number (and your IRB-RPD number and hearing date if you have one) and what documents are attached. Do not write anything in the body of the email.
Electronic filing
  • Your legal representative may use the Canada Post e-post Connect to send in your documents.
Courier
  • IRB-RPD, Guy-Favreau Complex, 200 René-Lévesque Blvd. West, East Tower, Room 102, Montréal, Quebec H2Z 1X4
    • If you cannot use any of the other options, you can use a courier service. Keep your original documents and the receipt.
  • Do not take your documents to the IRB–RPD office.

Your Claim and the Legal Issues

The Member of the IRB-RPD looks at the facts in your case and the situation in your country to decide if you need protection. The important legal issues involved are described in this section. 

Your identity 

You must show that you are who you say you are. This means you must prove you are a citizen of or lived in your country of birth or another country.

It may also be important to show your religion or ethnic background, your professional, political, or union membership, sexual orientation, or your membership in another kind of social group. 

If you cannot get some of the documents to show who you are, you have to explain why at your hearing. You can tell how you tried to get the evidence. 

 Examples of evidence
  • To prove you are a citizen of your country:
    • Passport
    • National identity card
    • Military service
    • Marriage certificate
    • School transcripts
    • Witnesses from your country who know you or your family 
  • To prove your religion:
    • Baptismal certificate
    • Letter from your religious leader 
  • To prove your political or professional group:
    • Membership card
    • Letter from organization
    • Transcripts that show professional training
    • Business records
    • Diplomas 
  • To prove your sexual orientation:
    • Letter from a community group, a partner, or family member. These witnesses should give as many details as they can to show how they know you are part of the LGBTQ community.

Your credibility

You must show that you are telling the truth and that all your evidence is true.

To decide if they can believe you, the IRB-RPD member needs to see that all the information in your claim matches. The member will compare:

  • your BOC Form and narrative,
  • your evidence,
  • what you say at your hearing,
  • what your witnesses say, and
  • news stories and human rights reports.

If there are differences that you cannot explain, the Member may decide that they cannot believe you. This may harm any other attempts you make to stay in Canada. 

Examples of evidence
  • Country reports and news articles about human rights abuses 
  • Medical/hospital records or receipts 
  • Police reports 
  • Photographs of injuries 
  • Witness statements 
  • A letter from your doctor in Canada about scars or injuries 
  • Screenshots from social media
Tips to help you show you are telling the truth at your hearing:
  • Have evidence that shows certain details of your story are true.
  • Be careful not to exaggerate or embellish.
  • Do not answer a question that you do not understand.
  • It is okay to ask the Member to repeat or reword a question.
  • Be honest. Do not guess.
  • Answer in long, full sentences to make sure the Member understands you.
  • Choose your witnesses carefully. Tell them they must tell the truth. Explain to them that the Member will expect what they say to match what you say. You can give your witnesses a copy of your evidence.

Your genuine fear

You must show that you are truly afraid of bad treatment if you go back to your country. This is also known as “subjective fear.” Here are some examples of questions the Member might ask you:

  • Why did you return to your country after you left?
  • Why did you pass through another safe country on your way to Canada (for example, the USA), but not make a claim?
  • After your bad treatment in your country, why did you not leave right away? 
  • Why did you wait to make a claim after you arrived in Canada?

Think about these questions and your answers. Prepare as much as you can before your hearing. Do you have evidence that will help you explain what you did or did not do? For example, did you hope the situation in your country would change? Was it difficult to leave your country?

Examples of evidence
  • Police reports
  • Doctor’s reports of any medical conditions
  • Proof that you tried to escape danger (such as tickets, receipts, travel documents)
  • Witness statements that you tried to protect yourself from threats
  • News sources you used for information about the danger
  • Information you had about making a claim in another country
  • Documents that show why you could not leave your country sooner
  • Documents that show you had trouble making a claim in Canada right after you arrived
  • Proof of your arrival and entry to Canada

Your personal risk

You must show that you face a risk that is not a general risk in your country. For example, if there is a lot of violence, you must show why you are personally at high risk. If you can, name who (or what group) has targeted you, why, and how you know.

