Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper performs with the band the Van Cats during the Conservative caucus Christmas party in Ottawa December 9, 2014. Reuters/Chris Wattie

Canada's immigration system has come under a cloud after an internal review by the government unravelled "high error rate" in immigration processing. The errors included glaring omissions right from permanent resident applications to refugee work permits. The findings have let out fears about the system's efficacy and integrity. Among the human errors cited, there were many instances of the staff failing to use correct form letters, address missing documents and attaining accurate timelines.

The shortcomings have already cost many individual applicants not only the opportunity to live and work in Canada but also raised questions on the "efficiency of the system" besides the unnecessary backlogs created. The internal reports were obtained by Toronto Star under the access to information request.

Gross Negligence

One important area of concern from the findings has been on letters. In terms of the number of request letters not sent or inaccurately sent, a negative impact has been created on both clients and at the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta, the report noted.

This delayed the processing and added to the waiting times for clients and increased the workload of the staff. It also led to a rise in the amount of white mail received at Vegreville centre as clients started replying to unnecessary requests or sought clarification. Also, the number of the same request letters sent over time created an impression of unfairness for clients whose applications got refused after one request. The internal report is also a validation of sort of the complaints by many Immigration applicants who were peeved with inconsistencies and lack of fairness not only in the application processing but also in the decision-making process at the level of Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials.

Casual Workers Blamed

The "quality management" reviews covered three areas: Permanent Residence, fefugee work permits and Canadian Experience Class. According to some personnel in the immigration department, the errors were the result of hiring a number of "casual employees" to replace well-trained permanent staff, despite the government articulating its stand that it never compromised on the integrity of these programmes.

"Since the [Stephen] Harper government came into power, Citizenship and Immigration has seen too many cuts and lost many qualified employees," observed Steve McCuaig, national president of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union. The union asserted that casual employees now make up half the workforce that reviews permanent residence applications. It also said these temporary employees are mostly students who are trained for a few days at the department's global case management system. However, Immigration department spokeswoman Sonia Lesage insisted the system's integrity was not in doubt. She said there are adequate checks and balances. Lesage claimed that senior officials regularly carry out quality monitoring exercises and evaluate all programmes and review procedures.

Delay Resented

Meanwhile, the long delays in obtaining Canadian citizenship have invited anger and protests of politicians and newcomers. Liberal immigration critic John McCallum, who represents Markham-Unionville, and Peggy Nash of Parkdale-High Park said complaints about citizenship applications are taking up much of the work of local MPs in their constituency offices. Interestingly, McCallum blamed the delays on the Conservative Party's belief that all newcomers are "criminals," coupled with insufficient resources to meet the demand, reports Windsor News.