Before the Hearing
Preparation is everything! Regardless of whether you do it yourself or whether you are represented by competent counsel, effective planning is key to success. A proper case strategy based on sound research and evidence must be put into place at the beginning of any file.
If you have never dealt with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), you should consider at the very least to consult with an authorized representative before attempting to represent yourself. An experienced counsel will be able to provide you with a legal opinion and a success rate.
In general, counsel refers either to a Canadian lawyer or a Registered Canadian Immigration Consultant. However, you may also hire a paralegal in Ontario and a notary in Quebec to represent you before a tribunal. Always ensure that whomever you hire is an authorized representative.
You may be able to get free legal help through provincial Legal Aid or community/religious organizations that assist immigrants and refugees on a pro bono basis. When selecting a representative, remember that there are regional differences between the IRB offices located in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. It is wise to verify your counsel’s level of experience in your location. It is very important, even if you do not have counsel, that you properly adhere to the tribunal or hearing rules.
Meeting time limits is the next crucial step. Always enter your due dates in your calendar! Your supporting documents must arrive on time. Any missed deadline will create unnecessary difficulties.
While selecting your evidence, keep the following tips in mind:
- Only submit a readable copy of your documents. Be sure to number all your pages
- Add a colour copy of your photos
- Organize your documents according to the table of contents (e.g. List of Claimant’s Documents) and tabs
- Be aware that you may be required to submit copies in triplicate – depending on the type of file or hearing you have
- When the hearing takes place via video conference, send your calling card to the IRB before the hearing to facilitate phoning your witness(es) abroad
Choose your witness or bonds person well! The IRB and the CBSA are extremely busy, so you must ask reliable people to be flexible. A no-show can be detrimental to any case.
When corresponding with the CBSA or IRB, always check for inaccuracies. Due to their heavy workload, errors may occur. Take the time to respond and clearly show the mistake while sending a copy to the other government agency. If you can sort out all the issues during the disclosure process, your only task at the hearing will be to confirm the genuineness of your submissions orally.
During the Hearing
A hearing can take place either in person or by video conference. The IRB member (decision-maker) will conduct the hearing. After the introduction of the key players (member, minister’s counsel, you as the concerned person, your representative and interpreter) and the housekeeping rules, the hearing starts.
Minister’s counsel is not always present at the hearing. When the CBSA representative is absent, the member will explain the weaknesses of your case.
During the hearing, you will pose questions and your witness will answer and tell the story in a more detailed way. At times it will feel like you are losing, at others that you are clearly winning your case. This experience is normal and can make litigation stressful.
One must master one’s emotions to a great degree to remain focused and turn a case around. A seasoned counsel will guide you through the ups and downs of a hearing in the preparation phase. During the hearing, your immigration counsel may interject with odd questions or explain potential misunderstandings to assist you.
Keep in mind that a tribunal hearing is quite different from the court cases you see on TV. Also, the IRB does not like surprises, but it does accept new, relevant evidence just before the hearing. So don’t be stunned if the CBSA representative submits a new document a few minutes before the hearing. You must adapt to changes!
After the Hearing
After hearing both sides, the IRB member will most likely render a decision orally at the end of the hearing or may request submissions in writing.
You must then send your written submission to the IRB. I encourage you to complete the extra step as it gives you the last opportunity to convince the member that your story is credible. The member will review final submissions and render a decision. Finally, the IRB will mail you a copy of the decision.
Depending on the outcome of your hearing you will either be celebrating or preparing to continue the fight. Always remember that you will receive a decision - not necessarily justice. Sometimes you must battle all the way to get what you want and deserve.
Information provided in this article does not constitute immigration or citizenship advice. Authorized representatives are the only individuals allowed to assist applicants with immigration and citizenship services for a fee. In addition, immigration laws, regulations, and policies are changing constantly.
If you need help with the assessment of your case, then obtain sound immigration or citizenship advice from one of the authorized representatives at myconsultant.ca. Only with a proper case strategy can you reach the ultimate goal of Canadian permanent residence or Canadian citizenship.