Record-breaking number of immigration cases went through Federal Court in 2022

Result of processing times and backlogs, gumming up the system further:

Canada’s Federal Court saw more new immigration proceedings in 2022 than any of the past 30 years, which some lawyers say is a sign of an overburdened system.

Recent statistics posted to the court’s website show more than 70 per cent of its cases were tied to immigration and refugees as of late 2022.

In total, the court saw 13,487 new immigration proceedings in 2022, up from 9,761 in 2021 and 6,424 in 2020, according to the office of Chief Justice Paul Crampton.

Source: Record-breaking number of immigration cases went through Federal Court in 2022

Immigration backlog leads to surge of legal cases against federal government

Yet another good analysis in the Globe, collateral damage from the government’s immigration policies and operational weaknesses that frustrate applicants and increase workload:

The federal government is facing a barrage of legal cases related to its backlog of immigration applications, which has led to slower processing times and plenty of frustration for those waiting years on a decision.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has been named in 709 mandamus applications filed in federal court this fiscal year, which started in April, according to figures provided by IRCC as of Nov. 14. The filings are easily on pace to surpass the total for the previous fiscal year.

Mandamus is an order issued by a court to a lower court, or government entity, to carry out their duties. Thus, hundreds of people are seeking a judicial order that compels Immigration to finish processing their applications.

Mandamus cases are generally filed when there is an excessive delay in processing an immigration application and without a reasonable explanation provided by the federal government for that delay.

Ottawa is ramping up its intake of immigrants, which it says is crucial to fuelling economic growth and alleviating labour shortages. However, some of its moves to boost immigration have led to significant processing delays, affecting applicants that include skilled workers who are highly sought after by employers.

In search of resolutions, more people are turning to the courts. Slightly more than 800 mandamus applications against IRCC were filed in the 2021-22 fiscal year, an increase of 465 per cent from 143 applications in 2019-20.Glo

While lawyers told The Globe and Mail that mandamus is a last-resort option, it’s increasingly one that immigration applicants are advised to take, given their mounting frustrations over a sluggish and opaque system.

“It’s an effective remedy,” said Mario Bellissimo, founder and principal lawyer of Bellissimo Law Group. “However, it’s a remedy that really shouldn’t be used as frequently as it is, when the system is running the way it’s meant to run.”

The federal government is trying to process a stockpile of immigration applications. As of Oct. 31, there were about 2.2 million applications in IRCC’s inventories. Around 1.2 million were in backlog, meaning they’ve been in the system for longer than service standards for processing. Processing times vary by immigration stream. The mass of applications has fallen since September, but is still much larger than before the pandemic.

The federal government has blamed the buildup on office closings related to COVID-19, hindering its ability to process files efficiently. However, several economists and legal experts say that Ottawa had a large hand in creating the situation.

After failing to hit its immigration targets in 2020, owing to the pandemic, the federal government found various ways of encouraging more people to apply for permanent residency, and the subsequent increase in applications overwhelmed IRCC’s ability to process files in a timely manner.

This has led to a number of grievances. For instance, some high-skilled foreign workers in Canada are nearing the end of their work permits, but have yet to hear about their status. Others applied for their permanent-resident cards years ago, but are unable to find out why processing of their files has stalled.

That is forcing more people to seek legal action.

Out of the 809 mandamus applications that were filed against IRCC in the 2021-22 fiscal year, 333 came from those in economic streams of immigration. Another 183 came from the family class of immigrants. (Many of these are spousal cases, with a partner stuck overseas.)

The mandamus process can be expensive. Max Chaudhary, an immigration lawyer in the GTA, said it can cost roughly $6,000 to $15,000 for a single case, depending on how many stages are involved.

Kerry Molitor, an immigration consultant, is concerned that processing delays are creating a situation in which wealthier individuals are better positioned to force the government’s hand.

“It’s a solution that’s out of reach for most people,” she said.

Lev Abramovich, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, says his firm has filed more than 300 mandamus applications over the past year, which makes him one of the more prolific users of this legal option.

“We take an aggressive approach. We’ve also been successful with it,” he said. “Generally speaking, a mandamus application will wake IRCC up and will put pressure on them to finalize the pending application.”

