By: Kelly Toughill in Halifax

Thousands of families will soon get a second chance to bring parents and grandparents to Canada.

That’s the good news recently announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The bad news is that there is no chance Canada will keep its promise to issue 10,000 permanent resident visas to extended family members in 2017.

Officials won’t even finish collecting the new applications until December and it will take months to process those applications after they arrive.

Problems with the parent and grandparent sponsorship program are a classic case of great intentions gone wrong. In this case, families who followed the rules were suddenly shut out of the system, and other families were given false hope that they could reunite with ailing relatives.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet have changed Canada’s immigration system significantly in the last 16 months. They reversed a much-criticized law that allowed the government to strip people of their Canadian citizenship. They set up new programs to help businesses recruit tech workers and to support Francophone immigration outside Quebec. They made it easier for entrepreneurs to come to Canada, and eased rules for workers who want to move to struggling Atlantic Canada. They shortened the wait time to sponsor a spouse and made the forms easier to read and understand. They helped international students by setting up a new, speedy immigration program in Atlantic Canada, giving students extra points for Canadian degrees and making it easier for international students to become citizens after they get permanent resident status.

Those changes were greeted with relief and even gratitude across Canada.

Changes to the parent and grandparent program were supposed to be another feel-good tweak to the system. Instead, the changes angered the very consitutuency the government was trying to please.

Under the Conservative government, Ottawa set a quota each year for the number of Canadian families that could sponsor a parent or grandparent for permanent resident status. The Liberal government doubled the quota from 5,000 to 10,000, but initially kept the same process: applications opened in early January and closed when the quota was reached – always within days.

To win one of the coveted visas, most families hired experienced immigration lawyers or consultants and paid stiff fees for private couriers to wait in line outside the Mississauga processing centre the night before the program opened.

Just three weeks before the program was expected to open this year, the government announced it was scrapping the first-come, first-served system. Instead, then-Immigration Minister John McCallum invited families to fill out an online form and promised to hold a lottery to decide who could formally apply. He called the new process “more fair and transparent.”

The announcement came after thousands of families had already prepared applications that require medical exams, police certificates and expensive translations, not to mention lawyers’ fees. Many families wasted months of work and thousands of dollars on applications they would never get to file.

The larger problem, though, was the online form set up to register for the lottery; families could fill out the form without figuring out if they were actually eligible to sponsor a parent or grandparent.

Most know that only Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor a parent or grandparent for permanent resident status. But many don’t know that you must be able to support that parent and that the only acceptable proof of your financial ability is past income tax forms. Many also didn’t realize that parents and grandparents must be healthy to immigrate to Canada.

When immigration lawyers and regulated consultants saw the online form, many immediately warned of coming pandemonium. Some dismissed those warnings as sour grapes, suggesting that lawyers were just mad that clients might be able to sponsor relatives without their high-priced help.

It turns out the lawyers were right.

Almost 100,000 families registered for the lottery, but only a fraction of the 10,000 that were invited to apply actually managed to do so.

Immigration consultants shared stories of clients showing up on their doorstep with expectations that Canada was going to immediately fly their relatives here because the family had “won the lottery.” Many had no idea they still had to pull together the complex and expensive application in 90 days. In June, an immigration official told a conference that only 700 of the 10,000 families had filed applications, and that 15 percent of those applications were incomplete.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada still doesn’t know how many of the 10,000 families invited to apply will actually get to bring their relatives to Canada. A spokesperson said this week that 6,020 of the 10,000 families invited to apply last February actually filed applications. However, immigration officers still don’t know how many of those application are complete or valid. Those numbers are expected later this fall.

In the meantime, Ottawa has quietly launched a second lottery. The notice was posted Friday afternoon before Labour Day. The new invitations were sent out on Sept. 6. Families must finish the applications by Dec. 8, and it will take several months after that deadline for permanent resident visas to be issued.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen vigorously defended the new application process in early summer, when the problems first became public. Hussen could not be reached for comment this week, but a spokesperson for the department suggested the new process might change.

