El-Assal on backlogs etc

Good and sound testimony before CIMM, with reasonable recommendations to improve transparency, accountability and collaboration (the harder of the three):

Canada’s immigration backlog stands at over two million people. It has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic. The permanent residence inventory has grown from 400,000 people to 530,000 people. The temporary residence inventory has doubled to 1.2 million people, and the citizenship inventory has gone from 230,000 people to 400,000 people.

    The backlog is undermining Canada’s economic, social and humanitarian objectives. We have the lowest unemployment rate on record and over 800,000 job vacancies. The backlog hurts our economic recovery effort, since we can’t bring newcomers into Canada quickly enough to address our labour shortages. For instance, it’s now taking 31 months to process Quebec’s skilled worker applications and 28 months to process paper-based provincial nominee program applications, even though the service standard for both is 11 months.

    The backlog is keeping families apart. For example, although the service standard for spousal sponsorship is 12 months, it’s taking us 20 months on average to process outland applications.

    On the humanitarian side, Canada is making refugees and displaced persons live in discomfort for far longer than necessary, as we’re currently seeing with Afghans and Ukrainians. It is absolutely imperative that we get the immigration system back on track.

    Within the next decade, all nine million baby boomers will reach retirement age. We’re going to need more immigrants to grow our labour force, tax base and economy. However, other countries will win the race for talent if Canada continues to struggle to provide immigrants with certainty that we’ll process their applications quickly and fairly. This will be to the detriment of our economic and fiscal health.

    I’d like to provide three recommendations to the committee.

    First, we need more transparency. 

    The government should be mandated to provide monthly updates to the public on the state of immigration policy and operations. Immigration in Canada is far too important to be a black box. We should not have to rely on access to information requests, as has been the case during the pandemic, to remain informed about the immigration system. The monthly update should contain critical information, such as the government’s policy priorities and its backlog reduction plan, among other details that can help to restore the trust in our immigration system that was eroded during the pandemic. Providing monthly updates would also reflect well on the government. People are more understanding and forgiving when you’re honest with them.

    Second, we need more accountability. 

    An independent study should be commissioned to better understand the operations of the immigration system during the pandemic. Right now, we have many unanswered questions. What are the causes of this backlog? The pandemic alone can’t entirely explain the situation we’re in. For instance, express entry was designed to avoid backlogs, so why then do we have an express entry backlog? We need an evidence-based study that answers these sorts of questions and provides us with guidance to ensure such backlogs never happen again.

    Third, we need to work more collaboratively. 

    Major decisions have been made during the pandemic with little consultation, leading to avoidable consequences. We’re blessed to live in a country with many immigration experts from law, academia, think tanks, business and the settlement sector, among others. They are assets to our immigration system. 

    Hence, my final recommendation is that the government form a national advisory council on immigration. The council’s mandate would be to provide the government with technocratic advice to inform our country’s major immigration decisions. We’re a diverse nation with diverse immigration objectives; we need diverse views reflected in our immigration policy.

    To conclude, I want us to remember that among these two million people waiting in the backlog are future colleagues, friends, neighbours, voters, politicians, and business and civil society leaders. They are Canada’s future, and we must treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Source: https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/CIMM/meeting-21/evidence

CIMM Citizenship delays call for Minister to appear [before end May]

Will be interesting to see the response, and the degree to which information is forthcoming:

Given that significant delays in citizenship applications (over two years) risk disenfranchising Canadians who are waiting for their citizenship in order to vote, and this issue is particularly urgent in light of the June 2nd Ontario provincial election, the government should move quickly to address this issue so that all Canadians who are eligible for citizenship and who choose to apply are able to participate fully in our democratic life. In light of the situation, the committee requests the Minister appear before the committee for two hours by May 27, 2022 to outline actions taken and further actions intended.

Source: https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/CIMM/meeting-21/minutes

Extend special immigration measures to other crises: House of Commons committee

Of note:
Canada’s treatment of Ukrainians fleeing war has been distinctly different to those fleeing other humanitarian crises, the House of Commons immigration committee said Wednesday, and MPs want that to change.
The committee voted Tuesday to issue a public statement, urging the government to provide the same special immigration measures it extended to Ukrainians to refugees from other regions.The statement reads that “time is of the essence,” and said the committee calls on the immigration minister to ensure Canada’s response to humanitarian crises in other regions “are treated with the same vigor as Ukraine.

Canada has expedited immigration applications from Ukraine and created an extraordinary program to allow Ukrainian citizens and their families to come to Canada and work or study for three years while they decide their next steps.

The program does not apply to non-Ukrainians who fled the country.

Canada has received 112,000 applications from people fleeing Ukraine and has so far approved more than 26,500, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said at a press conference Wednesday.

The MPs on the committee say the measures should also be available to Afghans who are still in their Taliban-controlled home country, and refugees from other regions facing humanitarian crises such as Yemen, Myanmar and China.Fraser didn’t address the committee’s request in his press conference, but did say Canada remains “extremely committed” to helping people escape Afghanistan.

Canada has so far welcomed 10,025 Afghans since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Fraser said refugee resettlement efforts, including initiatives in Afghanistan and Syria, can take years to implement and must be accounted for in the government’s annual immigration-level targets tabled in Parliament.

Meanwhile, consultations with the Ukrainian community reveal many wish only to come to Canada temporarily and then return home when it is safe“We will continue to look at more ways that Canada can settle refugees, complementary to our resettlement efforts,” spokeswoman Aidan Strickland said in a statement. “Each situation is unique and should be considered as such to ensure that Canada is responding accordingly.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi applauded Canada’s actions to bring Ukrainians to a safe haven, but also reminded government officials of other refugee crises.

In February, before Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine, the UN refugee agency counted about 84 million refugees and displaced people worldwide.

“Since then, that number has probably grown to well over 90 million. We must be in the region of 95 million now,” Grandi said at the press conference with Fraser.

Grandi was in Ottawa Wednesday to announce a new global task force, chaired by Canada, aimed at finding other ways to bring refugees to safe countries.

The initiative builds on a Canadian pilot program to allow skilled refugees to apply for permanent residency through economic channels. The idea is to bring additional refugees to the country, in addition to those welcomed through humanitarian processes.

The pilot removed some of the barriers that would traditionally have precluded refugees from applying for permanent residency in Canada through economic channels.

