Citizenship judge code of conduct
Citizenship Judges are appointed by the Governor-in-Council and work within Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The statutory and regulatory role of the Judges is to review citizenship applications referred to them; to assess applicants to ensure they meet the requirements of 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act and its regulations; to administer the oath of citizenship and stress the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship; to maintain the integrity of the citizenship process; and promote citizenship in the community.
With respect to decisions affecting individual applications, Citizenship Judges are independent decision makers who, in exercising their decision-making role, are subject to the Citizenship Act and its regulations and relevant case law. Their decisions can be judicially reviewed with leave to the Federal Court of Canada by a failed applicant or by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. They are guided in their decision-making by the principles of administrative law and natural justice.
Within this framework, the Citizenship Judge Code of Conduct (the Code) was developed to clarify and promote expected behaviours. As Governor in Council appointees, full-time Citizenship Judges are bound by the provisions in the Terms and Conditions of Employment for Full-Time Governor in Council Appointees, and all Citizenship Judges are subject to the provisions of the Conflict of Interest Act and the applicable sections of Open and Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State. They must also respect the commitments made at the time they swear the Oath of Office and Secrecy and the Oath of Allegiance.
This Code complements these commitments, providing additional guidance on how Citizenship Judges should conduct themselves in the course of performing their duties under the Citizenship Act and its regulations and in their interactions with the community.
In general, Citizenship Judges must strive at all times to make their decisions independently, fairly, objectively, impartially and without bias or the reasonable apprehension of bias. When dealing with any person with an interest before them in a hearing, in the course of Citizenship Ceremonies, and in their role promoting citizenship in the community, Citizenship Judges must conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the highest standards of ethical conduct.
- The Code establishes the standards of conduct that govern the professional and ethical responsibilities of Citizenship Judges as decision-makers, presiders over citizenship ceremonies, and promoters of good citizenship.
- The Code should be read in conjunction with any applicable conduct requirements that are established from time to time for Governor in Council (GIC) appointees, including the Conflict of Interest Act, Open and Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State and the Terms and Conditions of Employment for Full-Time Governor in Council Appointees.
- The Code applies to all full-time and part-time Citizenship Judges. The Code is effective from December 28, 2016.
- The standards of conduct set out in the Code are based on and recognize two fundamental principles: (i) that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of the Citizenship Judges must be conserved and enhanced; and (ii) that independence in decision-making is obligatory.
- These standards address the responsibilities of Citizenship Judges to themselves as a group, to IRCC staff, to the parties who appear before them, and to the members of the public whom they encounter at citizenship ceremonies and at events in the community in the course of their promotional activities.
- The Code is based on the Citizenship Judges’ commitment to the values of respect, honesty, good faith, fairness, accountability, dignity, transparency, openness, discretion, cultural sensitivity and loyalty.
- Citizenship Judges are expected to comply with the standards of conduct set out in the Code.
- Although the Code cannot anticipate every possible situation, in all cases, judges are expected to act honestly and in good faith, in a professional and ethical manner.
- In the discharge of their official duties and at all other times, Citizenship Judges shall conduct themselves in a manner that promotes respect for the law and public confidence in the fairness, impartiality and professionalism of Citizenship Judges, and that reflects the high standards of ethical conduct, character and demeanour required of those charged with the administration of a law. They shall perform their official duties impartially and diligently, and with patience, courtesy and sensitivity.
Citizenship Judge’s responsibilities
Promotion of integrity and independence
- Citizenship Judges will engage in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of ethical conduct and will act to promote and preserve the integrity and responsible independence of their decision-making.
- Citizenship Judges shall not use their position to advance any personal or private interests. Citizenship Judges shall not:
- Use information that is obtained in his or her position and that is not available to the public to further or seek to further his or her private interests or those of relatives or friends.
- Use his or her position to seek to influence a decision of another person so as to further his or her private interests or those of relatives or friends.
- Citizenship Judges should hold themselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct in both their personal and professional lives and should not engage in any outside activities that could compromise these standards.
- The Director General of Citizenship and Passport Program Guidance (Director General) has been delegated the responsibility for the administration of the Code on behalf of the Minister, including any matters regarding its interpretation. Citizenship Judges are expected to be in compliance with the Code.
- Citizenship Judges are encouraged to bring to the Director General’s attention as soon as practicable the conduct of another member who is not in compliance with the Code, if such conduct may threaten the integrity of Citizenship Judges generally, or publicly damage the reputation of the Department or the Minister.
Compliance with laws
- Citizenship Judges shall comply with the provisions of the Citizenship Act, all applicable regulations under the Citizenship Act, all other relevant legislation and policy instruments that apply to their work and all laws that govern the country.