“This is the first year that we’re using the new random selection intake process, and we are actively monitoring this model to see how we can make improvements in future years,” communications advisor Faith St.-John wrote in an email.

Kelly Toughill is an associate professor of journalism at the University of King’s College and founder of Polestar Immigration Research Inc.

Published in Policy
Sunday, 18 October 2015 19:41

I Pay 40% in Taxes, but Can’t Vote

by Yaldaz Sadakova in Toronto

Facebook knows me well, but not that well. The other night a sponsored ad popped into my newsfeed, asking me if I could “afford” a Liberal federal government, with Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau’s picture on it. 

First of all, I’m not a fan of the Conservatives, but more importantly I can’t vote in the upcoming federal election because I’m a permanent resident. I’ve been in Canada less than three years, so I don’t have a passport yet.

Here’s my biggest problem with not being able to vote: I’m not represented. The government wants me to pay my fair share for being here and I do; about 40 per cent of my pay cheque goes to taxes.

Yet, this Monday I’ll have zero say in important federal issues that affect me just as they do Canadian citizens. 

Voicing my concerns

This Monday I won’t able to tell Ottawa that it’s placing a disproportionate emphasis on a candidate's age and a narrow set of skills when deciding whether to let certain foreigners in under its federal immigration program. 

The government says bringing in people with specific skills will help Canadian companies address talent shortages, but the economy changes and so does the need for certain skills. A year ago, Alberta’s energy sector was booming; now it’s in a recession due to declining oil prices.

By focusing on certain skills, we’re leaving out many people who can still make economic, social and cultural contributions. One of my favourite Canadians, award-winning author Rawi Hage, who’s originally from Lebanon, likely wouldn’t have made it here under the current federal immigration skills program. 

He would have never written Cockroach, a brilliant novel about an Arab immigrant on welfare who struggles with social alienation in Montreal after a failed suicide attempt. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]This Monday I’ll have zero say in important federal issues that affect me just as they do Canadian citizens.[/quote]

I won’t be able to cast a ballot to tell Ottawa that Canada should accept more Syrian refugees than what the country recently pledged. We’ve only taken in just over 2,300 refugees since the Syrian unrest began in 2011 and Ottawa has promised to accept a total of 11,300 over three years

The usual argument against accepting more refugees is that they’re a burden. True, there’s an initial cost to resettle them. But studies have shown that if they receive help with integration — language training, skills assessment, school access and so on — they can make meaningful economic contributions.

This Monday I won’t be able to express that I have a problem with the Conservatives’ proposal to make it illegal for Canadians to travel to terrorist-controlled regions if they get re-elected. The only exceptions would be travel for humanitarian or journalistic reasons, but the onus would be on travellers to prove their reasons. 

As Anthony Furey wrote in a recent Toronto Sun op-ed, it shouldn’t be “up to the driver to prove he's not drunk. It's up to the police officer to prove he is drunk. It's called due process.”

He continues, criticizing the government’s attempts to increase security, “The ‘humanitarian’ exemption is also a joke. These days, aspiring jihadists can easily sign up with many so-called humanitarian organizations, which are really just front groups for terrorism.” 

I won’t be able to tell the government that we need a mandatory increase of the Canada Pension Plan monthly benefit so that those who aren’t lucky enough to have a workplace pension (which includes many immigrants) can still have enough money in retirement.

Feelings of belonging

Beyond not being able to voice my opinions via the ballot box, what bothers me about not being able to vote is this: I don’t feel like I fully belong here, even though Toronto is my home. 

Every once in awhile, I’d be in a group of Canadian friends and the conversation would turn to the elections. Everybody would vow to vote out the Conservative party. 

When all looks turn to me, I’d inevitably explain that I can’t vote because I’m only a permanent resident. That’s when I feel like a guest in this country rather than a valued resident.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]I don’t feel like I fully belong here, even though Toronto is my home.[/quote]

On election day, I won’t get to share in the exit poll excitement alongside my Canadian friends. When everyone else is refreshing their computer screen every half hour to see how the person they voted for is doing, I won’t feel invested in the outcome.

