The premise that objective, current and reliable information is essential to good decision making is central to the philosophy that inspired the creation of the Research Directorate of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and continues to govern its activities. The provision of Country of Origin research to all parties in the refugee protection determination process makes a valuable contribution to informed decision-making and the integrity of Canada's refugee protection system.
All information used in the Research Directorate's documents is carefully selected from publicly available sources and full publication details of supporting documentation are provided. Multiple sourcing is used to ensure that the information is accurate, balanced and corroborated, and that the most comprehensive picture possible is given of conditions in the countries of origin of refugee claimants within time and resource constraints. Information is compared, contrasted and corroborated, whenever possible, to provide decision makers with a spectrum of views and opinions drawn from current, reliable sources.
Researchers assess available information based on the following criteria:
- How up-to-date is the information?
- Who is the author?
- Does the information come from an anonymous source?
- What are/is the qualifications/expertise of the author?
- What is the reputation of the publication/publisher?
- Does the author/publisher display any bias?
- What is the source of the information on which the document is based?
- Has the document been edited?
- Are there partial quotes (possibly misquotes or quotes taken out of context)?
- Is the information consistent with other reliable evidence?
- Are there other publications by same author?
- Is there any opportunity to interview the author?
- Where does the author's knowledge of the subject matter come from?
- What is the "tone" of the document? (Is it impartial?)
- To what extent is the document based on opinion?
- To what extent is the document based on observable facts?
- For what purpose was the document prepared?
- Are there any alterations apparent on the face of the document?
- Are there any spelling errors in the official document?
- How does the document compare with a known genuine document?
- Have the contents of the document been sworn to be true?
About Social Media Research
While the Chairperson’s Instructions for Gathering and Disclosing Information for Refugee Protection Proceedings (Chairperson’s Instructions) specifies procedures for obtaining publicly accessible country information —usually country-of-origin information (COI) and non-publicly accessible claimant specific information, other publicly accessible information about a claimant or a private individual is not readily addressed. Therefore, in collaboration with the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) deputy chair, the Research Directorate (RD) has developed a separate process to respond to member requests to gather information about the claimant from publicly accessible Internet sites, and in particular, social media sites. For the purpose of this research, social media refers to websites and applications that allow users to create online communities to share information, pictures, videos, personal messages, blogs and other content. Popular examples include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.
Members can submit a Social Media Information Request Form (SMIRF) to the Research Directorate. The form includes specific data fields that will help guide the search such as name, alternate names and spellings, date of birth or age, geographic location, gender, etc. It also includes a provision for members to acknowledge that they have made a risk assessment and that there is not a serious possibility that the life, liberty or security of a person will be endangered as a result of conducting the research.
Social Media Research Methodology
The RD will employ a non-invasive methodology to conduct the research. This means that the individual’s name, including relevant variations on spelling and abbreviations, will be entered into Internet search engines and/or specific social media websites (when requested) to find relevant information. Requesters are encouraged to suggest alternate spellings in their request, as well as any other name that the individual may be known by, including nicknames or alternate names.
RD staff will not enroll as members of social media websites like Facebook in order to gain access to other members. Nor will they create an account with pseudonymous identities in order to access certain sites. Depending on the social media website, this may limit or eliminate access to information. Please note that searches will only be carried out in either or both official languages to a maximum of one hour per request.
The results of the research—including when no information is found—will be communicated to the requesting member via a memorandum which can be used for disclosure. All sources consulted in the course of conducting the research will be identified in the memorandum. While the RD will maintain a record of research results, the results will not be included in research databases or the IRB website as they are only likely to be relevant to the specific case for which they were requested. The RD will not assess the relevance of the information to the claim. The member hearing the claim is responsible for analyzing the relevance of the information and assessing its probative value.
Other Research Questions About The Claimant
Questions about the claimant, relatives of the claimant, or verification of an individual associated with a specific refugee claim, for example, a police officer, should be submitted to the Research Directorate using the Acquisition of Information Form (AIF). The AIF process—performed by the RD’s Specific Information Research Unit (SIRU)—complies with the Chairperson’s Instructions and allows for notice to be given to the claimant and a risk assessment to be conducted by the member. This is typically necessary when SIRU has to contact a government authority, agency, Canadian or foreign embassies, newspapers or other organizations such as employers, NGOs, political parties, religious organizations, law enforcement agencies, etc. whether or not in the country of alleged persecution.