Deferring Removal

People who either face removal or who have received a removal order should contact a lawyer immediately to determine what their options are. The purpose of this post is to provide an overview of the legislative scheme for deferring removal orders. It provides a general framework, and cannot substitute the advice that a lawyer can give when he applies these facts to your situation.
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What is the Citizenship of the Children of Diplomats Born in Canada?

Canadian citizenship law provides that a person is generally a Canadian citizen if they are born in Canada.  Since 1952, however, there has been an exception to those who are born in Canada if neither of the child’s parents are Canadian citizens or permanent residents and if either parent was, at the time of the child’s birth:

  • a diplomatic or consular officer or other representative or employee in Canada of a foreign government;
  • an employee in the service of one of the people listed above; or
  • an officer or employee of a specialized agency of the United Nations or an officer or employee in Canada of any other international organization who benefits from diplomatic privileges and immunities in Canada.

(While the precise wording has changed over time, the above restrictions have remained more or less consistent.)

Diplomatic Immunity is Critical

In Vavilov v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration Canada), 2017 FCA 132, the Federal Court of Appeal answered the following certified question:

Are the words “other representative or employee of a foreign government in Canada” found in paragraph 3(2)(a) of the Citizenship Act limited to foreign nationals who benefit from diplomatic privileges and immunities?

The Federal Court of Appeal answered in the affirmative. In doing so, it found that the reason why Canadian citizenship law prohibits the children of diplomats from becoming Canadian citizens at birth is because persons who have diplomatic privileges and immunities do not have duties and responsibilities to Canada and are not subject to all Canadian laws.

The Vavilov case, which as of writing is currently before the Supreme Court of Canada, is an interesting one, and specifically deals with the issue of whether children who are born in Canada to parents who are foreign spies are Canadian.  Because such individuals do not benefit from diplomatic immunity, the Federal Court of Appeal found that they are citizens.

 


Responding to Procedural Fairness Letters

Where an applicant submits a complete application, but an immigration officer nonetheless has concerns regarding the merits of it, the immigration officer will often provide a fairness letter to the applicant.  The failure to adequately respond to a procedural fairness letter is generally the refusal of the application.

Unfortunately, many individuals do not take the time to properly respond to the procedural fairness letter.  Upon review, it is often apparent that the reason for the inadequate response is either because the applicant did not understand the fairness letter, or because they simply did not know how to respond appropriately.

Accordingly, there are several things that applicants should know about responding to procedural fairness letters.

The first thing is perhaps the most obvious, and that is that applicants should address the issues that are raised in the fairness letter.  If a fairness letter asks you to provide detailed information as to what you were doing from 1996-1997, then provide detailed information.  However, it is generally unnecessary to anticipate future issues or questions that could arise but that are not immediately foreseeable, as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will usually send another letter if it has concerns.

Vasilyeva v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2017 FC 551 is an example of where this did not occur, and where the Federal Court determined that the visa officer breached procedural fairness.  This was actually a case that I successfully argued in Federal Court, and so am quite familiar with the legal principles involved.

As Justice Barnes wrote:

The Applicant was seeking permanent residency in Canada. Her spouse’s Russian military service was obviously relevant to the application and the visa officer requested his service book by email dated August 24, 2015. The Applicant provided a copy of her husband’s service book issued in 1992, which was received on September 22, 2015. The dating of this record raised a fresh concern as can be seen from the visa officer’s file notes dated May 12, 2016:

Spouse: career in the Soviet military as an officer. Spouse submitted translated copy of military book: spouse served apparently 10 years, 1982-1992, attending military college for 5 years and then serving as a senior lieutenant in Saint Petersburg: spouse appears to have had no promotions despite formal military education and lengthy service. Spouse’s military booklet was issued in 1992, at the end of his service: this is highly unusual as his Soviet military booklet should have been issued when he was 18 years old (circa 1981), when he would have been called to register for mandatory military service; he should definitely have been issued a military booklet at the beginning of his military career service in 1982. NB that the 1992copy of the military booklet submitted does not indicate that it is a replacement or a duplicate. Original Military Booklet from 1981/1982, Detailed Military History table and Security Screening Required

Because of the above concern, the visa officer requested, within 60 days, the “original military book (confirming your service in the army from 1982 to 1992) and completed, attached form regarding your service in the army along with all details”. A few days later, a more detailed request was sent in the following form:

This is a follow-up message to our email dated 12 May 2016.