Of course, not allowing permanent residents to vote isn’t limited to Canada. It’s the norm worldwide, but that doesn’t make it less wrong. If you pay taxes, you should be able to vote, no matter how long you’ve lived in the country. 

Preventing newer immigrants from political participation makes no sense. If the government can trust passport holders to inform themselves and make a choice, it can definitely trust newcomers to do the same.

Yaldaz Sadakova is a Toronto-based journalist who’s worked in New York City and Brussels. Born and raised in Bulgaria, Sadakova arrived in Canada almost three years ago.

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Published in Commentary

by Danica Samuel (@DanicaSamuel) in Toronto

Over half the population of international students in Ontario are deciding to stay put after graduating, and it’s for a good reason.

A recent study titled International Students in the Ontario Postsecondary System and Beyond, which was funded by Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and presented at the National Metropolis Conference in Vancouver, shows a significant increase of international students living in the province between 2000 and 2012.

International Migration Research Centre (IMRC) researchers found an increase in students coming from Asia, Africa and the USA to study in Ontario, but more importantly found that over 50 per cent are opting to remain in Canada after completing their studies.

One of the IMRC researchers, Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts, says it’s important to evaluate the students’ experiences, and how they are impacting Canadian immigration, when looking at the study’s findings.

“We need to understand what is happening to these students in terms of their transition into the labour market and transition into permanent residency,” says Walton-Roberts.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Tuition fees are a transmission of funds to Canada’s post secondary sector. It is also an investment in an individual’s education. As long as that person can reap the benefits of their investments, that’s okay. Can they enter the labour market, or if they go back to their country, will their credentials offer them the opportunity to have a wage premium?” - Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts, International Migration Research Centre[/quote]

“International students are becoming more a part of the immigrant demand and that is a deliberate policy and pathway that the government has engaged in.”

An Economic Boost

According to the study, from 2002 to 2011, 190,000 international students came to Ontario and over 60,000 made a transition to another visa.

Walton-Roberts claims there are several factors to the growth, but most recognized is the Student Partners Program (SPP), which originated in 2009 as an assisting program for Indian students looking to study at Canadian college institutions. India is also the leading country in international student migration.

In addition to SPP boosting college registration, international students in general represent more of an economical boost in terms of immigration.

International students are now considered the fourth largest import in Canada and Walton-Roberts says the focus should be on making sure everyone benefits from this.

“We could look at it as a privatization of immigrant settlement processes,” she explains.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I can’t shake the sense that we as international students are keeping the whole system afloat, but being chased away right after it’s done with us.” - Mahnoor Yawar, International Student[/quote]

“Tuition fees are a transmission of funds to Canada’s post secondary sector. It is also an investment in an individual’s education. As long as that person can reap the benefits of their investments, that’s okay. Can they enter the labour market, or if they go back to their country, will their credentials offer them the opportunity to have a wage premium?”

Exorbitant Fees

For some international students, like 27-year-old Humber College journalism student, Mahnoor Yawar, from Dubai, it’s hard to see the benefits of the transmission of funds Walton-Roberts speaks of.  

“I’m frankly tired of having to pay twice the tuition as local students and getting half the opportunities available to them,” Yawar says.

“I can’t shake the sense that we as international students are keeping the whole system afloat, but being chased away right after it’s done with us.”

For 22-year-old Achint Arora, who is studying accounting at George Brown College (GBC), his transition to Canada from India was relatively smooth, but costly.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“When we look at the major countries international students come from, you have to consider the gender politics in those countries and how comfortable families might be sending their daughters overseas.” - Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts, International Migration Research Centre[/quote]

He applied online, as well as successfully passing his International English Language Test with a score above average.

“I always wanted to study across seas, so I did my research, applied and they accepted me,” explains Arora.

When it comes to the fees, he agrees with Yawar. “For international students the fees are too high, and paying fees at universities are next to impossible. University is about $26,000 a year, and a college is $18,000. So I did some research, read reviews and decided to attend GBC.”

International students pay anywhere from $11,000 to $13,000 more than their domestic counterparts.

