Not Just the Luck of the Draw? Exploring Competency of Counsel and Other Qualitative Factors in Federal Court Refugee Leave Determinations (2005-2010)




refugee, appeal, judicial review, Federal Court, Canada


Refugee claimants who have received a negative decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board sometimes seek judicial treview at the Federal Court in Canada. Previous statistical studies, in particular Sean Rehaag’s (2012) study, “The Luck of the Draw,” have reported that rejected refugee claimants seeking judicial review face low and inconsistent leave grant rates, with chances of success largely dependent on judge assignment. The present research looks beyond these quantitative findings to identify additional factors that may explain the troubling statistics. To this end, four researchers manually reviewed 50 leave applications submitted between 2005 and 2010 and included in Rehaag’s (2012) data set. The results of this qualitative analysis are disturbing: a significant number of rejected leave applications had been poorly prepared, and a number of facially strong cases were denied leave. These results suggest that leave grant rates could rise if the quality of legal representation were enhanced. They also indicate that rejected refugee claimants would benefit from clear and uniformly applied criteria for granting leave.


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Author Biographies

Jamie Chai Yun Liew, University of Ottawa

Jamie Liew is an immigration lawyer and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. She can be reached at

Pia Zambelli, Independent

Pia Zambelli is a refugee lawyer practising in Montreal and a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. She can be reached at

Pierre-André Thériault, Osgood Hall Law School

Pierre-André Thériault is a doctoral candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. He can be reached at

Maureen Silcoff, Silcoff Shacter

Maureen Silcoff is a partner at Silcoff Shacter. She can be reached at


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How to Cite

Liew, J. C. Y., Zambelli, P., Thériault, P.-A., & Silcoff, M. (2021). Not Just the Luck of the Draw? Exploring Competency of Counsel and Other Qualitative Factors in Federal Court Refugee Leave Determinations (2005-2010). Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 37(1), 61–72.

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