Quebec announces reduced immigration targets, fuelling tensions with Ottawa

To watch.

Any reopening of the agreement to provide Quebec a role in family reunification and refugees would need to be accompanied by reopening the block grant of $490 million provided to Quebec (2017-18) for selection and integration (see Chantal Hébert’s earlier column By campaigning to cut immigration, Quebec’s opposition parties are playing politics with their province’s future):

Quebec plans to slash the number of immigrants it accepts next year, delivering on an election promise by Premier François Legault and setting the province on a collision course with Ottawa.

The Quebec government announced targets on Tuesday to reduce the number of newcomers to 40,000 in 2019, 24 per cent fewer than the 53,300 anticipated this year.

The plan is turning into the first major source of tension between the federal Liberals and the new Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government, just three days before a federal-provincial meeting in Montreal.

While the biggest drop in numbers would occur among qualified workers and other economic immigrants, which are under provincial control, Quebec also wants to cut into two streams of newcomers that fall under federal control: family reunifications involving spouses, children and parents, which would see 2,800 fewer immigrants, and refugees and asylum seekers, which would be cut by 2,450 people.

Groups working with immigrants and refugees called the CAQ plan “cruel” and said it is already stirring panic among families in Quebec who fear they will not be reunited with loved ones abroad.

The CAQ is also facing criticism for the cuts because Quebec is struggling with a chronic manpower shortage.

In Ottawa on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised questions about the timing of the plan.

“What I hear from business people across Quebec is that companies are worried about a labour shortage. I’m not sure that this is the best moment to reduce the intake of newcomers,” he told reporters.

Mr. Legault campaigned on a pledge to reduce immigration, arguing that one in five immigrants ends up leaving Quebec. He has framed the cuts not just in terms of better matching newcomers to the needs of the labour market, but as a way of safeguarding Quebec’s identity, values and French language.

The federal government said it will continue to hold discussions with the Quebec government on the issue, including defending the integrity of the family reunification program.

“We are disappointed,” Dominic LeBlanc, the federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday. “We don’t want a two-tier system in which families in Quebec need more time to bring in their spouses and parents than those in New Brunswick or Ontario. That’s not an ideal situation.”

Mr. LeBlanc added that both the Quebec and Canadian governments should make sure they meet their international obligations in terms of taking in refugees.

Mr. Legault said his government was elected after campaigning on lower immigration levels.

“We have a clear mandate from the population,” he said outside the National Assembly. “The population clearly understood that a CAQ government will reduce the number of immigrants to 40,000. … I trust the good judgment of the federal government.”

Quebec says the reduction will be temporary, with Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette calling it a “transition.”

“Faced with the difficulties of integration for a large number of immigrants, we had to act and have the courage to take the means to favour their long-term settlement in Quebec,” he said at a news conference.

In the legislature, he said: “What we want to do is deploy the resources to ensure each person who chooses Quebec succeeds.”

The government’s plan was denounced by an umbrella organization for groups working with immigrants and refugees in Quebec. The Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes called the plan “cruel” and unprecedented in Quebec’s history of immigration policy.

“This decision of the government is creating a wind of panic among numerous families that we are meeting in our organization,” said Lida Ahgasi, co-president of the Table, in a statement. “It’s a totally counterproductive decision, since we know that successful integration can only be accomplished within the family. If we want to take care of newcomers, we especially have to respect and protect the integrity of their family unit.”

At their first meeting after the Oct. 1 Quebec election, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Legault tried to negotiate a deal on immigration. However, Quebec decided on numbers without informing the federal government of its intentions ahead of time. Under the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration deal, federal funding to facilitate the integration of immigrants in Quebec will still go up next year, even though the intake numbers will go down.

Source: Quebec announces reduced immigration targets, fuelling tensions with Ottawa

Getting refugee decisions appealed in court ‘the luck of the draw,’ study shows

Sean Rehaag continues his important work in revealing inconsistencies in decision-making depending on the federal court judge hearing the application. Virtually all reviews of decision-making processes highlight how perspectives and biases (and Kahneman’s ‘automatic thinking’) can lead to such results:

It is a crapshoot whether refugee claimants can get a second chance from the Federal Court to review and appeal a decision that potentially determines their life and death, according to a new study.

