The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) is urging Ottawa to put a halt to luring additional newcomers and instead prioritize the applications of hundreds of thousands of people who are in the process of establishing new lives in Canada.
The appeal to stabilize Canada’s immigration system comes as the federal government prepares to unveil its new immigration intake levels plan for 2022-2024, as well as the schemes via which these individuals will be admitted.
According to the most recent government data, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have an estimated 1.8 million visa applications in the queue awaiting processing because of pandemic-related delays.
Currently, Canada’s immigration numbers are set at around 1% of the national population, with the government expecting 411,000 arrivals in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023. However, CILA believes that announcing more aggressive aims with such a big backlog may be premature.
CILA thinks that it would be in the medium- and long-term interests of the immigration system for IRCC to use this year to reduce backlogs and to continue to make the required technical investments and reforms that will enhance processing times and client experience moving ahead.
The influence has gone from foreign nationals abroad hoping to contribute to Canadian society to future Canadian citizens unable to vote and permanent residents hoping to retain their cards or reunite with loved ones.
Several temporary residents’ attempts to extend their stay or make their presence in Canada permanent have also been derailed, according to immigration lawyer Arlind Selimi in an essay published on the CILA website.
As part of modernizing Canada’s immigration system, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced this week the launch of a new digital case status tracker that would allow applicants, sponsors, and their agents to check their application status online.
Former director-general of the IRCC’s Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Andrew Griffith, said he supports the call for a pause in intake because backlogs have harmed both foreign skilled workers and citizenship applications. The implications of COVID on application processing and travel restrictions have resulted in significant backlogs. However, not everyone agrees that enticing newcomers should be put on hold.
A veteran Vancouver-based immigration lawyer, Richard Kurland, told NCM that using the “scary” 1.8 million backlog figure, which encompasses the full immigration and citizenship processes, is a “grossly unfair comparison.”
“This number includes 370,000 Canadian citizenship applications, which is not part of an immigration visa backlog,” he said.
NDP Critic for IRCC in Vancouver East, Jenny Kwan, believes that putting more staffing resources to handle applications and expanding immigration levels is a better strategy to lessen IRCC’s backlog and processing times. The government should continue to rob Peter to pay Paul by redistributing resources and immigration levels from one stream to another.
All of this does add to the system’s problems and chaos. Significant processing delays, according to Kwan, continue in all streams of the immigration system.
“At this rate, it will take at least three years to get the backlog down to pre-pandemic levels…This reality is what people are faced with, and it’s a stark contrast to the Liberal government’s feel-good claims that things are processing and on track,” added Kwan, who is a member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in the House of Commons.