Operating context

​​The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB or the Board) carries out its work within a global environment of increasing migration and shifting mobility patterns. Since March 2020, the Board has effectively managed its operations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board innovated its practices and advanced its digital strategy, thereby becoming a predominantly digital organization. This work continues into 2023–24.

The IRB significantly reduced refugee claim inventories and wait times during the pandemic; in 2021, Canada was one of only four countries world‑wide to achieve this (according to the ​United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Global Trends Report 2021). However, projected volumes for the coming years are well beyond the IRB's annual process capacity of finalizations. Referrals to the Board are starting to outpace the IRB's annual processing capacity, leading once again to growing inventories and wait times. In fiscal year 2023–24, efforts will focus on advancing system-wide efficiencies and funding strategies to deal with the realities related to increased intake. This will be supported by the Budget 2022 announcement of permanent funding of $150 million annually, starting in 2023–24. In addition, Budget 2022 announced a further, temporary top up investment of $87 million over two years. This makes permanent the Government's previous temporary investments, since 2018. The funding will allow the IRB to stabilize its workforce and its salary and operating budgets.

The Board will continue to be guided by its strategic objectives outlined in its multi‑year Growth and Transformation Agenda. The Agenda—centered on the pillars of improved productivity, enhanced quality of and consistency in decision‑making, along with strengthened management—will continue to shape the Board's plans and priorities. This Agenda will also uphold the IRB's vision of being a high‑performing and digital tribunal, contributing to an accessible, fair, and efficient immigration and refugee determination system.

Refugee claims and appeals

Since August 2021, when the Canadian border restrictions began to ease, the pending eligibility inventory at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has grown significantly. As of early 2023, the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) is projecting a significant increase in referrals, which will once again lead to growing inventories and wait times, thus diminishing the previous gains. The Board will continue to work with IRCC, CBSA, and central agencies to maintain access to justice and better support Canada's refugee determination system.

The Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) operations was less impacted by the pandemic as most RAD decisions are rendered without a hearing and its members already worked remotely. This, combined with lower intake levels, resulted in a 41% reduction in the pending inventory between March 2020 and December 2022. While this is encouraging, this is seen as temporary as claim intake has increased with the easing of border restrictions. As the volume of decisions made at the RPD increases, there is a subsequent increase in RAD appeals.

Admissibility hearings, detention reviews and immigration appeals

The Immigration Division (ID) is responsible for conducting admissibility hearings and detention reviews for permanent residents and foreign nationals who are detained for immigration reasons. In fiscal year 2023–24, the ID could see a continued increase in referrals, from, for example, a surge of irregular border claims. This could increase the Division's case load and impact meeting legislated time limits for detention review hearings. As such, the Division has plans in place to respond to any increase in intake. Additionally, ID cases have been trending towards increasing complexity and longer hearings due to additional factors that need to be considered in a detention review, such as evolving jurisprudence and new requirements.

With immigration processing returning to usual levels, the Immigration Appeal Division has seen a slow increase in intake, though it remains below pre-pandemic levels. Despite the upward trend, it is hard to predict the number of appeals the Division will receive in 2023–24.