Please note that a copy of Vladimir Serdyuk’s military book is already on file; however, this military book was issued in 1992, at the end of Vladimir Serdyuk’s military career. In addition to the documentation requested in our 12 May 2016 email, please submit a certified translated copy of Vladimir Serdyuk’s military book that was issued to him in either 1981-1982, when he turned 18 and began his military service. If Vladimir Serdyuk does not have a military book issued in 1981-1982, please provide a detailed explanation as to why he does not have a military book dating from the beginning of his military service.

Please comply with our request within 60 days, otherwise your application for permanent residence in Canada will be assessed based on the documentation on file and may be refused.

Ms. Vasilyeva was unable to provide the 1981-1982 military book, and instead re-submitted the 1992 military book, along with a an explanation (which apparently was not received by the visa officer).

As the Federal Court decision then notes:

What happened next is the crux of the matter at hand. Instead of simply rejecting the application for failing to perfect the record, the visa officer identified an entirely new problem. He expressed a concern about the authenticity of the service book that had been submitted. This concern is reflected in the following passage from the visa officer’s file notes:

On 02 June 2016, applicant submitted an explanation letter, the original military book issued in 1992, and aDetails of Military Service table. I note that the military book looks brand new (no wrinkles, folds or wear & tear) even though it was issued 24 years ago. I also note that the corners of the military book submitted are not die-cut (as one would expect with a government-issued booklet) but rather appear to have been round-cut with scissors. These two factors call into question its authenticity.

Without informing the Applicant of the above credibility concern, the visa officer proceeded to refuse the application. This decision prompted a request for reconsideration which was also rejected.

As Justice Barnes found, this new credibility concern that arose as a result of Ms. Vasilyeva’s response to the procedural fairness letter constituted an entirely new issue that necessitated a new procedural fairness letter.

As well, an applicant can generally assume that they only need to respond to the concerns raised in the fairness letter.  The Federal Court has repeatedly determined that it is a breach of procedural fairness for officers to engage in a “bait-and-switch.” In Jin v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2014 FC 612 for example, Justice Roy held that:

[Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada] raised a very specific concern in the fairness letter: will the applicant reside in the Province of Quebec. That is the matter that is addressed squarely in the response. There is no further discussion of the credibility or authenticity of that information. Rather, a completely different issue, the return to Canada altogether, becomes the reason for the refusal. Black’s Law Dictionary (West Group, 7th ed) defines “bait and switch” as “A sales practice whereby a merchant advertises a low-priced product to lure customers into the store only to induce them to buy a higher-priced product.” Although most analogies are somewhat defective, this one illustrates the point in that the applicant is lured into thinking that the issue is one thing, to be told that it is something else of an even higher order.

Finally, if you are unable to include all the information that you require in a response to a fairness letter, but you would like to submit missing information a short period later, then make sure that your first response indicates that there is more information coming.  For example, if IRCC requests five documents, and you only provide three, it is important to indicate that the other two documents will be provided shortly, and by when.

 


Summary of November 1 Changes to BC PNP Guide

On November 1, 2017 the British Columbia Provincial Nomination Program (the “BC PNP”) clarified and/or modified several aspects of its programs.

Skilled Immigration

The more significant revisions that applicants and practitioners should be aware of are:

    • The International Graduates and International Post-Graduate programs have long excluded graduates from distance education programs from being eligible.  As well, a person’s education has not been eligible for Skills Immigration Registration System (“SIRS”) ranking points if it was obtained through distance education.  The BC PNP has now defined “distance education.” It means “a program of study in which the majority of credits earned by the student toward the completion of a program were earned by completing online courses.