It was expanded late last year to accommodate 500 skilled refugees, and Fraser says he hopes to see even more welcomed under the program in the future.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan says the idea behind the pilot program is great, but she has noted some issues with the execution. For example, the program is supposed to include a loan option to allow refugees to meet the economic requirements to support themselves when they come to Canada, but that loan is not yet available.

Source: Extend special immigration measures to other crises: House of Commons committee

And a good op-ed by Naomi Alboim and Karen Cohl:

It is hard to rationalize the strikingly different approaches the Canadian government has taken to two major refugee crises in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

There have been benefits offered to Ukrainians looking to escape the Russian invasion, but not to Afghans fleeing the Taliban’s takeover, including authorization for emergency travel to enter Canada on a temporary basis with open work permits for up to three years. In addition, the government has promised to develop a family-reunification sponsorship program for both immediate and extended-family members.

There have also been benefits offered to Afghans, but not to Ukrainians, such as special programs for arrival as refugees with permanent residence and entitlement to all associated supports and services.

Certainly, the specific context of a refugee crisis can necessitate unique policy responses. But a common framework should be in place to provide similar support for individuals in crisis, with differences in treatment only where demonstrably justified.

The Canadian government has said that the “temporary residence” approach is justified by the assumption that most Ukrainians will return home. The reality, however, is that many Ukrainian refugees who choose to come to Canada can be expected to stay. No one knows how long the war in Ukraine will last, what the outcome will be, how much destruction will occur and whether or when it will be possible for individuals to return. The large Ukrainian community in Canada provides an added incentive to stay.

Indeed, an example from the past may foreshadow future decisions of Ukrainians coming to Canada. In response to the crisis in Kosovo in 1999, Ottawa initiated emergency airlifts of Kosovars on the expectation that many would return home as soon as the situation abroad was resolved. They were provided with permanent residence to entitle them to supports and services while in Canada. Kosovars were also offered transportation to return home and funding to re-establish themselves there. Despite these incentives to return, and the absence of a significant Kosovar community in Canada, only 30 per cent did so.

It would therefore be well worth providing supports and services that meet the needs of new Ukrainian arrivals. Many people fleeing Ukraine are women with small children, so even with open work permits, they may not start work immediately, and many won’t be able to earn enough money to support the needs of the family. Support from the community will be invaluable in many cases, but it cannot be expected to carry the full load.

Although the federal government has announced that Ukrainians arriving as temporary residents will have access to national settlement services, they are not eligible for federal income support or interim health coverage normally provided to refugees, leaving it up to individual provinces to decide on access to health care, schools and income support.

Afghans, for their part, need emergency travel authorization and reunification of extended-family members. Such measures would help to compensate for the fact that the implementation of the two special programs for Afghan refugees has been slow and rife with problems, and that private-sponsorship applications remain blocked.

Many Afghans are at greatly increased risk from having helped Canada in Afghanistan, and many have fled to neighbouring countries that don’t want them and are unable or unwilling to provide support. Ukrainians are in a horrendous situation, but they are at least being welcomed by EU countries who want and are able to help them. Some Afghans were airlifted to Ukraine from Afghanistan. Yet, even these Afghan refugees are not entitled to Canada’s new policies, which are available only to Ukrainian nationals.

We see no justification for Canada to offer such different treatment to two groups coming to our country at around the same time. Some observers have already begun to wonder if the policy differences have been influenced by race, religion or political benefit, and the lack of limits to the number of Ukrainians being allowed to enter Canada only fuels that argument. The perception is heightened by the fact that crises under way in Africa and elsewhere have gotten no special response at all.

Canada needs a common refugee framework that includes expedited entry and permanent residence, eligibility for supports and services and reunification of extended family members. Fair and equitable responses – for any refugee group – will help people in need of protection to make the transition to a successful life in Canada, no matter how long they choose to stay.

Source: Canada needs a unified approach for people fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan

Immigration Minister Fraser takes heat for ‘short-sighted’ approach to processing backlogs

Informative account and opposition right to hold government to account on processing times and the choices and trade-offs they made in order to meet the higher levels in 2021:

Opposition MPs accused Immigration Minister Sean Fraser of being “misleading” about processing times for Canada’s considerable immigration backlog, with the department’s timeline to address the 1.8 million applications still “opaque.”

Fraser (Central Nova, N.S.) fielded questions and took heat from some MPs on the House Immigration and Citizenship Committee during his Feb. 15 briefing on immigration timelines and acceptance rates.

The government’s fall economic statement promised to inject $85-million into Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to reduce the backlog of 1.8 million applications that continues to grow. The funding is being specifically directed towards reducing processing times for work and study permits, permanent residency applications, and visitor visas. Much of the money is being used to automate aspects of the application review process, as well as introducing electronic systems for immigration applicants to review the status of their applications.

In response to a question from NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) about the processing times for family reunification applications, Fraser enthusiastically shared that immigration processing times were back to the service standard of 12 months.

Fraser acknowledged there were some “real frustrations” for some whose family reunification applications got stuck in limbo while Canada’s borders were closed due to the pandemic.

But, through federal investments in the system, including hiring 500 staff, Fraser said IRCC now has “the capacity to process new applications and family reunification streams in 12 months in accordance with the service standard that has existed since before the pandemic.”

However, later in the meeting, officials from IRCC confirmed this standard processing time is only back in place for new applications—not for those applicants who are still pending in the backlog. After hearing this, Kwan said the minister’s comments were “misleading.”

The 12-month processing time only applies to people who are submitting applications starting this year, Daniel Mills, senior assistant deputy minister at IRCC, told MPs at committee.

“However we do have to work on the backlog or the inventory that we have, and that’s what we are doing,” he said.

In the Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 tabled in Parliament on Feb. 14, Fraser set new goals for immigration levels, raising this year’s goal of 411,000 new immigrants to 432,000, with the hope to reach immigration levels of 451,000 newcomers to Canada by 2024. One way the department plans to do this, he said, is by boosting departmental productivity due to a new digital platform in the works. For MPs at committee, however, questions still remained as to how the department will clear the existing backlog, rather than more quickly process new and future applications.

In an interview with The Hill Times, Kwan said she hears from constituents who have family who have applied through the family reunification stream that have been stuck in the system for two or three years “all of the time.”

“Those people have already missed the boat with respect to that processing standard,” Kwan concluded. “And they’re going to probably get another problem because soon people will come back and say, ‘how come the newer applicants got processed before me?’”

Kwan called it a “short-sighted way of dealing with the situation.”

