A pilot project to help MP offices settle immigration cases

A pilot project to help MP offices settle immigration cases

A pilot project to help MPs’ offices settle immigration cases

Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press Supported by the MP for Lac- Saint-Jean, Alexis Duceppe-Brunelle, the proposal will allow the full-time hiring of a person who will deal with the most complex cases.

Bloc Québécois MPs are launching an unprecedented pilot project to relieve their constituency offices, which are overwhelmed with immigration files. Supported by the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, Alexis Duceppe-Brunelle, the proposal will allow the full-time hiring of a person who will deal with more complex cases in order to provide assistance to seven Bloc offices which are facing a increased influx of requests for assistance.

“In a county like mine, 35 to 45% of the files are immigration cases, but they take up 60 to 65% of the time worked”, explains Mr. . Duceppe-Brunelle. So much time spent on increasingly complex immigration cases that is not used to help other citizens struggling with less serious or non-immigration issues, such as employment insurance .

The MNA, who has been working on his proposal since the fall with the cooperation of Minister Sean Fraser, is pleased to have succeeded in having a relaxation of certain rules of the House of Commons accepted, a relaxation which makes it possible to review the structure of the budgets of constituency to fund such a position.

“That person will take care of the most complex immigration cases in [certain] MP offices and will end up gaining a lot of experience, he says. It will unclog the work of our offices. »

Not all constituency assistants are used to handling such a volume of immigration files and do not always have the necessary expertise. “People are competent, but if someone who is normally going to deal with an old age pension case has to put double the time on an immigration case… It makes their job harder to do. »

Increase in the number of files

In an internal survey to which some twenty Bloc MPs out of 32 responded, 85% said they had seen the volume of immigration files increase over the past three years, underlines Mr. Duceppe-Brunelle.

A recent study from Laval University looked at the role played by constituency assistants in immigration cases: the pile, indeed, has continued to grow, especially during the pandemic. Conducted by the team of Danièle Bélanger, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Migration Dynamics, the survey revealed that COVID-19 has led to a reorganization of services. The increase in the volume of requests (64%) was the most frequently reported consequence.

And, at the same time, the tools available to constituency assistants and MPs, namely a privileged telephone line allowing them to speak directly to immigration officials, have been reduced or significantly transformed in the past two years.

The Ministerial Center team for deputies and senators has also become skeletal due to the crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Since the fall, following a reorganization of services, MNAs' offices must now make an appointment with an agent through an online platform to try to obtain information and settle files. .

In the past, for certain very urgent cases, the deputy could make the call himself. “When you have to get someone off the plane, sometimes you have to act quickly,” says Alexis Duceppe-Brunelle. I used it sparingly, but still, I was one of those who used it the most. And there, we no longer have access to this line. »

The IRCC “boat”

Saying that he does not want to “do politics” on this issue, the Bloc MP nevertheless notes a structural problem at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), particularly with regard to processing times, which are constantly getting longer.

“The minister put in the money, hired more people, and I'm going to give the runner a chance.” If it works, I'll be the first to applaud, but for now, there are serious pitfalls, he said. I would say it's not the captain, the problem is more the boat. »

In addition, apart from the tools available to the MP's office, the IRCC call center remains the only point of contact for the general public since the closure of all service offices in person. In the spring of 2019, a report by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada noted the serious shortcomings of this call center, which, in the years 2017-2018, had answered only 22% of the 1.7 million appeals received.

The Bloc Québécois has been calling since 2020 for the creation of an ombudsman position at the Department of Immigration, a recommendation that also appears in a report by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and immigration.