- Citizenship Judges, in their decision-making, have a responsibility to strive toward consistency in decision-making, while recognizing that no improper influence may be brought to bear upon their adjudicative independence.
- Citizenship Judges shall not disclose or make known any information of a confidential nature that was obtained in their capacity as a Citizenship Judge, unless authorized by law.
- Citizenship Judges shall not communicate directly or indirectly with the news media or publicly express any opinion regarding: (i) any matter relating to their work as Citizenship Judges or (ii) any other matter that may create a reasonable apprehension of bias. Inquiries from the media or members of the public shall be referred to the office of the Director General who will refer the matter to the office responsible for communications with external stakeholders as required.
- In certain circumstances, Citizenship Judges may be permitted to speak to the media following consultation with the Director General, and review by IRCC Communications.
- Citizenship Judges shall not communicate with other government departments or agencies, or elected officials or their staff, regarding: (i) any matter relating to their functions or (ii) any other matter that may create a reasonable apprehension of bias.
- Citizenship Judges will avoid public commentary, or expression of personal opinion about the procedures followed by Judges or IRCC or the legislation under which the Judges operate, except to the extent that it is part of the Judge’s responsibilities to explain policies and practices, and is consistent with the specific provisions of this Code.
- Citizenship Judges shall not use official information for any improper, illegal or unauthorized purpose.
- For greater clarity, “communication” includes oral, written or e-mailed views in blogs, chat rooms, social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, opinions, statements, information given on or to radio, television, the press, in public notices, books or public speaking forums.
- Citizenship Judges have a responsibility to maintain a high level of professional competence and expertise required to fulfil their duties and responsibilities. Citizenship Judges are expected to pursue the development of knowledge and skills related to their work, including reading of relevant jurisprudence and participation in ongoing training provided by the Department.
- Citizenship Judges shall actively participate in training provided by, or at the request of the Department and otherwise pursue the enhancement of their professional competence and knowledge individually and collegially, recognizing that citizenship cases and jurisprudence are constantly evolving.
- Citizenship Judges shall strive toward excellence in every aspect of their roles. Citizenship Judges shall foster a work environment that displays engagement, collaboration, effective teamwork, learning, and achieving and measuring outcomes.
- Citizenship Judges will help to create and maintain a safe workplace that promotes equity and freedom from discrimination and harassment.
- Citizenship Judges will encourage and support collegial relationships amongst themselves. Citizenship Judges are expected to assist their colleagues through the respectful exchange of views, information and opinions. They shall strive to work together in a spirit of openness, honesty and transparency that encourages engagement and collaboration.
- Citizenship Judges have a responsibility to perform their duties in a manner that fosters collegiality with IRCC staff and to treat them with courtesy and respect.
Citizenship Judges' responsibilities to the parties
Conduct during hearings
- While ensuring that the hearings are fair, orderly and efficient, Citizenship Judges shall conduct themselves in a manner that is courteous, patient, fair and respectful to all participants and observers, their language, customs, rights, opinions, and beliefs.
- The actions of the Citizenship Judge when dealing with the applicants, their counsel, representatives, interpreters or family members should demonstrate the highest standards of ethical conduct.
- Citizenship Judges shall consider only those issues raised in the hearings and those issues necessary to make a decision.
- Citizenship Judges shall comply with all procedural fairness and natural justice requirements.
- Citizenship Judges are expected to approach each case with an open mind, avoiding any inclination toward pre-judgement and, at all times, must be, and must be seen to be, impartial and objective.
Withdrawal from a case
- Citizenship Judges shall disqualify themselves from any hearing where they know or reasonably should know that, in the making of the decision, they would be in a conflict of interest, or that their participation may create a reasonable apprehension of bias. In the event of any actual or potential bias or conflict of interest, a Citizenship Judge shall decline participating in the hearing. In such a case, they shall immediately inform both the Director General and the Office of the Ethics Commissioner and provide the reason for their withdrawal.
Discussion of cases
- To preserve the integrity of the decision-making process, out of respect for the duty to act fairly, and the privacy interests of those involved in any case, Citizenship Judges shall not disclose information about a case or discuss any matter that may be or has been decided by them with any person, including family members, relatives, friends, business associates, the media, Members of Parliament or other political representatives.
- Citizenship Judges shall not receive or consider information about a case that they must decide, except through persons and agencies recognized in legislation, in IRCC policies, and in a manner that is consistent with IRCC’s information-sharing requirements.
- Citizenship Judges shall not communicate about the case directly with any other person who will participate in or contribute to the hearing, but shall document any information in his or her possession that is relevant to the case so that it may be considered by the Judge, consistent with the legislation and the duty to act fairly.
