More women, fewer minorities receive appointments under Liberals’ ‘merit-based’ process, documents show

Interesting. When I requested the information earlier, PCO did not provide the breakdown between applications and appointments for GiCs (in contrast to judicial appointments – see Taking stock of Ottawa’s diversity promises):

The Liberal government’s overhaul of the patronage system has led to gender parity in government appointments, but new figures show few of those women are in leadership posts and visible minorities are being left out.

Documents from the Privy Council Office, obtained under the Access to Information Act, show that as of last year, 55.5 per cent of appointees to federal agencies, boards and organizations were women, slightly above their proportion in the Canadian population.

But the Liberals’ “merit-based” process for appointments has screened out 61.8 per cent of visible-minority candidates as insufficiently qualified, compared with 37.6 per cent of applicants who are not visible minorities.

Visible-minority applicants who made it past that cut and into job competitions were less likely to be recommended or appointed.

“This is one of the reasons why we need to know what constitutes merit,” said Kathy Brock, a politics professor at Queen’s University who has studied the changes in the appointments system.

“What are the criteria that are being used to screen people, and embedded in that criteria are there certain considerations that have a negative impact on those communities?”

Despite the changes, final say still sits with the responsible minister or the Prime Minister’s Office, meaning a partisan lens remains in place on appointments, Brock said.

Months after taking power in late 2015, the Liberals changed how the government makes hundreds of appointments each year to the boards of Crown corporations and tribunals that make decisions on benefit payments and immigration claims, for example. The majority are part-time. They don’t include senators, judges or officers of Parliament, such as the ethics commissioner, who are not chosen with the same process.

Before 2015, governments simply decided who would get what position, often giving posts to party loyalists. The Liberals promised to make appointments based on merit, where applications are open to anyone and selection committees recommend names based on precise criteria.

“The government is striving for gender parity, and seeks to ensure that Indigenous peoples and minority groups are properly represented in positions of leadership,” spokesperson Stéphane Shank said in an email, calling the number of visible minority applicants “encouraging.”

As of April 30, 2019, the Liberal government has concluded 1,100 appointments under the new process, he said, noting that 13 per cent of the appointees self-identified as visible minorities. Another nine per cent identified as Indigenous.

The percentage of visible minorities currently serving in the roles nearly doubled, from 4.4 per cent in November 2015 to eight per cent in May 2019.

About 4.5 per cent of appointees identified themselves as having disabilities, below the 15.5 per cent of people with disabilities in the Canadian population.

The government documents show that eight per cent of female appointees had been placed in leadership positions. But they don’t offer the same information for male appointees, so it’s not clear how the sexes compare.

The figures were smaller for visible minorities and Indigenous people: two from each group had been put in “leadership” positions. Like visible minorities and Indigenous people, only two people with disabilities have been appointed to leadership positions.

“It’s that whole analogy of a big ship that has a big wake and you have to give it some space to move. That’s what we’re seeing here with the appointments,” said Carole Therrien, who worked on such appointments in Jean Chretien’s Prime Minister’s Office.

Although upcoming openings are supposed to be flagged a year out, and recommended candidates vetted by the Privy Council Office within four weeks, the new system has often been criticized for leaving too many positions unfilled for too long.

The documents show that at the end of 2018, the selection processes for 181 positions had yet to start, including for some openings as distant as February 2020. The documents don’t identify those positions.

A similar number of appointments — 183 — were sitting with the Prime Minister’s Office or a minister’s office awaiting approval.

Source: More women, fewer minorities receive appointments under Liberals’ ‘merit-based’ process, documents showThe Record·2 days ago

Employment Equity in the Public Service of Canada for Fiscal Year 2017 to 2018

My updated charts reflecting the latest government EE report. Most noteworthy is the small downtick in visible minority and Indigenous executive numbers.

The report does not provide an explanation for this decline. This may be due in part to the greater use of non-advertised processes (see Non-advertised appointments on the rise in the public service, PSC data show).

I am awaiting for the release of  PSC data contrasting advertised/non-advertised/unknown staffing processes for 2018-19 to ascertain whether two-year data suggesting this impact of the new appointment policy is confirmed with three years data:

Source:  Annual Report Publication

Taking stock of Ottawa’s diversity promises

My latest in Policy Options:

Each of the mandate letters given to cabinet ministers by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the past three years has included the following commitment: “You are expected to do your part to fulfill our government’s commitment to transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure gender parity and that Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership.”

