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

Special Olympic B.C. Winter Games continue in Vernon

Events conclude today. Check out what’s happening.

Nearly 200 new businesses for Greater Vernon in 2018: Chamber

Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce says nearly 200 new businesses in 2018

Okanagan weather watch: Snow on the way

Flurries have been predicted for most of the Okanagan Valley today

Piles of debris hauled from Summerland rock slide site

Material removed from site would more than fill an Olympic swimming pool

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

People gather for funeral of seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

Traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Peachland researchers warn public to be on alert for dead bats

White Nose Syndrome, a deadly bat disease, has been found south of B.C.

Rescued Kelowna skier shares appreciation of COSAR team

A skier was found out of bounds near Big White by Central Okanagan Search and Rescue

Most Read