؟What Happened in the Committee Meeting
In the next pages, some parts of the conversation between the CIMM committee members and the guests (witnesses) including Ms. Parker and Mr. Mokhtari are transcribed from the film of the meeting. The committee meeting had a special order to discuss about CIC policies and outcomes specifically the immigration application backlogs. These parts are mostly related to Ms. Parker and Mr. Mokhtari’s speech. To save the tone of dialogs, the text was not fully edited.
The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration meeting number six, Thursday, October 27,
The orders: is televised its pursuit of standing order 1082 study of the immigration application backlogs in light of the action plan for faster immigration.
Mr. David Tilson
Mr. Warren Creates, immigration lawyer;
Ms. Katrina Parker, immigration lawyer;
Mr. Ali Mokhtari, the owner and manager of Canpars Immigration Services Inc.
Mr. Michael Atkinson, the president of the Canadian Construction Association.
Katrina Parker: “…how is being a doctor before 2010 and after 2010 is different and does not meet the same urgent market needs.”
[After the chairman’s opening and the first guest’s speech]
Parker: Thank you for having us. It is a first to me, so I will start right away because I only have 4 minutes.
I have been a lawyer working exclusively in immigration in the last 12 years and I’ve been working alongside with Mr. Mokhtari for the last 3 years and I’ve been dealing on a daily basis with hundreds of federal skilled workers applications.
Most of these applications represent General Practitioners and Medical Specialist. So overall, we have about 515 applicants and files that have been submitted between February 2, 2008 and June 2010 which is under the first list of ministerial instructions. It is important to underline that under the first set of ministerial instructions, these applications were told that their applications would be processed in 12 month, maximum. That was very clear on all the acknowledgments of receipts that were received by our applicants at the time. Now, only 4.47% got processed under this promise. Again, my colleague will explain this issue a bit more in detail.
Then came along the second set of the ministerial instructions which represented 29 jobs. What is very crucial to underline is that out of this first and second sets we found 19 professions that were exactly the same on both lists.
So we were a bit concern that how Citizenship and Immigration Canada has replied to everyone of our applicant by saying: “because the second set of ministerial instructions reflect Canada’s current market needs, federal skilled worker applications under the set of ministerial instructions effective as June 26, 2010 are processed on a priority basis.” and that “We are responding to the most urgent labour market need first” and that to us is a bit of a concern because as again as I said we are representing medical practitioners, so how is being a doctor before 2010 and after 2010 is different and does not meet the same urgent market needs.
So again we have specific case that Mr. Mokhtari will address on that. Before I conclude, I just would like to bring to your attention that we had sent several correspondences and inquiries to the ministry and we got to separate correspondences, actually in one day apart, in May 2011 – where it was said: “It is important to note that applications are processed in the order in which they are received. Procedural fairness dictates that is not possible to process one person’s application ahead of those who have applied for them.”
Ali Mokhtari: it is not fair to change the policy and keep them as backlog there, because we are not sure what we really need.
So how can the statement be made in May of 2011 when we it is a well-known fact that applications are not being processed on a first-come-first-serve basis and It’s a bit of contradiction on that issue. So I think it’s more than time to get back to supporting Canada’s reputation as an immigrant-welcoming country. Now, I leave it to Mr. Mokhtari. Thank you.
Mokhtari: Thank you for having me and it is a pleasure to be here and talk about such an important issue.
My name is Ali Mokhtari. I am a member of Tehran Bar Association as a lawyer in Iran. Also, I am a certified immigration consultant in Canada since last four years and I’m also running the company Canpars Immigration Services offering immigration services to the huge number of people. I’m representing specifically hundreds of clients in different federal programs and submitted 514 Federal Skilled Workers completed applications within the first ministerial instructions since 2008. I would mention that only 23 of these 514 applications got processed till now, that means 4.4 percent and when it comes to Damascus office, it becomes even worse because I have 506 completed applications filed in that visa office and only 15 of them got processed till now. It is just 2.9 percent of the whole files I submitted.
Another point is that it is not only about the Damascus office and it is not only about Iranians because sometimes Mr. Kenny talks about Iranian files. I remember that in an interview, he mentioned it’s because of security background check or whatever. It is not about that. Those who got processed in a timely manner and within the time frame-that he offered between 12 to 16 months and after first ministerial instructions I have filed 250 files or around that number and more than 10% of them got processed again in a 12 months period.
So the other thing that I wanted to mention is that they did not process any file in Damascus office with A.O.R date of March 2nd and after. So you cannot find even a single file that the A.O.R of the Sydney dated March 2nd and after and has got processed.