The process starts with a demand for performance to IRCC, often in the form of a letter. In some cases, the federal government will start processing the file at this point.

If the case remains stalled, lawyers will proceed to file an application for mandamus in federal court. At this stage, the federal government will usually resume working on a file and issue a decision, several lawyers said.

In rare instances, however, cases will proceed to a hearing.

That is what happened to Siavash Bidgoly and his wife, Iranian nationals who moved to Toronto from the U.S. in July, 2018. That same month, Mr. Bidgoly submitted his application for permanent residency, having recently been invited to apply by the federal government. His wife was listed as an accompanying dependent.

Mr. Bidgoly expected an approval within six months, based on the experiences of some friends. Shortly after he arrived, he started a company, Tribe Technologies Inc., which employs about 50 people today.

Instead, the process dragged out for years. Mr. Bidgoly made several attempts to learn more about his application status, often hearing that his security check was still in progress.

Mr. Bidgoly filed a mandamus application in February, 2021. A federal court justice ruled in his favour in March, 2022, ordering IRCC to issue a decision within 90 days. Mr. Bidgoly and his wife were later approved for PR status.

“It is stressful. It is draining. I love Canada, but I questioned myself,” he said. “You are here because you trust their immigration system, and now this is what you get.”

In the hearing, IRCC argued that the delay was not excessive, in light of the pandemic’s effect on processing times. Justice Paul Favel did not find that argument satisfactory.

“Simple statements to the effect that a security check is in progress or that the pandemic is responsible for the delay are insufficient,” read the decision, adding that IRCC “had to provide evidence.”

Source: Immigration backlog leads to surge of legal cases against federal government

Canada’s immigration backlog has never been worse

The ever increasing backlogs understandably continue to attract attention. However, apart from CILA and a few individuals, haven’t seen any call for a pause in applications or heaven forbid, reduced levels, to address the backlogs:

In tandem with the increasing backlog has also been a precipitous rise in Federal Court cases from frustrated applicants demanding a reply from the IRCC.

They’re called “mandamus cases,” and it’s essentially an application for the court to order a response from IRCC. Before the pandemic there were only a few dozen mandamus cases per year. Last year, there were more than 400.

In prior statements, the federal government has largely attributed the crushing IRCC delays to the COVID-19 pandemic and the avalanche of refugee applications from Afghanistan and Ukraine. Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the formation of a special committee to figure out how to reduce wait times.

Amid history-making line-ups at Canadian airports and passport offices, an absolutely crushing backlog at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is putting them all to shame.

According to numbers obtained from the IRCC by the immigration-focused publication CIC News, there are now 2.7 million people waiting for Ottawa to process their immigration application.

The backlog encompasses every application filed to IRCC, from citizenship to visas to requests for permanent residency. The backlog of citizenship applications alone stands at 444,792, while most of the list (1.7 million) is applications for temporary residence.

Not only is it the worst immigration backlog of all time, but it is growing exponentially with each passing week. This time last year, the backlog was just 1.5 million names, according to CIC News. In just the last 30 days, the list has grown by 300,000 — an increase of roughly 1,000 new applicants per day.

All told, there are now more people awaiting a reply from the IRCC than there are residents of Atlantic Canada. As of press time, the population of all four Atlantic provinces (including Newfoundland and Labrador) is roughly 2.5 million.

If the backlog continues to grow at the current rate, it will only be another four months until the number of applicants awaiting processing by the IRCC is equivalent to 10 per cent of the Canadian population of 38 million.

This has thrown immigration wait times into complete disarray at the precise time that Canada is touting itself as a haven for refugees, most notably from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Many of those 2.7 million represent foreign nationals dwelling in a kind of awkward limbo as they spend years awaiting updates from the IRCC.

Last month, Pakistani man Kazim Ali told CTV he applied for Canada’s Express Entry program in 2020, when the estimated wait for a reply was six months. Two years later, he hasn’t heard a thing, bringing the life of he and his wife “to a screeching halt” as they delay career choices and even children until they can hear back.