- Citizenship Judges shall not discuss a case with a Citizenship Officer or other Judges except as required in the performance of, and in circumstances appropriate to, the formal conduct of their duties.
Communications with participants in a hearing
- Citizenship Judges shall not communicate directly or indirectly with any counsel, interpreter, other representative or family member appearing before them in a hearing, except in the presence of the applicant, if such communication may create a reasonable apprehension of bias.
- Citizenship Judges shall not, during the course of a proceeding, have any social contact with a party, counsel, interpreter, representative or family member, if such social contact may create a reasonable apprehension of bias.
- Citizenship Judges shall not prejudge a case and shall keep an open mind prior to the hearing. Judges shall make each decision on the merits of the case, based on thorough preparation, the assessment of evidence before the Citizenship Judge and the application of the Citizenship Act and its regulations and any other relevant legislation, regulations, legal principles, including the principles of natural justice, and relevant case law.
- Citizenship Judges must maintain an arms-length relationship from Citizenship Officers while working with them collegially. This separation of responsibilities is specifically defined in the Citizenship Act and fosters public confidence in a fair and just citizenship process.
- Citizenship Judges shall not delegate the duty to decide or any duties related to arriving at a decision to any other person.
- Citizenship Judges must make decisions concerning applications without undue influence from IRCC officials. Judges shall not delegate decision-making responsibility to an Officer. Once seized with a file a Judge shall not discuss a case in the course of decision-making with an Officer except to acquire factual clarification or acquire additional information from an Officer.
- Citizenship Judges shall not be influenced by extraneous or improper considerations in their decision-making. Citizenship Judges shall make their decisions free from the improper influence of other persons, institutions, interest groups, the political process, or fear of criticism.
- Citizenship Judges are expected to notify the applicant of their decisions, of the reasons for it and of the right to apply for judicial review “without delay”. In accordance with the Act, Judges shall render a decision within 60 days after the day on which the application is referred.
- Citizenship Judges have a responsibility to consider the privacy interests of individuals in the conduct of proceedings and the writing of decisions, ensuring that decisions contain only the personal information that is necessary to explain the reasoning of the decision.
Conduct during ceremonies
- Citizenship ceremonies are organized and held as state functions. For this reason, Citizenship Judges shall be guided in their duties by the Citizenship Act, IRCC policies and the Citizenship Judge Best Practices on Speeches.
- Citizenship Judges must ensure that their remarks reflect the requirements of the Citizenship Act and its regulations. With careful attention to their tone, Citizenship Judges are required to speak to new Canadians about their rights and responsibilities; and the meaning of good citizenship, including respect for the law, the exercise of the right to vote, participation in community affairs and intergroup understanding. Citizenship Judges must administer the Oath of Citizenship with solemnity allowing the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or solemn affirmation thereof.
- Citizenship Judges must present their remarks in English and in French, in recognition of Canada’s bilingual nature. In accordance with the Terms and Conditions of Employment for Full-Time Governor in Council Appointees, both full-and part-time judges shall promote Canada’s commitment to bilingualism.
- In accordance with the Citizenship Act and its regulations, Citizenship Judges must not administer the Oath of Citizenship in private without receiving the required permission from the Registrar.
- Citizenship Judges shall acquire the permission of the Department to conduct affirmation/re-affirmation ceremonies in the course of their promotional duties.
- Citizenship Judges shall not make remarks either formal or informal that singles out a particular culture, religious belief, or nationality.
- Citizenship Judges shall keep their remarks within the acceptable time limits suggested by IRCC policy. Citizenship Judges shall be guided in writing their speeches by the Citizenship Act and its regulations and the Citizenship Judge Best Practices on Speeches.
Conduct respecting promotional activities
- Citizenship Judges shall request approval from the Department for all promotional activities prior to requesting formal travel approval from the Registrar. Citizenship Judges shall report their promotional planning activities as required.
- Citizenship Judges shall use only the Department’s approved presentation tools and Departmental media lines in their promotional events and shall not act as spokespersons for the Minister or the Department.
- Judges shall not provide advice on individual cases when addressing audiences during promotional events.
- In exercising their promotional role, Judges shall abide by the policies set out in the Treasury Board’s Communications Policy of the Government of Canada.
- Judges shall distribute only materials provided by IRCC at promotional events. Judges shall not distribute any IRCC forms at promotional events.
Citizenship Judges' responsibilities to the public
- Citizenship Judges shall conduct themselves with integrity and avoid impropriety, or the appearance of impropriety.
