am delighted and honoured to greet you as we mark and celebrate the
20th anniversary of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).
An occasion such as this gives us, members and staff together, an
opportunity to reflect on where we have been and where we are going.
As 1989 began, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were sovereign countries and the Berlin Wall was still dividing East Germany from West Germany—at least until November of that year. Soviet troops were still deployed in Afghanistan in support of the Marxist government of the day and neither India nor China were the economic powerhouses they are today.
Hand-held computers, cellphones and MP3 players were still a dream.
But for all the changes we have seen over the years, there are some things that must and do remain constant.
In 1989, Parliament created the IRB as an independent accountable
administrative tribunal responsible for deciding refugee and
immigration matters fairly, efficiently and in accordance with the law.
Trailblazing Gordon Fairweather, who passed away late last year, was appointed the first Chairperson of the IRB.
Today, 20 years later, we continue to fulfill our important mandate on behalf of Canadians in a manner that reflects our country’s humanitarian and security values, the rule of law and Canada’s international obligations.
IRB personnel recognize the profound impact of our actions and the consequences of the decisions rendered. It is with a deep sense of commitment to those who appear before us and to all Canadians that we carry out our important responsibilities.
But the environment in which we operate is complex and unpredictable, as the number and type of cases we receive are influenced by shifting migration patterns, refugee movements and other factors beyond our control, including the decisions of CIC and the CBSA. In the past 20 years, even the scope of refugee determination has changed, with the adoption of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) in 2002 and its expanded definition of persons in need of protection and Federal and Supreme Court of Canada decisions interpreting and applying our legislation.
All of the divisions within the IRB are experiencing substantial
growth in their caseloads and this trend is expected to continue,
particularly in the case of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD),
which has been receiving claims at a rate well above the level for
which it is currently funded.
Administrative tribunals should be dynamic and supple, anticipating and responding to changing needs. And we certainly have demonstrated our ability to be both flexible and proactive.
I am convinced that the reason for our success is the highly skilled, compassionate and dedicated group of people that make up the IRB. Everyone within the IRB has continued to persevere in a sometimes challenging work environment, always doing their best to help the people who need us.
We have been fortunate to receive several new appointments over the past few weeks. I am committed to continuing to work with our Minister and his staff to identify qualified candidates for appointment to add to the existing pool, to recommend the reappointment of meritorious members and to address the need for additional resources to meet the mounting workload pressures. Of course, it will always be our responsibility to continue to find new ways to become more efficient and for staff and members to work co operatively and with mutual respect.
To that end, we will pursue fulfillment of the strategic priorities we have set for ourselves for 2009-2010. We will work to further increase our capacity to resolve cases and manage the inventory, strengthen relationships with partners and stakeholders and continue to build an integrated, flexible and effective organization. Achieving these priorities will ensure that we are well equipped to respond to whatever challenges we may face.
Throughout this year, we will be marking milestones in our history, acknowledging our achievements and saluting the people who have made it all possible. At 20 years, the IRB is still young, but in that short period of time, we have accomplished so much because of the dedicated work of the IRB’s members and staff.
And over the next 20 years, we will continue to harness our ingenuity and creativity to make changes where warranted, and to count on our professionalism and integrity to hold fast when things should stay the same. The IRB’s success is due to the contributions of all of its personnel and I am proud to be Chairperson of such a professional organization.
Bonne fête CISR, Happy Anniversary IRB.