Gender Parity

Although many foreign students are entering into Ontario, there has been a significant decrease in female international students.

According to IMRC, from 2008 to 2012 there was a decrease of eight per cent of females coming to Ontario for education.

Walton-Roberts says it’s a reflection of the countries most international students migrate from.

“When we look at the major countries international students come from, you have to consider the gender politics in those countries and how comfortable families might be sending their daughters overseas.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If there is a person in India practicing accounting for 15 years, how can I compete with him? People who are applying outside of Canada, and [those] who are sitting in Canada, are now in the same boat, and it’s a competition.” - Achint Arora, International Student[/quote]

Yawar says she was one of the fortunate females that was able to study abroad.

“There’s also a certain conservatism in the South Asian/Middle Eastern cultures that suggests women shouldn’t move out of their family homes, and especially so far away from it before they’re married,” says Yawar.

“I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents who want their girls to be able to support themselves before making major life decisions, so we ended up here.”

For some, Walton-Roberts says it boils down to money.

“It is a huge investment, and it may be that the family decides not to make that investment in their daughter.”

Life After Graduation

IMRC statistics show that 75 per cent of students transitioned from temporary to Permanent Residence (PR) in Ontario.

Plus, according to economic reports, they are making $3,000 more than the average permanent resident who did not study in Canada.

“We were only able to access certain data, and those transitioning, we did an estimate based on their characteristics and the pathways they took,” clarifies Walton-Roberts.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[We’re] a headache for companies... I was told it will be a long process for both the company and international students to apply for PR, so it’s more convenient for them to hire a Canadian.” Achint Arora, International Student[/quote]

Despite the promising numbers, though, Arora says the hardest part of being an international student is actually obtaining a stable job after completing school. With only four years given to find and maintain a job after he graduates, the pressure is on, he adds.

“[Citizenship and Immigration Canada] is becoming tougher, especially with their new Express Entry,” explains Arora. “If there is a person in India practicing accounting for 15 years, how can I compete with him? People who are applying outside of Canada, and [those] who are sitting in Canada, are now in the same boat, and it’s a competition.”

Arora says another problem lies with companies not willing to go the extra mile to help recently graduated international students.

“[We’re] a headache for companies. They have to write a letter for my citizenship, a LMO, and more, just to apply for the Express Entry. I was told it will be a long process for both the company and international students to apply for PR, so it’s more convenient for them to hire a Canadian.”

But Roberts says that the colleges have effectively set up their programs for the labour market and in the next few years the process will be much more profitable.

“I suspect there is a focus on the college programs because there is in an interest in getting entry into the labour market,” she explains.

“The fees are already less and many colleges have oriented themselves to the international market. Recruiters are a part of that story as well and colleges have had a very active relationship with them through marketing their programs effectively overseas.”

For now, Yawar isn’t entering the labour market, but says when she does, getting a job in her field will be challenging for reasons centred on diversity, or a lack thereof.

“I know Toronto gets a lot of praise for being diverse and having the most opportunities for a career in media, but at the end of the day, it’s a claim based in statistics rather than action. The lack of diversity – in race, in gender, in class – in media careers is a genuine problem that few are ready to acknowledge, because the existing culture of privilege is too comfortable.”

Yawar continues, “Nevertheless, I have hope that there’s a position out there I’m uniquely suited for, and will keep seeking out every opportunity that comes my way.”

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Published in Education
Friday, 20 February 2015 03:33

Express Entry is not Easy Entry

On January 1, 2015 Canada's immigration program was dramatically and fundamentally changedOvernight our immigration program morphed from an applicant-driven model, to a government selection-driven model.

Up until December 31, 2014 an applicant could apply to immigrate to Canada, knowing that as long as they met the selection criteria for a specific category of permanent residence, their application would be processed.

That all changed with the arrival of 2015 and Express Entry. Now an applicant can only apply for permanent residence to Canada if, upon submitting a preliminary profile, they are given an “Invitation To Apply” (ITA) from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Without an ITA, you cannot apply for permanent residence in this new process.

