The project is divided into the following three components of the research methodology:
1. Implicit theories used in Refugee Protection Division judgments of claims
A central component of the project was to conduct qualitative research through the assessment of cases from the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada. A key objective was to see how adjudicators base their decisions on implicit theories (inferences or assumptions) about the religiousness of claimants.
The cases selected had to have religion as the only reason for persecution or religion contributing a substantial part in their fear of persecution. The cases also had to include religious inferences to be included in the research.
The researchers created an initial codebook by using a previous study on credibility issues by Hilary Evans Cameron. Building on this study, a new code categorization was developed, including allegation, legal, credibility, religious, summary, and administrative codes. Codes were identified as cases were analyzed. As these codes were categorized, researchers developed an understanding about the various types of implicit theories.
Allegation codes represent the claimant’s description of the causes of persecution without any inferences from the adjudicator. Religious codes represent the inferences or assumptions about the religiousness of the claimant and its connection to the claimant’s psychology, behaviour, or relationships. Legal codes are tests of legitimate refugee status (e.g., subjective fear of persecution, objective basis for fear). Credibility codes pertain to the reliability and believability of the claimant’s testimony. This testimony may include documentary evidence in support of a specific legal test. Summary codes are legal codes that identify one concluding sentence or paragraph with no inferences within it. Administrative codes are notes, typically near the beginning of the judgment, that give general direction for testing and judgment.
Researchers used the qualitative research software NVIVO to apply codes from the categories described above, with a focus on the assumptions that the adjudicator used. The background of the cases, including the context of persecution and demographics of the claimant, were recorded. We also noted whether the outcome of a legal test, credibility assessment, or summary statement was in the claimant’s favour or not.
2. Canadian refugee law according to appeal and judicial review cases
Another component of the project focused on a review of case law. Case law is made up of the written decisions of adjudicators in appeal cases within the higher courts. The review of case law followed standard techniques for writing law reviews using publicly available online sources such as www.canlii.org. Similar reviews of refugee law in other countries show that there may be interesting trends that distinguish the Canadian perspective in terms of policy developments, institutional pressures, historical events, and national values.
3. Theories to help us understand the religiosity and experience of refugees
This component of the project identified the religious and non-religious psychological theories that could inform how claimants should be viewed. A systematic literature review was designed to explore: 1) research on the psychology of persecution; 2) research on the psychology of refugees mainly before, but also after migration; 3) narrative accounts of religious refugee experience; and 4) research on the experience of similar marginalized groups. In the review of research on the effects of violence and discrimination on the stigma and distress of refugees, three fields—law, psychology, and religion—are integrated. It is hoped that these findings about the experiences of displaced peoples will enlighten those who seek to support them.