With three years of appointments under the Trudeau government’s belt, it’s possible to conduct an analysis of its record with respect to judicial, Governor-in-Council, deputy minister, head of mission and Senate appointments, using available data and public records.

The government has largely delivered on its commitment, but with mixed results on its promise to be more transparent on appointments…

Full article: Taking stock of Ottawa’s diversity promises

Jeff Sessions Is Quietly Transforming the Nation’s Immigration Courts

Time to set the stage for a detailed analysis comparing decisions by judges from the previous administration to see if these fears are warranted:

Dorothea Lay was on track to become a member of the Board of Immigration Appeals, part of  the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. Her 25-year government career had prepared her for the post, as reflected in four letters of recommendation from academics and current and former officials. In December 2016, nine months after submitting her application, she was offered the job. But administrations changed, Jeff Sessions assumed the role of attorney general, and by early 2018, the offer was withdrawn.


That’s the question at the center of a complaint filed by Lay, an Idaho native, with the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative body. In a letter to Lay, 53, the Executive Office for Immigration Review said it rescinded her offer because “the needs of the agency have evolved,” even though the agency announced around the same time that it wanted to expand the size of the appeals board. The complaint suggests that political considerations may have been taken into account in reviewing Lay’s background, citing Lay’s letters of recommendation from people who “had liberal backgrounds or were perceived as having liberal backgrounds.”

The suspicion of politically based hiring has lingered among Democrats, who raised concerns in April and again in May. In the May letter, directed to Michael E. Horowitz, Democrats urged the inspector general of the Justice Department to investigate “allegations of politicized hiring practices,” citing cases in which offers for immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals positions had been delayed or withdrawn. (Lay’s attorney, Zachary Henige, is also representing two other people who claim their offers were withdrawn over political differences.) Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd responded to the Democrats’ allegations in a letter: “As stated in every immigration judge hiring announcement, the Department of Justice does not discriminate on the basis of political affiliation.”

The investigation into Lay’s complaint is ongoing, so it’s still not clear whether there were ulterior motives behind the withdrawal of her offer. But the case speaks to how DOJ can pick and choose who fills roles and in doing so, influence who’s at the helm of deciding immigration cases.This isn’t unique to this administration. The Justice Department has considerable leeway when appointing immigration judges—the immigration courts are part of its direct purview. The attorney general therefore has unique authority to overrule decisions and hire immigration judges. To that end, Sessions appears to be shaping the court by, at the very least, hiring former law enforcement officials as immigration judges.

“The more you bring people from the same background, the same set of experiences, the same perspective, the more you expose the court to criticism,” said Ashley Tabaddor, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. “Those decisions will be more open to being questioned.”

Of the 140 judges hired since Donald Trump’s inauguration, more than half have past prosecutorial experience or some other government experience. The pace of hiring has also stepped up: In fiscal year 2017, the Justice Department hired 64 immigration judges, compared to 81 in fiscal year 2018—bringing the total of immigration judges to 395, according to data released by EOIR. Sessions’s hiring spree is not unusual—and it’s also not unwarranted: His predecessors brought on new immigration judges, and the immigration court backlog also continues to creep up, with the latest figure at more than 760, 000 pending cases. Of the newly hired immigration judges, at least half had received conditional offers during the Obama administration, said Kathryn Mattingly, assistant press secretary at EOIR, in an email.

It’s not just how many immigration judges are being brought on but where they’re being located. EOIR has hired immigration judges for two adjudication centers—in Falls Church, Virginia, and Fort Worth, Texas—where cases from around the country will be heard through video teleconferencing. Judges will be located at the centers, while attorneys and respondents will be in separate locations. According to Rob Barnes, a regional public information officer for EOIR, immigration judges at these centers will be evaluated like others. It’s likely then that thousands of immigration cases will be heard with respondents never seeing a judge face to face.

Across the board, there appears to be a preference for people who come from an enforcement background, according to biographies of newly hired immigration judges posted by the Justice Department. Of the 23 judges announced in August, more than half previously worked with the Department of Homeland Security, and of those remaining, most came from a law enforcement background. In September, EOIR announced 46 new immigration judges, two of which will serve in a supervisory role: 19 previously worked for ICE, 10 had served at DOJ or as a former local prosecutor, and seven had a background in military (one of whom previously served in Guantánamo). It’s not yet known how these judges will rule once they’re on the bench and whether their enforcement background will inform their decisions. But experts, attorneys, and current and former immigration judges have warned about hiring too many people from government before.

