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Canada’s Federal Court sees more new immigration regulations in 2022 than any in the past 30 years, which some lawyers say is a sign of an overarching system.
Recently calculations posted on the court’s website shows more than 70 percent of its cases are tied to immigration and refugees by the end of 2022.
In total, the court saw 13,487 new immigration procedures in 2022, up from 9,761 in 2021 and 6,424 in 2020, according to the office of Chief Justice Paul Crampton.
Lawyers who work with immigration applications say the surgery in their process of making their way to the Federal Court is a response to delays and denials at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
It’s IRCC a backlog of close to a million applications.
Extended processing times for any type of immigration application — including those for temporary or permanent residence — have left people waiting longer, according to Barbara Jackman, a Toronto immigration lawyer.
“I don’t think there’s one answer, but I think part of it is COVID-19,” Jackman said via Zoom Tuesday. “Issues are now progressing once they have been sitting on for the past several years.”
As more cases move forward and are dealt with, more rejections are also given out. Those people took their cases to federal court in response, Jackman said.
“It’s backed up really well.”
Ottawa immigration lawyer Jacqueline Bonisteel suspects the increase in mandamus applications, used to force IRCC to make decisions in a timely fashion after excessive delays, is at least partly driving the spike in new immigration procedures.
Mandamus applications are usually filed when the applicant has exceeded the reasonable processing time period and efforts to obtain a response from IRCC have been unsuccessful.
The so-called Bonisteel is a type of last resort material that is becoming increasingly common.
“The thing with that reform is that it’s the most effective at the moment,” he said.
“I find that I am launching quite a few of these in my practice, and often the act of filing the first court application – without having any submissions to the court – that results in a sudden decision from IRCC or a letter. about the next steps.”
Jackman said he thinks the increase in mandamus applications has reduced their effectiveness in getting IRCC to act.
“You notice that notice, rarely now will you get an IRCC response,” he said.
“They used it often in the past, but there is a lot of mandamus [applications] now that I think… it doesn’t motivate them, it doesn’t motivate them to act fast. “
IRCC has approximately two million items in its inventory, including backlog. In an email statement, the department said it made more than 5.2 million final decisions for permanent residents, temporary residents and citizens in 2022, nearly double what it was able to achieve the previous year.
Those who remained were sad
Nevertheless, those who wait are often frustrated by the immigration process.
Laura Silver, a Canadian citizen who was separated from her husband in Cuba, waited four years until she turned to the Federal Court.
She approved to sponsor her husband in 2019 after applying in 2018 and it is expected that their case will be processed within 11 months.
Her husband needed a medical evaluation before coming to Canada, but he did not have access to consular services in Havana after staff at the Canadian embassy were reduced due to health concerns.
The pandemic also slowed the process, he said.
We missed all our wedding festivities, just waiting for the paperwork to happen.– Laura Silver
“I know for us, we miss funerals. We miss parties. We miss all our birthdays. We miss all our weddings, just waiting for the paperwork to happen,” he said.
Silver said her family’s best bet is to turn to Federal Court and she thinks filing the mandamus petition gets the ball rolling for IRCC to finally grant the visitor visas and permanent residences her family needs.
He says it’s a sign of a broken system that many have to rely on these resources to get the answers they deserve.
“It’s a waste of some of the resources we have,” he said.
According to the Federal Court, many immigration cases are difficult to handle.
Since 1993, the court has seen an average of 7,388 new procedures a year, according to data provided by the chief justice’s office.
The number of new immigration proceedings was as low as 5,313 in 2016 and 5,572 in 2017, less than half of the current caseload.
“Chief Justice Crampton noted that the number of applications submitted in 2022 was the highest ever, surpassing the previous record of nearly 13,000 in 2012, following significant amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act”, a statement from his office read.
“Given the significant number of sites in the court, and the materials stretched in the Court Registry, the Court is finding it challenging to keep the materials that have been made recently.”
The court said that in previous years, it concluded cases within nine months of being heard orally and within four months of refusing to be heard.
The Federal Court has 34 full-time judges, excluding the chief judge and the associate judge. It was allow up to 39 full-time judges, meaning you have five lives.
Jackman would like to see more appointments of judges with backgrounds in immigration law, given the amount of immigration and refugee cases he deals with.
“Share the court,” he said. “You need to be in the immigration and refugee component to the Federal Court.
“I’m sure they’ll find ways to hurry if they do.”