And also I have 144 GPs among those first set of the minister instructions applications that they have never been processed and they are in the shelves of Damascus office.
The other point that I want to mention is a very interesting comparison between two cases, a brother and a sister files; they are from the same family, from the same education background and from the same experience. The sister applied in February 6, 2009 and she received medical papers in February 17, 2010. They are both doctors. The brother applied in September 15, 2009 and he is still waiting to receive any processing for his file. I have all these documents here. I have the list of all my client and you see that it has 12 pages and all these [records] in blue means that they are processed which is only 2.9 percent.
… For the last part I want to say that I have a website named parscanada.com which is receiving between 10 to 15 thousands clicks a day and I feel that the image of Canada has been damaged severely by the dishonesty of just keep people waiting in Damascus and not processing the files.
[Q&A section started with Mr. Menegakis’s speech, the MP of Richmond Hill, ON.]
Menegakis: Thank you very much for being here with us today and for sharing your thoughts and your concerns with us. It is certainly valuable information that we need as a committee as we move forward with our recommendations to the minister and to the government.
Canada as you know and as we all know is one of the most welcoming countries in the world. Last year laid a record of 280 thousand people. Having said that there is a backlog. We don’t see that backlog getting better unless something is done. You mentioned, Mr. Mokhtari, the number just you get on your website. There are 43 million hits on Immigration Canada’s website in the past year. That’s 120 thousand an hour so 56% of those I should say are from international sources, 44% internally. So there are enough a lot of people are that are interested or are showing interest in coming to Canada with we just don’t see the demand getting any smaller than it is already and I think we can get back down in talking about numbers and statistics and speak about the debate those issues and processing times and so forth but quite often we focus on the quantity and I don’t know that there is enough focus on the quality. And there is some point I made here before in this committee and the outside of this committee that it is not just about the issue number of people we are let in, it is about making sure that the immigrants are coming integrate and are able to join the workforce and in fully participate in the economy and the community. I represent the riding of Richmond Hill, it is one of the most diverse ridings in the country, with a very dynamic and very progressive Iranian community, but I know that and I think the government has shown that the integration of the new Canadians is one of our key goals. Would you agree and can you please explain what the practical limits are to us and how many people Canada can welcome every year fr
om your perspective? I am actually questioning to all four of you.
Costas Menegakis: “…quite often we focus on the quantity and I don’t know that there is enough focus on the quality.”
CH: Ms. Parker, please.
Pa: My opinion is also like Mr. Atkinson. I think that in order to respond to the quality we need to focus may be even more on the urgent labour market needs and by doing that is may be issuing more work permits and having these people coming in quicker and processing their permanent resident applications inside Canada…
CH: Very briefly Mr. Mokhtari.
Mo: I totally agree with you. As a government we have to constantly work on this issue that who is suitable for society and we have to see it in long term. But in some areas there’s no doubt that we have needs and these needs have be announced before and based on that we have approved some rules and these rules have been announced to people and people put hope and future on those applications and it is not fair to change the policy and keep them as backlog there, because we are not sure what we really need. So the backlog was 600 thousand before Mr. Kenny come to the office and he says that it is one million now. So for Damascus only, my question is what they were doing during the last three years? So why people with the specialization we need them, have to wait there. May be there are some areas that we are not sure about but there are some areas that we need them.
CH: Mr. Davis, please.
Davis: I’d like to welcome all the witnesses and in particular thank you for taking time since you have busy lives to share your expertise here today.
We are here to study the backlog and Minister Kenny, I think to be fair at what he has said in numerous public occasions is that in 1993, when the liberal government previously came into power we inherited immigration system where decisions were typically rendered in a few months time in the backlog of applications was manageable. Mr. Kenny says when liberals left office in 2006 they left, thanks to their mismanagement he said, a backlog of some 640 thousands applications for the federal skilled worker program; about 850 thousand applications generally. But now, since it has been after five years, the backlog totally has grown over 1 million. I don’t think Mr. Kenny would agree with me that it is his mismanagement as the backlog has certainly grown now. But I think Mr. Kenny and the government is proposing is that we impose caps on applications as a means of dealing with that backlog and the point to the experience and skilled worker class as an example of success.
Now, my first question and I ask you to be brief, I am going to target my questions Ms. Parker and Mr. Mokhtari, do you consider the ministerial instructions and what the government has done in the skilled worker category to have been a success?