“It’s not that we’re saying [those] with law enforcement or military background are unqualified,” Tabaddor, the head of the immigration judges association, told me. “A diverse bench is what brings fairness and legitimacy to court. It’s very important for a court to be reflective of the people it serves and the community at large to gain legitimacy and respect.”

Mattingly, the EOIR spokeswoman, has provided a series of specific qualifications that all candidates for immigration judge must possess.

Previous administrations also pulled from within government, reasoning that candidates have already passed background checks and can therefore be hired more quickly. But that can present some challenges. It’s possible that having spent years fighting in court on behalf of the government, an individual might be biased, said Jeremy McKinney, an immigration lawyer in North Carolina. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, of which McKinney is a part of, and National Association of Immigration Judges, have called for the pool of immigration judges to also include people from private firms and academia.

Their concerns were backed up by Booz Allen Hamilton, which conducted a year-long study of the immigration court system at EOIR’s direction. The April 2017 study found that at least 41 percent of immigration judges previously worked in the Department of Homeland Security, and nearly 20 percent worked at other branches within the Justice Department. The report recommended broadening “hiring pools and outreach programs to increase diversity of experience among [immigration judges].” It’s not clear whether the Justice Department took the study into account in putting together its hiring plan in April 2017, the same month the study was presumably handed over.

The hiring of immigration judges has always been a contentious issue: complaints have been lodged about there not being enough career diversity; it often takes months to hire judges (though the Justice Department recently pushed the time it took down from an average of 742 days to about 266 days); and political affiliations have previously been weighed in selecting judges. In 2008, the Inspector General issued a report on the hiring practices of DOJ in selecting attorneys, immigration judges, and members of the Board of Immigration Appeals. The report concluded that hiring based on political or ideological affiliation is in violation of department policy.

The fear, as expressed by some Democrats, legal experts and immigration advocates, is that Sessions is improperly seeking out conservatives in order to to influence the tilt of the nation’s immigration courts and hire a large cadre of immigration judges who will likely far outlast his tenure.

“I think he’s trying to get a complacent judiciary: ‘Forget the title, you guys are really DOJ employees, you’re out there to carry out my policies,’” said Paul W. Schmidt, former chairman of EOIR’s Board of Immigration Appeals from 1995 to 2001 and a former immigration judge.

Beyond who the Justice Department decides to bring on board, the message Sessions sends down to judges can also heavily influence their decisions, as direct reports to the department, Schmidt and others argue.In September, for example, Sessions delivered remarks to a new class of immigration judges, the largest in history, according to the Justice Department, in which he pressed them to decide cases swiftly. “You have an obligation to decide cases efficiently and to keep our federal laws functioning effectively, fairly, and consistently,” he said. “As you take on this critically important role, I hope that you will be imaginative and inventive in order to manage a high-volume caseload. I do not apologize for expecting you to perform, at a high level, efficiently and effectively.”

The message was striking given who it’s intended for. “If he was speaking to attorneys, that’d be normal. He has the right to set prosecutorial policy,” McKinney said. “That doesn’t translate to immigration judges.” Judges—even when they are DOJ employees—are expected to be independent. By effectively telling them how to handle cases and how quickly, the Justice Department is infringing upon that independence, McKinney said.

And Sessions’s words weren’t just an expression of what he hopes judges will do either. As of October 1, the expectation to “efficiently and effectively” adjudicate cases is being enforced. Earlier this year, the Justice Department took the unprecedented step of rolling out quotas for judges. To receive a “satisfactory” performance evaluation, judges are required to clear at least 700 cases a year. According to the Justice Department, judges complete 678 cases a year on average now, meaning they will have to pick up the pace to remain in good standing.

This fall, DOJ expects to bring on at least 75 more immigration judges. Even if Sessions days as attorney general are numbered, as Trump has suggested, his selections will decide the fate of immigrants, for years to come.

Source: Jeff Sessions Is Quietly Transforming the Nation’s Immigration Courts

ICYMI: How the federal government is slowly becoming as diverse as Canada

Good overview article by Aaron Wherry of CBC on diversity in government, both public service and political appointments. Some of my analysis quoted and used:

Campaigning in 2015, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals promised to “build a government as diverse as Canada.”

