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Immigration lawyers reeling

|Written By Kendyl Sebesta

Immigration lawyers are reeling from a host of changes that are radically revamping Canada’s immigration system within a short period of time.

‘We shouldn’t do away with the dream of someone getting the chance to come Canada who played by the rules,’ says Mario Bellissimo. Photo: Robin Kuniski

“They’re moving through one immigration program at a time like a stack of dominoes,” says Mario Bellissimo of Bellissimo Law Group in Toronto. “Yes, some of the changes have been very positive, but I don’t think it’s being looked at holistically and I think we really need to catch our breath.

I mean, unless they can say Canada’s immigration system as currently constructed is entirely flawed, that’s one thing. But they have to come out and say it.”

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has essentially been doing what Bellissimo suggests in defending changes that include eliminating scores of people from the backlog of applications.

“It makes no sense to tell people, ‘Apply now, but put your life on hold for a few years before we’ll even let you know if you qualify,’” said Kenney in a statement.

“I will continue to make changes to create a faster, more flexible immigration system. Canadians need and deserve a system that boldly puts Canada’s best interests first.”

The slew of changes includes allowing provinces to hand-pick skilled workers and immigrants to meet their labour needs; the removal of all applications clogging the federal skilled-worker applicant pool; more emphasis on hiring skilled tradespeople; assessing education credentials prior to entry to Canada; and the elimination of an entrepreneurship program to combat immigration fraud.

Under the changes to the federal skilled-worker program, nearly 280,000 people who applied before Feb. 27, 2008, will have their applications removed from the pool. In turn, they’ll receive a refund for their fees and will have to reapply under the new guidelines.

Those guidelines include a requirement to have either experience in one of 29 occupations listed by the federal government as being in high demand or a job offer in Canada.

The new system also envisions processing applicants more quickly if they’re young, highly skilled, and have the ability to speak English or French. In addition, it involves developing a separate stream for in-demand tradespeople and business investors.

As for the remaining immigrants who don’t meet the new guidelines, a pilot program will allow provinces and territories to accept an additional 1,500 people a year from the current backlog of applicants.

Many immigration lawyers who disagree with the changes say that while they put Canada’s economic interests first, there are downsides as well.

“The changes seem to turn immigrants into economic commodities and don’t appear to take into consideration the family and societal values immigrants who may be excluded under the changes could bring to Canada,” says Bellissimo.

“I understand not wanting to bring a group of people to Canada who are going to struggle and won’t succeed, but are we bringing in people just to have them pass through our system or are we bringing them in to build a social network of success that will further develop our country?”

Bellissimo notes the changes to the skilled-worker program will come down particularly hard on applicants who in many cases have been waiting five years or more to enter Canada and have played by the rules.

“What do we say to those people: ‘Sorry you did the right thing but we’re going to close the door on you anyway?’” We shouldn’t do away with the dream of someone getting the chance to come to Canada who played by the rules. It’s a dangerous precedent and I think it will be subject to legal challenges in the future.”

Bellissimo adds that while he agrees with Kenney that the immigration system should be faster and more flexible, there shouldn’t be “a complete tear down” of it.

Not everyone agrees. Ottawa immigration lawyer Julie Taub, for example, feels the changes are on the right track. “There are enormous economic costs associated with applicant backlogs,” she says.

“I think they have it right. Immigration should benefit Canada rather than Canada benefiting immigration. I think it really should be fine-tuned to meet Canada’s economic needs.”

In Taub’s view, the changes rightly expect more from immigrants coming to Canada. “All immigrants that came before the late 1980s had to stand on their own two feet,” she says.

“They had to work hard and they didn’t get any handouts. Now, there is a sense of entitlement among some immigrants, and I think some of the changes are right to address that.”

The new rules include changes to the Canadian experience class that allow certain foreign students and temporary foreign workers to obtain permanent resident status through their Canadian work and educational background more quickly. But foreign workers will have to receive accreditation in their home country before they can work in Canada.

“All accreditation should be done abroad,” says Taub. “For Canadian taxpayers, it’s in our best interest and safety to do so. There are a large number of doctors and engineers who come to Canada and aren’t accredited and end up becoming taxi drivers or may end up harming people because they aren’t up to our standards.”