Express Entry is the new economic immigration selection model which applies to several categories for immigration to Canada including: the Federal Skilled Worker program (FSW); the Federal Skilled Trades program (FSTP); the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

New Regulations 

Express Entry is designed to connect applicants who qualify under one or more of these program criteria, to be matched with employers requiring their skills and experience. For an applicant, the first step is to make sure that you actually meet the criteria of one of these programs. The second step is to have the proof that you meet the requirements of these programs. In order to ensure that you meet the first step which are the program criteria to be eligible to apply, you actually need to have the proof that you meet the second step first.

What does this mean? From the outset, in order to determine that you meet the program criteria for Express Entry, you need to have your language test result scores, your educational credential evaluations, and your reference letters from your previous employers confirming your past work experience. Once you determine that you will qualify, you need to submit your "profile" to CIC.  Based upon the information you provide in your profile, you will be rated on CIC's "Comprehensive Ranking System" (CRS). You will need to be able to score enough CRS points at the outset of the process based upon your education, work experience, language proficiency, work or educational history in Canada, the work or educational history or language proficiency of your spouse or whether you have close relatives in Canada. 

Submitting your profile is crucial to this process! It is not a mere preliminary application process where you can scratch your head and decide what you plan to do in the future. The "profile" is the basis upon which CIC determines whether to offer you an ITA or not.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]If you provide information in your profile which is not accurate, you may ultimately be found to have committed misrepresentation and not only denied permanent residence but prohibited from applying for permanent residence for a period of five years.[/quote]

Tougher Rules for Faster Results 

Assuming that you are given an ITA, you have 60 days to provide an electronic application for permanent residence. You must provide all information electronically and you must do so within 60 days. If you don't meet these requirements, you must start all over again. Given that there is only a 60-day window to provide the necessary proof to support your application, it is recommended that you obtain this proof at the very outset of this process - to determine whether you actually meet the program criteria at the beginning!

The dangling carrot to attract you to enter this new immigration application exercise is that applications will be finalized within six months of submission. So upon being provided with an ITA and submitting your permanent residence application online with all the necessary supporting documentation, CIC is saying that they will finalize the processing of your application within six months!

This sounds great so long as you can manage to fulfill all of their requirements and you can also deliver this information within the 60-day time frame. Based upon the applications that CIC receives, they will draw from the pool of Express Entry applicants. The first draw was made on January 31, 2015 when CIC issued ITAs to 779 applicants who had scored 886 CRS points. The second draw was made on February 7, 2015 when a further 779 applicants who had scored 818 CRS points were issued ITAs.

Future draws will be made based upon the applicants who have completed profiles and have the highest CRS scores. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The new Express Entry immigration policy is not easy.[/quote]

The new Express Entry immigration process is not easy. You need to have all of your documentation in order at the outset to prove that you meet the necessary requirements of the program. You need to ensure that the profile that you submit is completely accurate and you need to have all the supporting documentation to complete your application within 60 days of receiving an ITA.

This is CIC's new world order for economic immigration - Express Entry is not easy entry!

Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Partner in the Immigration group. With over 20 years of experience, she provides a full range of immigration services and is a leading immigration practitioner (Lexpert, Who’s Who Legal, Best Lawyers in Canada). 

Re-published with permission from Asian Pacific Post.

Published in Policy
Thursday, 17 July 2014 14:19

“Fraud” Overkill

by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

The reforms of Ministers Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander have focused on reducing fraud and abuse in the immigration system. Previous governments downplayed such concerns, in favour of a more facilitative approach. However, we may be going too far in ensuring fool-proof integrity, while extending processing times well beyond the reasonable.

Yet, improved citizenship integrity is important to ongoing public support for relatively open citizenship regime.

Thus, for Kenney: “We will not stand by and allow people to lie and cheat their way into becoming citizens.

And, Alexander, "On citizenship, the 1977 Act opened the door to significant abuse. Thousands of persons obtained citizenship by pretending to live in Canada, without actually having any intention to live here. Until 2009, little was done to curtail this."

