Observers’ guide for public virtual hearings

​​​​​​Members of the public may observe public hearings held virtually before the IRB​. Any person who attends a hearing, but is not a participant, is an observer.

This guide outlines what you can expect as an observer at a public virtual hearing and what you may and may not do. It’s important to follow these procedures. They help ensure that people appearing before the Board get a fair and efficient hearing.

On this page

Request to observe a virtual hearing

Media who wish to observe a hearing should contact IRB media relations.

To make a request, you need to:

  • contact the appropriate regional office by email and provide your:
    • name
    • telephone number
    • email address
  • indicate the type of hearing you want to observe
  • include the name of your school if observing as part of an education program
  • if you are a CICC student and would like to observe a hearing, please reach out to the PREP coordinator at

If you want to observe a specific hearing, contact the appropriate regional office at least 2 days before the hearing date and provide the full name of the person appearing before the Board along with any other relevant identifying information.

Special instructions: Refugee Protection Division

Hearings before the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) are private. However, claimants may request that friends or family members be present as observers. Please consult the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) guide for more information.

Special instructions: Refugee Appeal Division

Hearings before the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) are private. However, appellants​ may request that friends or family members be present as observers. Contact the IRB Registry to request to have a friend or family member attend your hearing. An observer does not talk or otherwise actively participate in the hearing. According to RAD Rules, the RAD must allow the attendance of observers unless, in the opinion of the RAD, the observers’ attendance will impede the proceeding.​

Special i​nstructions: Immigration Division

Generally, Immigration Division (ID) hearings are open to the public and media, unless they concern a person whose refugee claim, refugee claim appeal, or Pre-Removal Risk Assessment is pending, in which case the hearing is private. The ID​ will consider applications to make a private hearing public or to make a public hearing private. If you want, a family member, friend, or other support person may observe your hearing.

Special instructions: Immigration Appeal Division

Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) hearings are open to the public and media unless there was a decision to hold the proceeding in the absence of the public (also called a private proceeding). If you want, a family member, friend, or other support person may observe your hearing. Note that a person being called as a witness will usually not be allowed to observe a hearing until their testimony is completed.

Guidelines for observers

To ensure the integrity and efficiency of the virtual hearing, as an observer, you must agree to and follow the guidelines. By joining the Microsoft Teams meeting, you are accepting these terms. If you do not follow the guidelines, you risk being removed from the virtual hearing space.

As an observer, you must:

  • join the hearing 5 to 10 minutes before the scheduled start time and wait in the virtual lobby until the member starts the hearing
  • turn off your camera and mute your microphone during the entire hearing, including breaks, unless the member tells you to do something different
  • not speak without permission or engage in unruly, disruptive, or disrespectful conduct
  • always follow the instructions of the presiding member

You may not under any circumstances:

  • record, broadcast, or take photographs or screenshots of the hearing
  • use Microsoft Teams functions such as Chat and Share
  • share the Microsoft Teams connection information: only those who received the invitation from the IRB can observe the hearing

Note: Admittance and connection tests are performed at the start of the hearing. If you join after the admittance period, it will be up to the presiding member whether to let you observe the hearing.

Note: You can only wait in the virtual lobby for 15 minutes before the start time of the hearing. If you are too early and Microsoft Teams removes you from the lobby, you can reconnect using the same link.

How to join a virtual hearing as an observer

Once you’ve made your request, you will receive an email with the Microsoft Teams meeting link.

To join the virtual hearing:

  • click on the link in your email confirmation
  • to join the meeting, type in your full name and a description of your role; for example: First name, Last name (Observer)
  • use the sliders next to the camera icon and microphone icon to turn the camera and microphone off

Note: You may be invited to join by phone instead of Microsoft Teams if the division deems it appropriate. In this case, you will receive a phone number and conference code.

Getting help

Contact us if you have questions or consult our Technical information for IRB virtual hearings page.