“They’re trying to create this perception that they are somehow on top of things, when in fact, frankly, they’re not. And the system remains opaque. There’s a lack of transparency, and lack of accountability,” she said.

At committee, Conservative MP Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords-Lloydminster, Sask.) followed up on Kwan’s point.

“I’m actually very concerned with what MP Kwan had just brought up. What I had heard you as the official say is that applicants as of this month, February 2022, will have the service standard of 12 months. So what is happening to all of the backlogs previous to this? What is the timeframe to clean these backlogs up?”

The department’s answer: “it depends.” Family class applications, for instance, has 35,000 pending applications, Mills said, and the department processed 8,000 applications in January—above the average processing rate of about 6,000 applications per month the department saw in 2021.

Falk pressed officials during the same exchange to offer details on Fraser’s instructions to the department.

“What direction has the minister given the department to clean up these backlogs, that I’m hearing the excuse of the delayed processing times is because of COVID?”

Mills told Folk the department is trying to reduce the inventory and process them “as quickly as we can.” That is being sped up through digitization of files, which allows the department to process applications virtually, he said.

Off the bat, Fraser laid blame for the backlog at the feet of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the members of the committee know, the pandemic has caused applicants processing delays and backlogs,” he said in French. In English, “folks, it’s not lost on me that there are challenges when it comes to processing in the immigration system,” he stated.

Several members of the committee across parties did not accept that premise, and said the COVID-19 pandemic was being used as an “excuse.”

Kwan said “that excuse is running tired.”

“Let’s face it, there were backlogs pre-pandemic. There’s no question that COVID has exacerbated it. But you know, we’re more than two years into the pandemic,” said Kwan, who is her party’s immigration critic.

Fraser said the primary cause of the backlog was the fact that during the first year of the pandemic when borders were closed, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada stopped bringing in new immigrants, and instead processed the applications of newcomers and permanent residents who were already in Canada.

COVID-19 public health orders also resulted in the shut-down of a number of in-person immigration offices and services within an application process that requires some elements to be conducted in-person. Prior to the pandemic, for instance, citizenship ceremonies were only ever done in-person, and initially, the pandemic put these ceremonies on hold. Now, the minister said they are able to conduct them online, which should help expedite the clearing of that backlog.

“At the same time, when we were welcoming people who were located in Canada already, we continued to see a significant number of applications that were coming in from people who were overseas,” Fraser said.

He said he believed it was the right decision to make, and as a result of focusing on applications of people who were already here, Canada welcomed the most new permanent residents in any year.

“But we knew that that would come with certain consequences that we now need to deal with.”

At the meeting, Conservative MP Kyle Seeback (Dufferin-Caledon, Ont.) cited backlog figures including 548,000 Permanent Resident applications, 112,392 refugee applications, 775,000 temporary resident applications, including study permits and work permits, and; 468,000 Canadian citizenship applications.

Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan (Calgary Forest Lawn, Alta.) also took issue with the suggestion that COVID-19 was responsible for the delays and lack of communication he is hearing about from Afghan refugees and their families who are trying to come to Canada.

“You know, it’s easy for now to say, you know, it’s COVID, and we didn’t have time or IRCC wasn’t prepared, but I mean, [the government was] more prepared for an election plan than they were for an evacuation plan. And the same thing goes with IRCC… I don’t think we can use COVID as an excuse anymore for what’s going on,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

MP Hallan’s exchange with the minister became heated early in the meeting, with Hallan concluding his line of questioning with accusations of the election taking priority over Afghan refugees. Tensions were high at the meeting as Conservative MP Brad Redekopp (Saskatoon West, Sask.) accused immigration officials of “remarkable callousness” in their lack of response to applicants, citing an instance in which one of his constituents’ permanent residence card was 66 days overdue, meaning she could not travel home to visit her dying mother.

“Is this a systematic failure based upon incompetence or are you maliciously blocking PR cards for people who want to see their dying parents?” Redekopp asked. The minister said he would “pass on commenting” on malicious intent.

“I can reassure all members of this House that any challenges that we are facing are due to the circumstances tied to the pressures that COVID-19 has put on Canada’s immigration system, including on PR cards, which typically require somebody to show up for an in-person appointment when many of the offices have been closed down and there hasn’t been that opportunity for face to face engagement,” Fraser said.

Source: Immigration Minister Fraser takes heat for ‘short-sighted’ approach to processing backlogs

Parliamentary report offers fixes for ‘frustrating’ immigration system

Recommendations do not appear very surprising in their focus on service and service standards.

But I am surprised in their recommendation number 16 on service standards that they did not include regular performance reporting on meeting those standards, basic to accountability:

The Immigration Department’s most recent clients’ survey in 2015 found 85 per cent of clients were satisfied with the service, with the rest complaining about a range of issues from the inability to access case status information to errors in applications.

In 2016, the department received 5,000 complaints and the top three concerns related to processing times, the call centre and the operation of the applicants’ online accounts.

The report’s number one recommendation was to train staff at the call centre on client service and on how to communicate with people who may have limited English or French, as well as setting a 15-minute waiting time standard for clients to talk to a live agent for inquires.

The report recommends the department consider having agents specialize in particular programs or application types such as temporary residence, permanent residence, refugees, citizenship and passports.

“The call centre may be used to check the status of an application that is beyond the normal processing time and report changes regarding an application that is in process,” suggested Toronto immigration lawyer Stephen Green.

“While the idea of the call centre is commendable, unfortunately the limits placed on call centre agents in terms of the information that they are permitted to disclose often results in the applicant being unable to ascertain the information required.”

The report said immigration officials should establish service standards and processing times for all programs and publish the information on its website. It said the department should simplify its forms and evaluate common patterns in mistakes and errors made on its applications.

“If you talk to any MP, 80 to 85 per cent of our caseload involves immigration files. The long delays and lack of information are frustrating people,” said MP Jenny Kwan, immigration critic for the opposition NDP, who sits on the immigration standing committee.

“All we are saying is these are simple fixes that make an inordinate amount of sense.”

Bernie Derible, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said the department has made tremendous strides in speeding up processing times and simplifying processes, particularly for family sponsorship applications.

“We are reviewing the recommendations and have been improving many areas already under our government . . . Client experience is a key focus of Minister Hussen’s mandate,” said Derible, adding that the government has designated a director general responsible for improving client services.

