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Leveraging technology in immigration processing

Online tools are fine. But expediency at the expense of sound decision-making can also result in a log jam of judicial review applications in the federal courts.

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When it comes to the way Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada processes applications, the medium must serve the message – and the message is that administratively fair and judicious decision-making must take priority.

So while the CBA’s Immigration Law Section supports facilitating the increased use of electronic tools to process applications, it cautions that decision-making must not only be expedient, but just.

“Strong cooperation between all involved parties is critical to ensuring that the execution of electronic processing meets the standard,” it says in a letter to IRCC, commenting on proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. “At a practical level, expediency at the expense of sound decision-making will result in a log jam of judicial review applications to the federal court system.”

Among other things, it says mechanisms would be needed to ensure that any data collected electronically is protected by privacy legislation, and that any information subject to solicitor-client privilege is not disclosed.

An online support centre offering live support will be critical to the success of an electronic system, the Section says. And the IRCC has to have protocols in place for advising of extensions when a system malfunction causes an applicant to miss a deadline.

One proposed amendment would require sponsorship applications to accompany applications for permanent residence in the family class, something the Section supports. “This change will streamline the process and reduce delay for applicants, promoting the objective of family reunification,” it says, while recommending several additional changes that would further advance that goal, such as locking-in medical results and including online instructions for submitting an in-Canada spousal sponsorship application.

Finally, the Section recommends that decisions be made by officers with the most knowledge and expertise in dealing with a particular issue. “We recommend that ‘centres of excellence’ be created, each center handling a different kind of application with review by a team familiar with the relevant legal issues, which will maximize both expertise and efficiency.”