Canadian Immigration and Refugee Law: A Practitioner’s Handbook, 2nd Edition by Chantal Desloges and Cathryn Sawicki – Review

As one who looks at immigration from a data and policy perspective, reading Canadian Immigration and Refugee Law: A Practitioner’s Handbook deepened my understanding of legal perspectives and experience in supporting clients through the various immigration and refugee processes. Practitioners Chantal Desloges and Cathryn Sawicki (we follow each other on Twitter) have compiled a comprehensive and practical handbook that I found particularly useful in deepening my understanding of the intricacies of immigration policies.

The Handbook is impressive, close to 700 pages, broken into 16 chapters, with an extensive glossary, table of cases, and index. Each chapter starts with a helpful introduction explaining the relevant policies and programs. The table of contents is helpfully designed to allow readers to go directly to the topic of interest. 

The book features helpful graphics: organization charts, flow charts, and summary tables. The tables are particularly helpful and cover a range of areas: the roles and responsibilities of different actors, contrasting different programs (e.g., between the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program), occupational codes, the nature and steps in the processes, and the key provisions of the relevant legislation along with the relevant articles.

While the material is complex, and the intricacies appear almost infinite, the authors have made every attempt to write in as accessible language as possible. Yet this more accessible language does not “dumb down” the complexity of the content but rather makes the material easier to follow and, I expect, to explain to clients. This was further aided by selected media stories that highlight the practical impacts of the issues and decisions discussed (e.g., an article on what immigration officers look for with respect to applications for spousal sponsorship). The Handbook also includes some statistics (e.g., on the different waves of refugees) although in my view, too sparingly, as some sections such as permanent residency, would benefit from a data breakdown of the various programs to provide greater context.

The Handbook focuses on practical advice for counsel in representing clients. This is particularly extensive with respect to family class immigration, immigration appeals, the refugee determination process and judicial review, likely reflecting where most immigration law practice takes place. The recurring advice applying to all sections is that the responsibility lies with the applicant in making any application or request for consideration, the need for honesty and disclosure by the applicant  (and counsel’s professional responsibility to cease representation if the applicant is not being truthful) and that file prepared should be complete and well-organized to facilitate decision maker review. Implicitly, this essentially is a recommendation to use counsel in these areas of more complex immigration law.  

I do have, however, a few quibbles with some of the material: 

One nice touch, the Handbook uses she and her as much as he and him in referring to persons rather than just one gender.

As I was reading the Handbook, I kept on asking myself who might be the potential audience for such a comprehensive treatment beyond the obvious ones of current and future immigration lawyers and reputable immigration consultants? It is clearly a specialized publication, not designed for the general public, even if written in an accessible manner.

Policy practitioners generally rely on consultation with government lawyers to ensure their policy proposals are in conformity with law. However, reading the Handbook, I found that I benefitted from both the general and more specific treatment of the issues, and have already returned to the Handbook to answer some media enquiries. 

Certainly, policy practitioners new to immigration would benefit from reading the specific chapter relevant to their work. While it may be too much to expect (hope?) that political staffers and political commentators would read relevant sections to the issues of the day, they would clearly benefit from doing so, as some ill-informed debates regarding Canada’s international and domestic obligations regarding asylum seekers illustrate. Other potential audiences would include academics and think tank experts specialized in immigration.

Overall, the Handbook lives up to its billing as a practitioners handbook, but one relevant to anyone with a specialized professional interest in immigration issues.

Monsef could face consequences, immigration lawyers warn 

Lots of coverage on Maryam Monsef and her birthplace.

Most coverage conflate birthplace, citizenship and identity. While they can for many be one and the same, this is not the case for all, particularly in the case of immigrants.

For example, my mother was born in Russia on the eve of the Russian revolution, her family as refugees fled to Latvia, and her Canadian passport listed Riga as her birthplace, likely reflecting that the chaos at the time made it impossible to obtain a Russian birth certificate. But we all knew her true birthplace.

As to the speculation by some regarding whether or not her citizenship and immigration status could or should be revoked, Monsef arrived in Canada at the age of 11 so all documents would have been submitted by her mother. So while her mother’s status could theoretically be subject to review, hard to see why any government would do so some 20 years after the fact and given that it is not material to the family’s status as refugees.

Iran has between one and three million Afghan refugees, which are not well integrated into Iranian society, and largely live within Afghan neighbourhoods.

