2013 was kind of wild, even for immigration policy, which is always churning and bubbling and reshaping itself. Add in some juicy scandals, legislative overhauls plus some new programs and you can barely recognize the animal it was a year ago.
A highlight of 2013 for me was attending the CBA National Immigration Law Conference in Montreal in May with Lori and Cam. I even got to moderate a panel.
Top 3 list:
– My favorite new development was the launch of the online application filing system for representatives in May. Lots of people gripe about it and the clunky platform. It definitely has its quirks, but I cannot wait until everything can be filed electronically. It is the right move and will be a great equalizer for the process which is fraught with unfairness depending on geography. One example: we got an online supervisa approved for a parent who lives in Sierra Leone in just 10 days. Yes, it took 12 weeks to get her medical done and into the system, but she arrived safe and sound in early December. First flight of her life. She flew with carry-on only, like a champion.
– After dreading the new refugee determination process, our first file went beautifully. I still have a zillion concerns about the new system, but seeing it work well was very reassuring and gives me a level of faith that I didn’t have before. A lot of the credit goes to Lori, who did a spectacular job representing the clients. First, she consulted a clinical psychologist and got a “Vulnerable Persons” designation for the file, then prepared her exhibits perfectly and had everything at the panel’s fingertips to the point that, at the end of the hearing, the panel member effusively complimented her preparation and representation. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Lori Hill is awesome at her job.
– Starting to fix the temporary foreign worker program: I don’t agree with everything that has been done (the need to advertise if you are trying to extend a current employee who is on an expiring post-graduation work permit comes to mind as most irksome…), but I am happy the feds are taking the criticisms more seriously and working to enforce the rules, which was shockingly lacking in the past. Canada Border Services Agency is working hard to bring unscrupulous employers to justice (This, for example) which is commendable and long overdue. And by the way, the recent outrage about access to the program by convicted human traffickers is a red herring, in my opinion: the government has cast a wide net to shut bad employers out of the LMO process. To stipulate that only those who are convicted are banned from the program would have been either redundant or way too narrow. Say what you want about Service Canada and Jason Kenney, but making life easier for convicted criminals is not one of their priorities. The press on the issue seemed far too reactionary and simplistic.
Bottom 3 list:
– In April, the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration made a seemingly miniscule change to its eligibility requirements that would have a massive impact: It made post-graduation work permit holders ineligible for all NS immigration programs. It did this without a grace period or even any notice or announcement. Apparently, this was foisted on it by the feds. I cannot discuss this rationally (or at least without cursing like the Albertan that I am), so I am going to leave at this: that was a scoundrel move, Nova Scotia.
– While we are on the topic of scoundrel-moves: on November 8, 2013, the feds announced there would be a change to the Canada Experience Class program that would make some of the most popular job categories ineligible. Effective November 9, 2013. Overnight, dreams and plans were dashed. In what world of procedural fairness, administrative processes and the illusion that the government cares about people (and if not people, at least optics) is this ok? It’s not.
– Borrowing from my top 3 list for a second: in order to continue to employ someone whose post-graduation work permit is expiring, the employer needs a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). In order to get a LMO, as of August 2013, you now have to recruit for the position if it is a lower-skilled position and, regardless of skill level, you must pay the median wage for the position. So one day you have a smart, keen post-grad working for you and the next day you have to pay them more than other workers in your company AND advertise the position as if it is vacant. There are lots of examples of this kind of emerging absurdity, which makes me wish the government was more thoughtful and less reactive when it made the sweeping changes to the TFW program last summer.
For 2014, we can expect more tweaks to the TFW program and apparently new rules on how (and how long it takes to) to become a citizen.
Locally, I am hoping for some effort in this province to create a points-based immigration program to recognize people who have family or connections here.
Office-wise, since 2010, every year has set a new record for work and revenue. We are expecting another record year. My philosophy about how we do things is simple: we are the kind of firm and lawyers we would want to hire. Each year, we become more agile and can tackle more complex matters. Our transparent, flat-rate billing systems and collaborative (3-lawyers working in tandem) approach to all files ensures we provide the best possible service we can. Not to say we never make mistakes. But when we do, we readily admit them and deal with them head-on, and thankfully have never had anything go seriously off the rails. In 2014, we will continue to fine-tune our unique approach of providing top-quality, innovative and cost-effective legal services to individuals and corporations.
Finally, a shout-out to Cameron MacLean, our newest addition at the firm. Lori and I worked with Cam years ago, when he was a paralegal, before he decided to go to law school. He’s an excellent writer and a sharp thinker. In addition to all his day-to-day work at the moment, he has been wrangling a pro bono overseas H&C into submission (literally). It is one of the most heart-wrenching and complicated H&Cs we have ever done. And it’s a long shot, so could prove to be incredibly disheartening, despite all the blood, sweat and tears. Cam is a great addition to the office and an excellent, cohesive co-worker, his Dollar Store office slippers notwithstanding.
Happy 2014 everyone!