But Lloyd Ament, a partner at Basman Smith LLP in Toronto, foresees some problems with the changes. “In terms of the changes to the federal skilled-worker program in the permanent resident category, of the 29 categories workers can now apply under, there is only room for 500 applicants,” he says.

“The popular categories are being filled up in a month in most cases and it doesn’t really do much for the other 80 per cent.”

Other categories affected by the changes include the family class under which parents and grandparents can now apply for super visas that allow quicker entry to Canada for extended stays.

At the same time, the government will now require spouses of Canadian citizens applying under that class to commit to a two-year temporary visitor designation before they can seek permanent residence in order to ensure the marriage is genuine.

“It sounds good on paper, but many parents and grandparents can’t get the medical insurance necessary to apply for the visa and can’t prove their sponsor has the resources necessary to support them,” says Ament.

For more, see "Dramatic immigration reforms necessary" and "What's Kenney's beef with lawyers?"

  • Buheissi
    What about the money we had paid as fees? This money has to be refunded with interest. You cannot refund me the same amount I had paid before.
  • sabeen
    I condem the bill c -38 from the bottom of my heart.
  • farah
    Jasson Kenny can you refund my 7 years. Canadians are frauds they were using our money from last 8 years. God ll take revenge from them. I still don't believe how a civilised nation can do this?
    i have no words to express my feeling. We were following Canadian laws from last 7 years. Is it their law.government is supremme there rather than law.Kenny
    has demolish Canada's credibility.
  • Sujith
    It is really unfair. The decision of CIC completely againt those fundamental priciples of justice. It is against law of natural justice. Applicants prior to Feb 2008 have to be victims for being patiently waiting in the que by submitting all needful documentation. CIC can not give back the life time these affected applicants lots. Mere refunding cannot recover the damge caused to lives of these applicants. These applicants have been affected by bill- 38 and ministerial instructions at different stages of application process. In my case, I even completed medicals in January 2012, but still was not able to make a final decision on my case. I condem the decision to eliminate these applications after 5-6 years (some more than that) which is against natural justice. CIC has played with lives of 280,000 applicants. I strongly support to the legal action against CIC. Further I wish to join with class action lawsuit very soon.
  • tk
    I have been waiting from last 8 years now for my PR and all i get to hear is they might return the files who have applied for Federal Skilled worker before Feb 2008....If i knew that they were going to do this i would have waited till Feb friends suggested me to apply for some other country but thought Canada is a good country where i can raise my kids and give them a bright future to live with....i wish i listened to my friends then i would have been more happier...and would have got my visas long back instead of waiting for 8 years....
  • omio
    when my wife applied the consular office told to gather all paper shortly coz the processing time was 8- 10 months, she sat on the IELTS when she was 6 months pregnent. it was painfull , u can understand. few years gone, now canada is going to refund our money without processing. I'm sorry , i dream to go to a country where is law and order and justice. Is it justic? i can't but hate this Canada whom i love. Its nothing but a cheeting. Lets see is the goverment give priority to justice or they become businessman.
  • prof. doom
    Cheater jAson keNney, that's what CANada stands for NOW!
  • prof.dr.a v amudhan
    I think that the immigration forum's views are justified in as much as almost all the occupations are short in supply in the wider part of Canada. It is pathetic that Canada dismisses more than 300000 prospective applicants and are prepared to refund a sum of more than CD130 million. All right thinking people should raise a voice and make an appeal to the Govt. to reconsider this vengeance.
  • CalgaryImmLawyer
    RE: SUPER VISA for 2 years:
    And what about the hard-working immigrant wife legitimately married to a Cdn spouse who cannot financially sponsor her and will not sign her papers, once she has been here for 2 years? This system can not prove that her marriage is not genuine.
  • Ann
    At last! It took a majority government with forward thinking to proceed. We needed a major house cleaning in the area of immigration. Lawyers and immigration specialists should stop playing the system and truely help their clients. We need new immigrants, out west, down east and particularly up north. This time, we have a blue print to move toward this new century.
  • sam
