About the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA)

At its core, as reflected in our Mission Statement, CILA works to promote justice and fairness in citizenship and immigration law. The Association advocates for improvements to immigration-related policies and departmental operations through timely communications, coalition-building, court interventions, and test litigation. We aim to support our next generation and future leaders. Inclusion, diversity, and accommodation guide CILA.

CILA was founded by several members of the Immigration Bar that have proven track records for leadership. The intention was to establish an organization that could serve the Immigration Bar given the current trends of rapid change in immigration legislation, policy, and automation of delivery of immigration programs by Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

CILA’s goal is support lawyers at all stages of their career. CILA provides timely responses to emerging immigration issues and policies. CILA  disseminates and archives information of importance to assist members and a new generation of lawyers. Canadian border, immigration and citizenship issues are in the news daily. Changes have been and will continue to be substantial in the near and long term. CILA taps into the tremendous wealth of knowledge and expertise of lawyers and academic members across Canada to create a “Think Tank” to formulate policy and innovative and practical solutions to support the delivery of fair, inclusive, and diverse immigration to Canada.

CILA is expanding the offerings available to lawyers to equip them with essential tools and information to support their practices. This includes items such as leading research and legal and related publications to support practitioners keep abreast of emerging information and technologies. CILA is a repository of resources for members. We aim to also benefit stakeholders, other like-minded organizations, and ultimately the people we all serve, future Canadians.

Strategic Direction

CILA will initially focus on five areas supported by sub-committees. Those wishing to participate on a committee, assist in the leadership, or learn more about how to become involved should indicate their interests on their membership applications or by email to info@cila.co

1. Research, Resources and Expert Commentary

CILA aims to leverage academic membership, secure research grants, and collaborate with law schools, universities, and other professional organizations in the development of in-depth research in the areas of immigration, citizenship, and refugee law.

CILA’s objective is to serve our membership by leveraging technology to catalogue, organize and mobilize immigration materials and resources for immigration lawyers.

CILA will be readily accessible to provide quick review, analysis and commentary to government officials and the media. CILA is developing a list of subject-matters experts for real-time responses on live issues to ensure that the voice of the immigration bar is part of the public dialogue. CILA plans to pen position papers, undertake research-led initiatives, provide committee testimony, and engage with stakeholders and the media.

This will complement the work of other organizations such as the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) – National Immigration Law Section, whose efforts result in well-written submissions that are welcomed and respected by government officials and Members of Parliament.

Simply put, this is our opportunity to share ideas big and small regarding potential improvements to citizenship and immigration law, policy, and processes. It is an opportunity to collectively develop emerging research, plan for future initiatives and consider appropriate test litigation. Our members, their experience and knowledge are the fuel for our organization.

Today’s thought is tomorrow’s action.

2. Coalitions

CILA will be able to develop coalitions to build momentum with like-minded groups to facilitate meaningful policy changes through joint submissions or statements with other leading organizations. CILA will be well-positioned, where appropriate, to enter new affiliations and join coalitions expeditiously.

CILA will have a dedicated committee to advance relationships and collaboration on common issues with Canadian and international organizations that have the respect of government, academia, the judiciary, and the media. Networking and collaborating with other interest groups is critical given that migration and border issues remain top priorities for governments worldwide.

3. Stakeholder Relations and Policy Thought Leadership

CILA will have the independence to raise and direct funds as needed for specific initiatives to the benefit of Immigration lawyers and their clients as well as supplement the efforts of other organizations. CILA will have the resources to support members’ participation in stakeholder engagement and in policy think tank sessions to ensure that our voice is heard. As an example, CILA would aim to fund subject matter expert attendance at key Parliamentary and Senate Committee meetings. CILA will pursue issues it deems appropriate and in the best interest of immigration lawyers, stakeholders, and the public in a timely way.

4. Court Interventions

CILA plans to solicit donations and fund well-researched advocacy. Where warranted, CILA will take part in interventions and test litigation on important matters to immigration lawyers, stakeholders, and clients. Court interventions could take place at any level, thereby allowing issues to be litigated once merit has been identified.

Early intervention by subject matter expert litigation counsel on areas specific to the practice of immigration, citizenship and refugee law would benefit and build upon any later intervention by other organizations.

5. Innovative Organizational Structure and new List Serve – The Voice

CILA is a member-driven multi-grouped organizational structure that will forego traditional lock-step positions where possible. Our member-driven organization will develop its structure to model and fill gaps in deliverables on Canadian Immigration law, policy, and research.

Elections to fill CILAs’ governing roles will be held in 2022. Thereafter, CILA’s current founding Steering Committee will move on to fill leadership roles on various committees or on key initiatives.

One of the key features of CILA is our new discussion forum where we communicate on a confidential and secure members-only list serve that we call The Voice. Our list serve was created to share application and litigation strategies, organizational initiatives and generate stakeholder relations ideas. The Voice welcomes ideas and questions from junior lawyers without judgement. Every individual on our list serve is vetted to meet CILA’s membership criteria and to support our mission.

Our Initial 180 Day Strategic Plan

CILA has developed an initial strategic plan to support the launch of our new organization. The immediate goals are to begin with five preliminary planning activities:

1.

Membership Drive and Recruitment

2.

Build Awareness by creating on-line presence with our website and by launching social media channels.

3.

Plan and hold election of our Board of Directors in 2022

4.

Develop priorities for stakeholder engagement and establish coalitions with other organizations

5.

Investigate possibility of creating a foundation in 2022

 

To support our future organizational plans, we have established eight sub-committees. The goal is for them to populate and grow organically at their own pace. There are many opportunities for our members to volunteer with and contribute to the launch of CILA. Our preliminary committees are:

  • Membership and Recruitment Committee
  • Social Media and Website Committee
  • Communications and Strategic Initiatives Committee
  • Stakeholder Relations Committee
  • Research and Practice Resources Committee
  • Finance and Corporate Governance Committee
  • Equity, Inclusion and Accommodation Committee
  • Liaison, Collaboration and Coalition Building Committee

Those wishing to participate on a committees or volunteer on a particular issue should send an email to info@cila.co to express interest.

Immediate Initiative

Exclusion of Counsel

CILA will explore options to address the exclusion of counsel as part of the government’s modernization efforts. We will undertake legal research on the disturbing trend of excluding counsel from fully participating throughout the lifecycle of immigration, citizenship, and refugee applications processes. CILA intends to seek legal advice on potential remedies where the right to counsel is being undermined. We will continue to press for all-encompassing access for lawyers where applicants have chosen to be represented. Additionally, we will continue to draw attention to government messaging that portrays lawyers as inconsequential to the application and decision-making process.

In August 2021, CILA wrote to the Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Minister of Justice to express our concerns about IRCC’s exclusion of counsel as part of the Department’s modernization efforts.

We also plan to liaise with other legal and non-legal organizations that offer professional services in relation to government applications. Our aim is to evaluate how other government departments incorporate or restrict the role of professionals in their client service models and service delivery systems. Such analysis could augment the right to counsel in the context of applications made to Immigration Refuges Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Service Canada.