Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen makes an announcement in Toronto on Jan. 14, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Online immigrant-sponsor application discriminatory, immigration lawyers say

The application is first-come-first-served

A new first-come-first-served online application for immigrants seeking to sponsor their parents and grandparents to come to Canada is being condemned as ”profoundly discriminatory” after the program opened and closed in less than 10 minutes on Monday.

All 27,000 openings for the family-reunification program in 2019 were spoken for within minutes of the application form’s going live online Monday, so anyone who had trouble filling the form out quickly — due to a disability, for instance — was screened out.

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Clifford McCarten is among many now raising concern about the fairness of access to the program, as only those with reliable Internet access, quick typing skills and good understanding of English or French would have had any hope of success.

“The system essentially collapsed and gave people a totally unfair expectation of how it would operate, as opposed to how it actually was deployed,” McCarten said.

He says instructions on how to complete the sponsorship application form advised that it would take roughly 10 minutes to complete, but the quota for the year was completely filled in much less time.

RELATED: Victoria lawyer urges B.C. law society to make pro bono work mandatory

Vancouver immigration lawyer Will Tao said misrepresentations or mistakes on immigration forms can come with severe consequences, so people with limited English or French would have been cautious and deliberate in filling this one out.

“It really was a recipe for disaster, a colossal failure,” Tao said. “There are individuals who, frankly, never were offered an equal opportunity to access this form or this process.”

This first-come-first-served online application for the family sponsorship program was announced in August as a replacement for a short-lived lottery-style process for taking sponsorship applications.

Before 2017, applications were prioritized based on geography and would have better odds for success if families could afford to pay for expensive immigration lawyers who knew how the system worked.

RELATED: Family fought hard, but together in Cowichan for Christmas

When it was announced in the summer, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said he this new model would make the program fairer.

An initial analysis was done on Monday and no technical problems were identified with the system, says Mat Genest, a spokesman for Hussen.

Anti-bot features were also used to ensure all applications were legitimate and not from automated computer programs grabbing spots faster than humans could, he said.

With 100,000 people competing for 27,000 spots, there was simply more demand than there were spaces, Genest said.

RELATED: Canada to increase annual immigration admissions to 350,000 by 2021

But Tao has been gathering accounts from newcomers and other lawyers who tried to apply to this program on Monday, and says he has heard widespread concerns about technical problems.

“One of the big things was not even being able to see the form in the first place,” he said.

“There was some technological barrier that, for many of them waiting for hours beforehand, yet at the time they were never actually able to see the form so they never even got anywhere to start with.”

Tao says he is also looking at possible Charter implications, with so many concerns about fair access.

“Their system, by design, excludes a huge number of people for no other reason than their Internet connection, their ability to read English quickly and their ability to complete a complicated form and that can’t be how we justify family separation,” McCarten said. “Creating a rock concert-type approach to family reunification, which by design acts in a profoundly discriminatory way, is just not acceptable.”

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Spawning chum returning to Kanaka Creek

Run will peak at Halloween

Bear goes out on a limb for Thanksgiving feast

Maple Ridge Bears group rallies to save animal

Flames drop two games on weekend

Ridge Meadows hosts Pilots on Friday

Pitt Meadows police review nearing recommendations

Report to council expected as soon as November

Letter: Time to resume work on election reform?

Last time, Trudeau promised a new system

VIDEO: B.C. man’s yard comes alive with grizzlies at night

Malakwa man has captured images of 12 different grizzlies on video

Man who orchestrated Mission murders gets day parole after serving less than three years

Victims’ parents express grief, outrage over parole board decision

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

ICBC willing to loosen grip on driver claim data, David Eby says

Private insurers say claims record monopoly keeps them out

B.C. principal suspended for failing to help student who reported inappropriate touching

Principal didn’t remove student from the teacher’s class nor call the parents within a reasonable time

Most Read