Mo: I don’t think so. What I think is that Mr. Kenny closed down all the federal programs by doing this. Actually he left the backlog away and put the cap of 1000 and again 500 and gradually CIC just processed some of them from the first ministerial Instructions and then again in the second and third. It is just a show off. I’m sorry to say that but I just have 15 speeches from Mr. Kenny in different immigrant communities. He is walking around and talking about reducing backlog and reducing the processing time but it is not the case, it is not what we see on the ground…
Davis: Let me dealing to that. So we can understand this, there is a backlog of 640 thousand skilled worker applications. In 2008 minister brings in an Instruction saying: we are going to do what? Ms. Parker, what did that familiar instruction saying?
Pa: It is saying we are bringing in 38 Professions.
Davis: And one of them would be say doctors.
Davis: And he also said that applications received after February 1, 2008 would be processed first.
Davis: Over and about 640 thousand application already there, right?
Pa: Absolutely. I think your question is about the caps. Those caps in the end are not fixing in anyway the backlog prior 2008.
Davis: So a doctor who was waiting in the Queue before 2008 saw their applications thrown aside and an application made by a new doctor after 2008 was processed first.
Davis: And I also understand that the people got letters after 2008 saying that your applications would be processed within 12 months and I have tabs here to Mr. Kenny’s speeches as well, where he said 12 months, 6 to 12 months, 7 to 8 months and the majority of them would be 6 months. How long are those applications filed after 2008 taken to process?
Pa: Mr. Mokhtari has his own list and I believe the last A.O.R and the last one processed was February 2009.
Davis: So what does that mean? Have they been processed within 12 months?
Mo: No, never.
Pa: No. we are over two years.
Davis: I say then in 2010 Mr. Kenny set a second set, I would argue saying the first one didn’t work, saying okay, now we are going to cut those occupations from 38 to 29. Doctors are still on the list, right?
Davis: Right. But then imposing caps we are only going to take 1000 applications worldwide for any particular occupation, correct?
Davis: And then there was the third ministerial instruction that came after that, cutting it to 500. Is that right?
Davis: So what is if you take crane operators that were in the queue from let’s say 2004, were doctors in the queue from 2004. What happened to their applications as a result of these ministerial instructions?
Pa: As of first step, second set in 2010, third set, as soon as you come with the Third Ministerial Instructions, the other ones are completely forgotten and we start over again every time a new set of ministerial instructions come in, even if, as you mentioned, out of the these two same lists, if you take the first and the second, 19 professions are exactly the same.
Davis: So how is it fair for a crane operator or doctor who applied in 2009 to be processed before an application that was submitted three years earlier?
Pa: It is absolutely against procedural fairness.
Davis: But that’s what Mr. Kenny’s instructions required?
Don Davis: now, since it has been after five years, the backlog totally has grown over 1 million. I don’t think Mr. Kenny would agree with me that it is his mismanagement as the backlog has certainly grown now.
CH: Mr Lamoureux, please.
La: Thank you Mr. Chairman. I am sure witnesses are familiar with the current system in which you can log onto the internet and kind of get an E-client update. I would appreciate if you could please advise the committee if you find that it is accurate to the best of you know. What I am thinking of again is especially when you click on the average processing times. Can you please provide a comment on that.
Mo: Actually there are two services online which one of them is E-cast that you can find out what’s going on with your file, which is totally unreliable and this is one of my problems with my clients. Because they’re going to see what’s going on their files and receive fake information. For example, one of my clients that we had just sent him the A.O.R, called me and said: it’s written on the website that they have already received my medical documents. That is impossible because he has never received any paper to go to the designated doctor.
La: Is that a common thing that occurs?
Mo: Yes, it is very common. I can tell you 30 out of 100. 30 percent of information is inaccurate, absolutely.
La: Ms. Parker you can lead the response in this. Specifically they say that they don’t want you to correspond with immigration officers abroad if in fact, you would be in that processing time. So let’s say for example your processing time is 11 months, they don’t want to hear from you within this 11 months. To what degree do you feel that it is accurate? Ms. Parker do you want start off and then go into Mr. Mokhtari?
Pa: Actually in regards to the internet aspect of it, every file that was processed or submitted after February 2008 or after the first set of ministerial instruction, all the actual information on timeframes and their processing delays are vague. So there is actually nothing that can be found or, as you mentioned, you are not supposed to be able to write to the program managers overseas, you are not supposed to be corresponding when you were promised 12 month, as you said, and it has been well over 12 months. We are talking you another 24 months afterwards. There is a definite problem.
Mo: The A.O.R letters indicated that if it took more than one year, 12 months, please contact us directly. Every single applicant will receive the A.O.R and who have applied within the first ministerial instruction has this letter. It mentioned that if you didn’t receive any contact or any message or any updates from us in the 12 months, please contact us directly. That is something common but even for that there is an increase or decrease. It doesn’t make any sense at all.
