3. Learn who will be at your hearing

Refugee hearings take place in private to protect you and your family. You and any family members who are part of your claim are allowed to participate in your refugee hearing. The hearings are not open to the public. You can invite a friend or someone to offer emotional support at your hearing.

The following people can also be at your hearing:

  • Legal representative: A licensed lawyer, paralegal, or immigration consultant can represent you. You can also be represented by an unpaid representative. See Getting Legal Help for more information about how to choose a legal representative.
  • Board member: The Board member decides if your refugee claim should be accepted. They will ask you questions about your claim and the documents you submitted.
  • Minister’s Counsel: Minister’s Counsel is a representative that the Government of Canada sometimes sends to refugee hearings. You will receive a Notice of Intervention if they plan to attend. The Minister’s Counsel usually comes to your hearing if IRCC thinks you’re not telling the truth, you’re using false documents, or CBSA believes you’ve been involved in serious crime or broke human rights laws. Sometimes they don’t come to your hearing but will send written arguments about your case for the Board member to consider.
  • If you ask to have an interpreter at your hearing, the Refugee Board will provide one at no cost to you. If you can’t understand the interpreter, tell your legal representative and the Board member right away.
  • You can bring witnesses to your hearing if they will help prove information about your claim. At the hearing, witnesses must answer questions about what they know. The witness must wait outside of the hearing room until it is their time to testify. 
  • You can have one or two people you trust at your hearing to support you. Observers sit at the back of the room and can’t say anything in the hearing. They must identify themselves when they come to the hearing.

At your refugee hearing, you will be asked questions by different people, including:

  • the Board member,
  • your lawyer or legal representative, if you have one, and
  • the Minister’s Counsel, if there is one.
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