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

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The Binche Fishing Derby at Stuart Lake is fast approaching. (Binche Fishing Derby Facebook photo)
Binche shares excitement for upcoming fishing derby

“It’s more than just fishing,” says Dave Birdi

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Local youth vaccination clinics underway

Pfizer vaccine will be used

Priya Sharma. (Submitted)
Column: Why ultimatums don’t work

By Priya Sharma It is a common misconception that people can choose… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read