Abuse: Interview considerations
This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.
The purpose of the interview is to gather information to make a decision on the application. An interview may only be required if there are concerns related to eligibility or admissibility for the application. If there are indicators that the client is being subjected to abuse and an interview is required to assess the application, the officer may need to clarify the situation of abuse during the interview to better address the situation, assess its impact on the application and refer the person to available resources.
On this page
- Interview style
- Interpreter considerations
- Factors for a safety risk assessment
- Referrals to resources for victims of abuse
While gathering information, officers should do the following to remain sensitive and not re-victimize people who report abuse:
- Create optimum conditions to minimize stress. If the person is unable to complete the interview, officers should allow for frequent breaks, if necessary and to the extent possible.
- Be conscious of cultural and gender issues which may affect communication such as the interviewee and officer being the same gender, where possible.
- Speak to the interviewee alone first in a confidential setting and ask if they are comfortable speaking in front of family members (particularly parents or male relatives).
- Treat the person with sensitivity and with empathy and with full respect of their human rights.
- Provide the person with a fair opportunity to tell the story.
- One chance rule: There may be only 1 opportunity to speak to a victim of abuse and refer them to victim support services. The individual may have limited opportunity to reach out to authorities. Requests for assistance should be treated as a high priority, when possible.
- Be courteous, respectful, sensitive and aware of own biases.
- Avoid an authoritarian approach.
- Avoid over-familiarity through eye contact or body language.
- Ask simple questions and use encouragement.
- Use active listening.
- Allow free speech and avoid interruption.
- Be aware that some questions may cause a victim to recall painful events.
- The victim may need to take a break at any time.
- People who are vulnerable may require special accommodations during the interview.
- Victims of severe trauma may have difficulties coping with the interview process because they are confined to a closed room with the interviewer.
- Children who are victims of abuse may fear people in authority and may be intimidated by the many questions that are being asked by officials.
- Officers should be aware that individuals react to violence and trauma in various ways, and not all victims of violence and or trauma exhibit identical or even similar symptoms. While some individuals may show signs of distress, including anxiety, irritability, nervousness, agitation, anger and aggressiveness, others may be easily intimidated and may have difficulty communicating.
- If sufficient evidence of abuse is available via other means, such as a medical report, then it may not be necessary to gather information on the abuse during the interview.
- If a person indicates that they are uncomfortable with a question about the abuse situation, if the information is not necessary for the assessment of the application, don’t insist that they respond to it or probe for more information on that particular issue. If it is, explain why this information is needed for the assessment of the case. Officers may then need to let go of the line of questioning and return to it at a later point in the interview.
Interpretation services may be required, and may be provided by the Department. If the person needs an interpreter, the person should agree to the choice of interpreter before the person’s identity is revealed to the potential interpreter, to avoid accidentally increasing the danger to them by using family or community members.
- Avoid assuming that the person wants to speak to an interpreter from their own ethnic or linguistic community
- Be conscious of cultural and gender issues which may affect communication such as the interviewer and interpreter being the same gender, where possible.
- If possible, offer the person the choice of having a male or female interpreter.
- Before the interview, ensure that the interpreter is informed of and understands the standards of confidentiality and professionalism that are expected.
- At the start of the interview, provide an opportunity for the interpreter to fully explain their role, code of conduct and duties of confidentiality.
- Remain alert to any difficulties or distress exhibited by the client during the interpretation.
- After the interview, de-brief the interpreter on the importance of maintaining confidentiality.
For more information on interpretation services, see
Factors for safety risk assessment
In assessing the nature and level of risk to the safety of the person, the officer should consider the following:
- What is the victim’s current immigration status? Are there any fears around this?
- How isolated are they?
- Has the person reported receiving direct or indirect threats of serious physical harm or death?
- Has the person’s family previously used or expressed their approval of violence or the use of force to ensure compliance with a marriage?
- Is the person pregnant?
- If the person is married, are they seeking a divorce?
- Does the person have severely restricted freedom? (For example, are there family members who constantly “accompany” them to class, to work, or wherever they go? Do they neither possess a cellular telephone nor have internet access?)
- Have other family members run away, or attempted or committed suicide?
- Are any other family members at risk of harm or danger?
Referrals to resources for victims of abuse
Officers should consider the need to refer victims of abuse to available resources in the community.
If referring the victim to online tools to find resources, the victim should be advised to
- use a device to which the abuser does not have access (for example, library, trusted family or friend’s device (computer, tablet, telephone) or device at work)
- cover their tracks by
- having a quick exit strategy (for example, having another page open for browsing if using a computer)
- clearing search history
- clearing cookies
Resources in Canada
|Type of service||Available resources|
|Counselling and healthcare||
|Protection orders and legal options||
The following webpages list resources for victims of abuse who are outside Canada:
- HotPeachPages: International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies
- Country specific hotlines
- Pixel Project: Directory of local domestic violence agencies
Canadian citizens can also reach out to Global Affairs Canada – Consular Services
- by email at email@example.com
- by telephone
- outside Canada
- 613-996-8885 (call collect where available)
- toll-free numbers in some countries
- inside Canada (only for preventative advice for Canadian citizens who are at risk of being taken abroad)
- 1-800-387-3124 (toll-free from the United States (U.S.) and Canada only)
- outside Canada
The officer may also suggest online resources (see the links in the section above), however be mindful that the safety planning kits were developed for victims physically in Canada and some aspects may not be appropriate for victims overseas.
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