Canada could face lawsuits for legislating end to immigration backlog

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

It seems Canada's immigration lawyers are gearing up for a fight against the Harper government.

As part of last month's federal budget, the government announced it will refund up to $130 million to federal skilled workers who applied to come to Canada before 2008 in a bid to get rid of a backlog of about 300,000 applications.

Citizenship and immigration minister Jason Kenney claims the stockpile of applications have made Canada's immigration system dysfunctional. If it takes seven or eight years to render a decision, that person's skills may no longer be needed in the labour market, he said.

So, in essence by eradicating the backlogs, the Canadian government is saying: "thank you for applying, thank you for paying us your filing fees, thank you for waiting,  but we goofed by having an inefficient processing system."

In 2003, a class action lawsuit actually prevented the Canadian government from creating regulations that would eliminate that year's backlog.

There are now rumblings that the government could once again face the wrath of immigration consultants and denied applicants.

Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman said that more than 100 applicants interested in challenging the skilled worker backlog scrap contacted him.

"I'm looking at all the legal issues arising and I expect that we will be taking legal action," he told Embassy Magazine.

Immigration attorney Michael Niren says this is also an issue of fairness.

"Our reputation as a fair and open country for immigration will be tarnished should this go though. Hundreds 1000s of applicants who applied in good faith, made life altering plans for their future in reliance on our government programs will literally have the rug pulled from under them," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"Doing this kind of thing in law to Canadians who have the benefit of our Charter of Rights Freedoms would be unheard of and not tolerated. But treating intending immigrants to Canada like "inventory on a shelf " who have little legal protection is fine in the eyes of this government."