So I am sceptical of the reasoning of the immigration lawyers contacted by the Sun (Guidy Mamann, Chantal Desloges and Julie Taub):

Canadian immigration lawyers say Democratic Reform Minister Maryam Monsef could suffer consequences if her refugee or citizenship applications included false information.

“It’s extraordinarily serious,” Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann said. “From a strictly legal point of view – and I’m assuming cabinet ministers want to observe the law – she is a person right now who has citizenship through fraud. It may be intentional or unintentional, but her citizenship in Canada right now is open to attack.”

…“If you had false info on your citizenship application you could be subject to having it revoked,” Toronto immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges explained. “It could not go so far as a criminal charge because for her to be charged criminally you’d have to do it knowingly.”

While lawyers the Sun spoke to disagreed on certain specifics, none doubted that a case such as Monsef’s would typically undergo a review.

“There are differences in cases where they probably decide not to proceed when false info is presented for reasons of safety and security. But that’s rare,” says Ottawa immigration lawyer Julie Taub, a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

“The situation is if she was not an MP, if she was not a cabinet minister, if she was just your average Joe, the government would probably seek to vacate her status and once that protection is gone they could go after her citizenship,” Mamann added.

“I think the government is going to be in a hard position because they obviously won’t want to take any action on it but if they don’t, how is that going to look, that she’s getting preferential treatment?” Desloges said.

Source: Monsef could face consequences, immigration lawyers warn | furey | Canada | News

Michael Friscolanti demonstrates a more sophisticated understanding of the issues involved, and the likelihood of removing her immigrant and citizenship status:

If her mother provided inaccurate information to the IRB, does that mean Monsef could be stripped of her citizenship?

Again, it’s not clear what Basir told the IRB. But even if she failed to disclose where her daughters were born, experts in refugee law are divided about the potential consequences. According to the Citizenship Act, the government has the power to revoke citizenship on the grounds it was obtained “by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.” Material is the key word. Simply put, would the evidence that has come to light have altered the IRB’s original opinion that Monsef was a bona fide refugee? “If it was not disclosed that she was born in Iran, that, in my opinion, is a material misrepresentation,” says Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann. “If you find one lie, then you start questioning the whole story.”

Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Immigration critic, seems to agree, saying there could be “serious consequences” if Monsef’s refugee claim contained false information. But Showler, the former IRB chair, sees it differently. Because Monsef had no legal status in Iran (to repeat: she wasn’t a citizen, despite being born there), her birthplace had zero bearing on the case. “What you are doing with a refugee claim is you’re saying: ‘I cannot go back to my home country because I will be persecuted,’” he says. “Whether or not she was born in Iran is irrelevant. The only country for which she had citizenship was Afghanistan, and that is the country from which she feared persecution.” Showler says “there is not one chance in 1,000″ that Monsef’s immigration status is in jeopardy. “It’s very, very difficult to unwind citizenship status,” he continues. “You can do it, but almost always when it happens, it’s because somebody has committed a serious crime and there are reasons you want to get them out of the country. For something like this, there would be absolutely no reason for doing it.”

What if her mother did tell the IRB that Monsef was born in Iran?

For one thing, it would eliminate any chance, however remote, of the minister being stripped of her citizenship. It would mean Basir provided all relevant facts to the IRB, and that the board concluded all four claimants were genuine refugees. If that’s the case, however, it does raise yet another question.

If the Immigration and Refugee Board was told that Monsef was born in Iran, how could she not know?

Think back to the ensuing document trail. If the IRB was informed of her true birthplace, that same location would have been listed on her subsequent permanent residency forms, her citizenship application, etc. Under such a scenario, it seems implausible that Monsef would have remained oblivious to the truth all this time—or that the Privy Council Office, which conducts a “rigorous vetting process” for would-be cabinet ministers, would not have stumbled upon the evidence. It’s much more likely, as discussed above, that Monsef’s mother chose to hide from the IRB what she hid from her daughters: that they were born in Iran.

Source: Maryam Monsef’s personal revelations leave lingering questions               


News Release — What people are saying about Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act

Interesting mix of endorsements from the expected (e.g., Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, Foundation for Defence of Democracies, True Patriot Love, Central Mennonite Committee in case of Lost Canadians) to the less so (individual tweets). And finding likely the one immigration lawyer, Chantal Desloges, in favour is quite a coup.

Plays against the backdrop of the Maytree survey posted earlier.

News Release — What people are saying about Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.