Ministerial Influence at the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board: The Case for Institutional Bias

Jacqueline Bonisteel


This paper explores the implications of Canada’s Immigration
Minister Jason Kenney’s July 2009 comments on
Mexican and Czech refugee claimants that accompanied
the imposition of visas for these two countries. I argue
that the Minister’s comments, in concert with his control
over the tenure of Immigration and Refugee Board members,
substantiate a claim that the Board is institutionally
biased. While allegations of institutional bias have not
fared particularly well in Canadian courts, I contend that
the applicability of section 7 Charter rights distinguishes
the immigration and refugee context, and makes success
more probable. Specifically, I posit that the Minister’s
comments have opened a window of opportunity to bring
an end to the executive’s unfettered discretion over IRB
reappointments, since the most effective remedy to address
institutional bias would be amendment of the reappointment

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