Conflict of interest
- Citizenship Judges shall arrange their private affairs in a manner that will prevent them from being in a conflict of interest, as set out in the Conflict of Interest Act as applicable.
- Citizenship Judges shall avoid involvement in activities that are, or would appear to be, incompatible with their responsibilities and duties or that could call into question their independent exercise of judgment, integrity and impartiality.
- In addition to the specific requirements of the Conflict of Interest Act and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders, Citizenship Judges shall not:
- participate in, or promote any organization that provides goods or services to IRCC.;
- participate in, or promote any organization whose goals, objectives, by-laws or activities would reflect adversely on the member's impartiality, or that would create a perception of conflict of interest or bias in decision-making;
- participate in any partisan political process, or seek or hold elected office in any position in which one is elected by formal public vote whether federal or provincial legislatures or a municipal government
- participate in a community board without the advice of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner.
- accept any position or employment that would be inconsistent with their responsibilities as Citizenship Judges or that could reasonably be seen to give rise to a perception of conflict of interest or bias in decision-making; or,
- participate in any other activity that could reasonably be seen to give rise to a perception of conflict of interest or bias in decision-making.
- have private interests, other than those permitted by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner.
- solicit or accept transfers of economic benefit without the permission of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner.
- Part-time Citizenship Judges shall consult with the Office of the Ethics Commission upon appointment to determine whether aspects of their professional lives outside of their work as Judges may be in a conflict of interest.
- For greater certainty a “real conflict of interest’ occurs when a Citizenship Judge has a demonstrated personal attitude, interest (either pecuniary or non-pecuniary), relationship or association (past or present) that impairs the Citizenship Judge’s ability to discharge her/his duties fairly and impartially; an “apparent conflict of interest” exists when a reasonable, well-informed person could have a reasonable perception that the existence of a personal attitude, interest (either pecuniary or non-pecuniary), relationship or association (past or present) could impair the Citizenship Judge’s ability to discharge her/his duties fairly and impartially.
- Citizenship Judges, acknowledging the permanent and pervasive nature of information technology, shall be particularly sensitive to real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest that may arise from messages and information transmitted via the Internet and other social media.
- Citizenship Judges shall not step out of their official roles to assist private entities or persons in their dealings with the government where this would result in preferential treatment to the entities or persons. Citizenship Judges shall not knowingly take advantage of, or benefit from, information that is obtained in the course of their official duties and that is not generally available to the public.
- No Citizenship Judge should provide, in the performance of his/ her official duties, preferential treatment to relatives or friends or to organizations in which they or their relatives or friends have an interest, financial or otherwise.
- No Citizenship Judge should officiate at a hearing at which relatives or friends appear, or at which representatives who are relatives or friends appear, or approve an Application for Citizenship of friends or relatives unless there is clearly no possibility of conflict of interest or the possibility of the appearance of such.
- Citizenship Judges shall refrain from giving legal or other advice to counsel or any person on any matter relating to the citizenship process, inside or outside the context of his/her work.
- If a conflict does arise between the private interests and the official duties of a Citizenship Judge, the conflict should be resolved in favour of the public interest.
- Citizenship Judges shall not directly or indirectly use, or allow the use of, government property of any kind, including property leased to the government, for anything other than officially approved activities.
- Citizenship Judge shall not:
- contribute money to political parties, candidates or leadership campaigns;
- be a member of a political party at any level of government in Canada;
- seek nomination to run as a candidate or be a candidate in an election at any level of government in Canada while simultaneously holding the post of Judge
- initiate the nomination without resigning as a Judge;
- fundraise for political purposes;
- manage a political campaign or campaign personally on behalf of a candidate in an election;
- personally display any campaign material;
- attend partisan or social events sponsored by one particular political party, a Minister, a Member of Parliament or a Senator where such events are exclusively or primarily of a political or partisan character; and
- express partisan views in a public setting where this may reasonably be seen to be incompatible with, or impair the ability to discharge the office holder’s public duties.
- use their appearances in photographs or recordings as a judge in campaign material. Use their title as “former Citizenship Judge” for purposes of being recognized as such when they are no longer Judges.
- use the title of Judge in their personal correspondence outside of the context of employment.
- No Citizenship Judge shall personally solicit funds from any person or organization if it would place them in a conflict of interest.
- Accordingly, Citizenship Judges shall exercise caution when soliciting funds from a party who could have dealings with him/her in his/her official capacities thereby placing him/her in a potential conflict of interest.
- At no time shall Citizenship Judges knowingly solicit gifts, hospitality, other benefits or transfers of economic value from a person, group or organization in the private sector who has dealings with the IRCC.
