Refugee Law’s Fact-Finding Crisis: Truth, Risk, and the Wrong Mistake


Chancellor Day Hall NCDH 203, 3644 rue Peel, Montreal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA

The Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law is pleased to welcome Dr. Hilary Evans Cameron, Trinity College, University of Toronto.

Description: In any area of law, the rules that govern fact-finding are built on a judgment about which potential error a decision-maker should prefer. Refugee law has not engaged with this question, even though refugee status determinations typically rest on findings of fact. This hole in the law’s normative foundations may well be undermining refugee protection across the globe, for as a review of the Canadian Federal Court’s jurisprudence makes clear, it is contributing daily to the dysfunction of one the world’s most respected refugee determination systems.

This presentation argues that refugee law should recognize an obligation under the Convention to resolve doubt in the claimant’s favour. What is more, to meet its Convention obligations refugee status determination must function as a risk assessment. Building on UK and Australian jurisprudence, this presentation proposes a decision-making model that gives effect to these two legal imperatives.