My refugee protection hearing is coming up soon. What will the hearing be like? How should I deal with the questions I am asked?

Question: 
My refugee protection hearing is coming up soon. What will the hearing be like? How should I deal with the questions I am asked?
Answer: 

CLEO has produced a resource called "Your Refugee Hearing" where you can find a virtual hearing room. In this resource, you can see a drawing of what a typical refugee hearing room looks like, who is likely to be there and each person’s role during the hearing. For more information see: http://refugeehearing.cleo.on.ca/hearing-room/

The hearing may be long and tiring for you. An average hearing lasts about 3.5 hours. Some hearings are not completed on the same day. Take a drink of water when you need one. There is usually a break half way through a hearing. But you can ask for a break if you need to use the washroom, take medication, have something to eat, or need a few moments to recover from speaking about difficult experiences. 

You should turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices. You should not chew gum or eat in the hearing room.

For most of the hearing, you will be answering questions about your claim. If Minister's counsel is taking part in the hearing, they will ask questions first. If not, the Board member will ask you questions first, followed by your lawyer.

You will be asked questions about the issues that Minister’s counsel or the Board member consider important to your case. They will start with some easy questions, like your name and where you live, before asking the more difficult questions.

When you are being questioned:

  • Listen carefully to the question. Wait until the whole question is asked before you answer.
  • If you do not understand a question, say so. You can also ask for a question to be repeated.
  • Answer only the question that is asked.
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, do not guess. Say that you do not know or do not remember.
  • If you are not sure of exact dates or other information, say that you are not sure but will answer the question as best you can.
  • Speak slowly.If you are using an interpreter, they need to be able to interpret every word accurately. The Board member will be taking notes and needs time to write.
  • Speak in a clear, strong voice.The microphone in front of you only records what you say. It does not make your voice louder.
  • Do your best to describe in detail what happened to you,even if it means talking about things that you normally keep private. The Board member has heard other refugee claims and has probably heard similar evidence before.
  • Do not exaggerate or add detailsthat go beyond what you can recall. If the Board member thinks you are not being truthful about something, they may not believe other things that you say.
  • Do not interrupt when the Board member or anyone else is speaking. Only one person is allowed to speak at a time.

Some questions may be hard to answer or seem unfair. Stay calm and answer honestly. Take a deep breath or a drink of water when you need to.

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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