Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Watchdog says immigration applicants need easier access to info on their files

‘They need to give more information without having to wait for people to ask for it’

A federal watchdogsays the Immigration Department needs to provide easier access to information for applicants seeking more than a bare-bones outline of their files.

In a new report Tuesday, information commissioner Caroline Maynard called for readier transparency as aspiring Canadians frequently have to resort to requests under the Access to Information Act.

“They need to give more information without having to wait for people to ask for it,” Maynard said in an interview.

The recurring complaint to her office revolves around a lack of available information on details such as application status or the reasoning behind decisions, which can be tough to obtain through the department’s online account portal, she said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canadareceived about 117,000 access-to-information requests in 2019-20, compared to fewer than 40,000 forall other federal institutions combined, the report says. Some 99 per cent of the former relate to immigration applications.

The deluge of document demands prompted a processing lag that resulted in a 670 per cent spike in complaints to the information commissioner last year, according to the report. The 4,298 complaints tower above the No. 2 complaint target, the RCMP, which garnered 355 complaints to Maynard’s office.

She is calling on the Immigration Department to provide more timely responses to the requests as well as targeted measures to reduce the need for those demands in the first place.

“They have this great portal, but it just does not provide sufficient detail on the information that the these people were asking for,” she said, contrasting the website with the Canada Revenue Agency’s.

“If you wouldn’t have all the information through the CRA account, you would have to make an access request. It would be ridiculous,” Maynard said.

“This needs to be upgraded.”

The department says it plans to modernize its digital platform in the next two to three years and launch a review that could result in more details about why an application was denied, all with a view to greater information for would-be residents.

In its response to the report, the department said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has confirmed it is “working to improve the availability of client immigration information through other means than access requests and find the root cause driving clients to submit requests.”

Those requests come from permanent residents as well as applicants outside Canada who are trying to obtain a work or student visa, among other types. Many of the filings come via immigration consultants or lawyers, “either because of the language barriers or just because the system is a complex process,” Maynard said.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Immigration

Just Posted

Kaushal Parikh raised $2,840 for COVID-19 relief in India during his almost nine-hour run around the new North Delta Secondary School track on Sunday, June 13, 2021. (Submitted photo)
North Delta ultramarathoner raises over $2,800 for COVID relief in India

Kaushal Parikh ran the 90-km virtual Comrades Marathon around the NDSS track in under nine hours

Preliminary site plan for a proposed 50-space childcare facility at Scott Road and 90th Avenue in North Delta. (Bunt & Associates image)
50-space childcare facility proposed for North Delta

Daycare proposed at Scott Road and 90th Avenue now headed to public hearing

Seaquam Secondary Grade 9 student Hassan Ahmad won the Gold Intermediate Excellence Award at last month’s Canada-Wide Science Fair. (Submitted photo)
North Delta student takes home regional, national science awards

Seaquam Secondary’s Hassan Ahmad won Gold Intermediate Excellence at virtual Canada-Wide Science Fair

After weeks only being allowed to play against their fellow White Rock Tritons, teammates Cam Wright (left) and Chase Marshall (right) finally got to play other competition this week, when their respective teams faced off against the North Delta Blue Jays. (Aaron Hinks photo)
Multi-team schedule ‘what we’ve been waiting for,’ says White Rock Tritons general manager

BC Premier Baseball League releases summer schedule that includes games between associations

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski
Provincial leaders want more federal money for health care, plan to meet in fall

Premiers ask Ottawa to increase its share of overall health spending to 35 per cent from 22 per cent

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Most Read