Source: Parliamentary report offers fixes for ‘frustrating’ immigration system | Toronto Star

The Conclusions and Recommendations from the report:

The Committee recognizes that IRCC has made a priority of modernizing client service delivery. Testimony heard in the course of this study confirms both the necessity and the complexity of this endeavour. Immigration is a life-changing journey for individuals who should not be frustrated by processes and bureaucracy. As such, the Committee makes the following recommendations to build on the department’s efforts already under way.

Call Centre

The Committee was pleased to hear about the changes IRCC has implemented to the Call Centre for family class applications. These changes address concerns raised by witnesses and improve operational efficiency, as evidenced by the reduction in the number of same-day calls. The Committee encourages the department to implement similar changes in other lines of business and looks forward to hearing progress reports on further Call Centre improvements.

As IRCC moves forward with reforming the Call Centre, the Committee wishes to draw attention to several issues. The Committee heard that Call Centre agents do not communicate their knowledge in simple-to-understand terms for those who may be new to English or French; nor do they facilitate calls when interpreters are involved. The Committee also heard that callers often wait for long periods before being connected to a live agent. Finally, witnesses suggested that Call Centre agents could be assigned to a certain type of immigration application so that they could develop greater subject-matter expertise as a means of improving service. In light of this testimony and the important role that the Call Centre plays in conveying IRCC’s information to clients, the Committee recommends the following:

RECOMMENDATION 1

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada train all Call Centre agents on client service excellence and on how to communicate with people who may have limited English or French speaking abilities.

RECOMMENDATION 2

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provide a standard process to facilitate calls between a client and a Call Centre agent when an interpreter is used.

RECOMMENDATION 3

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have a 15-minute standard for clients to be connected with an advisor or agent for all Call Centre operations.

RECOMMENDATION 4

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consider including specializations and subject-matter experts for Call Centre advisors and agents based on application type, including (1) temporary residence, (2) permanent residence, (3) refugees, including protected persons, (4) citizenship and (5) passports.

Website

The IRCC website is also an important client service interface. Witnesses drew the Committee’s attention to certain problems with the website in its current form and also provided concrete suggestions for improvement. In light of what we heard concerning the IRCC website, the Committee recommends the following:

RECOMMENDATION 5

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consider, as part of the redesign of its website, using (1) client-centric design principles to produce digital channels for each business line, (2) plain language, (3) languages other than French and English, similar to what the Government of British Columbia is doing, and (4) virtual assistance.

RECOMMENDATION 6

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada make improvements to “My Account” to allow clients to view and print applications before filing and during processing, and allow applicants to maintain a complete record of every application filed.

RECOMMENDATION 7

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada improve the ability for applicants and their representatives to link paper applications with online accounts.

RECOMMENDATION 8

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provide alternative payment methods for individuals without access to online payment services and credit cards, such as returning to the previous policy of accepting proof of payment at a bank.

Providing more frequent and useful information

Another important issue also raised in the course of this study is the need to obtain more frequent and useful case information from IRCC. Witnesses made a number of suggestions in this regard, including making GCMS notes available online and providing more detailed status updates through a client’s online accounts. With respect to the private sponsorship program, witnesses suggested that the government establish standards for frequency of communication with sponsoring groups so that their resources can be used effectively and they can maintain support for the sponsorship.

The Committee heard from the department that providing clients with greater assurance that their application is moving forward is one of their current priorities for client service. We fully support this priority and make the following recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION 9

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada contact clients via email or other channels when (1) processing exceeds times provided at the time of application (2) an incorrect payment is made (3) common or simple errors are made on the application.

RECOMMENDATION 10

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada implement an online portal for clients and authorized representatives to track application progress, including but not limited to: (1) current status of the application, (2) any reasons for delays, (3) an estimated time for decision and (4) any missing information or complications with the application.

The Committee also feels that the department could consider providing more useful information on refusals, particularly for temporary resident visa applicants and humanitarian and compassionate applications. The example from Australia suggests that it is possible to provide failed applicants with a more fulsome explanation while maintaining fast processing. Further, as indicated by witnesses, proactive disclosure of reasons for refusal may lower the volume of Access to Information requests made to the department. In light of these observations, the Committee recommends the following in relation to providing clients with more useful information:

RECOMMENDATION 11

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provide more information and details to clients on the reasons for negative decisions.

Finally, in the area of providing more frequent and useful information, the Committee recommends as follows:

RECOMMENDATION 12

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada examine ways, in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, to increase the number of pre-arrival service sessions available, including attendance, in Foreign Service locations.

RECOMMENDATION 13

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada ensure Members of Parliament and Senators continue to have access to the Ministerial Enquiries Division.

Application forms

The Committee would also like to address the issue of application forms. We understand that the department plans to draw on its experience with revamping the spousal sponsorship application kit to make changes to other programs. The Committee supports regular review of application forms so that they can be as client-friendly as possible. The Committee would also like to address the issue, as raised by some witnesses, of clients being penalized by form changes that occurred after their application was submitted. On the matter of application forms, the Committee recommends as follows:

RECOMMENDATION 14

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada regularly review all application forms to (1) simplify the form, (2) improve the client experience, and (3) evaluate common patterns in mistakes and errors made on applications.

RECOMMENDATION 15

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada establish a process for notifying applicants when forms are changed and establish a mechanism to ensure that completed applications submitted with once-current forms are not rejected due to form changes.

Processing Times

Processing times and service standards were also identified as important client service issues by witnesses, who noted that not all IRCC lines of business are subject to service standards. Witnesses also noted that, for certain applicants working temporarily as they await a final decision that would allow them to remain in Canada, the validity period of the work permit does not correspond with the waiting period for the decision. To address these concerns, the Committee recommends as follows:

RECOMMENDATION 16

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consider establishing service standards and processing times for all business lines and publish the standards on the website.

RECOMMENDATION 17

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada extend the validity period of work permits from six months to one year to take into account processing times at the department.

Performance Measurement and Client Feedback

The Committee heard that IRCC has mechanisms in place for soliciting client feedback and some performance indicators for client service. The Committee encourages the department to continue work in this area and recommends as follows:

RECOMMENDATION 18

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada offer automatic client service feedback forms for applications to the department.

RECOMMENDATION 19

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada review key performance indicators for all client service channels and review best practices from other immigration systems around the world, such as those of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Reconsideration

The Committee heard that errors in processing applications that could easily be rectified sometimes end up in court because there is no other way to address them. The Committee is of the opinion that it would be in everyone’s interest to avoid this costly route, and we make the following recommendation accordingly:

RECOMMENDATION 20

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada create a “Reconsideration Committee” to deal with reconsideration requests within applicants’ 15-day deadline.