Most fraud relates to applicants not having met their citizenship residency requirements (previously three out of four years, now four out of six). Other areas include concealing criminal inadmissibility and identity fraud.

The pie chart pictured above indicates the country of birth of those suspected of citizenship fraud (not the place/visa office where the fraud occurred).

We do not have information regarding the country of immigration but anecdotally, we know that is a particular problem in Persian Gulf countries, given the richer employee benefits for Canadian citizens compared to Asian citizens.

But how large a problem is it? Does the government have hard information?

Fraud Statistics




Number of fraud investigations



Number of withdrawn applications



Number of revocation notices or letters



Total number of revocations (all reasons)



Total number of revocations (fraud investigations)



Additional number of suspected fraud



Permanent Residency fraud investigations



Extent of deception

The government has not released figures regarding which years the investigations refer to, or which years  citizenship applications were withdrawn. The ‘known’ fraud percentage likely overstates the extent of fraud, balanced by the ‘unknown unknowns’ cases of fraud.

85 per cent of investigations target those living outside Canada (residency fraud). 90 per cent of cases typically end up in court.

While we have hard information in terms of number of investigations and withdrawn applications, we do not know yet how many of those investigations will lead to revocation or convictions. In addition to increased investigations, a number of other changes have taken place: citizenship tests are now changed and rotated on a regular basis, to reduce the risk of memorization; a more rigorous and consistent approach to language testing, culminating in pre-qualification of language competency has been implemented; and need to prove place of residence.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While we have hard information in terms of number of investigations and withdrawn applications, we do not know yet how many of those investigations will lead to revocation or convictions.[/quote]

The cumulative effect of all these changes is enhanced integrity, but at the cost of an increased burden on applicants. Processing time for citizenship applications has increased to an average of more than two years.

Improving integrity

How will the recent changes to the Citizenship Act further improve integrity?

Supporters and critics of the changes agree that defining residency as being physically present provides welcome clarity. This change, along with the requirement to submit tax returns, should largely eliminate residency misrepresentation. The intent-to-reside provision is largely redundant given these changes.

Similarly, removal of pre-permanent residency time and expansion of language and knowledge testing to younger (14-17) and older (55-64) applicants will likely have no impact.

However, a number of other changes are significant and reinforce the overall message of reducing fraud.

Regulation of citizenship consultants, along with stiff fines (up to $100,000) and prison terms (up to two years) for misrepresentation, should act as a deterrent.

A ban on reapplying for citizenship for five years in case of material representation or withholding of relevant information also sends a strong signal, as does a ban or reapplying for 10 years in cases of revocation for fraud or misrepresentation.

Permanent residents who have not met their conditions of permanent residency are barred from applying for citizenship.

Government overreach

But government overreach can be seen in the new revocation provisions for fraud and misrepresentation.

Frustrated by the 90 per cent of cases that were referred to the Federal Court, the Act replaces the courts with Ministerial administrative discretion to “prevent spurious litigation”  in Minister Alexanders words.

Citizens no longer have automatic recourse to the courts and have to seek leave for the court, essentially on narrow legal grounds with no possibility to introduce new material facts.

Moreover, as in other areas of administrative law such as disability programs (Tribunal can deny in-person appeals in disability benefits cases), there is no right to an oral hearing. Even supporters of the government were critical on this lack of due process.

The expected expansion of “exit controls” beyond Canada-U.S. in coming years would reduce the burden on applicants to demonstrate their time in Canada.

In the meantime, this impacts on the work and personal plans of some who have already submitted their applications.

Prof. Trudo Lemmons of University of Toronto, caught in the system, noted “It’s really irritating and makes me think, if my file appears difficult to evaluate, how tough must it be for people from ‘suspect’ countries, or people who dont necessarily have the same stable employment.

Integrity and accessibility need to be balanced. Both Ministers Kenney and Alexander have stressed integrity, correcting a previous imbalance favouring accessibility.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Integrity and accessibility need to be balanced.[/quote]

However, the government may have overstated the extent of citizenship fraud.

