Minors in Immigration Detention

On November 6, 2017 Ralph Goodale, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, issued a Ministerial Direction to the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) titled Minors in Canada’s Immigration Detention System (the “Ministerial Direction”), as part of its National Immigration Detention Framework (the “NIDF”).  The Ministerial Direction notes that:

  • Canada’s immigration detention program is based on the principle that detention shall be used only as a last resort, in limited circumstances and only after appropriate alternatives to detention (“ATDs”) are considered and determined to be unsuitable or unavailable;
  • The well-being of children, family unity and the use of ATDs shall be core tenets underpinning policy direction, in accordance with the expectations and values of Canadians;
  • The best interests of a child shall be a primary consideration to be assessed against other primary and mandatory factors in legislation;
  • That Canada has the objective to stop the detention or housing minors and family separation, except in extremely limited circumstances;
  • That Canada will ensure that the detention or housing of a minor or the separation of a minor from his/her detained parent(s) or guardian(s) is for the shortest time possible; and
  • That Canada will never place minors in segregation or segregate them.

Prior to the NIDF and the Ministerial Direction the number of minors that the CBSA had been holding in detention had been steadily decreasing.

According to internal government statistics, from April 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016 the parents of accompanied minors were detained for the following reasons: 78.95% (90) for unlikely to appear, 10.52% (12) for examination, and 10.52% (12) for identity.

As well, the average length of time that a minor was detained also had fallen dramatically.

Given the current influx of refugees arriving in Canada from the United States, it will be interesting to see if CBSA is able to maintain the trend, even with the introduction of the NDIF.  If it does, then I think it would be reasonable to presume that the NDIF was a success.


The Right to be Heard

On May 19, 2017 the Federal Court of Canada issued a scathing criticism of how the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada is breaching procedural fairness in how it bans companies from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

In Ayr Motors Express Inc. v. Canada (Employment Workforce Development and Labour), Justice Le Blanc noted that the Department had not respected a trucking company’s “basic right to be heard” before it banned them for two years from hiring foreign workers.

Citing the Federal Court decision in Tiedeman v Canada (Human Rights Commission), Justice Le Blanc further found that “[t]o solicit the representations of a party and, subsequently, to fail to consider them, renders hollow the hallowed principle of the right to be heard”.

The breach of procedural fairness arose during an inspection involving whether Ayr Motors Express Inc. had failed to comply with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations require that the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour be the individual who actually bans a company from hiring foreign workers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  However, because that individual is as a federal Cabinet Minister understandably very busy, she instead based her decision on a six page memo that her Department provided her.  This memo contained none of Ayr Motors Express Inc.’s representations, and instead simply contained the Department’s summary conclusions.

Justice Le Blanc found that this was unacceptable, and it will be interesting to see how the Department responds.


Misrepresentations and H&C

Several large scale immigration frauds in recent years have resulted in thousands of permanent residents facing removal of Canada for misrepresentation.  Many are filing appeals based on humanitarian & compassionate considerations.

In assessing such appeals, both the Canada Border Services Agency and the Immigration Appeal Division face the task of weighing an individual’s previous misconduct against the compassionate mitigating factors which may exist.

To quote Justice Russel in Yu v. Canada, the decision in Dowers v Canada (Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, 2017 FC 593 at paragraphs 2 to 6, stresses the point that concern about the past must be separated from concern about the future:

A situation such as the Applicant’s, where a person comes to Canada and stays without adhering to the immigration laws, but, nevertheless, succeeds to be a positive, productive, and valuable member of society must be given careful attention. Section 25 has no purpose if that person is easily condemned for her or his immigration history. The history must be viewed as a fact which is to be taken into consideration, but within a serious holistic and empathetic exploration of the totality of the evidence, to discover whether good reason exists to be compassionate and humanitarian. The discovery requires full engagement:

Applying compassion requires an empathetic approach. This approach is achieved by a decision-maker stepping into the shoes of an applicant and asking the question: how would I feel if I were her or him? In coming to the answer, the decision-maker’s heart, as well as analytical mind, must be engaged (Tigist Damte v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2011 FC 1212, para. 34).

[Emphasis added]

 


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.


Getting Permanent Residency as an Owner or Self-Employed Person

The following is an article that I wrote for The Canadian Immigrant. 

It is generally understood that small businesses are the bedrock of the Canadian economy. The entrepreneurs who start them are often considered the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for foreign worker entrepreneurs in Canada to use their Canadian business experience to qualify for economic immigration programs. Prospective immigrants who are self-employed or run small businesses in Canada, or want to, need to understand the immigration consequences of doing so in order to properly structure and time the establishment of their companies.

Self-employment and immigrating

Many of Canada’s economic immigration programs restrict or penalize Canadian self-employment. For example, one of the basic eligibility requirements of Canada’s largest economic immigration program, the Canadian experience class, is that applicants have at least 12 months of skilled work experience within three years of applying to immigrate. It specifically excludes self-employment from being eligible experience.

In the Express Entry application intake management system, prospective immigrants to Canada are ranked against each other. People can get points for a variety of factors, and points for Canadian work experience can be especially valuable. However, any experience that was gained through self-employment is ineligible for points.