That job might’ve seemed nearly done on Day One. Of the 31 ministers sworn in on Nov. 4, 2015, 15 were, famously, women. Five ministers were visible minorities and two others were Indigenous.

A cabinet ratio of 48.3 per cent women, 16.1 per cent visible minorities and 6.5 per cent Indigenous comes close to matching a Canadian population that was 50.9 per cent women, 22.3 per cent visible minorities and 4.9 per cent Indigenous.

But a prime minister and his government are responsible for far more than a few dozen cabinet positions. The cabinet oversees more than 1,500 appointments, including chairs and members of boards, tribunals and Crown corporations, deputy ministers, heads of foreign missions, judges and senators.

On that much larger scale, progress has been made, but the ideal of a government that looks like Canada is still a ways off.

A new appointment process

When the government was sworn in, just 34 per cent of federal appointees were women, 4.5 per cent were visible minorities and 3.9 per cent were Indigenous.

Two years later, according to data from the Privy Council Office, 42.8 per cent of appointees are women, 5.6 per cent are visible minorities and 5.8 per cent are Indigenous.

In February 2016, the Liberal government announced a new appointment process for boards, agencies, tribunals, officers of Parliament and Crown corporations. It specified diversity as a goal and opened applications to the public.

According to the Privy Council Office, 429 appointments were made via that process through Dec. 5, 2017. Of those, 56.6 per cent were women, 11.2 per cent were visible minorities and 9.6 per cent were Indigenous.

A total of 579 appointments — including deputy ministers, heads of mission and appointments for which requirements are specified in law — were made through existing processes. Of those, 43.7 per cent were women, 3.8 per cent were visible minorities and 5.2 per cent were Indigenous.

“Mr. Trudeau has been more intentional on these issues than his predecessors and has made great progress in opening up the process. He has also clearly made great strides on gender,” says Wendy Cukier, director of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute.

But, says Cukier, the government’s efforts toward transparency and equal opportunity need to be accompanied by “proactive outreach and recruitment as well as retention strategies” in order to “address some of the barriers historically disadvantaged groups have faced.”

Eleanore Catenaro, press secretary for the prime minister, says, “Our aim is to identify high-quality candidates who will help to achieve gender parity and truly reflect Canada’s diversity.”

She says, “We know there is more work to do to achieve these goals, and we continue to do outreach to potential qualified and diverse candidates to encourage them to apply.”

Rigorous reporting of demographic data across federal appointments could presumably drive change — or at least give the  government something to answer for — but most of these numbers have not been made public.

“It is crucial that the government tracks, measures and reports on diversity in all areas,” says Sen. Ratna Omidvar, the founding director of Ryerson’s Global Diversity Exchange. “By doing so, we are able to see where we are making progress and where we need to improve.”

Beneath those top-line numbers, there are a few other points of reference.

According to Global Affairs Canada, the government made 87 heads-of-mission appointments — ambassadors, consul generals and official representatives — in 2016 and 2017. Forty-eight per cent were women and 13.8 per cent were visible minorities. There were no Indigenous appointees.

Senate and court appointments

Andrew Griffith, a former official at the department of citizenship and immigration who has been tracking diversity in federal appointments, has counted 18 women, six visible minorities and three Indigenous Canadians among Trudeau’s 31 Senate appointments.

As a result of an initiative to track judicial appointees, the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs has published a tally of court appointments from Oct. 21, 2016 through Oct. 27, 2017. Between those dates, 74 judicial appointments were made, of whom 50 per cent were women, 12.1 per cent were visible minorities and four per cent were Indigenous.

But that data also suggested the pool of candidates was limited: of the 997 applications received, just 97 applicants identified as a visible minority and 36 were Indigenous.​

At some point, it might be charged that diversity is being inappropriately prioritized ahead of merit or competency — as Kevin O’Leary once alleged of Trudeau’s cabinet. But such suggestions assume that achieving diversity must come at the expense of merit.

Ideally, diversity would also amount to more than a numerical value.

3 benefits of diversity

Griffith, for instance, suggests three potential benefits of diversity in appointments: that it allows Canadians to see themselves represented in government institutions, that it brings a range of experience and perspectives to government policies and operations and that it reduces the risk of inappropriate policies (for example, an RCMP interview guide that asked asylum-seekers about their religious practices).

