I have applied for refugee status in Canada. What kind of evidence do I need to support my claim and how do I gather it?

Question: 
I have applied for refugee status in Canada. What kind of evidence do I need to support my claim and how do I gather it?
Answer: 

Try to get documents that can help prove your case. Talk to your lawyer about what kind of documents you can get and make every effort to get those documents right away.

Make a note of every phone call, email, fax, letter, or any attempt you make to get documents. Also keep track of all responses you receive. Evidence of your efforts to get documents can help you at your hearing. If you are unable to get documents to help prove your identity and your claim, you will have to explain at the hearing why you could not do so and what efforts you made.

When you get documents, give them to your lawyer immediately. The sooner you give the documents to your lawyer, the more time they will have to get them translated and filed in time to meet the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) deadlines.

Keep the originals of all your documents. Also keep any envelopes in which documents were sent to you, as you may need to show them during your hearing.

Identity documents

It is important to try to get documents that prove who you are. If Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) have identity documents of yours—for example, your passport—they will send copies to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

The best proof of your identity is usually a document issued by a government. For example, a passport, a birth certificate, a national identity card or residence card, or a driver's licence. Other types of identity documents include school records and a baptismal certificate.

If you cannot get any identity documents, talk to your lawyer about other options. You might need to try and get a statement from someone who knows you or has another way to confirm facts about you.

For example, someone who knew you before you came to Canada may be able to testify that you are who you say you are. Or someone from a community organization might be able to interview you and say that you speak a dialect that is specific to a region.

Other documents

Other types of documents that might help support your claim could include:

  • proof of membership in an organization, political party, or religious faith
  • police reports
  • medical reports (from your country or from doctors who have seen you since you came to Canada)
  • human rights reports, such as those from Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, or newspaper accounts that show what is happening in your country. (The IRB's website may have a National Documentation Package for your country which contains documents on issues that are relevant to refugee protection claims from your country.)

Translating documents in support of your claim

You will need to have documents translated if they are not in English or French.  It is best to use a professional translator because a poor translation can seriously affect your chances of success.

Each translation should include a signed statement by the translator giving their name and the language (and dialect, if any) that the documents are translated from. The translator must also say that the translation is accurate.

Filing documents in support of your claim

The rules say that you must file copies of documents that you have in support of your claim with the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) at least 10 days before your hearing date. In the case of identity documents, you are supposed to file two copies of the document with the RPD.

All documents that you file should be single-sided and on standard letter-size paper. Put your file number on all the documents that you file. Keep the originals of the copies that you file with the RPD and bring them to your hearing.

You can file documents by

  • taking them to the RPD yourself,
  • having a courier deliver them, or
  • faxing them to the RPD if you have no more than 20 pages in total.

You cannot file your documents by email.

You should ask for proof that you filed documents with the RPD in case you need to prove that you filed them and the date.

If you file them or have a courier deliver the documents, you should include an extra copy. The RPD can date-stamp the extra copy. If you fax the documents, get a fax confirmation sheet. Bring proof of filing to your hearing.

Providing information about witnesses

Tell your lawyer if you think there are people who can give evidence that could help your case. If you have witnesses who will testify at your hearing, the rules say you must give the RPD certain information about them in writing at least 10 days before your hearing.

If a witness cannot attend your hearing, they might be able to testify over the phone or sign a statutory declaration (sworn statement) giving their evidence in writing.

Getting legal help

Applying for refugee status in Canada is complicated. It is easy to make a serious mistake. It is important to try to get legal help. For more information visit: http://refugeehearing.cleo.on.ca/legal-help/

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