Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has an uncanny way of implementing systems meant to simplify things – that end up obscuring the process and driving applicants bananas.

It’s so irksome (or IRCC-some? HA!)

Crummy puns aside, this system and process can be incredibly stressful. People’s lives and futures depend on the information IRCC has about their applications.

A Toronto Star story provides a good example of what happens when you try to get a simple answer over the phone from the IRCC call centre agents.

IRCC eliminated front-counter services several years ago. This forced clients to rely on the Call Centre and online systems.

Also remember IRCC is a service department of our federal government. The same government operates other service-oriented departments much more smoothly (one hopes.) I never have this much trouble talking to someone at CRA about my taxes.

In our office, we gave up calling the Call Centre years ago.

Even if you get through, you rarely get any helpful information about your case. You cannot speak to a supervisor or manager. I confess, when one of my children was younger and wanted to play telephone, I would dial the Call Centre number and let her push random buttons, confident she would never ever reach a human being.

Instead of the Call Centre, we prefer the case-specific enquiry process these days. Using that system, you can make a request in writing, upload an additional document and (fingers crossed), get some sort of a response within 30 days.

The responses are still sometimes comical, such as this string of responses we received about a file we’ve been working on for over a year. IRCC had previously contacted us about it as the client’s representative.

Reply #1: Thank you for contacting Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. I am pleased to follow up on your request: We have verified the file of AB and there is no information stating that you are their representative.

(So we uploaded the representative form again and made a new inquiry.)

Reply #2: Thank you for contacting Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. I am pleased to follow up on your request: This message is to inform you that we have received the Use of representative (IMM5476) or the Release of Information to an Individual (IMM5475) form. The appointed representative has authorization to access the file.

(So we sent the inquiry again, for the 3rd time.)

Reply #3: Thank you for contacting Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. I am pleased to follow up on your request: To find answers to your questions, please visit the online Help Centre. Please note that you can also search by typing keywords.

It took over a month to get to that point. So they sent us to the IRCC website for answers, as if it hadn’t occurred to us to look on the website in the first place. Super.

Imagine you were the client on this file. Imagine the frustration of dealing with an unseen, labyrinthine bureaucracy when you are new to Canada, trying to reunite your family or just want to know the status of your file. It’s like dealing with a booming voice behind a sparkly curtain with no chance of insight into the status of your application.

This is just one example. I cannot count the number of times we have received “Your application has been withdrawn at your request, ”when we did not request any such thing or “your information has been noted,” with no reference to the client’s name or file number so we have no way of knowing who it relates to.

I know there are larger issues with the GCMS system and e-process IRCC uses. These are probably just minor hiccups compared to the massive task of managing and allocating the data IRCC collects. But it still drives us around the bend and causes unnecessary headaches.

Oh well, I guess there’s just no place like home Canada.