According to the most recent numbers provided to New Canadian Media, the number of people seeking the Federal Court’s assistance in determining the status of their applications to become new Canadians has surged by nearly seven times in the last three years.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in response to a recent NCM report, stated that it is now dealing with 445 mandamus files referred by the Federal Court. For the 2019/2020 fiscal year, there were only 65 such incidents.
In the context of immigration, a mandamus application is a judicial remedy that requires IRCC to discharge a public law duty due to an applicant.
According to the most recent IRCC figures, the Federal Court had referred 445 mandamus applications for the 2021/2022 year as of Feb. 28, including 153 in the family class, 239 in the 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 LA fortune, 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 for the processing of complex files have also been experiencing longer delays than usual.”
According to Victor Ing, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, the latest figures clearly reflect a significant increase in mandamus cases over the past year, which is consistent with immigration law practitioners’ day-to-day experiences.
“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.”
Nearly two million applications are now stuck in a significant backlog that the IRCC is striving to clear.
Simultaneously, Canada hopes to attract 1.3 million new immigrants over the next three years to assist address crucial labour shortages and stimulate post-pandemic growth.
The Immigration Levels Plan for the years 2022–2024 seeks to keep receiving immigrants at a rate of around 1% of Canada’s population, with 431,645 permanent residents in 2022 (up about 21,000 from the initial plan), 447,055 in 2023, and 451,000 in 2024.
The Canadian government has pledged an additional $85 million in financing to help the IRCC reduce its application inventories. The cash will supplement what IRCC has previously done to minimise wait times, including employing 500 extra processing personnel, digitizing applications, and reallocating work across its locations throughout the world.
IRCC has launched numerous innovative systems since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Ing, but their implementation has lagged, leading to the public’s growing dissatisfaction in some circumstances.
“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.”
In an article for the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA), Chun He, a student-at-law, said that IRCC’s thirst for automation has resulted in countless errors and demeaning experiences for persons attempting to enter Canada.
He said that the implementation of various, hastily constructed electronic IRCC portals without proper testing or stakeholder feedback resulted in poor functionality and customer annoyance.
“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.”
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