It was an interesting June. One of the more notable but unfortunate cases involved a family that has lived in Alberta for close to a decade. After coming to Canada, they made a refugee claim. They were assisted at that time by, I’m sure, a well meaning relative. They had a lawyer represent them for the hearing –through Legal Aid. Now there is nothing wrong with legal representation on this basis, however, the stark reality is that there have been serious cutbacks to the Legal Aid budget. Lawyers providing assistance on refugee hearings may get a budget of 8 or 10 hours at a reduced hourly rate. Bear in mind that this budgeted time includes attendance at the hearing. 8-10 hours may be enough time for a very straightforward claim and done by an experienced immigration lawyer and heard by an –ahem –reasonable Board Member – but may not be sufficient for many claims. Remember, a lawyer needs to to review the client documents, review and revise the narrative, prepare disclosure, do country condition research, obtain additional corroborative evidence or expert testimony, prepare the client(s) and then prepare for the hearing and attend at same.
Something has to give (and usually does).
The family had their hearing in 2012; because it was referred before the Kenney refugee reforms, there was no appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD).
After their claim was refused they seemed (inexplicably) to seek the company and counsel of inadequate or incompetent counsel or representation. An apparently lazy lawyer was hired in 2014, and while money was paid no H&C was filed –to be clear, the H&C is probably the best shot for a family in Canada; they also welcomed a Canadian born child to their family.
Throughout these many years, well meaning relatives and non-professionals gave what they undoubtedly thought was good advice.
As an aside -do you take the advice of -or treatment by- a neighbour who isn't a doctor regarding a medical condition that you are suffering?
A “good Samaritan” assisted on the PRRA. While the helpful individual was a University professor he did not have any background whatsoever in risk determination. An important adage comes to mind: half knowledge is worse than no knowledge. After the PRRA was submitted the helpful professor referred the family to a infamous and notorious immigration Edmonton consultant that has ruined the dreams and lives of many other individuals for the H&C. That consultant claims (and swore a false statutory declaration to the effect that) a H&C was filed in 2016. I’m convinced that the marketing for this particular consultancy firm –a family affair – is immeasurably aided by the fortuitous fact that their ethnic name sounds like and is spelled in the identical fashion as a legal moniker or legal term of art/title.
The PRRA was refused. The removal order became enforceable. CBSA started down the removals process. No JR was sought against the PRRA refusal (as it was done by an accounting professor, you do the math on the likelihood of success).
Finally, the family retained an actual immigration lawyer earlier this year. An H&C was ultimately filed a little more than 2 months before expected removal. That means that there was no H&C for 5 years. In that space of time, they could have had a couple of kicks at the H&C can. There is no doubt in my mind that they would have succeeded on an application for relief had it been made in a timeliy fashion.
There is no question that the H&C is meritorious. The family has close to a decade in Canada. They have extensive extended family in this Province. There are three young children, two that barely remember their country of birth and the youngest that was born here; he lacks the ability to speak the language of his forebears.
However, relying on a pending H&C application (that too filed months after the PRRA was refused) is the thinnest firmament upon which to base a request for deferral of an enforceable removal order. Removal Officers have limited grounds to defer removal; previous counsel attempted to access this circumscribed discretion by pointing to the (late) filed H&C. That request for a deferral was, to be expected, refused.
Our office was then retained two weeks ago. Options are, of course, limited.
The only suggestion I can make after reviewing these circumstances and harsh reality of a family leaving Canada after a near decade with three young children is for individuals to take their immigration matters seriously. They should not rely on the advice of non-professionals –they should be wary of advice from family members (some may secretly want failure!). Given the weak oversight and safeguards over immigration consultants, insist on being provided a copy of the application along with proof that the application was received. Those navigating the immigration labyrinth should seek out a second opinion on a regular basis. There is no harm in submitting Access to Information Requests if things seem out of place. No one should be complacent –ever –or at least until after a PR card is issued.
“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them” – Albert Einstein