Introducing Kinbrace – Refugee Housing & Support
Kinbrace Community Society is one of our newest Clicklaw Core Contributor Organizations.
What does Kinbrace do?
Kinbrace, a Vancouver-based non-profit charity, assists people arriving in Canada seeking refugee protection.
They facilitate the often nerve-wracking transition by providing help with housing, integration, well-being, and access to refugee protection. The Kinbrace residence hosts 12-15 residents at a time, and residents receive the support of Kinbrace staff, interns and volunteers.
Resources for refugee claimants & service providers
Kinbrace has offered workshops to educate service providers and refugee claimants alike on Canada’s refugee protection system.
Kinbrace also publishes the (recently updated) Refugee Hearing Preparation Guide for several regions, available in six languages for BC: English, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Farsi/Persian, French, and Spanish.
The guide is clear, friendly and straightforward with: information on gathering and submitting evidence, legal issues to consider, checklists, explanations of terminology and answers to frequently asked questions. It directs readers through the refugee hearing process timeline. It is invaluable not only for refugee claimants but for support workers who can use the guide in their work.
They also offer the amazing READY Tours program.
What are READY Tours?
Refugee claimants are given the unique opportunity to see the inside of a refugee hearing room at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. A staff member of the Refugee Protection Division (IRB-RPD) provides information and answers questions.
What’s a READY Tour like?
Thanks to Fran Gallo, READY Coordinator at Kinbrace, I had the opportunity to observe a READY Tour in early October at the IRB, located right next to the VPL Central Branch in Downtown Vancouver.
Refugee claimants, volunteer translators and Fran meet at the second-floor lounge of the building where Fran quickly makes sure everyone is equipped with the Guide, a pamphlet from the Red Cross, and a “test sheet” to see what attendees know about the process before, then what they’ve learned after the tour. Fran gathers information about the claimants’ hearing dates, whether they have a lawyer (maybe for the hearing only), and if the individual is applying alone or with others (family).
The tour proceeds upstairs with a staff person of the IRB-RPD–for our tour today, we get the Registrar. She tells us that she will answer questions only about the hearing, not the appeal. She speaks slowly so that the interpreters have time to translate: Check in at the glass window. Come 30 minutes before your hearing – witnesses and observers too. This is the hearing room. Someone will make sure all parties are present and direct you to the appropriate room. You can step out during breaks.
The room itself is about 15×15 feet. We’re full up as the tour has about 20 people in attendance. The Registrar explains that they are an independent administrative tribunal, separate from CIC and the CBSA. The Refugee Protection Division makes decisions on who needs protection – this is all in the Guide. She cannot give advice or specifics. There are requirements and limitation dates, people who may or may not be present at the hearing from heavily acronymed organizations: the CBSA or CIC, the UNHCR, legal issues that must be focused on (identity, credibility, state protection).
The process can appear daunting. However, most attendees report learning helpful information about what they should prepare and being more relaxed for their hearing. It’s easy to see why the READY tours are so valuable. The tours began in 2008 as a collaborative initiative between Kinbrace, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the IRB-RPD. Thousands of refugee claimants and service providers have since participated in the experience.
Find out more about the READY Tours here.