Category Archives: Canadian Immigration Law Blog

The Final Regs for TFW Vulnerable Work Permits = Good, But a Lot Rests on Implementation/Anti-Fraud

Today, via Part II of the Canada Gazette, the Government released the final regulatory amendments for an open work permit regime for vulnerable temporary foreign workers experiencing abuse as defined by R. 196.2 of the Regulations. See link here:

The changes, which come into effect 4 June 2019, create an effective national regime. The regulatory changes themselves are quite simple.

Regulations Amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations


1 (1) Subparagraph 200(1)(c)(ii) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations footnote 1 is replaced by the following:

  • (ii) intends to perform work described in section 204 or 205 but does not have an offer of employment to perform that work or is described in section 207 or 207.1 but does not have an offer of employment,

(2) Section 200 of the Regulations is amended by adding the following after subsection (3):

Non-application of paragraph (3)(e)

(3.1) Paragraph (3)(e) does not apply to a foreign national referred to in subsection 207.1(1) who engaged in unauthorized work in Canada or failed to comply with a condition of a previous permit or authorization.

2 The Regulations are amended by adding the following after section 207:

Vulnerable workers

207.1 (1) A work permit may be issued under section 200 to a foreign national in Canada if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the foreign national is experiencing or is at risk of experiencing abuse in the context of their employment in Canada and if they

  • (a) hold a work permit issued under subparagraph 200(1)(c)(ii.1) or (iii); or
  • (b) previously held a work permit issued under subparagraph 200(1)(c)(ii.1) or (iii), have applied for a renewal of that permit under subsection 201(1) and are authorized to work in Canada under paragraph 186(u).

Family member of vulnerable worker

(2) A work permit may be issued under section 200 to a foreign national in Canada who is a family member of a person described in paragraph (1)(a) or (b).

3 Subsection 299(2) of the Regulations is amended by striking out “and” at the end of paragraph (j), by adding “and” at the end of paragraph (k) and by adding the following after paragraph (k):

  • (l) a person described in section 207.1.

Coming into Force

4 These Regulations come into force at 00:00:01 a.m. Eastern daylight time, June 4, 2019, but if they are registered after that time, they come into force at 00:00:01 a.m. Eastern daylight time on the day after the day on which they are registered.

It interesting to note though that the changes amend R. 200 but don’t directly reference R. 199 which creates some interpretative questions/challenges. While I think in practice, a broad interpretation of R. 199 could still support in-Canada processing under R.199(a), (b), family members under (e) and (f) if R.207.1 was read in, I agree with a Twitter commentator who noted several amendments and wording issues could create uncertainties.

Here are some thoughts I provided on Twitter:

Three Good Changes Emanating From the Regulatory Amendments

1. Providing Recourse to the Six-Month Bar to these Workers – Allowing individuals who may have violated previous work permit conditions or unauthorized work to still access a work permit under R.200(3.1). This would likely forgive 3(e) unauthorized work which may arise from where unauthorized work is necessary as a result of an abusive employer.

2.  Program Delivery Instructions Fluidity/Consultation Process – recognizing the need for strong Program Delivery Instructions and fluidity. I think this came out of a very effective consultation. process.  Full disclosure – I was in attendance for the Vancouver consultation (on behalf of a sex worker organization I assist) and also contributed my thoughts/notes to those drafting the Canadian Bar Association’s position which Deanna, from McRae Law, did a fantastic job on.

3.  Processing Times and Duration of Work Permit – Near the end, there is a discussion of five business day processing standards in 80% of the case. There is also some discussion earlier about the importance of case-by-case discretion. There seems to be acknowledgement that ESDC and LMIA-processing times are heavily intertwined. Cross-departmental coordination to encourage a reduction in processing times (which the LMIA processing moving online as it is expected to do) will play a big part of.

My Major Concern – Program Misuse

One of the concerns I possibly see is in coming up with an effective mitigation strategy against program misuse is that the problem may go deeper than limiting false claims to use this program inappropriately.

While I appreciate the multiple language access (especially for those who self-represented), I think we under-estimate two important factors:

1) Literacy of Those Who Will Likely Fall Under the Policy

  • Just because instructions are available in many languages that applicants may speak – it does not mean those individuals will interact with them.
  • In fact, when these materials are available in different languages this can also encourage more peddling of this information by community consultants and other individuals who this type of work.
  • This won’t be an easy PDI to put into English let alone other languages. There will be discretion. There will be cultural nuances to navigate as well.
  • We have to remember as well that many individuals who work in the SWAP program or in positions such as cleaners and attendants can often lack high school education or literacy to read through the length of a documentation that will be required to breakdown the definition of abuse into various related real-life, and relatable scenarios.

2) Pathways to Abuse – the International Student Parallel

  • One of the challenges I foresee is that the abuse may legitimately occur in Canada but that the roots of the abuse could be overseas through unlicensed agents and ghost consultants.
  • We saw and/or are seeing this with international students with respect to their humanitarian and compassionate grounds or refugee claims. Many of these claims cannot be said to be fraudulent and/or even without basis but were created when the individual first received a letter of acceptance to a college/university they did not know and were not prepared to necessarily attend.
  •  I do see lawyers, consultants, and community organizations legitimately using this application to try and ameliorative exploitative situations. There will be threshold issues. However, what this does not stop is the trend of bringing in individuals by third-parties who know/or are wilfully blind to the fact that exploitation or deception will happen. Agents are actively working to set up students into schools and employees into employers knowing that students will leave for LMIA-based jobs or that that the LMIA conditions will not be met. These potential workers can either be not aware of this, aware of this, or even strategizing their pathway to Canada around this. In short, there’s nothing to stop an unscrupulous agent abroad from utilizing the Vulnerable Open Worker Permit as a safety net (which it is clear from the RIAS this is not supposed to be).
  • In order to make sure this is done properly, I don’t think you can create a safety valve without controlling the front end floodplains. I worry about this being another part of the pathway to PR that it is truly not meant to be.

I am working with several community organizations/non-profits and organizing around this from a public service perspective. The LMIA process (which requires an Employer to pay for the processing fees and not reduce the costs of the processes from an Employee’s wages) can create major conflicts when both employer and employee want to go forward but cannot financially support the process. It is still very likely that several vulnerable workers will still be forced between the decision as to whether to stay in Canada (via a humanitarian and compassionate grounds and/or refugee claim) or whether to leave.

Keep me posted as this program moves forward.

Would love to engage with you and/or your orgs on this.


What Recent IRCC Program Delivery Updates Tell Us About the Direction of International Student Regulations in Canada

Much of Canadian Immigration Law and Regulation around international students in Canada is given life through program delivery instructions that set out the relevant policies. I have explored in recent blogs how posted policies can conflict with the operation of the law under IRPR and IRPA, which often constrain the efficacy of changing law.

I have written blogs about the 7 January 2019 change to assessing the ‘actively-pursuing studies’ requirement and the 14 February 2019 changes to processing instructions for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.

Since then there have been several other new program delivery updates that affect international students:

1. Co-op work permit – 7 March 2019 – 

Co-op work permits previously came with acondition (condition 21) that holders were ‘not authorized to work for any employer other than stated.’

The problem with this previous condition was that it created confusion among employers who did not see their name on the permit and as well created confusion as many co-op programs required multiple employers.

