March 29, 2023

In 2022, the Federal Court of Canada handled more new immigration cases than in any of the past 30 years, which some lawyers say is a sign of an overburdened system.

Recent statistics posted on the court’s website show that as of the end of 2022, more than 70 percent of its cases involved immigration and refugees.

In total, the court heard 13,487 new immigration cases in 2022, up from 9,761 in 2021 and 6,424 in 2020, according to Chief Justice Paul Crampton’s office.

Lawyers who work with immigration applications say the surge in litigation heading to Federal Court is in response to delays and denials in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

IRCC has a reserve of about a million applications.

According to Barbara Jackman, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, the lengthy processing times for any immigration application, including temporary or permanent residency applications, make people languish in anticipation.

“I don’t think there’s one answer, but I think part of it is COVID-19,” Jackman said on Zoom on Tuesday. “Now they are processing all the cases that they have considered over the past few years at once.”

The more cases are advanced and considered, the more refusals are heard. According to Jackman, in response, these people are taking their cases to the Federal Court.

“It’s really far behind.”

Ottawa-based immigration attorney Jacqueline Bonisteel suspects that the surge in mandate applications used to force the IRCC to issue timely decisions after significant delays is at least in part causing a surge in new immigration procedures.

Mandamus applications are often submitted when the applicant has long since exceeded reasonable processing times and attempts to get a response from the IRCC have been unsuccessful.

Bonistil called such applications a last resort, which are becoming more common.

“The fact is that this medicine is quite effective in most cases,” she said.

“I have found myself filing quite a few of these documents in my practice, and often just the act of filing that initial application with the court – without having to file any application with the court – that suddenly triggers an IRCC decision or letter. about the next steps.

Jackman said she believes the increase in mandamus applications has reduced their effectiveness in getting the IRCC to act.

“You file this notice, it’s rare now that you get an IRCC response,” she said.

It used to happen more often, but there are so many mandamus [applications] now that I think… it doesn’t motivate them, it doesn’t motivate them to act fast.”

There are about two million applications in the IRCC registry, including pending applications. In an emailed statement, the department said it made more than 5.2 million permanent residents, temporary residents and citizenship final decisions in 2022, almost double the number in the previous year.

Those who are left to wait feel disappointed

However, those who wait can often be disappointed with the immigration process.

Laura Silver, a Canadian citizen who was separated from her husband in Cuba, waited almost four years before going to federal court.

She was allowed to sponsor her husband in 2019 after applying in 2018 and was hoping to have their case resolved within about 11 months.

Her husband required a medical examination before coming to Canada, but was unable to access consular services in Havana after the Canadian embassy was downsized due to health problems.

According to her, the pandemic has also slowed down this process.

We’ve missed all our wedding anniversaries just waiting for the paperwork to be done.– Laura Silver

“I know for us that we missed the funeral. We missed the celebrations. We missed all our birthdays. We missed all our wedding anniversaries just waiting for the paperwork to be done,” she said.

Silver said her family’s best course of action was to go to Federal Court and believes filing the mandamus case caused the IRCC to eventually grant the visitor visas and permanent residence her family needed.

She said it was a sign of a broken system that many had to rely on these apps to get the answers they deserved.

“This is really a misuse of some of the resources that we have,” she said.

According to the Federal Court, the avalanche of immigration proceedings was difficult to handle.

Since 1993, the Court has handled an average of 7,388 new cases per year, according to data provided by the Chief Justice’s Office.

The number of new immigration proceedings was only 5,313 in 2016 and 5,572 in 2017, less than half of the current case volume.

Chief Justice Crampton noted that the number of applications filed in 2022 is the highest ever, surpassing the previous record of almost 13,000 in 2012 after a significant Amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act“, his office said in a statement.

Given the significant number of vacancies in the Court and the lack of resources in the Registry of the Court, the Court has found it difficult to cope with the recent surge in applications.

The Court reports that in recent years it has completed cases on average in nine months if there was an oral hearing, and in four months when it was denied without an oral hearing.

The Federal Court has 34 full-time judges, not counting the Chief Justice and Associate Chief Justice. This up to 39 full-time judges are allowed, this means that there are five vacancies in it.

Jackman would like to see more judges appointed with experience in immigration law given how many immigration and refugee cases he handles.

Divide the yard, she said. The Federal Court should have an immigration and refugee component.

“I’m sure they would have found ways to speed it up if they did.”

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