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

.
Princeton’s Spotlight wins two provincial awards for excellence

Publisher takes first place for investigative reporting

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

The COVID-19 cases reported over the week of May 30 to June 5. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees second straight week of 17 new COVID-19 cases

Summerland, Keremeos and Princeton all recorded no new cases

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has hired a new FireSmart coordinator. (Black Press file photo)
FireSmart coordinator named for Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen

Kerry Riess will provide assistance to mitigate potential wildfire hazards

The damages to the downtown park in Keremeos. One of the trees that was uprooted was a memorial tree with a plaque. (Submitted)
Memorial tree in Keremeos park uprooted by vandals

All of the trees in the small park were torn up and the statue was shifted

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Fair-goers take a ride at the 120th annual Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)
Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo criticized the rigidity of the provincial program’s criteria

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Most Read