Canada should introduce Immigrant Bill of Rights and Ombudsperson for IRCC and CBSA


The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) calls on the Government of Canada to enhance the newcomer experience by introducing an Immigrant Bill of Rights. 

Out today, Let’s Clean Up Our Act is a major report on legislative reform of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). The goal of the report is to provide policy makers with a comprehensive view of the legislative changes that CILA members have deemed most urgent. 

CILA believes the federal government can complement the Immigrant Bill of Rights by introducing an Ombudsperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).  

“Introducing an Immigrant Bill of Rights and Ombudsperson is crucial to improving the newcomer experience” says Randy Hahn, VP of CILA. 

“Amid record-levels of applications, IRCC and CBSA need to emphasize a more human-centric approach to treat the Canadian citizens of tomorrow with the courtesy and respect they deserve.” 

A number of federal departments and agencies have an office of the ombudsperson and/or a bill of rights. The Canada Revenue Agency’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, as an example, outlines expectations of service provided to those who interact with the CRA, and the CRA also has a Taxpayers Ombudsperson. Both IRCC and CBSA serve the public, and those who rely on both of them reasonably have an expectation of fairness, transparency, and responsiveness. 

Many members of Parliament devote significant resources – including the time of staff members – to trying to resolve immigration issues on behalf of their constituents. The issues are often not necessarily complicated, but rather result from a lack of service or responsiveness on the part of IRCC. This is not an efficient use of resources. 

The government has proposed legislation (Bill C-20: An Act establishing the Public Complaints and Review Commission and amending certain Acts and statutory instruments) that would establish a Public Complaints and Review Commission as an enhanced independent review body for CBSA (and the RCMP). CBSA does have existing processes for complaints and requests or reviews in addition to important formal legal processes. While much of CBSA’s mandate involves border services, it includes immigration. Consideration should be given to how a proposed Bill of Rights and Office of the Ombudsperson would work with CBSA operations and existing mechanisms. 

“This is a critical time to comprehensively review IRPA” adds Hahn. 

“Following the Second World War, Parliament has typically introduced new immigration legislation every 25 years or so, yet IRPA has not been comprehensively reviewed and amended since its proclamation in 2021.” 

Over this period, Canada’s demographic, social and economic circumstances and priorities have changed, and relevant developments have occurred in administrative and Charter jurisprudence. The passage of time enables CILA to evaluate the legislation’s practical application in light of these changes. CILA’s review coincides with the federal government’s announcement on October 31, 2023 they were also examining IRPA to assess the need for legislative amendments or reform. 

CILA recommends strategic reform rather than entirely new legislation in recognition of the existing pressures on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada due to new technology and staff, and processing backlogs. New legislation would compound these pressures, and less drastic solutions exist to streamline processes and ensure better client outcomes. 

About CILA 

CILA was conceived in 2020 by a group of leading immigration lawyers to provide a national organization focused exclusively on immigration law. Our Founding Members recognized the need to create an organization capable of effectively representing the immigration bar, fostering an independent community of immigration lawyers, law students and academics, providing professional resources, mentorship and affordability for our Members, while engaging with stakeholders and promoting the rule of law, access to justice and positive change in the Canadian immigration system. 

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