Immigration Canada snafus causing ‘a lot of misery’
Newcomers to Canada are paying the price for bureaucratic bungles, including a new visa with an old expiry date and documents lost in the mail. First in a two-part series on those trapped in a system that seems to have little compassion.
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Migrants and their Canadian spouses caught up in the sponsorship backlog protested recently in front of Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s constituency office in Ajax.
A foreign student from India got a new student visa — with an expiry date that had already passed.
A Jamaican man got an official notice that his immigration application was being processed. Months later, he was told his incomplete package had been returned to him a long time ago — and nobody knows where his file is now.
A man is facing deportation to China after his application for a spousal sponsorship was rejected because he hadn’t responded to requests for more documentation. He and his lawyer insist they never got such a letter.
These are among a slew of cases in which would-be immigrants have paid a hefty price for screw-ups by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, according to critics and immigration applicants.
Their stories seem to back up the findings of a recent internal review that found such errors aren’t uncommon in Canada’s bureaucracy, leading to “unfairness for clients.”
The review’s finding of a “high error rate” in immigration processing, as first revealed by the Star, has prompted calls to develop better controls to detect mistakes and to give immigration officials more discretion to recognize problems and correct bad decisions.
De Wei Gao, 48, is facing deportation to China after immigration officials claimed he failed to respond to demands for further documentation in letters both he and his lawyer insist they never received.
In November, De Wei Gao, 48, of Toronto, received an emailed rejection letter on his spousal sponsorship claiming he had failed to respond to requests for his passport and police clearance documents back in April 2014.
“We never received any letter about this request,” said lawyer Avvy Go, of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. “This case is even more ridiculous because we did not even receive the refusal letter, although it was addressed to ‘the client c/o the clinic.’ The only letter I ever received was when they rejected my request to reopen Mr. Gao’s case.
“The government’s internal reviews explain a lot. It is unacceptable that applicants have to bear the consequences for someone else’s mistakes. These mistakes are causing a lot of misery for a lot of people. These clerical errors can be easily remedied, but the system is so inflexible.”
Immigration officials at the case processing centre in Vegreville, Alta., did not respond to Go’s request for a copy of the missing correspondence and refused to reopen the case. After threats of taking the case to court, the immigration department agreed to reconsider Gao’s application.