La: The other area that I want briefly comments on, is in regards to, you talked about the occupations in the list and we all know healthcare professionals is one of the top ones. We all know that construction areas is one of the areas where is a lot of deficiencies. To what degree your clients that are coming here that are healthcare professionals getting their credentials recognized and what do you believe is the greatest barrier for them getting it? You got to be really short, I only have 2 minutes to go.
Mo: The big problems are with doctors, we have nurses that can get into the system easily, let’s say easily comparing to doctors, but doctors are struggling too much because they have to pass 3 exams and then they have to find a position in one of these …
La: So if you wanted to estimate, but say that roughly, how many doctors would you have brought into the country yourself through your firm in the last five years and how many of them would actually be practicing medicine today? Can you give us a bold part guess?
Mo: I can’t tell you exactly how many, because many of them are still in the processing level. But I can tell you that may be 1 to 2% of them could manage to get into the system.
CH: Mr. Dykstra you have the final word. [Mr. Dykstra is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration]
DYK: I just want to ask Ms. Parker and Mr. Mokhtari very quickly, have you advised any of your clients that who were in the backlog part of February 2008, to withdraw their names, withdraw their applications and to apply in the new system because it would be much quicker?
Pa: Actually this is suggestion has being done by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
DYK: Are you doing that? Are you recommending to your clients to do that? Are you recommending that your clients withdraw from the old system because, as you’ve indicated, it’s a very big backlog and takes a long time?
Mo: It is a very important issue here.
DYK: I don’t have much time, so just get me a Yes or a No. Are you advising your clients, Yes or No?
Mo: Yes, but there is a … but. When you have applied for a program indicated that your application will be processed in 12 month, and this timeframe starts from January 2009 to January 2010, that means this is the timeframe that you logically have to wait. So no one thinks that there is any problem. And then Mr. Kenny did not correct the problem and continued and even again mentioned the 6 to 12 months of processing time, but as soon as 2010 and for the second ministerial instruction in the June 2010, many of them were not still 12 months, so we couldn’t recommend them.
DYK: Okay, I understand that you have the personal issue with respect to the timeframe and it takes you that much longer. There is a couple of reasons I think why, first is, you know I wish the federal government had the authority to do the foreign credential research on her own and make approval who could practice medicine in this country but the jurisdiction belongs not only to the provinces but obviously to the associations who would then approves the individuals. So I think it’s unfair to say that processing times are in fact, a part of the problem of the backlog. They in fact, are not. Part of the problem is that we have a backlog; we have people applying into the process or into the system that in fact need to be approved as professionals by the associations within the particular provinces that they’re going to move into. So I am not surprised to hear if the base load of your clients who are Iranian, you know doctors from Iran are not necessarily qualifying on a very quick basis. If for example, you are to look to South Africa in terms of the medical associations there, we have Alberta, we have Saskatchewan the medical associations there are proving doctors very quickly. In fact, we are well with the processing time of 6 to 12 months. I would also ask that you made a very broad sweeping statement regarding that the comments that Mr. Kenny’s made with respect under the new system post February of 2008, that those processing times are much longer than the 6 to 12 months, that he’s indicated in a number of speeches that he’s given so. I would ask you to submit to the committee the documentation that you have to prove that in fact he isn’t telling the truth. You may have a couple of situations but I doubt very much that you have all the documentation approved across the country that’s case.
MO: Yes I have a list of …and I also have the link of the CIC website that all these speeches are there.
DYK: I am not talking about the speeches, I am talking about the sweeping statements that you are allowed to do. You are here as a witness and been invited to do so, but when you make those kind of comments you have to provide evidence of proof that what ministry say on its website, what the minister is saying in his speeches and what the government is saying with respect that states be honouring the timeframes we committed to in February, if you’re saying that that’s untrue, then I ask you today to submit to the clerk to distribute to all the members of this committee the proof that that’s the case.
Mo: Sure. But to respond to your point, it is not required for Immigration Canada to make sure that if a physician from Iran or South Africa, the qualification of the degree is not a part of the job of Immigration Canada. And I’m talking about the processing they even didn’t touch. These people, let’s say around 500 cases and 144 physicians, the offices never opened the cases to see even if they are physicians or not.
Rick Dykestra: “…I think it’s unfair to say that processing times are in fact, a part of the problem of the backlog. They in fact, are not.”
CH: The time is expired. I would like to thank all of you.
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