 

    • The BC PNP has removed the requirement that candidates meet the employment requirements for offered positions, as per the National Occupational Classification (“NOC”) website. However, the BC PNP may still refer to the NOC website to determine the minimum qualifications for an occupation.

 

    • Previously, an applicant could not have an ownership/equity take of more than 10% in the B.C. company that is offering employment.  The BC PNP has changed this requirement to state that an applicant and his/her pouse cannot have a combined ownership/equity stake of more than 10% in the B.C. company that is offering employment.

 

    • The BC PNP has re-affirmed that it does not consider bonuses, commissions, profit-sharing distributions, tips/gratuities, overtime wages, housing allowances, room and board, or other similar payments to be part of a person’s wage.

 

    • The BC PNP has completely changed the job requirements in the Express Entry International Graduate and International Graduate programs.  First, it has removed the ability of such individuals to work in NOC C/D positions if they can show a structured plan in place for career advancement. Second, the BC PNP has clarified that supervisor or management positions will only be accepted if the applicant can demonstrate through their resume that they have obtained experience which qualifies them for the position.  The BC PNP has also announced that those who are unable to demonstrate that they have obtained progressively increasing experience or responsibilities, or if their employer cannot demonstrate that the job offer is bona fide, then their application will be refused.

 

    • The BC PNP has clarified that for the purposes of determining the number of full-time employees that an employer has an individual will generally only be considered an employee if they are on the employer’s payroll, and that T4s may be required.

 

    • The BC PNP has affirmed that recruitment will only be waived for employees who are currently working for their employer if the employee has completed their studies.

 

  • People who have been nominated must inform the BC PNP if there is (a) a change in employer, title, work location or job duties, (b) a decrease in wage, (c) loss of employment, (d) change in marital status or number of dependants, (e) change in immigration status, (f) refusal of work permit or (g) change to part-time employment.

 

Entrepreneur Stream

The changes to the Entrepreneur Stream were less significant.  The BC PNP has re-affirmed that an individual will only consider registrations to establish or purchase and improve a business that contributes to the economic growth of British Columbia.  An applicant must demonstrate that they will own at least 33.3% of the business in British Columbia, and that if the proposed ownership is less then they will invest a minimum of $1 million in an equity purchase.

 


Inadequacy of State Protection

Many refugee claimants are not based on situations where the state is the agent of persecution. Rather, the source of risk is a quasi-governmental authority or private actors. In such cases, the issue turns to one of the adequacy of state protection.

Ward v. Canada

The leading decision on the issue of state protection in the context of refugee and pre-removal risk assessment decisions is the Supreme Court of Canada decision Canada (Attorney General) v. Ward, [1993] 2 S.C.R. 689.  There, the Supreme Court of Canada held that a state’s inability to protect its citizens is the crucial element in determining whether a claimant’s fear of persecution is well-founded as it determines the reasonableness of his or her unwillingness to seek the protection of his or her state of nationality.

Specifically, the Supreme Court noted that:

Having established that the claimant has a fear, the Board is, in my view, entitled to presume that persecution will be likely, and the fear well-founded, if there is an absence of state protection. The presumption goes to the heart of the inquiry, which is whether there is a likelihood of persecution. But I see nothing wrong with this, if the Board is satisfied that there is a legitimate fear, and an established inability of the state to assuage those fears through effective protection

The Court went on to note that:

Only situations in which state protection “might reasonably have been forthcoming”, will the claimant’s failure to approach the state for protection defeat his claim. Put another way, the claimant will not meet the definition of “Convention refugee” where it is objectively unreasonable for the claimant not to have sought the protection of his home authorities; otherwise, the claimant need not literally approach the state. [My emphasis]

The issue that arises, then, is how, in a practical sense, a claimant makes proof of a state’s inability to protect its nationals as well as the reasonable nature of the claimant’s refusal actually to seek out this protection.

