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Are Canada’s Immigration tribunals the same as courts of law?

By: Ashton College

Published On: May 26, 2020

What is Canada’s Court of Law system?

The fundamental role of Canada’s Courts of law is to help resolve disputes fairly and within the frames of justice. The court system supports issues between individuals or between individuals and organizations and the state. 

The process of the courts is to interpret and establish law, set standards, and to raise questions that impact all facets of Canadian society and legal systems.

There are several levels and different types of courts in Canada. Both the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments pass laws, and they also share the administration of justice, but the relationship is not simple.

How the Canadian Courts are organized?

There are four levels of courts in Canada:

  1. The provincial/territorial courts, which handle the great majority of cases that come into the system.
  2. Second are the provincial/territorial superior courts. These courts manage cases related to more serious crimes and also take appeals from provincial/territorial court judgments.

On the same level but managing different matters is the Canadian Federal Court. Federal Courts deal with matters specified in federal statutes (laws).

  1. Thirdly, there are the provincial/territorial courts of appeal and the Federal Court of Appeal.
  2. Lastly, the highest level of the Canadian court system is the Supreme Court of Canada.

Where are Canadian Immigration matters heard?

A further layer that exists although it sits outside the Canadian courts of law system is called Administrative Tribunals.

Administrative tribunals oversee disputes connected to rules and regulations relating to, for example, employment insurance, disability benefits, refugee claims, or human rights

What makes Tribunals different from courts of law?

Administrative Tribunals resemble courts but they are not part of the Canadian courts of law system.  Regardless, however, they play a critical role in resolving disputes and managing specific matters important in Canadian society.

According to Canadian law, administrative tribunals must be independent bodies.

Administrative Tribunals tend to be less formal concerning procedural processes and formalities. 

It is important to be aware however, that although not a legal part of the Canadian courts of law, the courts do exercise a supervisory role over administrative tribunals.  The courts ensure that tribunals remain within their responsibilities under the law and that their procedures are fair.

Which Tribunal is applicable for Immigration matters?

The relevant Tribunal for Immigration matters is called the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). 

The IRB is Canada’s largest independent administrative body for Immigration and Refugee matters. It is mandated to be responsible for making decisions regarding immigration and refugee matters, ensuring efficiency, fairness, and acting by the law.

Students enrolled onto Ashton College Certificate in Immigration Tribunal Practice (CITP) learn in-depth knowledge of the process and procedures involved when appearing before the Immigration Division and the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB

Can an Immigration case appear before the courts of law and if yes when?

 Under, Section 18.1 of the Canadian Federal Courts Act provision is made for the ability to bring an application for Judicial Review to the Federal Court.

This can be applied in cases of immigration and refugee claims when a negative outcome on their asylum application has occurred.

An important aspect for claimants to be aware of when considering a Federal Court appeal is that they will not review or accept new evidence, but, rather, determine if as part of the initial IRB decision and process if an officer made an error based on the information that was before them.

A review by the Federal Court involves a 2-stage process:

  1. Leave stage

Here, the court reviews the documents about the immigration claimants’ case. Claimants must show the Court that the decision was not fair or reasonable, or that there was an error.

If the Court finds a positive decision against the claim and agrees in principle with the claim, it will grant ‘leave’. This means it agrees to examine the decision in depth.

  1. Judicial review stage

The second stage is called the judicial review. At this stage, claims, with our without a legal representative can attend an oral hearing before the Court and explain why they believe the original IRB decision was wrong.

What possible outcomes can a Federal Court Judicial reviews have on Immigration claims?

If the Federal Court through the Judicial review process, agrees with the IRB’s original decision and finds there was no error, immigration claims will be mandated to leave Canada through a removal order which is enforceable by law.

If the Federal Court returns your case to the IRB, your case will be reconsidered. This does not mean the IRB will reverse the original decision.

Reviewing case law and common practices and potential issues is an important area for Immigration consultants to be aware of.  This is a key aspect covered during Asthon College’s Immigration Tribunal Practice Program.

Participants in the program analyze these possible issues and surprises that can arise and study relevant sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).

As you can see, the Immigration Tribunals of Canada although not sitting within the legal system of the courts of law, they do play a pivotal role in Canada’s Immigration process, ensuring that matters related to asylum claims and immigration statuses are heard timely and fairly.

You can learn more about this aspect of Canada’s Immigration processes and courts and become a regulated and registered Immigration Consultant through one of Ashton College’s renowned programs.  Learn more here.


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