Continuous Improvement in Customer Service

In the spirit of continuous improvement, the Committee feels that IRCC should conduct more outreach, including targeted efforts for employers and refugees. We also encourage the Department to examine the possibility of providing customer service in person, which is not currently possible. Specifically, the Committee recommends the following:

RECOMMENDATION 21

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada conduct “client service and delivery” consultations with customer and client service experts, the private sector, former and current clients of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and all Canadians on how the department can better provide service.

RECOMMENDATION 22

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada consult with refugees to determine their issues with client service and take steps to address them; the review would include (but would not be limited to) the website, Call Centre, languages used, access to technology and payments.

RECOMMENDATION 23

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada work to better serve Canadian businesses and employers by studying the possible benefits of the department creating a trusted employer program to offer employers an expedited service for assessments (subject to a fee); that this study include input from Canadian businesses and employers; and that IRCC make its findings available to the Committee.

RECOMMENDATION 24

That Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada conduct a cost‑benefit analysis on having regional immigration offices to deliver in‑person service similar to Passport Canada and Service Canada locations.

For many Members of Parliament, a large percentage of their constituency work is related to immigration and citizenship applications filed with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The Committee recognizes that the department handles many applications on a daily basis and generally delivers timely and professional service. It is our hope that the recommendations in this report will assist IRCC in its continued efforts to modernize its approach to client service and at the same time reduce the need for intervention from Members of Parliament.

Full text: Report 9: Modernization of Client Service Delivery Presented to the House: March 23, 2017

Yazidi genocide moves onto McCallum’s plate

To watch:

The whirlwind parliamentary study of the plight of Yazidis and other vulnerable groups has finished, and the witnesses and committee members are looking to Immigration Minister John McCallum to make the next move.

The emotional and often partisan study by the House Immigration Committee included calls from survivors of the Yazidi genocide, community advocates, and opposition MPs for the government to take special action to help persecuted Yazidis—a minority religious group targeted for genocide by ISIL (also known as ISIS, Daesh, and Islamic State)—in Iraq and the surrounding territories.

The Liberal-majority Immigration Committee asked Mr. McCallum (Markham-Thornhill, Ont.) to “accelerate” asylum applications by Yazidis fleeing the violence, and to “create and implement special measures to facilitate Canada’s response” in a letter sent through Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre, Ont.), the committee chair.

“We’re asking the government to use existing tools that are available in order to fulfill what the United Nations has called for” for the Yazidi population, said Liberal MP Peter Fragiskatos (London North Centre, Ont.), who temporarily replaced Liberal MP Shaun Chen (Scarborough North, Ont.) on the committee during the study.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill, Alta.), a committee member and her party’s immigration critic, sent her own letter to Mr. McCallum calling for the government to once again exempt Syrian and Iraqi refugees from an annual cap on privately-sponsored refugees coming into Canada, and to examine using a special section of the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to bring asylum-seekers to Canada quicker.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.), a committee member and her party’s immigration critic, sent her own letter to Mr. McCallum. Both Ms. Kwan and Ms. Rempel called on the minister to use that special provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, section 25, to immediately resettle vulnerable people to Canada, and to begin tracking refugees by ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation, so as to show how successful the government is at bringing in those under the greatest threat.

Mr. McCallum declined to be interviewed on the subject through spokesperson Félix Corriveau, who wrote in an emailed statement that “the minister’s schedule will not allow him to answer your questions.”

The committee will issue a formal report to the minister once Parliament resumes in the fall.

UN refugee agency, UN convention under fire

The Liberal government faces numerous obstacles to the type of quick, large-scale action urged by the committee members and advocates for persecuted minority groups in the Middle East, South Sudan, Myanmar, and elsewhere.

For one, it has already run up a significant bill during a deficit year for its ongoing admission and resettlement of 25,000 government-assisted Syrian refugees, and has committed nearly $1 billion to support those refugees over six years.

Mr. McCallum told Bloomberg last week that his government was having trouble bringing in refugees fast enough to meet the demand of Canadians who wish to privately sponsor their resettlement. However, there was concern among the leaders of some of Canada’s largest cities that they would not have the resources to deal with the large influx of Syrian refugees as the government hit the stride of its mass resettlement effort earlier this year.

The government faces a more technical barrier to the resettlement of Yazidis and other persecuted groups. Many of those people are living in camps or other places of temporary refuge within the borders of their home country. Under the wording of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, upon which Canadian law is based, those people are not considered to be refugees as they have not left their country.

Canada currently relies upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN’s refugee agency, to help it select refugees for resettlement, and that agency does not have the mandate to deal with internally displaced people, David Manicom, the associate assistant deputy minister for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, told the committee.

Canada and the international community should look at reopening the UN Refugee Convention to address that issue, said Mr. Fragiskatos.

However, Mr. Manicom said doing so would be too risky, as some signatories to the convention wish to narrow, not expand, their responsibility to refugees under that convention.

To bring in internally displaced people from hard-to-reach areas, the government may have to follow in the footsteps of Germany, which resettled more than a 1,000 persecuted Yazidis following the ISIL attack in 2014 by working with third-party humanitarian groups instead, Mr. Manicom said.

Government officials are planning a fact-finding mission to Erbil in northern Iraq for the fall, he said.

Source: The Hill Times

Time to change refugee law, says immigration committee chair

To note:

Canada’s refugee system is failing persecuted peoples around the world who can’t flee their own country, say members of the House Immigration Committee.

The committee agreed unanimously to hold a series of meetings over the summer to study the protection of vulnerable groups, and much of the discussion will likely revolve around internally displaced persons (IDPs)—those who are persecuted and driven from their homes, but aren’t able to reach refugee camps outside of their country’s borders, and thus are not legal refugees.

“Everything [in Canada] is structured around refugees: the regulatory, the legal framework. And it doesn’t allow us to address the issue of IDPs,” said Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre, Ont.), the committee chair.

The committee hopes to have a report ready by September, complete with suggestions for legal, regulatory, or policy changes that could make it easier to bring vulnerable internally displaced people, including Iraqi Yazidis, to Canada, said Mr. Wrzesnewskyj, adding he hoped the report “could be used as a framework for our government to act on this humanitarian crisis.”

