Evaluation of the Reviews and Interventions Pilot Project

Executive summary

Purpose of the Evaluation

This report presents the results of the evaluation of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (CIC) Reviews and Interventions (R&I) Pilot Project. The evaluation was conducted from February to October, 2014, in fulfilment of the requirements of the 2009 Treasury Board Policy on Evaluation and a commitment to evaluate the Pilot three years following implementation. The evaluation provided information to assist with decision-making with respect to the future of the R&I Pilot and will feed into the horizontal evaluation of the reforms made to the in-Canada asylum system (ICAS), which will be completed by the end of December 2015.

Background

The R&I Pilot Project (the Pilot) was launched in October, 2012 and provided funding for CIC to conduct reviews and interventions of in-Canada claims being heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) where concerns of credibility and program integrity are identified by CIC and the CBSAFootnote 1 . Conducting a review provides the opportunity for CIC to identify issues of concern that may not already be apparent in the claimant's application and by filing an intervention, CIC is ensuring that comprehensive information for a claim is brought forward for the IRB decision-makersFootnote 2 . Previously, interventions were only performed by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA); however, it focused mainly on issues of serious criminality or security concerns.

The Pilot is delivered from an office in Toronto, with two satellite offices in Vancouver and Montreal. Operational and functional guidance for the Pilot is provided by CIC's Refugee Affairs Branch and Operational Management and Coordination Branch. The total planned budget for the Pilot was $23.9 million over a 5-year period. Between January, 2013 and June, 2014, CIC conducted 10,775 reviews and 2,465 interventions of in-Canada claims.

Evaluation Scope and Methodology

The evaluation of the Pilot was conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Treasury Board Directive on the Evaluation Function (2009) and examined issues of relevance and performance. As the Pilot was recently established, the evaluation examined:

  1. the implementation of the Pilot to assess the extent to which CIC was successful in implementing a function to conduct reviews and interventions;
  2. whether any operational challenges or efficiencies resulted; and
  3. the added-value that was gained by creating the function.

An assessment of the CBSA's reviews and interventions function was not within the scope of this evaluation. The evaluation covered the first year of implementation of the Pilot, starting with the coming-into-force of the reforms in December, 2012, through to the end of December, 2013.

Data collection for this evaluation took place between March and July, 2014, and included multiple lines of evidence (i.e., document review, interviews, focus groups, program data analysis) to help ensure the strength of information and data collected.

Evaluation Findings

Implementation of the Pilot

  • The Pilot was implemented as intended, in that a function was put in place for CIC to be able to review and intervene on cases where it identified concerns with respect to credibility and program integrity. Modifications were made to timing, budget, scope; which differed from the original implementation plan.
  • The biggest implementation challenges faced by the Pilot have been high staff turnover, the paper-based process with the IRB, a lack of training and tools for R&I staff, and coordination issues between CIC and the CBSA.
  • Mechanisms for communication and coordination at senior levels within the regions and between the R&I offices and CIC are in place, and are viewed as effective by interviewees. However there are limited formal communication and coordination mechanisms in place between CIC and the CBSA.

Impact of and Efficiency of the Pilot

  • The Reviews and Interventions Pilot has positively contributed to the integrity of the asylum system because it has identified issues of credibility and program integrity and brought that information forward to IRB decision-makers, which may not have previously been available.
  • There is evidence that the R&I information is being used in IRB decision-making and that interventions have had an impact on acceptance rates of in-Canada claims, particularly on a per-country basis.
  • Overall, CIC was able to conduct the number of reviews and interventions for which it was funded, although it was necessary to review claims that were made prior to the reforms coming into force to meet these targets.
  • CIC's reviews and interventions function did not have a negative impact on CBSA hearings processes or IRB registry processes, nor did it contribute significantly to delays in the holding of Refugee Protection Division hearings.

Relevance

  • There is a need to conduct reviews and interventions for credibility and program integrity reasons to ensure that comprehensive information is brought forward for the IRB decision-making process, therefore contributing to the overall integrity of the asylum system.
  • The R&I Pilot is aligned with departmental and governmental priorities related to improving the integrity of the asylum system.
  • The government of Canada has a legislated responsibility to protect refugees, but to also ensure the integrity of the refugee system, which is aligned with the objectives of the Pilot. The roles of the CBSA and CIC in conducting reviews and interventions are in alignment with their respective departmental mandates. However, from an operational perspective, greater clarity is required with respect to the division of responsibilities, particularly around the triage process and hybrid cases.

Recommendations

If CIC were to regularize the R&I Pilot into a permanent program, the following programs should be considered:

  1. CIC should develop a policy framework, in consultation with the CBSA, which outlines CIC's authorities for the Reviews and Interventions function, including:
    • identifying what information can be gathered and from what sources;
    • clarifying protocols around information sharing, with government departments and non-government organizations; and
    • establishing guidance and parameters for the conduct of interventions (i.e., when an intervention should be conducted).
  2. CIC should work with the CBSA to ensure that the mandates of each department and respective roles and responsibilities for hybrid cases and the triage process are clearly defined, documented, and communicated to all staff.
  3. CIC should work with the CBSA to identify and establish the necessary instruments and processes (such as information sharing agreements) to obtain and/or exchange information that is required to conduct reviews and interventions (e.g., document analysis).
  4. CIC should address the gaps in training and tools, including training on the Refugee Appeal Division and CIC information systems, developing standard operating procedures, and obtaining additional analytical tools.
  5. In order to address the R&I data issues identified through the evaluation:
    • CIC should ensure that appropriate performance measures are identified for the Reviews and Interventions function and integrated in existing relevant Performance Measurement Strategies where applicable; and
    • CIC should ensure that performance data related to the Reviews and Interventions function are being collected and reported in a consistent way across the department.
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