This is a welcome clarification that assists students and their co-op employers alike.

2. Co-op work permit clarification – 1 April 2019

In a follow-up clarification, IRCC then posted new instructions on a page titled Work related to a research, educational or training exemption code C31, C32 and C33 (International Mobility Program)

One of the unique elements of this new page is that under a subheading titled Post-secondary co-op – exemption code C32 eligibility, updated instructions are provided to clarify conditions to be entered by the officers in Canada on GCMS when issuing the work permit.

In addition to the requirement of leaving Canada (condition 18), it is interesting that condition 26 – again going to blanket ban on foreign workers engaging in employment in businesses related to the sex trade, such as strip clubs, massage parlours, and escort services” is re-emphasized as a condition. I am working some potential litigation involving individuals who are not employed (i.e. self-employed) in these areas in order to support themselves and their studies financially and would love to speak to anybody subject to enforcement on this basis.

The rest of the focus on these conditions is on designated and non-designated countries (i.e. those countries where you have lived or traveled in the past six-months). The conditions on the work permit will be different depending on both of them, with an additional condition of ‘not authorized to work in agricultural occupations’ (condition 16) added to those individuals from designated countries.

Hidden in a bit in the last point, IRCC also wants to ensure that the duration of the co-op work permit and study permit should be the same. It was in the past not uncommon for students to have a co-op work permit valid for several months after their study permits expired, creating confusion as to whether those permits authorized continuing work in Canada.

3. Post-graduation work permit length for 2 combined programs – 5 April 2019 –  

While the posted changes affect Quebec vocational programs with a diploma of college studies (DCS) and an attestation of college studies (ACS), it is important to read this particular page carefully as it provides important information about the length of a post-graduate work permit vis-a-vis the program.

There are a few takeaways of note:

[1] The letters written by DLIs become very important especially around the issue of accelerated studies and to clearly lay out that the students completed the program in accelerated. Failure to do so can lead to shorter post-graduate work permits. These issues are resolvable through applications to extend and amend but could create new graduates uncertainties and hardship in the interim.

[2] IRCC has appeared to give a blanket rejection to laddering programs.

Prior to these these clarifications (implemented in February 2019, I believe with the new changes), a common practice was for private colleges who were not PGWP-eligible to partner up with programs that were to sign matriculation agreements. IRCC was previously giving credence to the length of the combined programs these schools. Meaning that a 1-year ineligible program combined with a 1-year eligible program (in which the individual received the equivalent to a 2-year diploma), did in many cases result in a 3-year post-graduate work permit. This door appears to be closed with the clarified instructions.

4. Study permits: Making an Application – 11 April 2019  and 5. Validity periods and acceptance letters for study permit – 16 April 2019 –

There is a lot packed into this update and I think it deserves it own article frankly.

I’ve posted a series of tweets to highlight some points I looked at. I will try and do a deeper analysis later – especially on new interpretation of R. 215 IRPR and studies which opens up a slew of opportunities for applicants in various situations.

I also did a series of tweets previously on this topic, but the validity period information was also amended to clarify that Officers should be entering the study permit expiry date as the date of expiry of the study or the applicant’s passport, whichever occurs first.

Reading this in conjecture with the Study permits: Final decisions page, there seems to be a little confusion as to how to reconcile program completion with validity period.

The appropriate step, from my perspective, is to ensure that the expiry of the study permit should still be 90 days after the end of the program of study. This will ensure that the expiry of that study permit will be consistent with the statutory expiry date under R. 222(1) IRPR. If the study permit is given a shorter expiry date (program of study end date), students will have to file an extension that creates more administrative work for studies they may have already completed. Most students will need to have a valid a study permit to both take advantage of the ability to apply inside Canada (R.215 IRPR) and to work according to R.186(w) IPRR prior to a decision made on their PGWP. The instructions are not currently written in the clearest form for Officers to interpret.

Several institutions, understandably to try and protect their students from running into study permit expiry issues, recommended putting a date that was after the actual completion date in study permit forms – meaning students often received study permits that were 120-180 days after the completion of studies. This should put an end to this practice.

With IRCC now clarifying that study permits expire 90 days after completion of studies but also clarifying that they will need to re-engage in studies within 150 days of completion, we will see an important extension window in those 60 days for students to get back into school if they are not eligible for PGWPs or are refused PGWPs and unable to restore their status. I am clarifying how restorations will work under this new regime and will update that in a future blog!


What you are seeing now is the Government really tinkering with the details (the grey areas) that previously left students and institutions unclear when advising on work and study. In most of these areas, we have seen a shift towards flexibility and giving students and officers more specific instructions, especially on timing.

I do believe that we will continue to see issues with students transitioning between studies and to post-graduate work permits in this interim period – as these timing issues are not always perfect.

I also do predict that there will be a period of time where institutions, and then to their students (through relevant channels such as student presentations, consultants, agents, etc.) will need to disseminate these new rules changes to their students. I would suggest seeking professional help from lawyers and consultants and coming up with a comprehensive strategy for this process.


Why the 180-Day Post-Graduate Work Permit Application Period Will Create Problems for IRCC/Applicants

In past pieces I have lauded IRCC’s extension of 180 days for students to apply for post-graduate work permits. From a policy perspective, I believe it gives students more time to find a job and prepare a decent application rather than to have to rush and base such an application off an expiring study permit that may or may not be easy to extend based on an institution.

IRCC’s new rules are that the study permit must have been valid sometime within the past 180 days but do not need to be valid at the time of application. I also wrote about how the lapse of a study permit automatically 90 days after completion of studies may also complicate the policy switch and require some sort of extension regardless.

What I didn’t realize at the time, but only did with some more reading and cross-referencing is that some of the policy likely does not work in theory with respect to the regulatory provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations which hold power of law.

Let’s start with the issue of what a student whose study permit is expiring (either naturally or on the basis of the 90 days) who wants to stay in Canada needs to do and how that affects their post-graduate work permit (“PGWP”) eligibility.

For those who switch to visitors in Canada, that means that their PGWPs should not (technically) be processed inside Canada unless they are accompanying a family member which permits them to make an application after entry under R.199 of IRPR.

Application after entry

 A foreign national may apply for a work permit after entering Canada if they

  • (a) hold a work permit;

  • (b) are working in Canada under the authority of section 186 and are not a business visitor within the meaning of section 187; – They don’t meet this subject to my analysis below on a possible loophole created.

  • (c) hold a study permit; – this is expired

  • (d) hold a temporary resident permit issued under subsection 24(1) of the Act that is valid for at least six months;

  • (e) are a family member of a person described in any of paragraphs (a) to (d); – this depends on family members

  • (f) are in a situation described in section 206 or 207;

  • (g) applied for a work permit before entering Canada and the application was approved in writing but they have not been issued the permit;

  • (h) are applying as a trader or investor, intra-company transferee or professional, as described in Section B, C or D of Annex 1603 of the Agreement, within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, and their country of citizenship — being a country party to that Agreement — grants to Canadian citizens who submit a similar application within that country treatment equivalent to that accorded by Canada to citizens of that country who submit an application within Canada, including treatment in respect of an authorization for multiple entries based on a single application; or

  • (i) hold a written statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade stating that it has no objection to the foreign national working at a foreign mission in Canada.

