March 25, 2021

Paper immigration files held up under Liberals

By KERRY DIOTTE
Member of Parliament
Edmonton Griesbach

Since I was elected in 2015 our Edmonton constituency office has helped out scores of people who are eager to come to Canada to start a new life.

The vast majority of these folks have dutifully gone through proper channels filling out mounds of official paperwork needed for their immigration files.

But since COVID hit, those cases have stalled in a big way. Federal workers revealed to us that there was virtually no movement at all on cases involving “hard copy” or paper files as opposed to electronic applications.

Because of COVID, civil servants have largely been working at home and haven’t had access to paper records back at their offices, so little or no work was taking place on those files, we were told.

So, these applicants follow the rules, fill out the required paperwork to try to enter this country legally and – well, too bad, it sucks to be you.

I thought this was exceedingly unfair so I filed an official House of Commons Order Paper question asking a variety of things including how many applicants had their cases delayed simply as a result of the fact civil servants didn’t have access to their hard copy case files.

Among other details, I demanded to know how many people were impacted and how long files were being delayed.

The answers I got back via Marco Mendicino, the minister of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), were vague, incomplete and showed me there’s little or no plan to solve this very basic bureaucratic boondoggle.

The ministry response crowed that, despite the pandemic “all IRCC offices in Canada are open and operating at various capacities and nearly 80% of our in-Canada officers are working remotely.” I think the key words there are offices are “operating at various capacities.” What’s that mean? Is that 5% or 99%? Maybe they could narrow it down just a wee bit?

The department didn’t answer my main questions clearly at all but merely provided an unhelpful appendix containing a hodgepodge of statistics. None of those stats answered the primary questions asked of the ministry or Minister Mendicino.

One small detail, however, provided a smidgen of hope to those wanting to legally immigrate to our great country. “IRCC has contracted a third-party service provider to complete the scanning and digitization of certain Permanent Resident paper files … to increase the speed of processing …”

Wow, so even though the Immigration ministry had all their staff working at home or remotely, they STILL had to hire a contractor to try to solve the alleged problem in the first place?

To restate that problem: Immigration files submitted by “hard copy,” on paper, have not been fully accessible to staffers, so case files were not being adequality processed.

This, by the way, is not to say we don’t have capable federal civil servants. Our office deals with many who are dedicated and care deeply about helping Canadians.

What this does show is that the “system” and the way it functions is deeply flawed. Canadians who pay their taxes deserve much better.

So do the earnest people from all over the word who are dutifully following the rules to legally apply to come to Canada to build a better life.

I really feel sorry for folks from Ethiopia or Mexico or Lebanon or Ukraine or from the dozens of other countries who are stuck in this bureaucratic quagmire of inefficiency through no fault of their own.

Maybe next time one of these fine folks calls my office for the third time wondering how on earth it could take so long to bring their wife and family to Canada I should just transfer them to Immigration Minister Mendicino.

Let him explain how his Liberal government-led immigration system has failed them.