Examples of evidence
  • Any notes, letters, texts, or phone messages of violent threats 
  • Official statements from witnesses saying that you, or people like you, have been the victims of violence 
  • Photographs of injuries or other types of damage
  • Photographs of looting or damage you saw (or took part in)
  • Medical records 
  • Police reports from your country 
  • Social media or video evidence (with the words also in writing)

Your government cannot protect you

You must show that your government cannot or will not protect you.

If you tried to get protection from the authorities in your country but did not get it: 

  • Explain exactly what you did and how they responded. 
  • Try to get documents showing that you tried to get help. 
  • Try to find reports from your country showing that the authorities cannot or will not protect people like you.

If you did NOT try to get protection from authorities in your country: 

  • You must explain why and have documents to show that it was unreasonable to try. 
  • Give examples of what happened to other people who tried to get help.
Examples of evidence
  • Country or news reports showing corruption or lack of police protection
  • Reports you made to the police
  • Statements from people who are in a situation like yours. (It is best if they say it is true in front of a lawyer or notary public. Also ask them for a copy of their ID card.)

Your life is at risk every place in your country

You must show the IRB-RPD that it is not safe for you to live in any part of your country.

They may name a city in your country where they think you could live safely. This is known as “internal flight alternative.” You must show that: 

  • you cannot live there safely,
  • it would be unreasonable for you to live there (because of your age, gender, or situation), or 
  • there is no way to get to that region, because of war, natural disaster, or some other reason. 
Examples of evidence
  • Documents that show you tried to get away from the problem by moving to another part of your country.
  • Reports that show the problem is in the whole country. For example, the people you fear are all over the country, or the treatment you fear is in all parts of your country. 
  • Reports that show why someone like you would find it hard to live in that region. For example, reports that describe the culture in your country or show that there are serious problems in that area.
  • Letters from friends or relatives who helped you hide in different parts of your country.

Your criminality (if any)

If you were involved in organized crime, the IRB-RPD will reject your claim. Or if you have been found guilty of a serious crime that in Canada means at least ten years in jail, the IRB-RPD will reject your claim.

If you were not guilty of the charges, you need evidence to prove it.

Examples of evidence
  • Court record of any convictions
  • Police records of the facts that were first reported to them
  • Witness statements about the charges
  • Legal opinion from a lawyer in your home country

Your delay in making a claim (if any)

You must show why you delayed making a refugee claim when you arrived in Canada, if this was your situation. 

The legal understanding is that a person who needs protection will seek safety as soon as possible.

The IRB-RPD may not believe you are genuinely afraid to return to your country if you delay making your claim. They may reject your claim.

Are any of the following true for you? 

  • You became afraid to return to your country some time after you arrived in Canada. Explain the situation.
  • You did not know you must make a claim as soon as you arrive in Canada. Explain.
  • You had trouble making a claim. Explain why.
  • You did not know how to make a claim and it took you time to find out. Explain your circumstances.

If you have a valid but temporary status in Canada (for example you are a Visitor or Student), but need protection, you should make a refugee claim at the first possible opportunity. 

Do not delay making a refugee claim if you need protection. If you wait for your temporary status to expire, or you make an application for another type of status before making a refugee claim, the IRB-RPD may reject your claim.

Gather Evidence

It is important to gather and send evidence about your refugee claim to the IRB-RPD. Evidence includes any information that shows you are telling the truth. It can be documents, letters, newspaper articles, medical or psychological reports, photographs, audio recordings, or even videos. 

Evidence helps the Member believe what happened to you, and understand the situation in your country and why you cannot return.

When to start gathering evidence

Getting evidence takes time, especially if you are trying to get it from another country. Start gathering evidence as soon as you can. If you have a representative, ask them what evidence may help, tell them what you have, and ask them to look at it. Act quickly.

Translation requirements

All evidence, including sound recordings, must be in English or French. Do not use Google Translate or translate documents yourself. A professional translator is best. If you cannot pay for one, you can have someone you trust translate your documents. Try not to ask a relative.

Your translator must sign a declaration. It must have: 

  • the translator’s name,
  • the language and dialect (if any),
  • a statement that the translation is accurate, and, 
  • the signature of the translator.

Your supporting evidence

There are four types of evidence that you need for your claim.

