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.