    Whether people of Canada realise it or not, they did the gravest mistake of vesting the minister with enormous power. Any such measure would fail badly is a lesson from the history of any nation. The danger is that when such extraordinary power falls in the wrong hands, the people suffer. That is why in a democratic set up power is shared among the elected people. Only a dictator or a king would want all the power. Today it may look as if it affects a small?! no of people who are not even in Canada. But 300 000 is almost 10% of the population of Canada. It wont take long for the very power and authority to harm the Canadians shortly.
    The lesson we learnt is we applied and waited paying fees and showing restrain and refrain. Instead we should have ferried ourselves in boatloads and imposed ourselves!
  • A P Thomas
    Its pathetic.. Didnt expect this from a country like Canada which I beleived considered human beings as human beings.. I think its good that I saw the real colour of the Country and greatful to the God that I am not going to such a place.
  • baljit
    I have been waiting for 8 years, admitted my son in a school beyond my approach,I did not invest money anywhere, now I am hurted.
  • Yog
    I was proud of going to a country which will provide me an opprtunity to nurture my kids in an enviorment that respects human values about economic, class, cast boundaries.. But it seems Canada is changing
  • PurpleSky
    Response to Yog:
    The governments in Canada, who are a successor government of the British Crown, have breached treaty and friendship agreements with the First Nations. They have allowed people from overseas to settle and get wealthy on our traditional lands and resources with no regard for how that would impact First Nations people. Is that an environment that respects human values?
  • PurpleSky
    The settler government of Canada does not even have the moral authority to be granting permission for settlement from overseas to this land without consultation with the First Nations people who have been on this territory for thousands of years. Why have prospective emigrants not taken responsibility to learn about this most pivotal and fundamental factor, since most of them have the ability to read, to fill out applications, to prepare themselves for testing and to learn the complex procedures for moving to another land? Or can we First Nations people assume that this continuous flow of immigrants, who have absolutely no regard for our existence, are a continuation of the colonial mentality that we First Nations have had to face from the British who still have unresolved matters to settle with us?
  • Annika Eleuthera
    Purple sky- not once, in all the bull that I've had to go thru in dealing with immigration, have I even thought about that point. Nor is it remotely eleuded to within that 'organization.' But You are exactly right. It is the First Nations I should be asking permission to be here.
    I'm ripe to right that wrong.
    One of many; colonialists are not known for respectful treatment of anyone, anywhere they slide their Interests into.
    I'm sorry.
  • muhammad tayyab
    You want young, i was 31 when applied now m 39 whose fault it is? Mine?
    Scored 8 overall band in English , not enough ? Spent years after years waiting, invested money, time, endurance into all this. For what? Fairness, democracy ? It is all a sham. We r not files , we are lives , human beings , u can't just discard us, where is the sense of justice in it ? If u want tl refund us, refund my 8 years too in which I was not able to settle because I didnt know when I ll have to move. Have some responsibility people because u based us to come. We did all u asked us to do. Review me qnd refuse, don't mind but u can not avoid me by removing me. Have some concious.
  • baljit
    I agree with you
  • Accountant
    USA, UK and Ireland can process visas in weeks, not years. I know because I've obtained work visas from all three countries. Why can't the CIC hire a lot more visa processes and get the job done.
  • TM
    Is this new rule is Fair? i dont think so. We are waiting from so many years. Why dont they consider us first, do they really think that no one from 280,000 applicants is skilled.
    This new rule is not at all fair and they are playing with our future. Rather than approving, Canadian parliament should condsider old applications first.
  • Backlog applicant
    Minister Kenney wants simply to slash away our files as if we are not human being. He claimed that, it was the changes in labor market needs which forced him doing so. I really wonder for what he said!!!! Anyone who goes through the data of our files will find easily lots of cases with occupations that are still needed in the most recent list. So, it is not the labor market needs. I wonder what crime we have done?! It seems as if we are punished for our choice of Canada as an immigration destination. It is really a nightmare. This is not Canada we know. This is not the country we dreamt to raise our kids in. It is inhuman, unfair and illogic. I have no words to express how much we are disappointed. Something should be done to stop approval of this unfair decision in the parliament.
    Backlog applicant
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