Ward involved a somewhat unique case where the refugee claimant’s home state conceded that it could not protect the claimant. However, for cases where such an admission was not forthcoming, the Supreme Court noted that:

Where such an admission is not available, however, clear and convincing confirmation of a state’s inability to protect must be provided.  For example, a claimant might advance testimony of similarly situated individuals let down by the state protection arrangement or the claimant’s testimony of past personal incidents in which state protection did not materialize. Absent some evidence, the claim should fail, as nations should be presumed capable of protecting their citizens. Security of nationals is, after all, the essence of sovereignty. Absent a situation of complete breakdown of state apparatus, such as that recognized in Lebanon in Zalzali, it should be assumed that the state is capable of protecting a claimant.

In other words, there is a presumption that the state can protect its citizens. In order to rebut this presumption, a person seeking protection must show “clear and convincing evidence.”

Is there a Subjective Fear of Persecution?

Before the Refugee Protection Division can engage in a state protection analysis, it must first analyze whether a refugee claimant has a subjective fear, and what that fear is.  Thus, in Cobian Flores v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 503, the Federal Court noted that:

[S]ave in exceptional cases, the analysis of the availability of state protection should not be carried out without first establishing the existence of a subjective fear of persecution. The panel responsible for questions of fact should therefore analyze the issue of the subjective fear of persecution, or, in other words, should make a finding as to the refugee claimant’s credibility and the plausibility of his or her account, before addressing the objective fear component which includes an analysis of the availability of state protection.

The reason that it is necessary to analyze whether and what the subjective fear of persecution is before analyzing whether there is adequate state protection is because one has to determine exactly what the state is trying to protect an individual from in order to determine whether that protection is adequate.  As noted by the Court in Velasco Moreno v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2010 FC 993:

In my view, a negative determination of the Refugee Protection Division which turns on the issue of state protection must be scrutinized with particular care where the member chooses to make no credibility finding concerning the applicant’s allegations of a subjective fear.

However, the judge sitting in judicial review must be satisfied that the applicant’s allegations, usually in the personal information form and the transcript of the refugee hearing, were treated as true by the decision-maker.Only then can a proper review be made of the member’s state protection analysis. The state protection issue should not be a means of avoiding a clear determination

Effort vs. Results

In Galogaza v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 407, the Federal Court noted that:

A state’s efforts, on their own, do not establish that protection was actually available to the claimant:

[E]vidence of a state’s efforts does not help answer the main question that arises in cases of state protection – that is, looking at the evidence as a whole, including the evidence relating to the state’s capacity to protect its citizens, has the claimant shown that he or she likely faces a reasonable chance of persecution in the country of origin? To answer that question, the Board has to decide whether the evidence relating to the state resources actually available to the applicants indicated that they would probably not encounter a reasonable chance of persecution if they returned to [their country of origin] (Moczo v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2013 FC 734, at para 10; Beri v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2013 FC 854, at para 46).

In other words, whether state protection is adequate depends on its operational effectiveness, not the best efforts or intentions of the state.  Indeed, a Refugee Protection Division decision will be unreasonable if the tribunal only focuses on best intentions.  In Mata v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship)for example, the Federal Court held:

While the Officer correctly states the general principle for state protection (adequate state protection) the decision does not demonstrate that the Officer actually considered the operational adequacy of state protection efforts. For example, the Officer notes that “Hungary is making serious efforts to address the problems that Roma individuals face in that country.” In absence of any analysis regarding the adequacy of those “serious efforts,” the Officer failed to apply the correct test for state protection.

 


Borderlines Episode 17 – Issues with PreClearance at Customs Offices, with Michael Greene

Michael Greene, Q.C. is an immigration lawyer in Calgary. He served as the National Chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship & Immigration Section in 2000-2001

In this episode we discuss Bill C-23, the Preclearance Act, 2016.  This episode was recorded in June 2017.

The United States currently operates border preclearance facilities at a number of airports and ports in Canada. These are staffed and operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Travelers pass through U.S. Immigration and Customs, Public Health, and Agriculture inspections before boarding their aircraft, ship, or train.

