More than half of the immigration judges applying to review refugee claims in Canada in 2012 are not qualified to do the job, a CBC investigation has found.

That’s because more than half of them failed to meet new criteria that will be a requirement of the role after it undergoes legislative changes.  

The immigration system in Canada is currently in the process of being amended by Bill C-11.

The bill, which will be introduced next June, will replace the position of board members, or refugee judge, with a new title, but the job will remain more or less the same.

All of the current board members were required to go through an application process if they were interested in the new posts. 

According to documents obtained by the CBC under the Access to Information and Privacy Act, the majority didn’t pass the testing, abandoned the process or were screened out.

Of the 63 Immigration and Refugee Board judges currently hearing refugee claimant's files, 32 don't meet criteria for the same job under Bill C-11.

Twenty-four of the applicants were eliminated after multiple choice and written exams. Twelve more withdrew their application or failed to submit the exam. One was screened out and seven more eliminated after interviews.

That leaves the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) with 10 candidates who had passed the interview and nine who were waiting for an interview to be scheduled, as of Nov. 4, the most up to date information available.

The IRB would not grant an interview and refused to confirm how many candidates it was left with.

In an emailed statement, the board said it is launching a new process, " to ensure we have enough qualified candidates to create staffing pools to fill the positions we need in order to implement the Balanced Refugee Reform Act."

'Significant concern'

Dan Bohbot, president of Quebec's Immigration Lawyers Association, said those results are cause for significant concern when it comes to the credibility of those making decisions at the IRB.

Bohbot said a judge's rejection of a refugee claim often means a claimant is sent back to life-threatening situations in their home countries. 

"It means [if] the person having his case decided by a possibly incompetent board member then he will not have a justice done and that's why I think there's problem now at the IRB," he said.

Bohbot is now asking that judges suspend clients' files until Bill C-11 comes into effect, arguing he doesn't have confidence they've passed the exam.

So far, no judge has agreed.

The IRB told CBC News current judges are qualified to hear cases.

# Applied Screened Out Eliminated at Multiple Choice Eliminated at Written Exam No Show (Didn't submit exam) Eliminated at Interview Passed Interview Interview to be scheduled (as of Nov. 4) Withdrew
63 1 12 12 6 7 10 9 6
(Source: Immigration and Refugee Board)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said refugee judges also go by the title Governor in Council. The position is actually known as board member.
    Nov 22, 2011 10:29 PM ET