More than 300 people around the world awaiting immigration visas have filed legal notices against the Canadian government, claiming they are being “warehoused” in a lengthy backlog.
The notices, filed with the Federal Court of Canada, are asking Citizenship and Immigration Canada to process their applications within a reasonable time frame.
The litigants, some of whom applied as far back as 2004, accuse CIC of violating a pledge to assess and finalize decisions in a timely fashion.
“These people paid the application fees, but immigration has never even started processing their applications,” said Tim Leahy, one of the lawyers representing the litigants.
The legal notices — from Asia to Africa, Europe and the Middle East — are growing in numbers with the recent launch of an online appeal for litigants at unfaircic.com. It is not a class-action lawsuit, so a court ruling would apply only to those involved in the litigation.
Litigants include those who filed before February 2008, when new laws were brought in to fast-track new applications from skilled workers, and those who filed between 2008 and 2010, when further restrictions capped the number of skilled-worker applications.
Ottawa has argued restrictions are needed to reduce a backlog of 900,000 applications.
But some litigants claim the government has effectively ceased assessing applications filed before 2008.
Shrish Aithala, who has a master’s degree in computer integrated engineering from New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology, filed his application in 2006 in New Delhi.
“I cannot understand how the existing backlog can be bypassed. I’m sure there are skilled and educated people in the backlog ready to contribute to the economy,” Aithala, 36, told the Starfrom his current job in Dubai.
“Because of the uncertainly of my application status, I have missed out on many opportunities as commitment was required from my side with regards to these work assignments.”
Applicants who filed between 2008 and 2010 say they, too, are being unfairly treated since the application cap was brought in.
Rasoul Nikkhah, a 42-year-old computer network administrator from Tehran, Iran, was thrilled when Ottawa rolled out its fast-track federal skilled-worker program in 2008, anticipating a quick processing. The government promised to finalize cases within six to 12 months.
Immigration acknowledged receipt of Nikkhah’s application in April 2009 and 26 months later his file is still “in process,” he said.
“The reason I participated in this legal action is to bring justice to my case and similar cases, as I believe I have been treated unfairly by CIC.”
The immigration department confirmed receipt of the legal notices, but declined to comment on the allegations.
“The Federal Court has not yet even determined whether it will hear any of these cases, and as such, there has been no decision on the merits of the cases,” said immigration spokesperson Nancy Caron.
Caron said the skilled-worker backlog from before February 2008 has been reduced from 641,000 people to 314,000. About 140,000 applicants from the early phase of the fast-track program are still awaiting a decision, she said.
In 2002 and 2003, the federal government was confronted with a similar volley of court challenges to new regulations and the treatment of backlogged cases.
Ottawa offered a $2.9 million settlement to 105,000 backlogged applicants, agreeing to get rid of the new rule that affected pre-existing applications negatively, said Leahy, who led one of the lawsuits.
Source: Toronto News