Clarification of IRB's application of the Official Languages Act in recent proceedings

    OTTAWA, Feb. 3 /CNW/ - Recent media coverage suggests that the IRB is not
respecting Canada's Official Languages Act. On the contrary, the IRB is
committed to the provision of services in both of Canada's official languages.
To ensure a fair hearing, every person concerned appearing before the IRB has
the right to choose the official language of his or her proceeding.
    In addition during the process, the person concerned may request a change
in the language of proceedings. Counsel appearing on behalf of the person
concerned may also address the Board in his/her official language of choice.
    Sometimes it is not obvious in which language the proceedings should be
conducted. The person concerned may speak only one official language while
his/her Counsel only speaks, or has a preference, for the other. Under these
circumstances, the presiding member, who is an independent decision maker,
will generally hear from all parties, following which he/she will decide how
best to continue the proceedings in a fair manner.
    Recently, two cases have come before the Immigration Division of the IRB
in Montréal which have attracted media attention.
    In each case, the person concerned chose English as the original language
of the proceedings, and all materials to date have been filed in English. In
one case, the person concerned only speaks English. In the second case,
Spanish is the mother tongue. In the latter case the person concerned speaks
little French. With his previous counsel he had chosen to participate in
English without the need of a Spanish interpreter.
    The new counsel of record in both cases has recently requested a change
in the language of proceedings to French. Counsel is able to address the
Tribunal in his official language of choice; however, the language of
proceedings remains English with French interpretation. In the case of the
Spanish speaking person concerned, a French-English-Spanish interpreter has
also been provided.
    Both cases are ongoing and the Immigration Division has asked for final
submissions from all parties before deciding whether the language of
proceedings should be changed.

    Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
    Commission de l'immigration et du statut de réfugié du Canada

For further information:

For further information: Charles Hawkins, Acting Manager Media
Relations, Public and Parliamentary Affairs, Immigration and Refugee Board of
Canada, (416) 973-4780,

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Immigration and Refugee Board

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