Zero tolerance

Even assuming all investigations will confirm fraud (not a given), adding the number of withdrawn applications, and assuming that all fraud investigations pertain to the same year (improbable), one arrives at a potential maximum fraud rate of around three per cent. The low number of revocations resulting from the investigations, suggests that it is significantly less.

It is regrettable that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) declined to provide updated numbers to substantiate the its case.

Some may argue that any fraud is unacceptable.

But the quest for perfection has to be balanced with the realities of efficient management and good service delivery.

There are more fraud issues with citizens originating in certain countries, both in terms of country of birth and likely country of application. From a risk management perspective, that is where the focus should be (and likely is).

As the government addresses the backlog and implements the new Citizenship Act, we will see starting in 2016 whether it has achieved a reasonable balance between reduced fraud, efficiency, and accessibility of citizenship, meeting the Minister’s commitment of a one-year processing time.

Andrew Griffith is the author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad. 

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Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 01:19

Painful wait mars citizenship

by Vilma Filici

Canadian citizenship should be seen as a reward for Permanent Residents who have established themselves in the country and become exemplary citizens. However, in reality, measures to prevent immigration fraud are unnecessarily penalizing law abiding people applying for citizenship.

My friend’s travail makes a good case study of the problems being faced by many.

I spent most of the spring and summer of 2011 helping her prepare for the citizenship test. We got together twice a week, read the booklet sent to her by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and went further than what was required for the test as she was eager to learn as much as she could about her new country.

My friend loves Canada and is interested in its people, its geography, its government and its politics. She took several mock tests online to make sure that she would pass the real one. When she spoke of becoming a citizen, her face lit up. The night before the exam, we spoke and I reassured her that she was ready and that she would get her citizenship.

On exam day I received a phone call from my friend. She was crying and was extremely upset. She said the officer who checked her identification before writing the exam noticed that she had travelled outside Canada many times. The officer could not take the time to do the calculations for the required number of days she was present in the country although my friend met the requirement. Instead, he gave her a long questionnaire to complete and a long list of documents to submit before a specific date.

The questionnaire asked detailed questions of every aspect of her life in the last nine years. The list of documents included health records from the Ministry of Health, a record of visits to the United States from the authorities there, a record of her trips out of Canada by the Canadian Border Services Agency, all her income tax returns for the four years prior to the application, documents to prove employment and schools she attended during those four years and much more.

My friend is alone in Canada and has a brother and niece and nephews in the USA. She travels stateside on the children’s birthdays and all Jewish holidays. She also travelled to her country of birth to sell her properties. She invested the money from the transactions in Canada. In total she was out of Canada 145 days in the four years preceding her application.  The residency requirement for citizenship is that a permanent resident reside in Canada for 1095 days in the four years preceding the application.

It took weeks for her to gather all the documents required. Some that had to come from government departments took a lot longer and documents from the US took six months to arrive. It has been over a year since all the documents were submitted, but she is yet to hear from CIC. When she calls them, she is told that her file is under process and she has to wait.

As she waits in limbo, my friend is becoming more and more disillusioned about Canada. She has a hard time understanding why she is being treated like a criminal when she has done everything by the book. She questions whether a Permanent Resident (PR) has no right to procedural fairness and is convinced she should not be made to pay the price for the wrongdoings of others.

Whenever I see her, I try to avoid the subject as it upsets her very much. She tells me that she feels mistreated, insulted and most of all frustrated. She needs to go out of the country for her niece’s bat mitzvah but is afraid to leave as it might be seen as a sign that she does not care about Canada. As her PR card is going to expire, she will now have to apply for an extension. Something she would not have to do if she were a citizen.

While my friend is at a loss to understand why she was being treated this way, the fact is that many people are facing the same situation. An application which was supposed to take no more than 21 months to process after completing the required time of residence in Canada, is now taking more than four years.

If the government wants to continue with these measures, it should perhaps increase the CIC budget to ensure prompt and humane processing of applications. The process should not, instead, unintentionally impart pain and suffering.

 [Vilma Filici is Director of Immigration Issues with the Canadian Hispanic Congress]

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Published in Commentary

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