“It has been proven over and over that more diversity in the workplace leads to better outcomes,” says Omidvar, who is also pushing to tighten the standards included in a proposed government bill that would require corporate boards to report on diversity.

But the most profound impact could conceivably relate to Griffith’s first potential benefit. A nation that values diversity and pluralism might want its institutions to reflect those principles — and institutions that reflect those principles might advance the building of a multicultural society.

“It normalizes diversity,” Omidvar said of public appointments. “At this point, diversity is still sort of not the norm, which is why we focus on it.”

via How the federal government is slowly becoming as diverse as Canada – Politics – CBC News

Governor in Council Appointments – PCO data

Governor in Council Appointments 2016 Baseline

Following the skimpy information provided in both the mandate checker and PCO’s Departmental Performance Report (DPR), I had asked PCO for more details and they were reasonably quick in getting back to me.
The correspondence below indicates that this is very much a work in progress. Hopefully, future reporting will include an annual table of GiC appointments by the four employment equity groups. Hard to the logic, for a government committed to diversity and inclusion, and one that has improved dramatically the diversity of judicial, ambassadorial and senatorial appointments, not to take this next step of more comprehensive reporting:

PCO response:

“…In February 2016, the Prime Minister announced a new approach to Governor in Council—or GIC—appointments that supports open, transparent, and merit-based selection processes for GIC appointments.
Significant progress has been made in making appointments.  Since March of this year, the number of appointments made under the new approach has increased approximately 300%.  To date, over 19,000 applications have been received and over 400 appointments made following an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process and approximately 740 appointments made through other selection processes.
Of the appointments following an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process, nearly 60% were women.  Most notably, women have been appointed for the first time to a number of leadership positions, including the Chief Science Advisor, the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission, the Chair of Via Rail, and the Chairperson of the Infrastructure Bank.  Over 10% are visible minorities, 10% are Indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities are well represented.  The total representation of women serving as GIC appointees has increased by over 5% and is now over 40%.”

My reply to PCO:

“I prepared this little summary table for appointments under the new approach:
Indigenous peoples
Obviously, this is approximate but provides a basis for comparison with other EE data.
In terms of the other selection processes, I assume this would include position such as judges, heads of mission and the like and would appreciate confirmation your end. [PCO later advised that it does not include judges.]
Looking at the total number of GiC appointments (1182 in the index as of today, 40 percent women would mean about 473 women or more.
I would hope that in the future PCO would be able to provide annual tables similar to the EE reports for the public service (simplified) that would essentially tell what is a good news story more effectively and consistently. And that future DPRs are more informative.
But nevertheless this information is welcome, represents progress. Thanks for getting back to me.”

Mandate Letter Tracker: Delivering results for Canadians [diversity of appointments and lack of detail]

There has been justified critical commentary regarding the government’s mandate letter tracker. I was curious to see how the commitment to increased diversity in appointments was covered.

Surprisingly, the 2016-17 PCO Departmental Performance Report does not provide any data table to substantiate that claim, merely noting:

  • Almost 12,000 applications processed and 429 Governor in Council appointments made in 2016-17”

Strikingly, the focus appears only to be with respect to women, not the other employment equity groups (visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities). PCO should be providing such data (as Justice does for judicial appointments).

That being said, given HoM and judicial appointments to date, I think this one can be said to be on track.

via Mandate Letter Tracker: Delivering results for Canadians –

Insistence on French for SCC judges could block historic appointment of first Indigenous judge – The Lawyer’s Daily

Hard one to balance:

The Trudeau government’s pledge to fill the Supreme Court of Canada’s impending western vacancy with a bilingual jurist who can function in French is liable to block the historic appointment of its first Indigenous judge, lawyers say.

The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA) has pressed Ottawa for years to make an Indigenous appointment to the 142-year-old court and will do so again for the spot that is opening  up when Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin retires Dec. 15, said IBA president Koren Lightning-Earle of Maskwacis, Alta.

However the Trudeau government’s insistence that all its Supreme Court appointees be able to read and understand French, without translation, is an additional and unfair hurdle for Indigenous candidates and a “detriment to Canada,” Lightning-Earle told The Lawyer’s Daily.

