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.
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.”
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.”
A multiple-award winning journalist, Fabian Dawson is an internationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and media expert. His work over the last four decades spans the globe and he also serves as a consultant/strategic advisor to a variety of international companies. As deputy editor-in-chief of The Province, part of the Postmedia chain, Dawson led initiatives within a special publications group to provide directed content for a variety of organisations. He was named the 2019 recipient of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award at Jack Webster Awards. Dawson has been invited by the governments of India, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the United States to act as a media observer/advisor on a variety of Asian-Canada issues. Dawson, now operates FD Media, which specializes in harnessing editorial assets to revenue generating opportunities.