(emphasis added – comments in underline)

The student whose study permit is expired without a family member to boot has no regulatory authority for their PGWP to be processed in Canada unless they utilize an exemption.

Moving on….

Adding to these challenges is the interplay between R. 186(w) which is the provision that allows a former student to work in Canada while awaiting their post-graduate work permit creates major timing issues.

No permit required

 A foreign national may work in Canada without a work permit


(w) if they are or were the holder of a study permit who has completed their program of study and

  • (i) they met the requirements set out in paragraph (v), and

  • (ii) they applied for a work permit before the expiry of that study permit and a decision has not yet been made in respect of their application; or

(emphasis added in underline and bold)

In short, if I am not mistaken (and correct me if I am wrong) – a student who has let their study permit expire (90 days after completion of studies) and is applying within 180-days after graduation is under IRPR at least, in a situation where they have to make an outside Canada application.

Even more contradictory, they cannot work after they submit their PGWP application because they no longer meet the requirements of 186(w)(ii) as their PGWP application is coming after the expiry of their study permit.


My third point. A loophole emerges where it actually makes logical sense for a student who wants to take advantage of the whole 180-days they have to submit their post-graduate work permit to submit another paper-based application (which may be without merits – such as a Significant Benefits WP or frankly any WP application such as an accompanying spouse of a student) that would then authorize them to work until R. 186(w)(ii) until a decision is  made.

In short, it is my reading that these helpful policy changes (with good intention) will require regulatory amendment (in addition to just policy) and there may be some individuals caught in the middle of this crossfire of law and policy. Hopefully those regulatory amendments will capture that.

I will have to wait for the Gazette for those instructions.

Immigration law is fun isn’t it?

International Students, Criminality, and Immigration Status – a Few Points and Pointers

In the past year, one of the areas in which I have received the most inquiries and run the most consultations involves international students who have found themselves facing either criminal charges or dealing with the consequences arising from immigration investigations following charges/convictions.

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A Little Background – Crimigration Generally

I would be remiss if I did not point out first that my piece below will cover mainly practice/practical experience and tips that I would take if I were an international student or international adviser giving a talk to students on criminality and it’s possible consequences. I won’t be going into the details of the foundations of immigration consequences of criminality generally as I couldn’t do the topic full justice in one most.

I would strongly recommend reading this paper from my mentor Peter Edelmann, which subject to a few developments in the law around conditional sentence orders being held by the SCC not to be terms of imprisonment in the criminal admissibility context is still very valid today (

Peter’s brilliant memos on criminality have helped a good number of criminal lawyers in their negotiations with Crown and their Court matters. I strongly encourage you reach out to him ( if you would like more advice on this.

I would also recommend reading the case he argued in front of the Supreme Court of Canada – R. v. Wong, 2018 SCC 25, [2018] 1 S.C.R. 696 – with respect to sentence appeals and informed consent of immigration consequences.

The SCC held that  the accused must be aware of the nature of the allegations made against them, the effect of their plea and the consequences of their plea which include immigration consequences.

International Students – Things to Be Aware Of

Unlike other permanent residents and even temporary residents, there are several factors that make international students unique in the context of criminality and have direct impacts on their larger immigration status issues.

The Role of Studies Before, During, and After the Criminal Process

First, their studies heavily factor in. International students are required to actively-pursue studies and remain enrolled during the duration of their time on a study permit in Canada (R. 220.1 IRPR). The considerations for this are highly subjective, yet gratefully have been clarified recently by IRCC – see my past post on this issue.

From my experiences, individuals who come to the attention of IRCC through criminal charges are highly scrutinized for their past educational efforts (or lack thereof). Indeed, I have come across several Officer’s section 44 reports that flag this for review, even where charges were eventually resolved by way of discharge or a peace bond (i.e. where criminal admissibility cannot be made out).

Students who are having issues with the law should do what they can to stay in school. The criminal proceedings will inevitably have an affect on their ability to attend classes, but communication needs to be established with professors, instructors, and international student advisers to try and accommodate.

Even the conversion to part-time classes for one semester that is not a final semester or a failed class can be enough to trigger attention. These would seem to be very natural consequences of the stress of facing charges in Canada, particularly for many students who have never been in trouble with the law before.

At worst, an exclusion order can be issued for not actively-pursuing studies. At best, an international student’s eligibility for a post-graduate work permit which require full-time study throughout (other than last semester) gets thrown into the deep water.  Also, for international students not engaged as a full-time students when facing charges, it is not advisable to work as doing so may be in violation of your study permit conditions, another violation that could lead to an individual’s exclusion from Canada.

I find many international students are also not aware of some of the possible outs. Exceptions to actively-pursuing studies for family members (common-law partners/spouses) of study permit and work permit holders is not adequately canvassed. In fact, the practice of updating IRCC on changes in family make up during the time after a study permit is approved is not posted anywhere on the IRCC website nor done in practice by anyone, but a select few.

Similarly, applying for a visitor record while holding a study permit can be done in cases of leave yet I would argue that IRCC has not yet made clear how the simultaneous holding of both these permits affects the active-pursuing studies requirement.

Second, applications/efforts to seek re-entry or extend stays in Canada will come under increased scrutiny. I generally recommend individuals who are facing charges in Canada and/or are in the process of fighting those charges to stay in Canada and stay enrolled. Once a flag is placed on a file, the individual can be subject to deeper looks into their immigration histories when seeking re-entry, for example on a day trip to Seattle or a Spring Break trip back home.

What were accepted as mistakes and/or missed by visa offices on past applications can now become open ground for misrepresentation investigations. The breadth in which s.40 of IRPA is applied makes a mistaken question about whether you have been previously arrested or charged, refused an application, or even the organizations you were involved with in the past  is now an open season search effort. In my ideal world, every student who is currently charged with an offense and/or was recently acquitted would seek legal advice and review before filing their subsequent applications, especially if the proximity of time between the two is very short.

Another issue to flag is that communication and contact with IRCC/CBSA becomes even more important post-criminal charges laid. It is not uncommon for CBSA officers to want to interview you in advance of a decision on your criminal matter, as a bit of a check-in and file review. Warrants for arrest, leading to detention have been issued on the basis on failures to update home address properly with relevant authorities.

I am really opposed to the detention of international students for immigration violations, but unfortunately a lot of it spurs from communication issues that are entirely avoidable. It is much more advisable for both Client and the CBSA to have an interview and go through the admissibility process when the Client is not detained.

Putting international students who have never been arrested in their life, into cuffs and with general population can have scarring and traumatic effects. I have had to make more than a few referrals to psychologists on this basis. I think there is much more that can be done to create better and more accessible portals for home address changes, especially when students do not have access to their own MyCIC application accounts (an issue I have addressed many-a-times on this blog).

Pressure to Leave Canada On Own Accord – Either/Or Conundrum

In the inside Canada context, charges are not convictions. Only convictions render an applicant in admissible. Often times I find clients that contact me have not been advised enough of the immigration consequences by their criminal counsel. This is certainly area for continued collaboration between the two legal practices, especially where students and cognitive/mental health vulnerabilities are heightened and the uncertainty can have worse psychological effects. Family overseas often times are entirely kept in the dark, many time purposefully, by international students. Students often borrow money to try and pay for legal fees further creating a whole for themselves.