If the government “starts to think outside the box on what the language prerequisite actually means to Indigenous people, and [to] truly understand history and reconciliation … then they’ll understand why the [French] language prerequisite is ridiculous,” she explained. “Our first language is our Indigenous language. And then we were sent to residential school where we were told we were not allowed to speak our language, and we were forced to speak a colonial language [English]. And now we have to speak another colonial language — just to get a seat at the table!”

The Trudeau government vowed during the election to appoint only Supreme Court judges able to function in both English and French. This was in response to concerns expressed by Quebecers, Acadians and other francophones outside Quebec that it does a disservice to their appeals when the top court’s anglophone judges can’t understand nuanced French oral argument (because interpretation is not always perfect) or read French written briefs and supporting materials (which are usually not translated).

However Lightning-Earle points out the prime minister and his government have also committed to reconcile with Indigenous peoples, as a top priority. “You don’t just get to put up a barrier and say ‘Well this is our requirement’ — without acknowledging the history — which is the spirit and intent [of] the reconciliation that the government supposedly signed on to,” she remarked.

Certainly the language prerequisite is a major obstacle for Indigenous candidates. There are, at most, a handful of Supreme Court-calibre Indigenous jurists in the west who are able to understand and read French without translation. Saskatchewan provincial court judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who is Cree, is one, as is Vancouver litigator and Indigenous law expert Jean Teillet, who is Métis.

“There are barriers that Aboriginal lawyers and judges face that non-Aboriginal people don’t face,” Teillet told The Lawyer’s Daily. “And language is always one of those things. And so putting that kind of qualification on a Supreme Court appointment … will mean, as a fact, that we will have not an Aboriginal judge on the Supreme Court of Canada for a very long time. It won’t be because there are not really excellent Aboriginal lawyers and judges who are capable — more than capable — of doing the job. It will be because of the language barrier.”

Among those who appear to be affected is internationally acclaimed Indigenous law scholar John Borrows, 54 — who many see as a star candidate.

A member of the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation on Georgian Bay, Borrows is currently in immersion French studies in Montreal. He is a visiting professor at McGill University’s faculty of law where he is learning about the civil law while on sabbatical leave from his post as Canada research chair in Indigenous law at the University of Victoria’s faculty of law, where he is co-developing the first joint program in Canadian common law/Indigenous law, expected to start up in 2018.

Osgoode Hall Law School dean Lorne Sossin believes Borrows “would be an outstanding choice to join the court.” He should not be blocked as he gets his French up to speed, Sossin opined.

Source: Insistence on French for SCC judges could block historic appointment of first Indigenous judge – The Lawyer’s Daily

Federal government still battling chronic backlog of appointment vacancies

Slow progress. Latest numbers:

More than a year after the federal Liberals launched a new process meant to reduce patronage and increase the transparency of the government appointment process, a huge number of positions remain unfilled — affecting everything from refugee appeals to courtroom delays to the independent watchdogs of Parliament.

The new process, announced in February 2016, was meant to create a more arm’s-length method of filling the roughly 1500 positions to which the government appoints its preferred candidates — at federal agencies, on boards, commissions and administrative tribunals, as well as at the head of Crown corporations. Nearly every such position is now advertised online, and committees sort through applications and recommend applicants with a mandate to improve gender and ethnic diversity.

But the introducton of the revamped process caused appointments to virtually grind to a halt for a year. A CBC study in March found the number of vacancies and expired terms had ballooned to nearly 600 — roughly a third of all positions. Things only started moving again in June, when the government made more than 100 appointments. But a National Post evaluation this week found about 300 remaining vacancies and 150 instances where somebody continues to serve in a job beyond the expiration of their term, with hundreds more expiring this fall.

The effects reach far beyond Parliament Hill. In June, immigrations appeals in B.C. and Alberta had to be scaled back because of vacancies on the boards that conduct hearings. Today there are still 41 vacancies, accounting for almost half the appointed positions.

In May, the outgoing head of the Military Grievances External Review Committee complained it was severely restricted in its ability to review complaints from Canadian Forces members due to vacancies, saying “our men and women in uniform deserve better … I deeply regret that the committee could not do more this year.” Three of the four appointed positions remain empty.

The government brought the same new approach to appointing judges, but it took the better part of a year to staff up the judicial advisory committees that make recommendations. A Senate report in June slammed the government’s sluggish pace in appointing judges , saying it was contributing to the court delay crisis. As of July 1, there were still 49 vacancies across Canada .

