On June 7, the Federal Court released its decision in Ariyaratnam v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 608 (“Ariyaratnam“) The case involved a 28 year old from Sri Lanka whose Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (“PRRA“) and Humanitarian & Compassionate applications were refused.
The appellant argued in Federal Court that the assessing officer (the “Officer“) had a duty to consider a UNHCR report that would have bolstered the applicant’s claim (the “Report“). The Report was released a few weeks before the Officer released her decision, and the Officer did not consider it.
The Federal Court found that PRRA Officers do not have a positive obligation to review, on their own initiative, the most recent reports published by the UNHCR concerning the country that they are reviewing.
The Federal Court gave two reasons for this.
First, it found that requiring PRRA officers read certain materials would be inconsistent with administrative tribunals having a high degree of deference. Second, the Report was issued only a few weeks before the Officer’s decision, and it would be unrealistic to expect PRRA officers to monitor continuously the conditions in all applicants’ countries of origin and update their analysis on an ongoing basis.
There are, however, incidents where officers do have a duty to consider country reports. In Sinnasamy v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2008 FC 67, a PRRA officer apparently erroneously relied on a UNHCR report to conclude that an applicant did not fit the profile of people that were persecuted in Colombo. The Federal Court stated that where an officer cites a document in support of a conclusion, than the PRRA officer must address evidence in the document that is contrary to the officer’s conclusion.
In Christopher v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2008 FC 964, meanwhile, the Federal Court found that where an applicant introduces reports that are contrary to the conclusion ultimately reached by a PRRA officer, then the officer must address the report.
The implication of the above decisions are clear. Section 96 and 97 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act place the onus of adducing sufficient evidence to establish a well founded fear of persecution on applicants. It thus behoves counsel to monitor their sources of country information for any developments that can strengthen a claim, and to make sure that that evidence makes it to reviewing officers.