The other issue I have see is pressure from CBSA who in many cases will try to encourage individuals facing criminal charges to accept a lesser exclusion order and leave Canada. Many times the grounds for this are nefarious, at best, yet remain largely unchallenged administratively.

I personally would love CBSA to take a little more of a hands-off approach and let the Canadian Criminal Justice system play its course before intercepting. However, I can see why it is sometimes deemed beneficial to get a rid of a perceived problem and cost on the system from their perspective. International students are a dime a dozen from the system’s perspective – bad press, media, and lengthy trials – certainly aren’t.

The Value of a Letter to the Court/Crown from Immigration Counsel

One of the lesser known benefits immigration lawyers can provide to criminal counsel is, as discussed earlier, a legal opinion. I mentioned Peter’s opinions are in my biased opinion – the best in the business.

These opinions can set out the immigration consequences of finding an individual guilty. They can be especially crucial for international students where you can tie in the consequences on their inability to study if found inadmissible and their removal order enforceable (R.222(1)(b) IRPR).  In my own practice, I have been able to provide memos that once disclosed by Defense counsel to Crown started the resolution process early. Crown, especially for first time offenders on more minor charges, have been amenable to considering an absolute or conditional discharge, a peace bond, or even a stay – taking into consequences the vulnerability of their student status in Canada.

I am not a criminal lawyer myself and can only provide my ‘afar perspective.’ I tend to find the process more Crown-facing than immigration’s client-facing preparations (maybe if part of it is because we don’t usually have a physical face in immigration to talk to). I would provide some constructive feedback that my crimigration clients, especially those with language barriers, often find themselves a bit in the dark during the initial stages prior to trial. Here a collaborative approach may work and also where the use of interpreters at an additional cost becomes entirely worth the transparency of communication.

A Note on Sexwork

With the cost of tuition for international students rising astronomically and as well with a strong movement of women who are breaking the stigma and taboo of sex work as an illegitimate form of labour, it is not uncommon for international students to engage in this area. I won’t weight into the larger and very Vancouver debate over whether eliminating prostitution, regulating, or deregulating prostitution, is the best path forward but do note that it is very much in the post-Bedford atmosphere here.

Unfortunately, temporary status poses problems in this regard. Section 196.1 places a blanket restriction on foreign national entering into employment agreements with employers who offer sexual services:


 A foreign national must not enter into an employment agreement, or extend the term of an employment agreement, with an employer

  • (a) who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages; 

There is a current silence around self-employment (especially escort work) and occasional sex work and these are the gray areas in which this arguably cruel and unusual law operates. Furthermore, no direct link is made in section to work without a permit while a student which falls under R.186(v) which has no similar sex-work limiting provisions.

For international students, I have seen the actively pursuing studies provision as well as extension refusals targeted at those who engage in this work. The ‘bawdy houses’ are still very much being treated by enforcement officials in the immigration context as human trafficking hubs, somewhat contrary and different

This is an area I am increasingly interested in. Should you have or know of other international students who are struggling with the ways the laws are written and enforced around the ability to perform sex work while on a study permit or even as an international graduate please email me at I am currently awaiting a few stakeholder directions on where to direct further research in this area.

After Removal…. Coming Back to Canada

Depending on the outcome of the criminal trial, whether one is ultimately found criminally inadmissible and removed, the ability to return to Canada may vary. Rehabilitation may be available, as may deemed rehabilitation after a certain prescribed period has passed.

However, for those students removed on a finding of ‘not actively pursuing studies’ or ‘work without authorization’, the one year mark when the inadmissibility expires is not an automatic green light to return. Previous admissibility findings often lead to increased scrutiny on future temporary.

I would also familiarize myself with the Authorization to Return to Canada (“ARC”) provisions especially for those who are removed on a deportation order for serious criminality or on a five-year exclusion order for misrepresentation. I’ve done a deep dive post here.


In short, it is tough for an international student facing criminal charges. There’s a lot of uncertainty  and a lot of communication issues inherent in the process. Conversations between yourself and your criminal counsel, criminal counsel and immigration counsel, Crown and your criminal counsel, Crown and CBSA, and CBSA and yourself all may occur in this whirlwind of personal uncertainty.

You need good and effective counsel – and thankfully Vancouver has some of the best criminal lawyers in the country. Definitely get on top of things and organize for this process – put your relevant people in touch with each other. Failure to recognize your rights, reliefs, and the interplay of CBSA with the arresting authorities can lead to confusion, and possibly huge immigration consequences for international students.

Feel free to provide to email me if you have any questions arising from this post:

Immigration Appeals: The One Question You Should Ask Before Retaining a Lawyer/Consultant

For those that wonder why I have been posting less frequently than I used to do, one of the major reasons is that I have been putting significant time into building my immigration appeals practice (currently mostly spousals, residency, misreps, and some criminality).

I had the ability to learn after one of the very best at my old Firm, and I realize it is a practice quite suited to the younger, energetic lawyer who is willing to invest time into their clients and their cases. Through this process, clients have called me an ‘honourary family members,’ a designation that for me, more so than any third-party recognition, gives me true value through work.

I wanted to write a simple and short post because I have been seeing both a discouraging and worrying level of poor representation not only from those who do not generally do appeals work but also those who some would one would assume are the best/top immigration lawyers in Canada.

These two groups are lumped in for very different reasons. For the first, it is due to inexperience – not having spent enough time seconding or attending (as I did often during my articles) both hearings but also the preparation sessions with clients. Lack of awareness of rules, deadlines, and procedures can be killers in the final appeal.

For those in the latter category, it often is a time thing. Good, solid immigration appeal work takes time. This includes time getting to know your client, generating document lists to obtain, reviewing those documents, determining whether alternative dispute resolution is on the table, coordinating around hearing timing, preparing clients for direct examination and cross-examination, updating the file (as required), and ultimately delivery strong submissions. It is a full-service performance combining litigation and solicitors skills. For many lawyers who are eager to fight the next big constitutional battle or tackle legal interpretation, this often times pure factual engagement process (especially in the case that rely solely on humanitarian and compassionate grounds) is a time suck. Some lawyers will try and pass these preparation tasks off to an assistant, something that this work cannot be done properly by without solid direction. Others will even forgo preparation altogether and show up on the day of the hearing. Such a strategy is risky. Without having gone through questions in advance with your clients and applicable witnesses, communication lines are very likely going to break down between lawyer and client and between the answers of clients and witnesses on the day of the hearing. These gaps will lead to negatively credibility findings (when many times it is simply poor preparation, stress, and anxiety that are the root causes).

When hiring a lawyer/consultant [who I will just refer to lawyers moving forward, as a majority of good tribunal reps are lawyers rather than consultants] to do an appeal case – first of all, sign up for a consultation. Before paying a lump sum get some paperwork in front of the lawyers and work through the essential facts. That consultation will allow you gauge both the legal analysis and the factual analysis strength of who is helping you and can determine whether there is sufficient rapport to ensure the essential facts get revealed. As a client, you want to ensure that you are providing a full factual record as well. Details you may think are irrelevant or private (circumstances of family members back home, country conditions, a child with a learning disability, reasons for a misrepresentation, or a previous application) are very crucial to the overall circumstance. The lawyer should show some proactivity in gathering this documentation.

