Research Paper Number


Subsequently published in the University of British Columbia Law Review.

Document Type


Publication Date



Refugee Law, Administrative Law, Canada, Empirical Legal Studies


Canada’s refugee determination system was revised in 2012. One key feature of the new process is a quasi-judicial administrative appeal, on matters of both fact and law, at the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Under the new process, however, many claimants are denied access to the RAD.

This article assesses these limits on access to the RAD, drawing mostly on quantitative data obtained from the IRB and Citizenship and Immigration Canada through access to information requests. Our aim is to provide evidence-based analysis and recommendations for reform. Essentially, our conclusions are that the bars on access to the RAD are arbitrary and dangerous, and that the system should be reformed to provide access to the RAD for all refugee claimants.

The article proceeds in two parts. First, we set out the context for our research, explaining why access to the RAD matters. Specifically, we discuss the history of the RAD, explain how the process works, explore the difference between the appeal and judicial review, and overview the results from the revised system’s first two years of operation. Next, we examine in detail each of the bars on access to the RAD for claimants whose applications were refused at first-instance. The article ends by setting out our conclusions.