Bill C-23 will:

  • provide United States preclearance officers with enhanced powers, including the ability to carry firearms;
  • establish that the exercise of any power and performance of any duty or function by a United States preclearance officer is subject to Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act;
  • authorizes Canadian police officers and the officers of the Canada Border Services Agency to assist United States preclearance officers in the exercise of their powers and performance of their duties and functions;
  • allows a traveller bound for the United States to withdraw from the preclearance process, unless the traveller is detained;
  • authorize Canada to set up preclearance facilities in the United States;
  • specifies how Canadian immigration law will apply to travellers bound for Canada who are in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters in the United States, and extends the application of other Canadian legislation that relates to the entry of persons and importation of goods into Canada to those preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters; and
  • deems an act or omission committed in a preclearance area or preclearance perimeter to be committed in Canada, if the act or omission would constitute, in Canada, an offence relating to the entry of persons or importation of goods into Canada.

The Canadian Bar Association’s comments can be found here – http://www.cba.org/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=1b0e8f11-c92b-4d80-859b-1e06c379a538

 

 

 


IRCC Complaints About Immigration Consultants

In June 2017 I wrote an article for Policy Options about how I believed that while the existence of the immigration consultant profession in Canada promoted access to justice reforms were needed to strengthen the weeding out of some unethical behaviour.  One of the things that I recommended was that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) temporarily have the power to refuse to process applications submitted by people represented by consultants whom IRCC has previously determined to be unscrupulous, and that IRCC should also be allowed to levy fines against unscrupulous representatives in certain circumstances.

I recently received the results of an Access to Information Act request where the requester asked to see copies of all complaints sent by IRCC to provincial law societies and the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (the “ICCRC”), the body which regulates immigration consulants.  The results, which were over 13o pages, were astonishing for several reasons.

First, I have previously suspected despite general perception to the contrary that the number of complaints filed against immigration consultants was probably the same as against lawyers.  However, I seem to have been wrong. Based on the Access to Information Act results, it appears that IRCC has never filed a complaint about a lawyer to a provincial law society.  While it is possible that complaints against lawyers simply did not make their way into the Access to Information Act results, or that all of the complaints against lawyers were redacted, this seems unlikely, and at a minimum after reviewing the Access to Information Act results it is clear that the number of complaints that IRCC has made to the ICCRC about unscrupulous consultants dwarfs the number of complaints made about lawyers (which again appears to be none).

Second, the unethical behaviour that IRCC has encountered from unscrupulous representatives ranged from “what was that person thinking” to the truly disturbing.

Finally, the Access to Information Act results make it clear that IRCC is (or at least was previously as things may have changed since the release of the Access to Information Act results) frustrated with the ICCRC disciplinary process.  I know many upstanding immigration consultants who are exasperated with what some of their fellow less ethical colleagues appear to have gotten away with impunity.  These concerned professionals would not be comforted in learning how broken the complaints process between IRCC and the IRCC appears to be.

Examples of Complaints

Not all of the complaints that IRCC made to the ICCRC were related to particularly egregious conduct.  Indeed, some of the actions appear to simply be childish behaviour.  For example, as shown in the screen shots below, one instance involved an immigration consultant who submitted a request for a status update on the reconsideration request for a client whose permanent residence application was refused.

The visa office responded by stating that an immigration officer had reviewed the immigration consultant’s reconsideration request, and that the visa office was maintaining the refusal.

The immigration consultant responded by calling the visa officers assholes.

One can only wonder what was going through this person’s head.

Most of the other complaints that IRCC sent the ICCRC were for much more egregious behavior.  For example, in one case IRCC sent the ICCRC a complaint which contained allegations that an immigration consultant was conspiring with an educational institution to provide fake transcripts to international students who were not attending the school but needed proof of attendance to renew their study permits.  As IRCC’s complaint noted, this constitutes criminal behaviour (s. 127 of IRPA pertains to criminal misrepresentation).

In another case a consultant allegedly counselled his clients who wished to seek asylum in Canada to pretend that they were gay and to even “attend [a] gay pride parade in order to support their claims.”  The issue of the Refugee Protection Division (the “RPD”) occasionally requiring that LGBT claimants prove their sexual orientation is controversial.  The idea that an authorised representative has apparently been recommending that people fabricate their orientation is insulting to everyone who represents legitimate LGBT claimants.

