Critics argue court battles, wait times and changing rules in immigration policy hurting Canada’s reputation

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Canada's reputation as an attractive destination for immigrants is being tarnished.

That according to Toronto-based immigration lawyer Michael Niren.

"The world has regarded Canada as a country that is fair in terms of its administration of justice and they way they treat immigrants awaiting their cases," he said in an email exchange with Yahoo Canada News.

"But the way this government has mismanaged immigration policy has no doubt raised questions about its ability to treat applicants fairly who deserve procedural fairness when submitting applications for immigration. They have been and continue to be let down by the government and even the courts."

Niren is referring to a the case initiated by a  group of wealthy foreign nationals who had their day in court, on Wednesday, over the cancellation of the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP).

Canada's IIP — one of many in the western world — offered 2,500 visas a year to affluent foreign nationals who invested $800,000 into the Canadian government coffers for a period of five years.

In 2012, thanks to excessive backlogs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada instituted a moratorium on the program. And then, as part of budget 2014, the Tories cancelled the popular immigration scheme with the intention of throwing-out the 19,000 applications left in the queue.

1,469 of those applicants — mostly from China — are now asking the government to process their cases or to pay each of them $5 million in compensation.

In a Toronto court, on Wednesday, the complainants' attorneys — Tim Leahy and Rocco Galati — argued that CIC failed to assess the files in the promised time frame, that the applicants' rights were breached and that applicants were denied equal treatment under the law.

Leahy told Yahoo Canada News that, while the government projected processing times of between 18 and 24 months, some of his applicants had been waiting much longer.

"I've got one person...who sold her hair dressing salon. She's been waiting, waiting and waiting expecting to come to Canada with no income," he said.

"Somebody else sent in an affidavit, again looking at the projections [of 18 to 24 months processing time]. She wanted her kid to go to Canadian university so she put him in Canadian schools in China. Now he's just about to graduate, he can't write an entrance exam in China because he didn't go to a Chinese school.

"And she bought a home in Vancouver with the expectation that they were coming here."

In a press release, Leahy outlined some of the publicity this story was receiving around the world.

"Ian Young's June 4th article in the South China Morning Post elicited a firestorm amongst the mainland Chinese media and even reached across the Pacific, causing the Toronto Sun (of all papers) to contact me for the first time ever," he wrote.

"Even the New York Times has evidenced interest. Some of the Chinese media in Canada was present in the courtroom, and CCTV interviewed me yesterday evening for the Chinese news and will be doing so tomorrow for the English channel."

The New Democrats have also been raising alarms about our international 'reputation' with regard to the immigration file.

In February, they released a statement slamming the government for the IIP decision and past moves which included "abruptly cancelling 300,000 skilled worker applications and freezing parental sponsorships for 2 years with no advance notice."

"Under the Conservatives, immigrants cannot predict with certainty what the rules are, citizenship will be more difficult to acquire and wait times are unacceptably long," NDP Immigration critic Don Davies said.

"It is time to state the truth: the Conservatives’ immigration policy is in chaos."

Certainly there is no shortage of people wanting to come to Canada but at some point -- with long wait times, changing rules and stories like the IIP court case -- we could have trouble attracting the best and brightest immigrants.

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