The complainant appeared as counsel for a refugee claimant at a Refugee Protection Division (RPD) hearing.
The complaint alleged that the member was impatient and disrespectful. The member was alleged to have made harassing and exaggerated remarks at the start of the hearing regarding the evidence on file, which created a tense and negative atmosphere, intimidated the claimant, deprived the claimant of a fair hearing, and impugned the complainant’s competence. The complaint also alleged that the member used sarcasm towards the claimant, and made disrespectful comments about the quality of the complainant’s work.
The Office of Integrity forwarded the complaint to the Chairperson for a decision on whether the allegations were within the scope of the complaints process under paragraph 5.5 of the Procedures for Making a Complaint About a Member (Complaints Procedures). The Chairperson decided that the allegations were within scope and referred them to the Director of the Office of Integrity (the Director) for investigation.
The member was invited to provide the Director with a response to the complaint and subsequently provided written comments. The Director listened to the audio recording of the proceeding and reviewed the parties’ submissions. The Director prepared a draft investigation report containing preliminary findings of fact and analysis, and provided both parties an opportunity to comment on it. Both parties filed written comments. The Director then prepared a final investigation report.
In the investigation report, the Director concluded that there was a breach of the Code of Conduct for Members of the IRB (Code of Conduct) for the following reasons:
- The member admitted to using sarcasm. While not ideal, the sarcastic language was only used once, briefly, while the member was posing pointed questions to the claimant. This single use of sarcasm did not amount to a breach of the Code of Conduct.
- As regards the allegations that the member made disrespectful remarks about the complainant's style of working and her work on the file, the member acknowledged being frustrated and telling the complainant in a direct and firm manner that she found her work to be unacceptable and to the detriment of the client. The member admitted to losing patience with the complainant. The language used by the member to impugn the work of the complainant ("mal foutu", in French) was colloquial and pejorative, and has no place in the hearing room. The member's comment to the effect that the complainant should spend less time taking notes and should instead take care of her client was insulting.
- The member raised her voice at a few instances during the hearing.
- Though the member was frustrated, she could have transmitted the same message in a firm but respectful manner. There are objective and neutral ways for a member to inform counsel that they have failed to do something, that counsel’s conduct in the hearing room has not met the member's expectations, or that counsel’s work falls short of the member's expectations.
- During the investigation, the member maintained that her conduct was justified. Regardless, the degree of frustration and the manner in which she expressed her impatience, were not appropriate. Members must maintain a certain level of conduct in the hearing room.
- Overall, the member did not conduct herself at certain times during the hearing with sufficient professionalism, courtesy, politeness, and respect.
The investigation report was provided to the Chairperson. He was satisfied that the investigation was thorough and fair. The Chairperson accepted the conclusions in the report and found that there was a breach of the Code of Conduct.
Both parties were informed about the resolution of the complaint through decision letters from the Chairperson.
In his letter to the member, the Chairperson requested that the member reflect on the report’s findings and how they could serve as a lesson as to the conduct expected of members. The member was reminded of the importance of not raising one’s voice in the hearing room – even when frustrated, that the use of a patient tone of voice is always preferable, and that the pejorative French expression “mal foutu” should not be used in the future.
The Chairperson discussed the matter with the member and confirmed his expectations of conduct going forward. The member acknowledged her mistakes and undertook not to repeat them and to conduct herself in a manner consistent with the Code of Conduct going forward. On this basis, the Chairperson was satisfied that there was no need for any further follow-up action.
The complaint was founded, and the file was closed.