Canadian politicians take to social media to highlight issues at IRCC

Shelby Thevenot
Published: November 12, 2021

Members of Canada's opposition parties have shared their open letters to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser on how to improve the immigration system.

Jasraj Singh Hallan from the Conservative Party and Jenny Kwan from the New Democratic Party are incumbent shadow ministers for the immigration department. Their job is to hold the government accountable and participate in the Standing Committee on Immigration and Citizenship. The committee is made up of members of different political parties in Canadian Parliament. It oversees Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), conducts studies and offers recommendations to create new policies.

Fraser is a member of the Liberal Party, which currently holds minority power in the government.

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Kwan touches on a number of points in her four-page letter to the immigration minister.

She starts with the backlogs that have built up since the pandemic. Although Mendicino promised to modernize the immigration system, she points out it could take five years for the upgrade to take effect. Kwan says in the meantime, processing delays are keeping families apart and slowing down economic immigration, which affects Canadian industries that are struggling to find workers. Also, it appears some who have applied long ago are stuck in processing limbo while others who applied more recently are further along the process.

Furthermore, the backlog from 2020 could take three years to resolve, she says. Some of the resources at IRCC have been moved to finalize applications for the Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence (TR to PR) program, which was created to meet the ambitious immigration targets of 2021. As a result, people who applied for permanent residency before could be made to wait even longer for a decision.

Kwan is asking Fraser for his office to provide detailed information on the current state of the backlogs, as well as the anticipated timelines for IRCC to get back on track.

She is also calling for more transparency from IRCC that would allow immigration applicants to more easily check the status of their application, and for Fraser to pay attention to the recommendations from the study on how COVID-19 affected the immigration system. In particular, she wants him to look into creating an ombudsman position, which would review IRCC policies and procedures.

On the issue of Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) holders whose documents expired amid travel restrictions, Kwan reiterates her position that their documents should be automatically renewed. In doing so, she says, it would help IRCC clear the backlogs.

She also wants Fraser to provide more programs to transition temporary residents to permanent residents and to regularize undocumented migrants who are already working in Canada.

Her last points touch on how Canada can better support the international community and refugees, namely Afghanistan refugees, the situation in Hong Kong, and humanitarian and compassionate immigration applicants. She wants Canada to resume the normal processing of refugees, as well as end the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S.

Hallan's letter focuses on Afghan refugees. When Marco Mendicino was the immigration minister, the Liberals had promised to bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada. Consequently, IRCC created two new pathways for Afghan nationals who assisted Canadian forces, and for those who are from certain vulnerable groups and have fled Afghanistan.

Hallan says the Afghan nationals that he has spoken to report receiving little communication from IRCC.

"Every time they've contacted IRCC through the resources the department has provided, they feel their case is falling on deaf ears," the letter says, "There are no status updates, no officers to talk to, and no sense of urgency from the government to protect Afghans in harm's way."

He also brings up the IRCC data breach that compromised the privacy of 200 Afghans seeking refuge, and the increasingly precarious situation that Afghan nationals are facing. Hallan ends his letter calling for Fraser to "put partisanship aside and develop a real plan and timeline" for Afghan refugees.

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