- In the course of fundraising for charitable organizations, Citizenship Judges shall ensure that they have prior authorization from the Office of The Ethics Commissioner and recognize that the activities may be curtailed, modified or terminated where it is determined that there is a real or apparent conflict of interest to solicit donations, prizes or contributions in kind from external organizations or individuals or an obligation to the donor. These principles are consistent with paragraph 121(1)(c) of the Criminal Code:
... every one commits an offence who, being an official or employee of the government, demands, accepts, or offers or agrees to accept, from a person who has dealings with the government, a commission, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind directly or indirectly, by himself or through a member of his family or through any one for his benefit, unless he has the consent in writing of the head of the branch of government that employs him or of which he is an official, the proof of which lies on him.
Citizenship Judges shall conduct themselves in a manner that will not cast doubt on their ability to perform their duties objectively.
- Judges shall always avoid:
- words, phrases and actions that could be understood to manifest bias or prejudice based on race, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other personal abilities, characteristics or beliefs; and,
- statements or questions that would be demeaning to any person, or that would manifest bias or prejudice for or against an individual or group.
Gifts or other advantages
- Citizenship Judges must scrupulously guard against creating the perception of bias. Citizenship Judges are advised not to accept any gifts, favours or benefits from persons who have or may have official dealings with IRCC or other Judges. Citizenship Judges shall not accept or solicit any gifts, hospitality or other benefits that may have a real or apparent influence on their objectivity in carrying out their official duties, in particular in the context of citizenship ceremonies, or that may place them under obligation to the donor. Courtesy gifts of nominal value may be accepted at promotional events.
- Citizenship Judges may take part in outside activities that are not inconsistent or incompatible with their official duties and responsibilities, or that do not cast doubt on their ability to perform their duties objectively.
- Outside activities means activities outside of a Citizenship Judge’s official duties in which they participate in their personal capacity, such as conferences and training seminars, volunteer activities, teaching assignments, non-political fundraising, public speeches and interviews.
- Citizenship Judges who cease to hold office continue to be bound by the obligations of confidentiality in respect of any matter arising while they were Citizenship Judges.
- In accordance with the rules set out in the Conflict of Interest Act, a former Citizenship Judge shall not represent, provide expert evidence or otherwise act on behalf of a party before a Citizenship Judge for a period of one year following the expiry of their term or the discharging of their last adjudicative function under the Act.
Compliance/reporting incidents of misconduct
- Citizenship Judges who in good faith believe there has been a breach of this Code, and reports the matter to the Director General, is protected from any reprisal.
- If the allegation is not considered frivolous or vexatious, the Director General will make whatever inquiries or investigations she/ or he determines necessary, and will communicate the outcome of the complaint to the person who made the report. If the Director General considers the allegation is substantive, the Citizenship Judge against whom the allegation was made will also be apprised at a time to be determined by the Director General.
Breaches of the code
- Breach of a provision of this Code by a Citizenship Judge may result in administrative measures instituted by the Director General. Breaches of the Code shall be referred by the Director General to the Minister for consideration. If the breach occurs in good faith or through inadvertence, such factors will be taken into account in determining if discipline is imposed and the disciplinary sanction warranted.
- Breaches of the Code to be addressed by remedies other than dismissal shall be handled by the Director General in a timely fashion.
- Breaches of a serious nature will be reported by the Director General to the Minister and to the Privy Council Office and may result in the termination, removal or suspension of the Citizenship Judge.
- Complaints made against a Citizenship Judge by members of the public will be addressed in the manner outlined in the Protocol Addressing Citizenship Judge Conduct Issues (Protocol).
- Complaints made against a Citizenship Judge by another Citizenship Judge or by IRCC staff will be handled in a manner commensurate with the Protocol.
- Complaints made about the conduct of a Citizenship Judge by another Citizenship Judge are addressed by the Director General as expediently as possible. Complaints shall be dealt with informally wherever possible. In addressing a complaint, the Director General will make informal inquiries and attempt to resolve the complaint. Where appropriate, this may involve remedial measures determined by the Director General. If necessary, the Director General may request that the matter be addressed through a mediator where warranted. The Director General may also resolve such a complaint unilaterally by concluding that it is not well founded or is serious enough to warrant a formal investigation. The Director General’s decision in resolving a complaint through the informal process is final.
- Complaints made about the conduct of a Citizenship Judge by a member of IRCC staff are addressed by the Director General in association with IRCC Officials. Complaints shall be dealt with informally where possible. Where warranted, and if all parties agree, complaints may be referred to the Office of Conflict Resolution.
- Complaints of a sufficiently serious nature are dealt with through a formal process to be determined by the Director General.
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