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

Smoke, Fire & Thunder returns to Mission Raceway Park

The annual event takes place Aug. 23-25.

The Offspring and Sum 41 announce show in Abbotsford

Bands play Abbotsford Centre on Nov. 30 as part of Canadian leg of current tour

PHOTOS: Chrome For Kids features more than 100 big rigs

Mission Raceway hosted truck show and shine supporting the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in Manning Park backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

VIDEO: Abbotsford police arrest man suspected of using pepper-spray against another man

Police cruisers collide in pursuit of suspect fleeing on a stolen bicycle

VIDEO: Canadian zoos’ captive breeding programs help preserve endangered species

Programs considered last-ditch effort to prevent local extinctions of turtles, butterflies and more

Man launches petition to bring charter schools to B.C.

The move could see up to 20 charter schools come to the province

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Oppenheimer Park residents told to leave, clear out tents by Aug. 21

Police say park has seen influx of residents, violence in recent months

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

B.C. log export rules killing us, northwest harvester says

NorthPac Forestry says Skeena Sawmills has plenty of timber

Environment groups warned saying climate change is real could be seen as partisan

Talk of climate change could be viewed as advocating against Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada

Most Read