The committee was inspired to act after the United Nations released its report last month on the persecution of the Yazidi people in northern Iraq by ISIL (also known as ISIS, Daesh, and the Islamic State), say the committee chair and vice-chairs.

A pair of Yazidi women are among the witnesses scheduled to speak before the committee, as are representatives of the UN Human Rights Commission, office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and government officials. The committee also invited electronic submissions from the public up until July 13.

Source: The Hill Times

C-6 Citizenship Act: Clause-by-clause review (updated)

No major surprises as CIMM reviewed the draft bill. The NDP tabled 25 amendments, the Conservatives three, and Elizabeth May eight.

The Conservatives noted their objections to the reduced residency requirements, the repeal of the intent to reside provision, the reduction in knowledge and language testing to 18 to 54 from 14 to 64, and revocation in cases of terror or treason. They also tabled an amendment having a five-year review provision (not part of the Conservatives’ C-24) which the Government-side voted down.

The Bill was approved, with a few minor amendments, largely on party lines, and will be reported to Parliament.

Amendments passed:

Clause 1

That Bill C-6, in Clause 1, be amended by adding after line 6 on page 3 the following:

“(13) Subsection 5(4) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(4) Despite any other provision of this Act, the Minister may, in his or her discretion, grant citizenship to any person to alleviate cases of statelessness or of special and unusual hardship or to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.”

That Bill C-6, in Clause 1, be amended by adding after line 6 on page 3 the following:

“(13) Section 5 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (3):

(3.1) For the purposes of this section, if an applicant for citizenship is a disabled person, the Minister shall take into consideration the measures that are reasonable to accommodate the needs of that person.”

The discussed amendments included:

Admissable

Citizenship applications by youth (under 18, NDP and CPC): Government side voted this down, arguing that Minister had adequate flexibility to waive requirement when merited.

Submission of tax returns (CPC): Richard Kurland’s recommendation to clarify the language in the Act to make it a requirement to file taxes when applying..

Accommodation for persons with disabilities (NDP): Discussion focused on existing accommodation practices, whether this also covered invisible disabilities such as cognitive or learning disabilities and whether or not existing practices and legislation like the Canadian Human Rights Act were adequate. In end, CIMM adopted unanimously to send stronger signal.

Youth criminality (NDP) and not allowing youth criminal records to be considered for citizenship: Defeated with government arguing that existing protections – serious charges, free from record for four years – were appropriate rather than wholesale ban.

Knowledge and language test (allowing interpreter for knowledge – NDP): Government stated that the knowledge test was specified in the Act. The review of Discover Canada, including its language level, would make it easier for people. However, language was critical to integration and the Government defeated the amendment.

Inadmissible (outside scope of C-6)

Restoration or creation of an appeal process in cases of revocation for fraud or misrepresentation (NDP): Although out-of-scope, the NDP noted the earlier signals of the Minister with respect to being open to reviewing the issue and expressed hope that the Minister would come back in the fall, recommending an expansion of the Immigration Appeal Division’s role to include citizenship revocation cases (for fraud or misrepresentation).

Statelessness and remaining ‘Lost Canadians’ (NDP): One of the few statelessness amendments to be considered admissible was in relation to revocation in cases of fraud or misrepresentation. Defeated. However, an amendment providing the Minister with greater discretion was passed.

Changes in oath to include TRC recommendation 94 (reference to treaties with Indigenous peoples (NDP)

Ability to suspend application processing indefinitely (NDP)

 

 

Citizenship Act bill: An overview of what the committee witnesses had to say

Versions of this post originally appeared in IRPP’s Perspectives and The Hill Times:

A Commons committee has finished hearing witnesses on the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act in Bill C-6, and is proceeding to clause-by-clause examination of the legislation. Contrasting the nature of the committee testimony with that of Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, some two-years ago reveals similarities and differences. A number of suggestions were broadly in line with the government’s overall agenda of diversity and inclusion, and it will be interesting if the government responds to these in amendments to the bill.

Starting with the common elements between the two sets of hearings:

  • An almost complete absence of Quebec-based witnesses and French-speaking witnesses, and thus any Quebec-specific citizenship issues that may reflect its different mix of source countries, particularly from the Maghreb, where revocation, or removal of citizenship, would likely be a particular concern;
  • An almost complete lack of statistical data with witnesses talking either in conceptual terms, anecdotal examples, or principles, without any reference to the numbers of people potentially affected by the changes. Assertions by those impacted, for better or worse, by the previous or current Bill, would benefit from the hard numbers;
  • Both sets of hearings ensured different perspectives.

However, a number of significant differences between the study of the two bills, reflecting the change in government, are also notable:

  • 18 witnesses for C-6 compared to 28 for C-24, reflecting the broader scope of C-24 and a likely tighter timeline under the current government;
  • About 40 percent of witnesses broadly supported the revocation of citizenship provision during the study of the Conservative government’s C-24, in contrast to about 25 percent during the study of C-6, reflecting the previous administration having ensured a majority of witnesses in support of the most controversial change;
  • A generally more open tone in discussion and the questioning of witnesses by all parties. The witnesses for the most part recognized that a change in government meant a needed change in tone and approach. Shimon Fogal of the Canadian Israel Jewish Advocacy exemplified this approach, going out of his way to recognize the arguments against revocation while maintaining his position in favour of it. James Bissett and Martin Collacott, both former public servants with immigration experience, did not, thus undermining their arguments as they largely repeated themselves and their tone from previous testimony.
  • Predictably, witnesses that favour an easier pathway to citizenship, while welcoming the proposed changes of C-6, focused on what they perceived as remaining gaps: procedural protections for revocation of citizenship in cases of fraud or misrepresentation; barriers to refugees and some immigrants with respect to more difficult knowledge test and language assessments;  the need for exceptions to the requirement of physical presence in Canada and not merely the possession of a legal address; and the high cost of citizenship fees ($630) and language assessments (about $200) for all applicants.