The real key question you want to ask your potential counsel though, which will differentiate those who know the process and can execute a good appeal prep process, and those who will may leave you feeling uncomfortable, concerned, and ultimately unprepared is the following:

“What is your preparation strategy and schedule for preparing my appeal?”

It is a simple question. Much simpler than the question of how much will it cost (which frankly, is highly factor dependent on how much of an uphill battle preparation will be, whether interpreters will be needed, and whether you are able to handle the paperwork).

The lawyer should be able to draw you a roadmap quite early in the process. Using the hearing date (and the potential fallouts) as the end point, when will the schedule be for disclosure (or backing up, what are the timelines for when you need to file your appeal, when about will you get the Appellant’s Record or “Blue Book”, when should the Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) requests be submitted, disclosure, and how will appeal preparation work. For complex appeals, this may be a rotating schedule (3-4 hours a day) with relevant witnesses, culminating in a run through with full direct exam, cross exam, witnesses, and interpretation. They should also demonstrate the right balance of cautious optimism where the facts support it, without putting down a percentage of success (as I have discussed in previous posts).

If none of this is being discussed or even mentioned – I would dig and potentially search elsewhere. Without these details, it is very likely for the appeals to go off the rails and become a rush job in the last 20 days before the hearing. More often than not, this is not enough time to present the strongest foot forward.

When it comes to the question of whether I think an appellant should do an appeal on their own, my answer is – no.

Why? Because a lawyer is your voice. Through direct examination we can present your case and your facts. On your own you are subject to the questioning and direction of the member of the Minister’s counsel – one neutral and one on the side of the Government. By yourself, assuming you are also a witness, the appeal will be a show without a director.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing more posts about appeals and as well judicial reviews (two areas of my budding practice) to share not only with applicants who seek counsel but also junior counsel who are seeking to engage in this area. I note that I am by no means a senior counsel (and don’t have all the answer) but these unique nuances of practice incorporating rules of Court and Tribunal can allow for us to explore more complex and less seen scenarios, that are increasingly showing up in litigation. With an increase in settlement of straight-forward judicial reviews and changing Immigration Appeal Division Rules shortly (which I had the pleasure to consult on), navigating the margins or the obscure will become more and more useful in our practice toolbox.

Appeals – do them. I love them! I would love to assist on even more of them.

‘Considering young lawyers in our Responses to hate’ – My Email to Fellow CBA Immigration Lawyers

Following the New Zealand terrorist attack, local elements of hate have started to put out threats. Unsurprisingly, among those targeted appear to be immigration lawyers.

After it was posted, a senior colleague from Toronto and mentor Chantal Desloges shared her thoughts about the worrying nature of this incident. Barbara Jackman, OC and probably the greatest living advocate for refugee constitutional rights, thoughtfully suggested we share these messages with our assistants, many of whom are diverse persons of colour, to ensure their safety. Kyle Hyndman, a local lawyer from Vancouver whom I’ve admired for several years for his leadership and expertise, particularly in the field of LMIAs and work permits, added a further message of inspiration for us to be proud of our work.

By the way, at this point I’ll note that I have rarely ever utilized the CBA Listserv to share my thoughts. Indeed, I can count on one hand the entire number of times I have done so in now almost five years of practice (if you include articling, when I first joined the Listerv) – 3. The first time was on a truly unique fact pattern involving an overturned removal order and the Government’s financial obligations, the second was to ask for assistance on our litigation for the Parent and Grandparent Program. This was my third.

As those who read and follow Vancouver Immigration Blog and my Twitter account will know, I have recently taken a huge interest into examining power, privilege, and race. The truth of the matter is, lawyers of colour struggle in balancing these three and in turn it makes us more susceptible to anxiety, self-loathing, imposter syndrome, trauma, and stress. We become often times the invisible practitioners, behind the scenes working long hours, serving as interpreters and arbiters, sometimes even having to translate. After we serve our clients, who will often scrutinize us more because we are not white and therefore do not appear to look like your typical lawyer, we then have to handle returning to our communities to deal with the consequences (both good and bad). There’s a lot of skin in the game and it is not an easy process.

I wrote this email response to that thread.

Thank you Chantal, Kyle, and Barbara (all three fantastic mentors) for raising this important issue to our attention and your words of courage and inspiration to us.

I also wanted to chime in on behalf of myself and other younger immigration and refugee lawyers of colour. For us, we often face additional barriers – without the platforms of power that can serve to insulate and speak for us, yet at the same time with these issues and challenges so deeply embedded in the communities we serve and live in. We become part of the threatened and as well part of the front line of defence, regardless of our own statuses in Canada, simply by the way we look and who we were born to.

I am grateful for a strong CBA Executive and Coordinator team, one that has allowed me to use Twitter as a platform to share stories of inspiration, put out debate, and highlight some of the activities of our immigrant communities and young lawyers who come from them. I continue to ask you to send me news stories and developments of inspiration so we can be part of this conversation in a positive way. We also have a very diverse executive we should all be proud of and is so unique to the CBA that we should continue to champion.

As a final note, I urge you all to reach out to younger, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People Of Colour), LGBTQ2+, and Differently Abled lawyers in your firms and also make sure they are doing alright. Vicarious trauma and stress affects us all in different ways and for many of us with lived experience or direct family that have come from migration and struggle, these client matters and associated threats from the public take on a different meaning.

We should also be looking at ways we can help highlight diverse voices in everything we do as an organization – to make sure young lawyers of different backgrounds know they are supported and that they have a place at the decision-making table, even if this requires some of us to cede our own power and privilege in order to make this happen.

In solidarity and with gratitude,


IRCC Makes Positive Changes to the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program – February 2019, But First A Little Personal History About Pushing Change

Part 1: First – A Little Personal History about Pushing Change

In advance, I want to make clear that I am not writing this first section to make it appear as if I had anything to do with the changes announced today. This was done by concerned students, stakeholders, schools, other lawyers, and great IRCC policy people engaged in this issue. I am writing this because I’ve been asked by a number of young mentee law students/pre-law students recently (and other fellow junior lawyers) how I got so engaged with international student issues. Rather than just simply copy and paste the website changes, I thought the process of my interest, advocacy, and how it all plays in – may be of interest to some readers.

Since IRCC implemented their clarified directive Study Permits: Assessing study permit conditions I had a feeling that new instructions on the PGWP would be coming. A month ago, Immigration Representatives confirmed to me by email that this was the case:

Actively pursuing studies

A month later, on Valentine’s Day no less, IRCC placed some little cards into the brown paper bags tied into the back of plastic chairs of international students (sorry – as you can tell I’m getting off topic and nostalgic, as I write) .

As frequent readers of this blog will know, I have been advocating for PGWP changes for several years now, having assisted many clients in various stages of challenges with this program – ranging from eligibility concerns, to initial applications at Inland Offices, VOs, and POEs, to the Federal Court, and reconsideration requests. I gave talks, wrote a lot of articles, had student clients who speoke to media, and advised schools – all because of the uncertainty. At one of my talks I think I described being an international student in Canada as being caught in a rough ocean with a life jacket on and a PR island that often appears too far to swim to.

