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

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

(Black Press File Photo)
Sylvan Lake RCMP charge youth with weapons offences

The public helped to identify the individual involved in an incident at the pier earlier this month

The Sylvan Lake Gulls show off the home jerseys (white) and their way jerseys at the Gulls Media Day on June 17, before the season opener. Following the media day, the team took to the field for their first practise. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)
Sylvan Lake Gulls ready to throw first pitch as construction continues

The Gulls inaugural season kicks off June 18 with a game against the Edmonton Prospects

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

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

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

Most Read