A woman and child embrace while standing with hundreds of others as officials read the names of the seven Barho siblings during the funeral for the Syrian refugees in Halifax on Feb. 23.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Board members play a critical role as gatekeepers, duty-bound to attentively review files, determining every case on its merits. I was privileged to serve as a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada from 1996 to 1998 and of the parole board from 2013 to 2016. So when invited to join the IRB’s legacy task force, charged with clearing thousands of backlogged refugee claims, I accepted.After training, in December 2018, I was assigned three files. I made a positive decision on one, convinced the claimant had a well-founded fear of persecution. “Short hearings” were scheduled for the others because I had questions needing answers. That’s the job — knowing relevant Canadian laws, updating yourself on country conditions, examining files conscientiously and making a timely and appropriate decision on whether someone has a legitimate claim to refugee status. And the claimant always gets the benefit of the doubt, which is as it should be.I was told I was doing a good job. But, unbeknownst to me, an IRB lawyer — she knows who she is — complained. A senior manager rebutted her. That’s when this shyster — on whose authority? — communicated with another pettifogger who makes his living advocating for just about anyone claiming to be a refugee. He roiled up his fellow travellers. I was kept blissfully unaware of this skulduggery until I got the call on New Year’s Eve — nice timing, eh? — told my contract wouldn’t be continued given the “controversy.”I requested a written explanation. It arrived Jan. 25. Meanwhile, the board was briefing a TV reporter with its side of the story. The resulting broadcast pilloried me.What “controversy”? Witnessing problems with the refugee determination process, I wrote a hard-hitting exposé, published in this newspaper in 2001. An op-ed is inherently argumentative, intended to provoke debate, even secure positive change. Since the IRB went through “significant legislative and regulatory changes” after implementation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, in 2002, my epistle apparently did the trick.All hiring protocols were followed correctly before I signed a contract. Richard Wex, the board’s chairman, was told so when he checked. An access-to-information request confirms my op-ed is easily located in the IRB’s filing cabinets. Since the senior managers offering me the job insisted I abstain from newspaper writing as a condition of employment — which I agreed to — they were obviously familiar with my résumé and media profile.No matter. I was canned. I have tried to confirm who leaked information from inside the board to a caitiff outside. I have a good idea, but the IRB is still protecting its resident fink(s), claiming solicitor-client privilege. Apparently, the board’s oft-touted commitment to “natural justice” exists only for those wanting to get into Canada — not for a man born here.I pride myself on being a judicious, capable and independent decision-maker. Even the board admits I worked “competently.” Like most Canadians I support a liberal refugee policy. After all, my parents were victims of the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Ukraine — I wouldn’t be here if Canada hadn’t granted them asylum.Board members play a critical role as gatekeepers, duty-bound to attentively review files, determining every case on its merits. During my unexpectedly short sojourn at the board, however, I sensed they’re pressured to expedite claims from certain countries, following only cursory reviews. Welcome tidings for refugee lobbyists but not good news for Canada.Ready to accept the IRB’s invitation to serve Canada again, I didn’t anticipate being soiled for wanting to. If you have doubts about how refugee claims are handled from now on, don’t blame me. I’m no longer on guard for thee.Who is?Lubomyr Luciuk is a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.
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