An increasingly overwhelmed IRCC is also making it difficult to reliably schedule any event in Canada that involves foreign nationals. Last month, both a Montreal AIDS symposium and a major Toronto tech conference saw dozens of invitees unable to attend because of difficulties in obtaining Canadian visas.

In a recent report by the Business Council of Canada, Canadian employers cited “processing delays” as the top barrier to recruiting international talent.

“Frustrated by application processing delays, complex rules, and the cost of navigating the system, fewer than a quarter (of survey respondents) say the immigration system currently serves their business needs well,” it read.

In tandem with the increasing backlog has also been a precipitous rise in Federal Court cases from frustrated applicants demanding a reply from the IRCC.

They’re called “mandamus cases,” and it’s essentially an application for the court to order a response from IRCC. Before the pandemic there were only a few dozen mandamus cases per year. Last year, there were more than 400.

In prior statements, the federal government has largely attributed the crushing IRCC delays to the COVID-19 pandemic and the avalanche of refugee applications from Afghanistan and Ukraine. Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the formation of a special committee to figure out how to reduce wait times.

Source: Canada’s immigration backlog has never been worse 

Brian Lilley on Roxham Road (usual hyperbole about Trudeau’s tweet):

In the first six months of this year, more people crossed illegally into Canada at Roxham Road in Quebec than in all of 2019. The asylum seekers fast-track route may have all but shut down for much of the pandemic, but now it’s back in business with gusto.

According to the latest federal figures, 16,319 people entered Canada at “irregular” border crossings in Quebec between Jan. 1, 2022, and June 30, 2022. That includes 3,449 in May and 3,066 in June.

Those are the second- and third-highest months on record, surpassed only by August 2017.

By comparison, in 2019 a total of 16,136 people crossed at Roxham Road, and there were 18,518 illegal crossers in 2018 and 18,836 in 2017. The advent of COVID-19 saw the flow of asylum seekers at the Quebec-New York border slow to a trickle with just over 3,000 in 2020 and just over 4,000 in 2021, with most of them coming in December of that year.

This whole thing started when Justin Trudeau put out a tweet welcoming the world to Canada as then newly elected president Donald Trump threatened to deport people back to Haiti from the United States. What was lost on most is that Trump was ending a program that allowed people to stay in the U.S. if they were displaced by the earthquake or at risk following Haiti’s 2004 coup. Canada had ended a similar program years earlier under the Harper government and Trudeau had kept the policy in place and was removing people even as he criticized Trump.

With Trump threatening to do what Canada had already done, many looked north, and Trudeau welcomed them with open arms.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” Trudeau tweeted on January 28, 2017.

Days later, embassy staff from Mexico were writing to officials at Global Affairs seeking advice on how to handle people looking to declare refugee status in Canada.

“We are receiving an increasing number of enquiries from the public about requesting refugee status in Canada, and a number clearly having links with our Prime Minister’s tweet this weekend,” one email read.

It wasn’t just staff in Mexico. Word spread that Canada would take anyone as a refugee and many decided to use the illegal border crossing to skip dealing with the system.

Since then, more than 77,000 people — that’s more than the population of Belleville, Ont. or Chateauguay, Que. — have crossed at Roxham alone. The government has built special processing facilities there, establishing posts for immigration and RCMP officers to process people.

This is nothing short of the Liberals attempting to import another American political issue into Canada to wedge the Conservatives. In Canada, Conservatives support high numbers for legal immigration, something we saw throughout the Harper years.

What Conservatives don’t support is people who break the law.

This is where we get into word games. The Liberals claim no one is breaking the law, that these are asylum seekers and under Canadian — and international — law it is legal for them to seek asylum. The reality is, the government has giant signs warning people that it is illegal to cross at Roxham and the RCMP give verbal warnings that anyone doing so will be arrested for breaking the law.

They only claim asylum once arrested.

Nigeria is the biggest source of people crossing at Roxham and just 30% of the more than 16,000 who crossed there between February 2017 and March 2022 were accepted as valid refugees. For the more than 10,000 Haitians who crossed — the second-largest source country, just 23% were accepted.

Roxham Road has become a way for those looking to skip the long delays in legal, economic migration to get into Canada.

This isn’t how a properly functioning immigration and refugee system should work, but very little of what the Trudeau government is doing these days is working properly.