Minister McCallum did express some openness to amendments and the nature of the questions from Liberal MPs suggested the same flexibility. While the extent of this willingness is unclear, the following is my take on possible amendments, based on their broad consistency with the government’s “diversity and inclusion agenda” and the principles and philosophy behind Bill C-6:

  • Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation: C-24 removed the rights or «procedural protections » that those facing revocation faced, including recourse to the Federal Court, leaving revocation at the discretion of the Minister and delegated officials. There was broad support to ensure those protections were made comparable to those in place for revocation of permanent residency, which provides for an oral hearing. Some argued for reverting back to the former process requiring a Federal Court ruling, which was lengthy. Others argued for the Immigration Review Board (IRB) to expand its mandate to include citizenship hearings, which would require additional resources.
  • Language and knowledge testing: The government responded to public pressure by reverting to the previous age range of 18 to 54 for the testing, but did not (wisely in my opinion), allow the knowledge test to be taken with an interpreter. The revision of the study guide, Discover Canada, and the related citizenship test questions, will presumably (and should) include a complete rewrite into plain language. This would address many but not all of the issues raised by witnesses, without a further weakening of the language requirements, with language skills so important to integration.
  • Physical presence requirement: This provides a clear and common sense definition of residency. However, given the nature of a more mobile and global world, particularly for many economic immigrants, there is a strong case for some forms of defined exemptions. These exemptions could include those who work for a Canadian company abroad, or leave the country for health and compassionate grounds. Or the exemptions could revert to the previous, broader guidance provided to citizenship judges.
  • Citizenship fees: While not part of legislation, the quintupling of fees in 2014-15 and the additional cost of up-front language testing will reduce the number applying, and thus reduce the naturalization rate, a trend we are already seeing. Fees are a significant barrier for lower income immigrants and refugees. Given that a large part of Canada’s relative success as a diverse society reflects a clear pathway to citizenship, addressing the cost, through a general reduction to perhaps $300, possibly combined with a partial waiver for refugees, would help restore this pathway to citizenship and political integration.

Whether the government will consider amendments, or whether the selection of witnesses was part of a strategy to allow the government to demonstrate flexibility, will tell us both about the specific citizenship policy directions as well as their general approach to governing. Will they view Parliament only as a way to deliver on their political commitments, or will they view Parliament as a significant forum for more open policy discussions, debates and decisions?

The upcoming clause-by-clause review starting May 3rd will illustrate their approach in both the particulars of C-6 as well as the broader context.

C6_-_Citizenship_Hearings_and_Possible_Amendments.png

Citizenship Act C-6 Changes: Witnesses 21 April Meeting

The last round of witnesses took place as CIMM proceeds to clause-by-clause review of Bill C-6 after next week’s recess (May 3).

As before, discussion focussed on revocation, particularly on the lack of procedural safeguards in cases of revocation for misrepresentation, language and knowledge testing requirements, and the need for exemptions with respect to the physical presence.

One of the more interesting aspects was the contrast in tone between discussions on revocation in cases of terror or treason. In contrast to the rhetoric/talking points of the previous government and witnesses supporting them, Shimon Fogal of Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which had broadly supported this provision, went out of his way to stress how he understood the government had a mandate and that he was sympathetic to many of the revocation concerns raised by others. If my memory and notes are correct, his intervention in 2014 was less acknowledging and understanding of other perspectives. While this may reflect CIJA taking a bit back to the centre after being perceived as too close to the previous government, it nevertheless provided a good example of how serious differences in opinion can be discussed openly and respectfully.

Details

Shimon Fogel of CIJA started by noting that Canadian citizenship is valued and respected, and is a balanced package of rights and responsibilities, with freedom, dignity and quality for all. Immigrants value being Canadian. Despite the restrictions on Jewish immigration capture is ‘none is too many’, Canadian Jews have made positive contributions to the Canadian story. CIGA supports the restoration of pre-permanent residency time credit towards citizenship, the retention of the physical presence requirement, and the maintenance of basic language and knowledge requirements. CIJA also supports that C-6 does not change the streamlined revocation procedures in cases of fraud or misrepresentation, citing the Oberlander case where the procedures were ‘abused’ to allow Oberlander to remain in Canada.

Other elements required further consideration. CIJA supports the intent to reside provision as an important element to reduce citizens of convenience. But safeguards are needed for those who intended but went abroad to pursue studies or other reasons. Amendments were needed to provide greater safeguards, including checks on Ministerial discretion through requiring going through the courts. CIJA continues to support revocation for terror or treason for dual nationals and wants the provision to be expanded to include war crimes and crimes against humanity. While CIJA respected the government mandate and arguments, it wished to encourage further reflection as terror and treason were not only crimes but an ‘insult to Canada.’

Elke Winter noted the importance of citizenship to nation building. She supports repeal of the national interest revocation provision, noting that this only exported the problem, was unlikely to be an effective deterrent, and that past legislation had resulted in negative stereotyping of Canadian Muslims, citing her recent study examining parliamentary debates, mainstream and social media.

Citizenship was an important step towards integration, an inclusive approach being more conducive to winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of immigrants. The reversion in language and knowledge requirements to 18-54 would encourage more to become citizens. Restoration of pre-permanent residency time was important for students and live-in-caregivers and recognized their Canadian experience. The reduction in residency requirements to 3 out of 5 years would enable Canada to retain the ‘best brains’ and most mobile immigrants. She also recommended implementation of TRC recommendation 94, adding reference to indigenous treaties to the citizenship oath.

Peter Edelmann started off by noting as a dual Swiss Canadian citizen, whose children are also entitled to Swiss citizenship, noted that he and his children as dual faced a possible risk that other Canadians did not. He welcomed the proposed repeal of the national interest revocation provision. He then focussed his remarks of revocation for misrepresentation, largely echoing Audrey Macklin and others who noted that lack of procedural protections given the single decision maker without any right to a hearing or comparable protections. He took issue that the Oberlander case justified this change, saying that the previous process did not by itself require such delays. Permanent residents charged with misrepresentation had a more rigorous process, with the right to a hearing by the Immigration Appeal Division and the possibility to present health and compassionate reasons. There was more procedural fairness around parking tickets than citizenship revocation. Misrepresentation could be serious of trivial. Citizens who citizenship was revoked did not revert to becoming permanent residents but rather foreign nationals who could be deported, and thus in a more precarious status.

Steven Green focussed his intervention on the physical presence requirement. While he welcomed the reduction to 3 years out of 5, physical presence could hurt a lot of people, citing examples of a CBC reporter assigned abroad or a university student at MIT or Harvard. He used the example of MPs, who spend most of their time in Ottawa but nevertheless were residents of their ridings, where their life was centred in terms of bank accounts, social connections etc [Note: stretch analogy in my view]. Exceptions were needed to physical presence and the government should revert to the tests used prior to C-24. The USA provided exceptions for those working for US companies, media or religious organizations abroad. The UK provided exceptions in terms of where the family lived, where the main business was located, and where were social ties. If the government were to keep this provision, exemptions should be provided, recommending working for a Canadian company, studying full-time or being a missionary. Failure to do so would mean we ‘would lose some great people.’