The past few years began to see a lot of challenges in the area. Refusal rates began to climb and international students, especially from those with non-traditional study programs or for reasons outside of their control had to take leaves in order to complete their studies. While I was successful in restoring several international students who had been refused, either for having their study permits lapse or having paid less than the required fees, the case law during the time (notable FC cases from Raj Sharma and later Ravi Jain), started to close the door on that process.

There was also a huge health toll, one that was lost in the rhetoric of blame placed on international students in mainstream media. I talked a bit about it with journalist, Melanie Green here.

International students, many already dealing with separation anxiety, isolationism, and culture shock, not only pay often times 3 to 4 times the tuition than domestic students, but also face other barriers limiting their ability to work and seek access to crucial settlement services.

From a personal perspective, my own spouse was at the time going through the international student experience as were her colleagues (and I was footing the bill of course!) I saw these issues affect a lot of her friends, especially the financial challenges. Personal experience goes a long way into building a passion for practice.

Looking back, given  I was having a conversation about this with IRCC program managers such under three years ago about the need for change – it has indeed been a long time coming.  It has been incremental – but now there is a clear list of DLIs on the website, as discussed earlier, the aforementioned actively pursuing studies requirement was clarified, and now this.

I am very proud of IRCC for stepping up for international students. Without further ado, here are the changes.

Part 2: The Changes

IRCC’s changes can be found here and are titled “Program delivery update: Processing Instructions for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.”

There are two major changes from IRCC and one change that I would also add to the list, around the leave provision.

Change 1: Deadline to Apply Extended from 90 Days to Six Months

There is now a six month period, instead of a 90 day period in which to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit. This gives a lot of flexibility for students to further explore after graduation whether they want to continue studying or apply for a post-graduate work permit. It also removes a lot of the uncertainty which arose when a student was told they had completed their studies but did not formally graduate until several months later, creating confusion on the 90 day period starting point. Six months will make that much better.

One of the things I do see arising out of this is change is a lot of schools that were previously thwarted (or had negative fallout) from four-month add on programs now integrating it into their programs. The raison-d’etre is that these programs could assist into entry-to practice and help students secure employment without killing valuable time off their PGWPs. It may also encourage some students to continue studies rather than graduate and apply for PGWPs.

This could create problems though if a student applies at month 4 of 6, makes a mistakes, and becomes ineligible for restoration. Furthermore, I think IRCC and related stakeholders do have a role to play with respect to sussing out that interplay between R.222(1) (a) IRPR which could invalidate the student status of individuals who intend to apply for a PGWP at month 4 or 5 but not continue their studies. These students could lose status unknowingly.

The possible solution? Visitor Record Extensions may need to be employed to bridge between end of student status and prior to a PGWP application.

Change 2: No need to hold a valid study permit while applying for a PGWP

This is a big one – which unfortunately came off the backs of several deserving applicants who were refused. Previously, students whose study permits were going to expire before they were able to apply for PGWP had to extend their status, creating a weird scenario where they had graduated but still had to apply to maintain student status at the institution. This also affected a lot of students who decided to leave Canada right after they graduated and apply abroad, forgetting to extend their study permits.

This was also the main issue in my colleague Ravi Jain’s case of Nookala v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2016 FC 1019 which unfortunately for awhile closed the door.

Now the language is hold or held a study permit.

This also opens the door for restoration at least within the six month period. This goes again to the importance of applying earlier (rather than later) for a PGWP in most circumstances.

I would like a little more clarity around Restoration and think it should be a separate section on the program guidelines.

Change 3: Leave Exception – Discretion to Issue PGWP Where Not Continuous Full-Time Studies

IRCC has added to their instructions information about leave which specifically carve out an exception for those students who took a leave.

The Instruction state:

Leave from studies

If the applicant remained in Canada while a student and took leave from their studies during their program, the officer must determine if the applicant was compliant with the conditions of their study permit, as outlined in Assessing study permit conditions. Officers may request additional documents to complete their assessment. Per paragraph R220.1(1)(b), students must

  • be enrolled at a DLI
  • remain enrolled
  • be actively pursuing their course or program of study

If the officer determines that the student actively pursued studies during their leave, the student may still be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP).

If it is determined that the student has not met the conditions of their study permit, they may be banned from applying for a post-graduation work permit for 6 months from the date they stopped their unauthorized study or work, per subparagraph R200(3)(e)(i).

This suggests that in addition to leeway – there could also be individuals banned from applying, depending on the time elapsed before graduation. However, as we know there is also a final semester rule that does provide some comfort to international students who are part-time in their final semester.

IRCC’s Guidelines on Leave provide more insight on how this may apply in practice:

D. Leave from studies

Students may be required or may wish to take leave from their studies while in Canada. For the purpose of assessing if a student is actively pursuing their studies, any leave taken from a program of studies in Canada should not exceed 150 days from the date the leave commenced and must be authorized by their DLI.

A student on leave who begins or resumes their studies within 150 days from the date the leave commenced (that is, the date the leave was granted by the institution) is considered to be actively pursuing studies during their leave. If a student does not resume their studies within 150 days, they should do either of the following:

If they do not change their status or leave Canada, they are considered non-compliant with their study permit conditions.

In cases where a student has taken multiple periods of leave in Canada during their program of study, the officer should consider the student’s reasons for the various periods of leave. If the multiple periods of leave do not appear to support the expectation that the student is making reasonable progress toward the completion of their course or program of study in the time allotted by the course or program of study, the officer may determine that the study permit holder has not fulfilled the condition to actively pursue their course or program of study.

Examples of reasons for leave include but are not limited to the following:

  • medical illness or injury
  • pregnancy
  • family emergency
  • death or serious illness of a family member
  • change in program of study within the same institution, outside a regularly scheduled break
  • dismissals or suspensions (dependent on degree of severity)
  • postponed program start date (see Deferred enrollment for more information)

E. Deferred enrollment

In exceptional circumstances, a student may be required to defer their program’s start date to the next semester. If the student defers their program start date, it should be formally approved by the DLI. In some cases, the deferral is imposed by the DLI.

If the study permit holder is in Canada at the time of deferral, and they wish to remain in Canada, they must begin their studies the following semester or within 150 days from the date the deferred enrollment is confirmed, whichever comes first. Otherwise, they should do either of the following:

Note: In all deferral cases, students should obtain an updated letter of acceptance from the DLI.

I still think there are some gaps such as deferred registration (see below) but ultimately it does give Officer’s a level of discretion. My hope is they will continue to rely on the support/guidance of DLIs when making their decisions on whether to grant an exception and issue the PGWP to students who rely on this exception.

Ongoing Challenge – Full-Time Studies Definition

There are a few issues that still remain that I think can be better addressed in new program delivery instructions.

IRCC has now clarified that full-time student status is now for ‘each academic session of the program or programs’ – replacing full-time for the program.

Full-time studies 

  • They have maintained full-time student status in Canada during each academic session of the program or programs of study they have completed and submitted as part of their post-graduation work permit application

I still find this definition problematic – for one because many schools operate on non-traditional calendars and in many cases there is both financial and career incentive to study part-time in the summer rather than full-time during the semester. I think it is not equal practice to have different sets of rules apply to international students and domestic students.

These rules may further tighten that definition. I think it is an area where more advocacy and putting the ball back into the Court of institutions (but holding institutions to higher standards) may be the best solution.

