The Canadian government was taken to court last week over its decision to scrap thousands of immigration applications from people who’d been waiting for up to eight years to hear whether they could move here.
I covered the case, heard at Toronto’s federal court from Monday to Wednesday, for Canadian Immigrant magazine:
The lawyers representing the would-be immigrants, all of whom had submitted their applications before 28 February 2008, argued that the government acted unconstitutionally.
They told of families that had put their lives on hold in order to pursue their dreams of moving to Canada, passing up jobs and delaying buying properties as processing times for immigration files got progressively longer. I spoke to a British applicant with a similar tale for a story published last year on telegraph.co.uk.
The government, for its part, hit back that parliamentary sovereignty gave it the power to make decisions that were in Canada’s best economic interests.
Terminating the old files would help to speed up the immigration process for newcomers who applied under updated criteria and more closely matched the country’s labour needs.
But the authorities were also accused of discriminating unlawfully against applicants from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, in favour of countries that were “more like Canada”.
This was based on figures that Mario Bellissimo of Bellissimo Law Group said had been obtained from officials, showing the proportion of files that different visa offices around the world managed to process between 27 February 2008 and the June 2012 cut-off point. Those that weren’t processed by that date have been cancelled.
I’ve visualised this below (click on image for the interactive version, works best with Internet Explorer):
More than half – 57 per cent – of all backlogged files were processed between February 2008 and June 2012, leaving 97,715 applicants (or 278,391, including dependants) out in the cold. But, as the map shows, applicants’ chances varied significantly depending on which visa office they applied to. No data was available for the Middle East.
The judge presiding over the case, Justice Donald Rennie, is mulling over all the evidence and is expected to make a ruling in around a month’s time on whether the cancellation was lawful.
Have you been affected by the backlog cull? Let me know your thoughts below.