Evidence of who you are 

You need evidence of your identity and citizenship. This can be:

  • a passport,
  • national identity card,
  • birth certificate,
  • marriage certificate,
  • school transcript or certificate,
  • driver’s license or military identity, or
  • professional or religious membership.

Other evidence may also help. Ask your representative what evidence you may need to show your identity.

Evidence about your claim

You need evidence that can show:

  • Your story and the events in your narrative are true
  • You have a honest fear of bad treatment in your country
  • You, but not everyone, in your country is at risk
  • Your government cannot protect you
  • It is not reasonable or safe for you to live in a different city in your country

Here are some questions to help you get evidence for your claim:

  • Are there photographs, letters, videos, emails, texts, or other documents about the problems you had? Get them! 
  • Did you go to the police or a government agency for help? Get a copy of the police report or proof of your visit. 
  • Did you get medical help? Get a copy of the hospital or doctor’s records. 
  • Are there news articles or online posts about people connected to your claim? Find them! 
  • Are there people who saw what happened to you? Ask them to write what happened and send it to you. If possible, ask them to say it is true in front of a lawyer or notary public. Also ask them for a copy of their ID card. 
  • Are there people who have had problems like yours? Ask them to describe what happened in writing. If possible, ask them to say it is true in front of a lawyer or notary public.
  • Is your claim based on your religious or political group, or other group? Get documents that show your membership. 
  • Do you have mental health problems because of what happened? Get a report from a doctor, psychologist, or counsellor in Canada. This takes time so do this as soon as you can.
  • Are you on social media? Take screenshots of any posts directly about your story.
Evidence about country conditions

You can have evidence that shows the conditions in your country related to your claim. 

This includes reliable reports about political, social, cultural, economic, and human rights conditions. 

The IRB-RPD keeps public documents about conditions in countries around the world in National Documentation Packages (NDPs).

Some of the documents in the NDP may be old. Conditions in your country may have changed or what you experienced may not be in the NDP. Talk to your legal representative to see what new information might help your claim. For example, you can send in:

  • current news articles or videos,
  • statements from expert witnesses,
  • academic articles, or 
  • human rights reports.

View your country’s National Documentation Packages.

Evidence from witnesses

You can have witnesses at your hearing to speak about your claim. A witness is a person who has important information about you and your claim. You need to prepare each witness to answer all types of questions from both your lawyer and from the Member.

Witnesses cannot listen to what you say at the hearing and you cannot talk to them during breaks. Sometimes the Member may not need to ask your witnesses to speak.

If you have a witness, give the following information in writing to the IRB-RPD, at least ten days before your hearing date:

  • Their contact information (address, telephone number, and fax number)
  • A short statement about why they are speaking 
  • How long you think they will speak
  • Your relationship to them
  • If they will speak in person, by videoconference, or by telephone
  • If they need an interpreter, and the language and dialect
  • If the witness is an expert, information about their qualifications, and a short report of what they will say, signed by them

Understand the Legal Definitions

For your refugee claim to be accepted, you must show you are either a Convention Refugee or Person In Need of Protection. A Member at the IRB-RPD will decide after they read your documents and listen to your story.

You need to understand the definitions and how to gather evidence to help your claim.

Read each part of the definitions. For every part that is true for you, make a list of evidence you can get to show that it is true. Give the list to your legal representative.

Convention Refugee

To be a Convention Refugee, these six sentences must be true for you:

  • If I return to my country, I will likely face persecution (be treated very badly).
  • I would be treated badly because of my race, religion, nationality, or political opinion, or because of the social group I belong to.
  • I am honestly scared to return.
  • I have good reason to be scared to live in my country.
  • My government cannot protect me.
  • I cannot live safely or properly in any other part of the country.

Person in Need of Protection

To be a Person In Need of Protection, you must show that 1 or 2 is true:

  1. If I return to my country, the people who have power will likely torture me.

    OR
  2. If I return to my country, I could die or be treated cruelly,

AND

  • My government cannot protect me,
  • I cannot live safely or properly in any other part of the country,
  • I am at risk but not everyone in my country has this risk,
  • I am not at risk only because my country wants to punish me for doing something that is a crime in Canada, and
  • I am not at risk only because of poor health care in my country.