I’m seeing one of the fall outs of these instructions putting more discretion in the hands of Officers as opposed to institutions. This is one point to monitor as we move forward.

Guideline Applicability Start Date – Remedy for Recent PGWP Refusals 

The rules kick in for applications starting today, with applications received before today considered under the old rules.

Eligiblity of Rules

Client who were refused PGWPs and are still within the initial six month period of being eligible to apply under the new guidelines may want to try and submit, if they meet the other requirements.

What Should Schools and DLI’s Do

I have three initial steps for DLIs and institutions to consider how to take into account these new changes.

  1. Do an Audit of Existing Materials – Website, Print, Agents, Advertising

These changes will undoubtedly require a massive overhaul of materials. It is important, as we have seen from litigation in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Alberta recently for schools to either take best efforts in disseminating correct information or not disseminating any at all. A half-hearted approach is probably the most harmful.

2. Consider Program Changes

Again, with the new 6 month period to apply for PGWPs schools can start getting quite creative and benefit their students with tack-on programs that could help students secure jobs shortly after obtaining PGWPs in a way they couldn’t before. I can see adding on business and experience-based learning type programs to the end of completed programs. Schools may want to look into these

3. Consider Prospective Policy Changes and Advocacy

Change usually begats change. I have heard that some schools were presumptive in trying to tell agents that they were close to getting PGWPs. That hasn’t occurred with these instructions. Yet, there may be a lot of room for schools to advocate both to the Federal and Provincial Governments for programs whose graduates are bringing major benefit to the Canadian economy and social fabric. More programs to facilitate these individuals, in areas such as theological studies, film and television, and the arts should be pursued – ideally through PNP pathways.

I also see a change not too far in the horizon regarding schools (perhaps first secondary and elementary) being limited by a quota system in the number of Letters of Acceptance they are able to submit.  This is apparently the Australian model, something worth studying as the numbers for study permits increase and refusal decisions no longer are able to withstand judicial scrutiny.

Finally, what to do about international student fraud and the lack of any regulation of education consulting. The capital outflows occurring as a result of the current fee-for-seat system and the presence of global recruiters/agents is not tenable. The system will change as soon as the political will, which in B.C. is clearly there, goes along side.

Interesting times for our international student regime!


Reasonable Apprehension of Bias in Immigration/Refugee-Related Decision Making: High Thresholds and Reticent Engagement


In this long read, I thought it would be interesting to tackle an area I am quite interested in – the legal concept of ‘reasonable apprehension of bias’ and how it applies to Federal Court decisions where counsel are raising this argument. I focus this piece on Federal Court decisions issued in 2018 (one is a FCA decision).

My early thesis is that as administrative burdens on the Government increase along with a growing demand on immigration to Canada (which subsequently will increase the requirement to removal individuals who have ‘fallen out of favour’ – either by status or admissibility), more decisions may be perceived by applicants of demonstrating bias or being grounded in biased policies.

Simultaneously, we may see a subsequent increase in counsel going after the procedural fairness of a decision, on the basis of alleged bias.

What is the current state of the law? How does this all play out?

What is a Reasonable Apprehension of Bias

The test for Reasonable Apprehension of Bias was recently restated by Justice Gagné in Alcina Rodriguez v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC  995 (CanLII):

[34]  The test to determine whether there is a reasonable apprehension of bias is established by the Supreme Court of Canada in Committee for Justice and Liberty et al. v National Energy Board et al.1976 CanLII 2 (SCC), [1978] 1 SCR 369 at page 394, and confirmed in Baker at paragraph 46:

…the apprehension of bias must be a reasonable one, held by reasonable and right minded persons, applying themselves to the question and obtaining thereon the required information. . . . [T]hat test is “what would an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically—and having thought the matter through—conclude. Would he think that it is more likely than not that [the decision-maker], whether consciously or unconsciously, would not decide fairly.”

[35]  An allegation of bias must be supported by convincing evidence and cannot be made lightly. The burden of proof is on Mr. Rodriguez, and the threshold to be met is high (Fouda v Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship)2017 FC 1176 (CanLII) at para 23). In essence, he must demonstrate that the decision-maker was closed-minded and not open to persuasion.

Emphasis added.

Another common setting out of the test of bias quotes from R v. S RD) 1997 3 SCR 484 which can also be found in Justice Brown’s decision in Kamal v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship), 2018 FC 480 (CanLII), at para 32. In the decision, he endorses Justice Kane’s setting of the test in Poczkodi v Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship)2017 FC 956(CanLII) at para 50:

[48]  In R v S (RD), 1997 CanLII 324 (SCC), [1997] 3 SCR 484, 151 DLR (4th) 193 [RDS], at para 113, Justices L’Heureux- Dubé and McLachlin referred to the test and noted that the threshold for a finding of real or perceived bias is high, explaining that “an allegation of reasonable apprehension of bias calls into question not simply the personal integrity of the judge, but the integrity of the entire administration of justice.” The Court cautioned that allegations of bias are serious and should not be made lightly. The same principles apply to allegations against other decision makers.

As set out in Wewaykum Indian Band v Canada, 2003 SCC 45 (CanLII)[2003] 2 SCR 259recently re-iterated by Justice Strickland at para 27 in Yuan v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 755 (CanLII),  the test is not whether there was any conscious or unconscious bias or to utilize it to fill evidentiary gaps, but to view it from the viewpoint of the objective ‘reasonable person’:

66  Finally, when parties concede that there was no actual bias, they may be suggesting that looking for real bias is simply not the relevant inquiry.  In the present case, as is most common, parties have relied on Lord Hewart C.J.’s aphorism that “it is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done” (The King v. Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy[1924] 1 K.B. 256, at p. 259).  To put it differently, in cases where disqualification is argued, the relevant inquiry is not whether there was in fact either conscious or unconscious bias on the part of the judge, but whether a reasonable person properly informed would apprehend that there was.  In that sense, the reasonable apprehension of bias is not just a surrogate for unavailable evidence, or an evidentiary device to establish the likelihood of unconscious bias, but the manifestation of a broader preoccupation about the image of justice.  As was said by Lord Goff in Goughsupra, at p. 659, “there is an overriding public interest that there should be confidence in the integrity of the administration of justice”.

[Emphasis in original]

In Abdi v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2018 FC 733 (CanLII), <> at para 48, Justice McDonald reminds that the threshold is extremely high:

[48]  The threshold to establish bias is high. The party alleging bias must do more than “hint” that the outcome is tainted (Turoczi v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration),2012 FC 1423 (CanLII) at paras 11-17 [Turoczi]). There must be an evidentiary foundation in support (Zundel v Citron2000 CanLII 17137 (FCA)[2000] 4 FC 225 (FCA) at para 36Southern Chiefs Organization Inc. v Dumas2016 FC 837 (CanLII) at para 46).

We also know that:

“a reasonable apprehension of bias does not arise merely because the same officer has made the decision on the different processes whereby an applicant seeks legal status in Canada.”

[IRB Legal Policy Guide – – citing Kouka, Serge v. M.C.I. (F.C., no. IMM-1823-06), Harrington, October 17, 2006; 2006 FC 1236.}

2018 FC Decision Citing the Reasonable Apprehension of Bias in the Context of Immigrants and Refugees

In this data set, I looked at 19 cases that directly mentioned “reasonable apprehension of bias.” Fourteen are immigration and refugees cases and one is in the context of a CSIS matter, but significantly similar so I included it.

