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Refugee Law's Fact-Finding Crisis


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Table of Contents

Introduction; Part I: 1. The wrong mistake; 1.1. The traditional economic approach; 1.2. A psychologically founded theory; 1.3. A comparative study; 1.4. Conclusion; Part II: 2. Setting the scene; 2.1. At the refugee board; 2.2. At the Federal Court; 2.3. The case study: method and findings; 3. The wrong mistake: sending a refugee home; 3.1. Wrongly disbelieving the claimant; 3.2. Overlooking objective danger; 3.3. Denying claims on procedural grounds; 3.4. Conclusion; 4. Resolving doubt in the claimant's favour; 4.1. The burden of proof; 4.2. Standards of proof; 4.3. Presumption of truthfulness; 4.4. Conclusion; 5. The wrong mistake: accepting an unfounded claim;: 5.1. Refugee claimants are ordinary litigants; 5.2. The member is an ordinary decision-maker; 5.3. Conclusion; 6. Resolving doubt at the claimant's expense; 6.1. The burden of proof; 6.2. Standards of proof; 6.3. Presumptions; 6.4. Conclusion; 7. In the hearing room: 7.1. Conflicting standards of proof; 7.2. Permissible inferences: rational action and memory; 7.3. Conclusion; Part III: 8. A way forward; 8.1. The wrong mistake in international refugee law; 8.2. The Karanakaran approach; 8.3. Refugee status determination as an abductive risk assessment; 8.4. Conclusion.

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Hilary Evans Cameron demonstrates how the law that governs fact-finding in refugee hearings is malfunctioning, and suggests a way forward.

About the Author

A former litigator, Hilary Evans Cameron represented refugee claimants for a decade. She holds a doctorate in refugee law from the University of Toronto and is the author of numerous publications including a book about the law of fact-finding in refugee status decision-making (Refugee Law's Fact-finding Crisis: Truth, Risk, and the Wrong Mistake, Cambridge 2018). Her research, which largely focuses on credibility assessment in refugee status decision-making, has been influential internationally and was included in a leading anthology of 'the finest scholarship available' in refugee law from the 1930s to the present (Hathaway 2014). Dr. Evans Cameron was the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's 2017 Bora Laskin National Fellow in Human Rights Research. She is an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University's Faculty of Law.


'Hilary Evans Cameron's book is a meticulously researched account of the way in which judges' 'error preferences' inform their approach to asylum fact-finding. She shows not only that there has been a failure to agree to the rules applicable to nearly every aspect of the refugee fact-finding process, but that disagreement derives from a conflict of judicial values. Cameron makes a unique contribution to resolving this muddle, developing a theory of fact-finding anchored in the importance of doing justice to the predicament of asylum-seekers as vulnerable persons.' James C. Hathaway, University of Michigan Law School
'This is a profound and brilliant book that should be read by all asylum claim decision-makers, judges, refugee lawyers, tribunal administrators, and asylum policy makers. Hilary Evans Cameron exposes the unexamined flaws within the laws of fact-finding related to refugee claim decisions. She performs an incisive autopsy on the body of ambiguous Canadian jurisprudence that allows decision-makers to justify arbitrary and inconsistent decisions. With scalpel-like efficiency, she peels away the layers of false rationales that decision-makers use to paper over the inescapable truth that refugee decisions are built upon radical, evidentiary uncertainty. Thankfully, Dr Cameron does offer more honest and effective judicial tools, namely risk analysis and abductive reasoning. These tools are more Swiss Army knife than magic wand, but they are desperately needed in a world of asylum law that ignores gross inconsistencies between decision-makers and between countries.' Peter Showler, former Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

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