Other examples of complaints that IRCC sent the ICCRC include situations where consultants:

  • advised privately sponsored refugee that he had to pay all resettlement costs;
  • encouraged clients to contact Members of Parliament on the basis that MPs can help expedite applications;
  • fabricated employer reference letters;
  • forged signatures;
  • counselled misrepresentation; and
  • advertised in a way to suggest that they had inside connections at IRCC.

In highlighting all of the above my point is not to disparage all immigration consultants. As I have said repeatedly, many, if not most, immigration consultants are upstanding and provide valuable advice to their clients.  Early on in my practice one of my mentor’s was a licensed consultant.  Rather, in reproducing and summarizing the complaints above my goal is to demonstrate that IRCC has been diligently referring complaints about unethical behaviour on the part of some immigration consultants to the ICCRC.

As well, it is of course necessary to note that all of the complaints that IRCC sent to the ICCRC are allegations.  However, most appear to have been well founded and were substantiated by documentary evidence.

Frustration with the Disciplinary Process

The Access to Information Act results also demonstrated a certain level of frustration amongst IRCC with the ICCRC disciplinary process.  When reading the disclosed documents I was astounded at how IRCC complaints were handled.  I really hope that there is more co-operation than what the Access to Information Act results revealed, or that things have changed, because if not, the current situation is simply depressing.

In almost every instance, the ICCRC Complaints Committee determined that it had decided not to refer an IRCC complaint about unscrupulous behaviour to the ICCRC Disciplinary Committee.  What was very interesting to read was that the letter that the ICCRC representative sent IRCC conveyed the impression that the author didn’t even realize that the complainant was the government.   The ICCRC even informed IRCC, a government agency, that if it wanted a refund for the consultant’s services that IRCC would have to pursue the matter in a local “small claims court.”

Given the ICCRC’s boiler plate responses which often did not seem to even acknowledge that the complainant was the government, it was not surprising then to see that in some of its complaints, IRCC expressed frustration with the ICCRC complaints referral process process.  For example, in one instance, IRCC sent a second complaint to the ICCRC about a particular immigration consultant and expressly stated that the ICCRC’s response to the matter had been insufficient.

In another example, IRCC essentially demanded an explanation for why no action had apparently been taken by the ICCRC against an immigration consultant who had an active arrest warrant for counselling misrepresentation and who had fled the country.

It is also apparent that in response to IRCC’s expressed dissatisfaction with the ICCRC disciplinary process that the ICCRC committed to changing its processes.  Indeed, as shown below, in May 2015 ICCRC legal counsel even met with IRCC to discuss the issue.  The ICCRC subsequently committed to changing how it handles complaints.

While it is possible that these changes have resulted in a more robust disciplinary mechanism, I am skeptical.  For one, many of the e-mails from the ICCRC to IRCC in which the ICCRC treated the government as if it were the client of an immigration consultant post-date the above letter.  As well, at the Standing Committee of Citizenship and Immigration an Assistant Deputy Minister with the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada stated in May 2017 about the ICCRC that:

I don’t think we’re where we need to be yet. I think there are issues with the organization that can be strengthened in terms of its own internal governance, in terms of some of its issues around finance, and thirdly, I think, in terms of sometimes the effectiveness of its own enforcement processes. This includes ensuring timely enforcement that is appropriately calibrated to the nature of the infraction, and ensuring that there’s follow up in those areas.
I think it’s an organization that is, frankly, still finding its feet. It’s still fairly early days and it has made real progress, but, yes, there are areas where it can be strengthened.

I continue to believe that most immigration consultants play a valuable role in ensuring access to justice. I also think that it makes little sense to replace the ICCRC, which is only six years old, with a new regulatory body that has no experience.  However, until the ICCRC “finds its feet” (to quote the Assistant Deputy Minister) Canada’s immigration department should have the ability to sanction or refuse to process applications from consultants that it knows are unethical.  Such a temporary measure would ultimately be in the best interests of the ICCRC, the immigration consulting profession, and the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.