Liberal officials have said it just takes time to find the right people, and that the delay is worth it in the long run — particularly when it comes to improving diversity. Statistics provided by the Prime Minister’s Office say that as of mid-June the government’s nominees have been 70 per cent women, 12 per cent visible minorities, and 10 per cent Indigenous.

Globe editorial: The Trudeau government is failing refugee claimants, and Canadians

Valid points – backlogs will only increase, requiring more funding and personnel to handle.

Hard to understand why IRB appointments are taking so long – after all, the government has been able to appoint almost 100 judges over the past year and a half (after a slow start):

Our neighbour to the south has taken a pronounced nativist turn in recent months, and the government of Canada’s response has been to throw the doors open – rhetorically, at least.

Last January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to social media and proclaimed, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”

As political marketing goes, it was nicely timed. But to be completely insulated from truth-in-advertising complaints, it should have included a disclaimer – “Offer available only to genuine refugees, as defined by law. As we are experiencing an unusually high number of claimants at this time, it could take many years for our government to decide whether you are legally entitled to welcome, or removal.”

According to the latest federal statistics, more than 14,000 people have registered their intention to seek asylum in Canada through the first five months of 2017.

That number doesn’t include refugees from Syria, who are being fast-tracked, and it adds upon the 23,900 who arrived in 2016 – itself a sharp increase from the 16,000 who came in 2015.

Last month, the federal government offered a modicum of good news to 5,500 people whose claims had been shunted to the back burner by the former Conservative government. Most have been waiting in limbo since at least 2012; their cases are expected to proceed in the fall.

Unfortunately, this will barely dent the application backlog, which is estimated at close to 40,000 cases.

The wait faced by refugee claimants – legitimate or otherwise – is too lengthy, and also unfair. It is well known that the longer an application is delayed, the lower the chance of it being accepted.

Meanwhile, the influx of asylum-seekers is unlikely to abate. There’s been a surge in the number of claimants showing up at Canada-U.S. border crossings since President Donald Trump took office in January, but even that is not the whole story.

The United Nations’ Refugee Agency calculates there are more displaced people on the planet right now – 65 million – than at any point since the Second World War.

A government analysis obtained by the Canadian Press forecasts the number of refugee claimants in Canada will hit 36,000 this year, and rise by as much as 20 per cent a year after that.

If the current trends hold, the time required to process an application will reach 11 years in 2021, and could cost $3-billion in social support payments. This must not be allowed to happen.

Hiring more staff and expanding budgets are an unavoidable aspect of correcting the situation, but it isn’t a matter of applying a simple fix.

The new federal appointments process announced earlier this year, billed as independent and competence-based, has been a disaster for the Immigration and Refugee Board. Dozens of key jobs remain vacant, while the number of claims is rising rapidly.

On June 21, the IRB announced its Western Canada immigration appeal division – which deals primarily with applications involving family members and dependents abroad – would be working at reduced capacity “for at least the next six months” because of staffing shortages.

The re-appointment of two outgoing members to one-year terms, announced that same day, won’t do much to ease the bottleneck. There should be 11 on the job, but there are currently only four.

Across all regions, the IRB’s refugee and immigration appeals divisions have a shortage of at least 29 members, and the terms of another 29 are set to expire at the end of this year, according to one news report.

The vacancies, and the slowness with which the Trudeau government is filling them, have led to accusations that Ottawa is culling IRB members who were appointed by the Conservatives in order to replace them with Liberal supporters.

Whatever the reasons, the IRB is unable to handle the load because Ottawa is allowing members’ terms to end while failing to appoint new people in a timely fashion.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen recently announced a third-party review to examine resource levels and the various bureaucratic mechanisms involved. However, it won’t be concluded until next year, and that’s not good enough.

The IRB has raised the alert about under-staffing for years. An overwhelmed immigration and refugee process, already buffeted by an ill-advised overhaul under the Harper government, has real-world impacts. It’s bad for asylum seekers, and undermines public confidence.

Ottawa must move quickly to show Canadians that their government is doing more than drifting in its response. Tweeting “#WelcomeToCanada” is an empty gesture by the Prime Minister, if it’s not accompanied by action.

Source: Globe editorial: The Trudeau government is failing refugee claimants, and Canadians – The Globe and Mail