October 3, 2003
The use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) offers an informal, less confrontational and more consensual approach to dealing with sponsorship appeals, which essentially concern the appellant's desire to reunify his or her family. ADR is consistent with the Immigration and Refugee Board's vision to deal with matters "simply, quickly and fairly."
The success of a 1998 ADR pilot project in the IAD Toronto office led to the ADR process being made a permanent part of the Toronto office's case processing for many types of sponsorship appeals. The ADR process was then implemented in Vancouver in 2000 after further study, refinement and consultation. Following the implementation of the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which came into force on June 28, 2002, the Montréal, and Calgary offices started using ADR in the Fall of 2003, followed by Ottawa in January 2004.
The ADR process at the IAD usually involves an in-person meeting - an ADR Conference - that is scheduled to last for one hour. The IAD assigns a member to act as a dispute resolution officer (DRO) for each appeal that is selected for the ADR process. All DROs receive training in ADR and have in depth substantive and procedural knowledge of sponsorship appeal issues. In addition to the DRO, the ADR Conference participants are the Minister's counsel, and the appellant and their counsel. About half of the cases that go through ADR will have a final result without the parties having to attend an oral hearing. Usually this is CIC agreeing to the appeal being allowed, or it could be the appellant withdrawing the appeal.
There are written ADR procedures and there is specific ADR rule in the new IAD Rules - Rule 20 covers such matters as exchange of documents, participating in good faith, confidentiality and IAD approval of any settlements.
An independent consultant's evaluation in 2001 confirmed that the IAD's use of ADR contributes significantly to the efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of administrative justice at the IAD. It provides appellants with a process that is generally viewed as fair and worthwhile and often produces savings in terms of costs and time. Its informality reduces the tension often felt by participants in adversarial proceedings.
The ADR program has not, however, reached its full potential. The IAD accepted all of the recommendations of Leslie Macleod's evaluation report, and they have now largely been implemented - this includes enhancing of ADR training for dispute resolution officers and Minister's counsel, and providing more detailed written guidelines on ADR procedures and practices.