Incorporating isn’t the answer

Many individuals assume that if their business is incorporated then they will not count as being self-employed. However, it is not this simple.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) adopts a holistic approach to determining whether someone is self-employed. Relevant factors include: the degree of the worker’s control or autonomy in terms of how and when work is performed; whether the worker owns and provides their own tools, the degree of financial risk assumed by the worker; whether the worker is free to make business decisions that affect his or her ability to realize a profit or incur a loss; and other relevant factors.

The IRCC website specifically notes that individuals who own substantial ownership and/or exercise management control of a business for which they are also employed are generally considered to be self-employed. So simply incorporating a business does not shield small business owners from having their Canadian work experience determined ineligible for immigrating.

Options for the self-employed

Because of this, the best advice for temporary foreign workers in Canada who are employees and who wish to start a business is to wait. We once represented a Working Holiday Program participant who worked as a carpenter earning $25 an hour. He wanted to start his own business. We told him to wait until his permanent residency was approved. He did, got his PR status and now runs a multi-million dollar business employing more than 30 people. Incredibly, Canadian immigration requirements would have made his immigration very cumbersome and uncertain had he started his business while on a work permit.

However, foreign workers in Canada who own a small business should not be completely discouraged. There are many options to consider.

First, the federal skilled worker class permits self-employment. This means that self-employed individuals can still qualify for Express Entry.

Second, while Canadian work experience that is self-employment is not eligible for Express Entry points, small business owners can qualify for bonus points through qualifying arranged employment. They may also apply for recruitment exempt owner-operator Labour Market Impact Assessments, which also result in additional points.

Third, many provincial nomination programs contain entrepreneur programs, which vary from province to province.

Finally, the start-up visa allows certain businesses who will be participating in incubators or receiving venture capital funding to be eligible to immigrate.

None of these options, however, is completely satisfactory. What is further confounding is that while a foreign worker’s entrepreneurial experience in Canada is ineligible for Express Entry points, their foreign self-employment work experience is. As the Government of Canada looks to encourage small business growth, they may wish to address this paradox.


Labour Market Impact Assessment – Recruitment Requirements (2017)

(This post is a follow-up to my previous post on this topic here.)

Employers wishing to apply for Labour Market Impact Assessments are required to first conduct recruitment efforts to hire Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

The Ministry of Economic and Social Development (“ESDC” or “Service Canada“) is very stringent in its recruitment requirements, some of which are not publicly available.  I would like to thank Jacobus Kriek, an immigration consultant with Matrixvisa Inc., for providing me copies of the internal Service Canada directives and e-mails that he has obtained.

Please note that what I have reproduced below should not be viewed as legal advice by ESDC or Service Canada.  The reproduction of the material below has not occurred with the affiliation of the Government of Canada, nor with the endorsement of the Government of Canada. As well, given the nature of relying on internal documents, some of the information may be out of date.

Continue reading “Labour Market Impact Assessment – Recruitment Requirements (2017)”


Undisclosed Criminal Records and Criminal Rehabilitation

A difficult situation that some prospective immigrants who are already inside Canada face is that they have a criminal record that they have not previously disclosed to Canadian immigration officials.

What is often especially unfortunate in such situations is that the criminal conviction can be really old, but the instances where someone failed to disclose their conviction to Canadian immigration officials more recent.

Having successfully represented several individuals in such situations obtain permanent residency, there are several legal principles that I think anyone in such a situation needs to understand.

1. An individual who has a foreign criminal record can apply to Canadian immigration officials for a determination that they are rehabilitated if it has been more than five years since the sentence was completed.  

Rehabilitation assessments are forward-looking. The test is whether a person is likely to commit criminal conduct.  Officers must consider both positive an neutral factors relevant to the application.

2. An individual not disclosing a criminal record to Canadian immigration authorities can be treated as a negative factor in a rehabilitation assessment. 

The Federal Court has in several cases (such as Tejada v. Canada) held that an individual’s past dealings with Canadian immigration authorities is a relevant factor in determining whether an individual is likely to commit a criminal offence in Canada in the future, with the logic being that a person who is willing to break immigration legislation might also be willing to break criminal laws.

3. In determining whether someone has misrepresented the existence of a criminal record, it is important to analyze one’s previous interactions with Canadian immigration officials on this issue. 

Prior to the introduction of the Electronic Travel Authorisation, people who could travel to Canada without a visa were often never asked if they had a criminal record.  This was especially true for individuals who applied for work permits at Canadian ports of entry.  Because these individuals were never directly asked whether they had criminal records, visa officers were more forgiving for their omission than they would have been for someone who had outright misrepresented.

Immigration officials are also generally forgiving where someone did not realise that they were charged with a criminal offence. The most frequent area that this occurs is in the drunk driving context, which in many jurisdictions is dealt with administratively rather than criminally.  Indeed, the Canadian province of British Columbia provides a good example of how complicated it can be to know whether one has been charged with a criminal offence.  Police officers in British Columbia can decide to issue someone roadside citations under provincial regulations rather than criminal ones.  If someone were later asked whether they had ever been charged with a criminal offence it is unclear what they should say.

4. It is better to disclose than be caught.

As a general rule immigration officials are much more forgiving to individuals who disclose criminal records than to those who are caught with them.