Source: LILLEY: Trudeau continues immigration games as Roxham Road sees record numbers

Federal Court getting clogged with immigration appeals – Canada News

Without earlier pre-pandemic data, hard to assess the degree to which this is a significant increase. In the context of backlogs etc, clearly could be:

The number of people seeking the Federal Court’s help to determine the status of their applications to become new Canadians has increased by almost seven times over the past three years, according to the latest figures provided to New Canadian Media.

Commenting on a recent NCM article, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said that it is now dealing with 445 mandamus files referred by the Federal Court. There were only 65 such cases for the 2019/2020 period.

In the immigration context, a mandamus application is a judicial remedy compelling the performance of a public legal duty by IRCC that is owed to an applicant.

According to the latest IRCC numbers, 445 mandamus applications were referred by the Federal Court for the 2021/2022 year as of Feb. 28, including 153 in family class, 239 in economic class and 53 as refugees.

“The increase in mandamus applications is in part due to closures at various processing offices and Visa Application Centres during COVID-19 that led to longer processing times for applicants, and in part due to our growing inventory and the number of applications received by IRCC every year,” Julie Lafortune, IRCC’s communications advisor, told NCM.

“A number of complex files involving paper application forms have been seriously impacted by the office closures, and all of our partners upon which we rely on for the processing of complex files have also been experiencing longer delays than usual.”

Victor Ing, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, said the latest numbers clearly confirm a marked increase in mandamus cases over the past year, which is consistent with the day-to-day experiences of immigration law practitioners.

“Applying for mandamus is not something that most clients take lightly. Starting a lawsuit against the party you want to receive a positive decision from is counterintuitive, but many clients eventually reach a tipping point where they no longer feel like there is an alternative path,” he told NCM.

“In my experience, many mandamus applications can be avoided if IRCC would communicate more openly and honestly with clients. Too often they are made to feel like a file number, and what is easily overlooked is that they are all individuals whose lives have been put on hold waiting for decisions they expected to receive much sooner,” said Ing.

“The frustrations of the public around COVID-19 related to processing delays are palpable, and IRCC needs to continue to develop new tools and policies to increase transparency in the decision-making process and to reassure clients that their cases will be processed in a timely manner.”

There are now close to two million applications trapped in a massive backlog that IRCC is struggling to clear.

IRCC undeterred

At the same time, Canada aims to attract about 1.3 million new immigrants over the next three years to help fill critical labour shortages and fuel post-pandemic growth.

The 2022–2024 Immigration Levels Plan aims to continue welcoming immigrants at a rate of about one per cent of Canada’s population, including 431,645 permanent residents in 2022 (an increase of about 21,000 people from its original plan), 447,055 in 2023, and 451,000 in 2024.

The Government of Canada recently announced that it has allocated $85 million in new funding to reduce IRCC application inventories. The funding will build on what IRCC has already done to reduce wait times, such as hiring approximately 500 new processing staff, digitizing applications, and reallocating work among its offices around the world.

Ing said that while IRCC has introduced many innovative systems since the start of the pandemic, the implementation of these systems has been lagging, contributing, in some cases, to the growing frustrations of the public.

“For instance, on February 8, 2022, the Minister announced a new online tool that would allow Family Class applicants for permanent residence to track the status of their cases online,” he said. “I shared the announcement with one of my clients who would have benefited from the new tool, but she was unable to make use of it due to technical issues.”

Numerous mistakes

Chun He, a student-at-law, in an article for the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA), said IRCC’s appetite for automation has led to numerous mistakes and dehumanizing experiences for people trying to come to Canada.

He said that the multiple, rapidly designed electronic IRCC portals implemented without adequate testing or stakeholder feedback has resulted in poor functionality and user frustration.

“Advocates note that they have never experienced so many portals not working. The authorized representative portal has been out of order for days at a time. These glitches and kinks in the system have created huge problems for clients, as it has forced some of them to file applications at the last minute, lose their status, or even stop working,” wrote He.

“Overall, the primary outcome of this never-before-seen multi-portal experiment is ongoing distress for clients and their representatives.”

Source: Federal Court getting clogged with immigration appeals – Canada News