Within the realm of Canadian criminal law there is a fundamental principle that the punishment should be proportional to the crime an individual convicted of. Under Section 718.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code it is written as follows:
718.1 A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.
There are are also various sentencing principles meant to guide the discretion of decision-makers to ensure that the sentences are properly set down. These include factors such as potential rehabilitation and whether the punitive and societal aims of the proposed sentence are met.
During the previous government’s tough on crime focus, this led to the introduction of the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act (FRFCA) which clearly was introduced with deterrence in mind when it came to punishing foreign nationals and permanent residents for misrepresentation. In my assessment, I believe that not enough attention was paid to the overall requirement of proportionality.
The Regulatory Impact Assessment Statement issued in support of regulatory changes states (my emphasis added):
An examination of the effectiveness of the IRPA’s current misrepresentation provision — that is, the two-year period of inadmissibility that bans a foreign national from entering or remaining in Canada because of directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts that cause an error in the administration of the IRPA — determined that it is not sufficient to deter fraudulent applications, particularly for permanent resident applicants, as processing times in this stream can be in excess of two years. In those cases, permanent resident applicants who have been found to have provided false information can simply reapply almost immediately and wait in the processing queue for the two-year inadmissibility period to be completed. In practice, there is little or no consequence for these applicants.
Increase consequences for misrepresentation
Amendments to existing regulatory provisions related to misrepresentation would support legislative changes that provide a stronger disincentive for applicants to provide fraudulent information on their immigration applications. The changes would also help ensure that the processing of legitimate applications is not delayed by fraudulent permanent resident applicants who reapply and wait out their period of inadmissibility in the processing queue.
In addition, the increased consequences for misrepresentation would make Canada less vulnerable to immigration fraud by bringing consequences in line with Canada’s like-minded international partners. A stronger deterrent for misrepresentation would benefit Canadians by ensuring travellers and immigrants admitted to Canada meet the criteria established to support Canadian immigration objectives, and would increase public confidence in and support for Canada’s immigration program.
The two-year penalty is shorter than those imposed by Canada’s like-minded international partners, which makes the Canadian immigration system more vulnerable to abuse. Other countries appear to have more severe penalties, for example:
Australia: three-year ban on visas where false or misleading information is provided;
United Kingdom: 1-, 5-, or 10-year ban on re-entry (length of ban depends on severity of false representation); and
United States: lifetime inadmissibility (i.e. ban on entry) for visa fraud or misrepresentation.
I think one of the challenges is equating all of those caught under s.40 IRPA misrepresentation with fraudulent permanent resident applicants. There may be (and I have seen many) individuals who made genuine mistakes in misrepresenting themselves (or hiring the wrong person who misrepresented for them), when in fact they often had recourse to other routes such as their bona fide permanent resident applications.
Essentially, what you have amounts to a very broad provision under the immigration inadmissibility for misrepresentation (s.40 of IRPA) [separate from the immigration offense of misrepresentation under s.127 IRPA] which can cover several non men reus incidents such as unknowingly withholding material evidence or having a third party indirectly misrepresent on behalf of an unknowing applicant who has paid for the services.
In an overseas foreign national applicant’s situation, they can be issued a five-year ban in writing. This takes places, a majority of the time, after a procedural fairness letter is issued giving them the opportunity to make representations and supplements the refusal letter
In an inland situation, a foreign national applicant is written up for misrepresentation and referred to the Immigration Division who are usually bound to enforce the order. The first stage of this reporting process takes place at the Port of Entry or with the help of Inland Enforcement as coordinated by Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”).
Generally speaking CBSA is bound to pursue the misrepresentation allegation, but I have been successful in a few occasions to have them “commuted” (so to speak) to lesser non-compliance findings that can carry a one-year exclusion order. I strongly agree with this practice, but again I think without anything written down on paper to support it, it becomes a remedy that is difficult to ultimately rely on or seek – Good in effect, but not effective in law.
The Consequences of Misrepresentation are Heavy
As per A40(2) and (3) of IRPA, the inadmissibility period is five years. The FRFCA announcement added a five-year bar to applying for permanent residency.
Currently, there is a lack of clarity on whether IRCC has the discretion to ARC back a misrepresentation client as a permanent resident or only as a temporary resident. I have heard from various individuals in private practice that this is done but ultimately with some inconsistency.
I am currently in the process (by ATIP and coordination with various Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) Offices/Officers to seek some clarity). I believe there is some incongruity to allowing the ARC back of a temporary resident (a visitor or worker with a bona fide purpose), but not a permanent resident who may have been part of a genuine relationship unrelated to the misrepresentation.
I will not get to it in this piece, but there are also quasi-criminal, regulatory, and criminal punishments for misrepresentation that could render an individual inadmissible to Canada for criminality in addition to misrepresentation.
Why I like the U.K.- style Approach Better to Misrepresentation
I think applying a five-year inadmissibility and five-year bar on PR for misrepresentation is both too light and too heavy, all at the same time.
I am in favour of strict punishment of mens reus perpetrators of misrepresentation. Those that purposely committed or instructed the commission of fraud in order to seek entry or status in Canada. Individuals who are part of larger efforts to defraud fellow immigrants (in addition to being punished regulatory wise) should face the highest form of punishment.
However, there are simply too many cases where it really is the unfortunate promise of a purported “trusted immigration representative” or even cases of ignorance, albeit willful blindness, of Canadian law. I believe CBSA should have some legal recourse, written in legislation, to provide these individuals with a two-year bars or even a five-year inadmissibility period, but a waiver of the five-year PR bar.
I think the way to handle the issue of “discretion” is to make is clear that the Immigration Division/Visa Officer/Immigration Appeal Division’s decision is not subject to appeal in the case of a foreign national and that they have a broad ability to determine the reasonableness of the ban.
How would I re-write A.40(2) and (3)
Disclaimer: this is not the law and merely my legislative rewriting for the purposes of this piece. Changes in italics.
(a) the permanent resident or the foreign national continues to be inadmissible for misrepresentation for a period of between two and ten years following, in the case of a determination outside Canada, a final determination of inadmissibility under subsection (1) or, in the case of a determination in Canada, the date the removal order is enforced. The sole discretion in determining the length of misrepresentation will fall to the Immigration Division or an overseas visa officer, in the case of a foreign national, or the Immigration Appeal Division, in the case of a permanent resident, and is not subject to the right of appeal.
(3) A foreign national who is inadmissible under this section may not apply for permanent resident status during the period referred to in paragraph (2)(a), subject to the discretion of the Immigration Division, in the case of a foreign national, or the Immigration Appeal Division, in the case of a permanent resident, to waive the requirement due to the Applicant’s mitigating factors.
- (a) Mitigating factors can include, but are limited to:
- (i) demonstrable evidence of the Applicant’s remorse;
- (ii) demonstralve evidence of the Applicant’s efforts to come forward proactively with their misrepresentation;
- (iv) demonstrable evidence that the Applicant has rehabilited themselves of the factors that have caused the misrepresentation and will not commit future misrepresentations; and
- (v) demonstrable evidence that the Applicant’s misrepresentation is not related to the grounds by which they end to
- (b) The decision of whether to add section (3) as a term of the period of inadmissibility under section 3(a) will fall to the Immigration Division or an overseas visa officer,in the case of a foreign national, or the Immigration Appeal Division, in the case of a permanent resident, and is not subject to the right of appeal.
I think such a system would create a much more rehabilitative process for those who have made mistakes and are willing to correct them, yet at the same time can be used to punish those who have committed egregious misrepresentations.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree or do you like the one-size fits all, easy come easy go approach, that is currently written in law?