August 31, 2020
Continuing the Conversation: 50 Improvements to Our Canadian Immigration System
The disruption to daily life caused by the advent of COVID-19 is, of course, undeniable. The world is changing rapidly. As I have written in previous blogs, each day brings a spectrum of news, emotions, and developments ranging from the promise of a vaccine before the end of 2020 to warnings that we may live with COVID-19 for years to come, or perhaps even permanently. Canadian immigration is inextricably tied to the delicate societal, economic and political tapestry of the broader world. Border restrictions remain in effect, immigration flow has slowed, the health of many continues to be in peril, and the economy has been shaken to its financial core. Unquestionably this remains a very challenging time. Still, the pandemic has afforded some of us the luxury of time to reflect. So, for an upcoming issue of ImmQuest, we polled our staff and asked them how they would improve our Canadian immigration system. We asked that they contemplate macro and micro-level improvements.
We were flooded with thoughtful, insightful and innovative improvements. We would expect no less from our dedicated staff. We were initially thinking of a top 10 or 25, but we had to expand it to 50 and still could not accommodate all of the suggested improvements. Some of these suggestions are not new; they reflect systematic issues that can only be resolved through a significant overhaul. Others are simpler. Most importantly, they all contribute to the conversation.
The focus of the discussion in the upcoming issue of ImmQuest begins with a review of general overall improvements that can be made throughout the system. We then move to suggestions for improvement in relation to determinations of admissibility, decision making at the Immigration and Refugee Board and in the processing of applications, on the use of artificial intelligence and finally in the provision of Access to Information. Our hope is that ultimately our suggestions will offer space for consultation and discussion so that we can continue to see our system improved – even during a pandemic. Here are five of our recommendations:
1.New Immigrant Categories: Expanded immigrant categories for applicants reflective of the varied reasons for short and long-term migration to the benefit of economic and social vibrancy as well as diversity (i.e. a retirement stream like in Australia).
2. Expansion of “Humanitarian” Programs: Allow a greater percentage of the annual targets to be allocated to cases that require more flexibility and responsiveness to unanticipated and emerging global and domestic issues, especially in light of the pandemic, but including refugee applications resulting from changes introduced by global warming. This will require expanding embracement of diversity and a move away from tired and myopic definitions of categories. Many forget, as one example, Albert Einstein was a refugee.
3. Misrepresentation: Different tiers for misrepresentations depending upon seriousness. As of now, all violations from the relatively minor to the most serious are dealt with in the form of a five-year ban. The penalties should range accordingly from months to years. One size fits all immigration laws, especially in the areas of admissibility that rarely serve the best interests and the integrity of our Canadian immigration program.
4. Historical Bias: We must be mindful that historical, systemic bias is not perpetuated in the review of applications by AI technology, which have been built using past applications. As we have all painfully been reminded in the past several month’s systemic racism is real; to believe it does not exist at some level at IRCC, ESDC or the CBSA, as a few examples, would be akin to suspending reality. We all have work to do better, move forward and collectively contribute to positive and lasting change.
5. Electronic Database for Policy Publication: The centralization of information on application processing into one database would be helpful. It may entail the following features:
a. Managed by the department for up-to-date changes
b. Subscription- run
c. Including relevant Acts, Regulations, Directions, Gazette Notices, legislative and non-legislative instruments, Forms and importantly the relevant internal policy (disclosable)
d. Tracking updates and access to historical legislative frameworks. User-friendly database (effective search facility and hyperlinks connecting relevant information/ legislation)
The Australian Immigration system currently uses a similar database entitled Legend.com. We understand from counsel that have worked in that system that this database is a significant tool that supports counsel in the preparation and submission of applications, as it provides a consolidated and centralized source of all up to date of all policy, legislation and relevant case law.
Our list is not exhaustive, and the suggestions vary in terms of their complexity and potential implementation, but we feel that all of these suggestions are important and would better the immigration system as a whole. The immigration system continues to evolve in important ways, including through the introduction of AI. Without attention to these underlying issues, however, these advancements will continue to be undermined. COVID-19 has made our limitations especially clear. Now is the time to act. For a read of the full list, please check your upcoming issue of Immquest.
As always, thank you for reading and stay safe.