Last updated on May 12th, 2019

Last Updated on May 12, 2019 by Steven Meurrens

In John v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2016 FC 915, Justice Brown provided a helpful summary on how psychological reports are to be treated by the Immigration and Refugee Board and visa officers.

He wrote:

Having come to this conclusion, it is not necessary to deal with the other issues re the psychologist’s report and the Gender Guidelines. However, in connection with the psychologist’s report, the RPD appears to have rejected the psychologist’s report on grounds that were directly and recently criticized by the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada in Kanthasamy v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 SCC 61 (Kanthasamy). The RPD states at paras 13-14 of the Decision:

[13] The panel, however, does not find [the psychotherapist’s] assessment to be persuasive evidence and determines that [the psychotherapist] is in no position to state categorically that the PC’s mental and emotional state are the result of her alleged problems in Antigua.

[14] (…) The panel finds that, although the PC may be suffering from anxiety and depression, this may or may not be related to the causes described by the PC in her evidence. Accordingly, the panel gives the psychological assessment, no weight.

[emphasis added]

In Kanthasamy at para 49, the Supreme Court rejected this approach to psychological reports:

And while the Officer did not “dispute the psychological report presented”, she found that the medical opinion “rest[ed] mainly on hearsay” because the psychologist was “not a witness of the events that led to the anxiety experienced by the applicant”. This disregards the unavoidable reality that psychological reports like the one in this case will necessarily be based to some degree on “hearsay”. Only rarely will a mental health professional personally witness the events for which a patient seeks professional assistance. To suggest that applicants for relief on humanitarian and compassionate grounds may only file expert reports from professionals who have witnessed the facts or events underlying their findings, is unrealistic and results in the absence of significant evidence. In any event, a psychologist need not be an expert on country conditions in a particular country to provide expert information about the probable psychological effect of removal from Canada.

[emphasis added]

Maharaj v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 78 dealt with a similar situation.  There, the Immigration Appeal Division wrote:

The appellants alleged numerous sources of hardship if this appeal were dismissed. They provided a psychological examination [footnote omitted] stating they both exhibited significant distress, depressive effect and hypervigilance associated with the possibility of not being allowed to remain in Canada. This report concludes the appellants would suffer significantly from depression and despondency if this appeal were dismissed. I will give little weight to this report for two principal reasons. The first is that the author spent only 50 minutes with the appellants. The fact that neither appellant sought further medical treatment after receiving the evaluation diminishes its credibility. Both appellants testified they either gained or lost weight because of the uncertainty of their status but the evidence also suggested the male appellant was affected by other chronic diseases which may also explain these changes. The general stress from the uncertainty of their status is a consequence of their failure to respect their residency obligations for reasons I did not find compelling.

Justice Brown (again) set aside the decision, stating that in light of Kanthasamy it was unreasonable for officers to require evidence of future treatment.

Having said this, it is important to note that visa officers do not have to treat as determinative medical recommendations as to who can best care for an individual, as the Federal Court ruled in Guerrero Valenzuela v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 250.