Avvy Go and Vincent Wong of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic noted the importance of citizenship in terms of what we are as a people and nation. The rights and benefits are important to immigrants and their sense of belonging. Citizenship should not promote exclusion and should be a signal that Canada is a “welcoming place.” She was pleased to see the language and knowledge test requirements revert to 18-54 year olds, the repeal of the intent to reside provision and the restoration of pre-permanent residency time credit.

However, Wong noted a number of “serious” problems remained. He supported Green’s testimony on physical presence, adding that compassionate grounds should be another exemption for those who had to go abroad to look after ailing parents. A test could provide flexibility while addressing citizens of convenience. For revocation for fraud, the previous process with recourse to the Federal Court should be reinstated. The up front language test should be “scrapped” as it was a “double whammy,” both a language and financial barrier to citizenship. Requiring applicants to take the knowledge test in English or French was a barrier given that this required a higher level of language proficiency than the CLB-4 required to become a citizen. Many immigrants and refugees did not have time to take language courses.

Richard Kurland focussed on two points: an apparent loophole with respect to tax filings and the lack of procedural safeguards in cases of revocation for misrepresentation. He was pleased that the government had kept the requirement to file income taxes, as this was meant to ensure that applicants were residents of Canada not just for immigration but also tax purposes. However he saw a ‘gaping’ loophole in C-24’s provision to file taxes and proposed adding the words ‘to meet any applicable requirement’ to close it. He also, like a number of other witnesses, noted the “strategic design flaw” of having less procedural safeguards than for revoking permanent residency. He suggested adding citizenship adjudication to the IRB’s responsibilities or alternatively, downgrade their status to Permanent Residents to have a “modicum” of justice.

Discussion:

Revocation for terror or treason: The government side asked how CIJA could justify revocation for terror or treason in light of some of the arguments that this was perceived as singling out certain groups. Fogal noted that he was not incentive to these concerns, that this was a difficult issue and part of the government’s mandate. His support was philosophical and used the analogy of a marriage when the fundamental commitments have been broken, the solution was divorce. Repudiation of the central Canadian values was not just a criminal matter, it was a crime against Canada itself. Kurland noted that this was a matter for the criminal system not citizenship.

The Conservatives continued to focus on revocation. Fogal again noted his sensitivity to the points raised by Engelmann and Winter and that the government had some “compelling” arguments about not differentiating between different Canadians. But he couldn’t escape the fundamental philosophical problem. An act of terrorism is an “insult to Canada” and their has to be some recognition of that difference and redress.

Engelmann and Fogal entered a short inconclusive debate whether a marriage or parent analogy was more appropriate (one can’t renounce one’s child was Engelmann’s point while unfortunately, divorce was all too frequent). [Note: Fortunately, no one raised divorce procedural issues related to religions (permitted, not permitted, gender discrimination) but I would caution over-use of this analogy).]

Revocation for fraud: Not much new discussion here. Fogal reiterated his support for the streamlined process, stating that there was a legal and moral imperative to maintain revocation in these cases, which was fundamentally different than revocation for other reasons. Engelmann recommended the “relatively straightforward” process of the Immigration Appeal Division with respect to permanent residents, noting that not all misrepresentation was the same, using an example of someone who 25 years ago had submitted a fraudulent engineering diploma but had been living, working and raising a family since them and there may be grounds not to revoke. Green and Go/Wong responded similarly.

Intent to reside: The government side questioned CIJA on its support for the intent to reside provision and how it could be reconciled with the mobility rights under the Charter. Fogal noted that none of the situations lead themselves to simple solutions. We need to balance the degree of confidence that new citizens have to fully participate with considerations regarding citizens of convenience, citing the 2006 Lebanese evacuation and eventual return of some 15,000 Lebanese Canadians. Individuals normally enrich Canada by being in Canada. There was not a black and white solution but it was important to be mindful of citizens of convenience.

The Conservatives questioned Green on his opposition to intent to reside. Green noted later that as a practical matter, intent to reside could not be managed. Was it a one month commitment? 6 months? The intent to reside provision would not have changed the Lebanon situation one little bit. [Note: Intent to reside applied only to the period of time the application was in process but C-24 testimony indicated some concern how it would be implemented.]

Kurland noted the only way to address citizens of convenience was to have a very stiff passport renewal fee ($5-10,000) for non-resident Canadians who do not file Canadian taxes, or adopt the US approach of basing income tax on citizenship, not residency.

Physical presence:  Some discussion related to situations where the father worked abroad to support his family in Canada. Go noted access to employment issues in Canada that led to this situation, and the risk to the husband’s permanent residency status if not working for a Canadian company. She also noted that many students studying abroad will return to Canada. Green noted that many successful business people have frequent travel abroad and just can’t meet the residency requirements and have to make the choice between their business or getting citizenship.

Criminal convictions: The NDP asked about the prohibition to become citizens for those with a criminal record abroad. Engelmann noted that the existing mechanism with respect to permanent residents already dealt with these cases. If serious enough, permanent residency can be revoked. Moreover, the provision in the Citizenship Act made no allowance for the context of the foreign conviction and he recommended repeal of this provision given that IRPA addressed this concern adequately. In subsequent questioning, Go noted the problematic nature of foreign convictions, particularly in China and Vietnam where most of her clinic clients come from.

Language/Knowledge: Same general points as before regarding the importance of language to integration, the concerns regarding up-front language testing in terms of cost and difficulty, and the “double testing” of language through the knowledge test. None of today’s witnesses spoke in favour of the current approach. Engelmann noted the higher language level required in the knowledge test and cited his personal experience of only knowing scientific terms in French  [Note: during my time at IRCC/CIC, we argued unsuccessfully for Discover Canada to be written in more accessible language, along with the questions. It appears from the increase in average pass rates in 2014-15, that the questions have been made clearer and more accessible].

Go and Wong made similar points from a fairness angle, stressing the difficulty for low-income families, often refugees, noting that this effectively disenfranchised those already marginalized. Go noted an upcoming study on Chinese restaurant workers who worked long hours and did not have time to learn an official language.

Statelessness: Similar discussion as before, although Kurland noted the need to carefully scrutinize applications from stateless persons, given that they were a recruitment target for terrorists.