Introduction of New Law
In December 2012 Immigration completely revamped the refugee system. Perhaps the most dramatic change, was to statutorily require that most new refugee claims complete within 60 days of the claimant’s arrival in Canada. This timeline compares with the 1 to 3 year waits claimants faced prior to the introduction of the new system.
When the Immigration and Refugee Board began to hear cases under the new laws, claims made before December 2012 were classified as “legacy” cases and were to be heard using the old timelines. In other words, the statutory requirement that cases be heard within 60 days did not apply to these legacy cases. The law was not “grandfathered” simply because at the time, there was a significant backlog of refugee claims numbering in the tens of thousands. Immigration did not have the capacity to hear so many claims in such a short period of time.
2012 Legacy Cases
Initially, the Board made some strides toward eliminating the backlog cases such that it is likely most cases initiated prior to 2012 have now been heard by the Board. However, for the most part, cases initiated in 2012 have yet to be heard, and the Board has not been scheduling these cases for more than a year now. What that means is that a refugee claimant arriving in Canada at the end of November 2012 has now waited more than 1100 days to have their claim heard. If the claimant had delayed making the claim for one month, the case would have been heard within 60 days.
One of the reasons for revamping the refugee system was to prevent backlogs from building up as had been the case under the previous system. Yet, despite the fact that the Board now receives approximately 50% fewer claims today than in did in 2012, a new backlog has developed. The new backlog consists, in part, of claims which have been returned to the Board from the Federal Court and the Refugee Appeal Division where it was determined that negative Board decisions were made in error. The Board has refused to schedule such claims for nearly a year, claiming that it lacks the resources to hear such claims. This despite the fact that the Board has engaged in at least two significant hiring campaigns over the past year.
While it is true, that the hardship facing legacy claimants has been mitigated to some degree by living in a safe country, many thousands of these claimants have now been separated from family members for more than three years, many of whom face persecution in their home countries.
There is simply no excuse for Immigration’s failure to process the remaining legacy claims. If the system lacks capacity, then additional Board members should be hired. If Immigration has a plan to deal with such refugees, then transparency requires that they share the plan, to give legacy claimants clarity in their lives. The system has dealt these refugees an unfair hand with no end in sight.
As noted above legacy claimants are now trapped in a line that is more than three years old and now face the additional hurdle of being relegated to a backlog which stands behind the new backlog. Immigration has demonstrated that it cannot properly manage these claims. The only reasonable resolution at this time is to proclaim an amnesty for all legacy claimants.
If you have any questions about Immigration or Refugee law please contact Shelley Levine at 416.364.2345