“Outcomes in Federal Court applications for judicial review of refugee determinations depended all too often on the luck of the draw — on which judge decided the case,” said York University law professor Sean Rehaag, author of the report released by the Social Sciences Research Network this month.

“Refugee claimants whose applications for judicial review are denied continue to have good reason to wonder whether this was because of the facts of their case and the law, or whether they simply lost the luck of the draw.”

Both failed refugees and the federal government can appeal a refugee board decision to the court but must first get a nod — or leave — from a judge before the case can proceed to a full hearing. If the first judge denies leave, the appeal will not be heard. Sometimes, the court is the last resort before a failed refugee claimant is deported from Canada to face potential risks back home.

Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton acknowledged Rehaag’s study raises some important questions.

“There is a very real fairness dimension to the wide variation in the rates at which individual judges grant leave,” Crampton told the Star in a statement. “This is so despite the element of subjectivity in making judicial determinations, especially on judicial review, where the standard that the court is called upon to apply in most cases is whether the decision under review was ‘unreasonable.’”

Based on 33,920 Federal Court leave applications involving refugees, the study found only 16.8 per cent of the requests were granted to proceed to an appeal hearing and just 7.8 per cent of them were ultimately successful in getting an asylum decision stayed and having the cases reopened.

The study is the sequel to one conducted by Rehaag in 2012 when he found individual judges varied tremendously in their grant rates for leave and judicial reviews.

Since the release of the first study, Crampton has raised awareness of the issue among judges and even considered amending rules to include a list of factors for judges to weigh in applying the existing leave test, but decided it would be better to include this in legislation.

“Given the important principle that individual judges must decide cases before them on the merits, completely independently of any influence by other persons, the court has continued to wrestle with how to reduce the variation in leave grant rates,” Crampton said.

According to the study, from 2008 to 2011, some judges only allowed 1.5 per cent of the appeal requests they handled to proceed to a full hearing while others approved more than 30 per cent of those requests. One judge, Justice Douglas Campbell, actually granted leave to 95.9 per cent of his cases.

Wide gaps were also identified in the outcomes of the appeals, with some rejecting almost every appeal before them and others reopening 33.8 per cent of the cases and sending them back for a new assessment.

However, despite the court’s effort to address the issue, the gaps among judges’ approval rates persisted after 2012.

From 2013 to 2016, the leave grant rates varied from 5.3 per cent by Justice Judith Snider on the low end to 49.2 per cent by Justice Elizabeth Heneghan on the high end. Appellants, who got leave to proceed to a full hearing, had a 1.8 per cent success rate if they appeared before Justice Richard Boivin but a 22.8 per cent chance to succeed in reopening their cases if they were before Justice Leonard Mandamin.

The report recommends the court allow all appeals a full hearing or at least have two judges to decide on leave to counterbalance any potential bias.

Source: Getting refugee decisions appealed in court ‘the luck of the draw,’ study shows

Decision-Making: Refugee claim acceptance in Canada appears to be ‘luck of the draw’ despite reforms, analysis shows

Interesting from a decision-making perspective.

Reading this reminded me of some of Daniel Kahneman’s similar work where he showed considerable variability in decision-making, even depending on the time of day. A reminder of the difficulty of ensuring consistent decision-making, given that people are people, automatic thinking, reflecting our experiences and perceptions, is often as important as more deliberative thinking. No easy solutions but regular analysis of decisions and feedback may help:

There are legitimate reasons why decisions by some adjudicators lean in one direction, such as adjudicators specializing in claimants from a certain region. (Someone hearing cases from Syria will have a higher acceptance rate than someone hearing claims from France.) Some members hear more expedited cases, which are typically urgent claims with specific aggravating or mitigating facts.

“My view is that even when you try to control for those sorts of differences, a very large difference in acceptance rates still exists,” said Mr. Rehaag. “You get into the more idiosyncratic elements of individual identity.”

These may reflect the politics of the adjudicator or impressions about a country. If adjudicators have been on a relaxing holiday in a country they may be less likely to accept a claimant faces horrors there.

Refugee claim acceptance in Canada appears to be ‘luck of the draw’ despite reforms, analysis shows | National Post.