The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) works with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to maintain the integrity of Canada’s immigration and refugee system. The CBSA is responsible for the immigration enforcement program which enforces the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). The enforcement-related activities of the CBSA include:
- conducting investigations of those believed to be inadmissible to the country;
- preparing cases for presentation at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB); and
- detaining and or removing individuals from Canada.
The CBSA Hearings Program (the Program) involves the representation of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (PSEP) or the Minister of IRCC by Hearings Officers (HO) in front of the IRB. The Program is managed at National Headquarters (NHQ) and is delivered by HOs in seven regions, including: Atlantic, Quebec, Northern Ontario, Southern Ontario, Prairie, Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and Pacific.
About the evaluation
The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency of the Program, in accordance with the 2016 Treasury Board Policy on Results. There have been no prior evaluations of the Program to date.
The evaluation covered approximately $21 million in annual direct program spending. It examined the Hearings Program’s activities and outputs, and the extent to which program outcomes are being achieved. The evaluation was conducted in fiscal year 2017–2018.
What the evaluation found
- Within the Immigration Division, there is no national inventory of cases pending review by the Program and no systematic prioritization of cases. With regards to admissibility hearings, the Program does not track case inventory.
- The number of detention reviews has decreased by 48% between FY 2012–2013 and FY 2016–2017.
Immigration Appeal Division:
- The CBSA has limited influence on the original IRCC decisions, and associated policies. The current work arrangements between the two organizations are generally found to be appropriate, based on the CBSA’s enforcement mandate and investigative authorities.
Refugee Protection Division:
- It is difficult to determine the effectiveness of the triage process as triage decisions are not systematically tracked. Different approaches are used by Triage Centres across Canada, with no internal or inter-organizational consistency.
- Duplication in the research efforts of CBSA staff at the FB-02, FB-04, and FB-05 levels in the refugee process, as well as screening activities conducted at the National Security Screening Division and the Triage Centres, may warrant further analysis to reduce redundancy in security screening processes.
- The national volume of red letters has increased over time. The increase may be the result of a variety of factors, and requires additional analysis, as it could also be a reflection of an overall increase in workload in the Refugee Protection Division, over time.
Refugee Appeal Division:
- Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) hearings represent 1% of total CBSA hearings. There has been a decline, over time, in concurrence in refugee appeals initiated by the Minister. Without a RAD hearing strategy, HOs could not articulate the policy rationale on when and why the CBSA would appeal an IRB decision. There may be a need to develop a hearings strategy in Minister-initiated appeals at the RAD, and to improve guidance to HOs as to when to initiate an appeal, in order to enhance program effectiveness.
- A lack of understanding of immigration and hearings processes amongst internal stakeholders, in addition to employee turnover and a loss of corporate memory, may have an impact on the Program performance.
- There may be a need to improve internal, cross-regional information sharing at the working-level to reduce the duplication of efforts of HOs (such as, research efforts) and to discuss best practices.
- Overall, there is a positive working relationship between IRCC and the CBSA and communication between the two organizations is generally effective.
- There is inconsistency in the timely sharing of information between certain visa offices and embassies and the CBSA.
Working relationship between the CBSA and the IRB:
- The CBSA is satisfied with its interactions with the IRB and with the effectiveness of the communication between the two organizations.
- In order to mitigate backlog, the IRB has implemented an early resolution. Given the existing demands on an HO’s time, the requirement to participate in the early resolution process may represent additional resource requirements for the Hearings Program.
Across Lines of Business – Training:
- While National Training Standards for HOs exist, the delivery and timing of the training provided by the CBSA to Hearings Program staff does not align with the need for specialized training and the unique requirements of these various feeder groups.
Program inputs and outputs:
- Overall program spending and FTEs have increased between FY 2012–2013 and FY 2016–2017, while the number of cases finalized has declined. However, a significant portion of the workload involved in the intervention in and preparation for a hearing is not fully taken into account.
Resource requirements by division:
- There are significant variances in regional resource allocation and utilization, as reflected in the number of cases per officer, cost per case, and the number of IRB members as compared to the number of HOs. However, the Program does not yet systematically track all of the factors that contribute to its workload and output.
The findings of the evaluation led to the following five recommendations:
- The Vice-President of Programs in cooperation with the Vice-President of Operations (or the proposed Vice-President of Enforcement and Intelligence as part of CBSA Renewal) should improve national program management through the development of a risk-based hearings strategy, which includes performance indicators unique to the Program’s lines of business and regular program performance reporting.
- The Vice-President of Operations Branch and the Vice-President of Programs Branch (or the proposed Vice-President of Enforcement and Intelligence as part of CBSA Renewal) should, in consultation with IRCC, explore options to optimize the national consistency and effectiveness of the delivery of the triage function.
- The Vice-President of Programs Branch (or the proposed Vice-President of Enforcement and Intelligence as part of CBSA Renewal) should review the roles and responsibilities of the CBSA and IRCC within the hearings process, as outlined in the existing MOU, to optimize resource utilization between the two organizations and maximize program effectiveness.
- The Vice-President of the Human Resources Branch should, in consultation with the Vice-President of Programs Branch and the Vice-President of the Operations Branch (or the proposed Vice-President of Enforcement and Intelligence as part of CBSA Renewal), examine the existing recruitment strategies for Hearings Program staff, as well as the effectiveness of the current training model and the consistency of its delivery, to account for the specialized and technical job functions of Hearings Officers and to improve training outcomes.
- The Vice-President of Programs Branch should, with support from the Vice-President of Operations Branch (or the proposed Vice-President of Enforcement and Intelligence as part of CBSA Renewal), complete an analysis of national resource allocation and utilization, including Hearings Advisors, which takes into account the volumes in each line of business and region, to optimize service delivery and achievement of outcomes.
The Management Action Plan is accessible at Evaluation of the CBSA Hearings Program.
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