The cases are included in numerical order, from earliest in the year to latest in the year. I acknowledge that there could be other ones that address bias under procedural fairness. In narrowing the list, some decisions where reasonable apprehension of bias were raised at earlier tribunal levels but not raised to the Federal Court, were excluded. Those cases where the Court acknowledged but did not directly address the arguments were also included.

Given the above, how did the reasonable apprehension of bias argument fare in 2018 judicial reviews related to immigration? Out of the 19 cases analyzed,  not a single ‘reasonable apprehension of bias’ argument, was altogether responsible for the granting of a judicial review. Indeed, in the large number of cases where JR was dismissed, the analysis of the failure of the argument was more robust compared to those where JR was allowed (see Analysis below).

I tried to provide a brief quasi-summary where there wasn’t a paragraph in the decision that did it clearly. Some descriptors are longer than others for that reason

I also decided to go with replicating portions of decision that addressed reasonable apprehension of bias as opposed to attempting to summarize the decision. This choice was made consciously to allow us to look at the exact wording.

[1] Malit v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 16 (CanLII), <> – McDonald J. – JR Dismissed.

The Applicant (a Filipino national) was refused a study permit as the accompanying spouse of a study permit holder on the basis of financial inadmissibility (s.39 IRPA).

On the question of whether the Officer demonstrated a reasonable apprehension of bias, Justice McDonald writes:

[18]           Although the Applicant suggests that the Officer was operating under a bias, the Applicant was not able to identify any evidence or indication on the record which would support this contention.


[21]           Here the Applicant’s assertions of bias are not substantiated by any evidence. Therefore the Applicant’s bias arguments are without merit.

[2] Oyejobi v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 107 (CanLII), <> – Ahmed J. – JR Granted.

The Applicant’s (a Nigerian national) judicial review of a  RAD decision upholding a RPD rejection of a protection claim based on sexual orientation. RPD member noticed similarities of BOC with that of another claimant. Applicant tried to have RPD member recused. Decision was refused on negative credibility. Applicant argues that there a reasonable apprehension of bias, erred credibility assessment, and failure to analyze Applicant’s claim under s.97. Justice Ahmed reclassifies the issue as whether there was a breach of procedural fairness and focuses attention on RAD’s failure to determined whether RPD followed Rule 27 of the RPD Rules by not notifying Minister.

[3] Hosseini v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship), 2018 FC 171 (CanLII), <> – O’Reilly J. – JR Granted.

The Applicant (an Iranian national) found inadmissible pursuant to s.34(1)(d) IRPA, re: an Iranian chemical engineer who was formerly worked for the National Iranian Oil Company Company (NIOC). Justice O’Reilly finds that the decision was procedurally unfair and in doing so does not address the Applicant’s third argument on reasonable apprehension of bias.

[5]  The issues are:

  • 1.Did the officer treat Mr Hosseini unfairly?
  • 2.Was the officer’s conclusion unreasonable?

[6]  The applicants also argued that the officer’s analysis gives rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias. In light of my rulings on the first two issues, it is unnecessary to address the question of bias.

[4] Mathurin v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship), 2018 FC 172 (CanLII), <> – O’Reilly J. – JR Dismissed.

The Applicant (a St Lucian national) was an H&C PR applicant who had a previous refugee claim refused on credibility and also a prior H&C refusal. Her argument was that the Officer’s reason gave rise to bias in the analysis of the birth of her children in Canada (similar type argument to the seminal case of Baker). Justice O’Reilly dismisses the argument and defends the Officer’s assessment, ultimately denying the JR.

[3]  Ms Mathurin argues that the officer’s decision was unreasonable because it overlooked important evidence supporting her application. She also maintains that the officer’s reasons give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias, in particular, the officer’s observation that Ms Mathurin had chosen to have two children in Canada while having no immigration status here. She asks me to quash the decision and order another officer to reconsider her application.


[15]  Ms Mathurin objects to the officer’s observation that she and her partner chose to have two children in Canada while having no status here. She claims that the officer’s statement, which appears twice in the reasons, is indicative of bias.

[16]  I cannot find that the officer’s statement displays bias. Reading the officer’s decision as a whole, I find that the officer, in his first statement, merely noted the amount of time Ms Mathurin had spent in Canada illegally and pointed out that she had two children here during that period of time. The second statement appears in the officer’s summary of the circumstances in which Ms Mathurin and her children have found themselves. A fair reading of the officer’s statements does not support a reasonable apprehension of bias. Rather, the officer’s overall analysis reflects a genuine concern for the family and empathy for the choices they now face.

[5] Vo v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 230 (CanLII), <> – Diner J.  – JR Dismissed.

The Applicant, a citizen of Vietnam, sought judicial review of an IAD decision which dismissed her sponsorship as res judicata, specifically due to issue estoppel. This case is interesting as the Applicant did not raise this as part of her procedural fairness argument to the IAD, but Justice Diner still engaged with a potential analysis. He writes:

[22]  Further, while Ms. Vo indeed argued certain fairness concerns before the IAD, she did not submit that the immigration officer’s refusal raised a reasonable apprehension of bias. Generally, a reviewing court will decline to consider issues raised for the first time on judicial review (see Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) v Alberta Teachers’ Association2011 SCC 61 (CanLII) at paras 22-23).

[23]  Even putting aside this principle, as well as the fact that the second immigration officer’s refusal is not the subject of this judicial review, there is no merit to Ms. Vo’s submission. Allegations of bias are serious and must be supported by concrete evidence (Panov v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration)2015 FC 716 (CanLII) at para 20). It was open to the second immigration officer to explore the aspects of Ms. Vo’s application that had raised credibility concerns in prior determinations, and which continued to raise concerns. I am satisfied that an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically, would not find that such questioning gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias(Committee for Justice and Liberty et al v National Energy Board et al1976 CanLII 2 (SCC), [1978] 1 SCR 369 (SCC)at 394).

[24]  Specifically with respect to the “trick question” allegation, I agree with the Respondent that any bias argument fails when that exchange is looked at in its entirety:

Q: What did you and the SPR decide to do after the appeal was dismissed? We were depressed and sad for not being allowed to be together. So we decided to give birth to a child. Q: Why? I think that having a baby is evidence of our real marriage. Q: So you had a baby to show that your marriage was real? Yes.

[Emphasis added]

[6] Ahmed v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 353 (CanLII), <> – Strickland J. – JR Granted.

The Applicant (a Pakistani National) sought judicial review of a danger opinion finding pursuant to s.115(2)(a).  In the decision, the Risk Assessment Unit found some of the Applicant’s documentation submitted fraudulent. As part of the process the RAU approached Pakistani authorities for assistance relating to som e of the documentation The Applicant sought to cross-examine the RAU officer but not was not provided that opportunity.

The JR was allowed but Justice Strickland found both that the Applicant did not establish the existence of a reasonable apprehension of bias in the Delegate exceeding his or her jurisdiction but also that a reasonable apprehension of bias could have occured in the Delegate’s decision to ignore the bias allegation of the Applicant. Justice Strickland ultimately says that determining this is not necessary in this matter.

[62]  As I have found above, there is no merit to the allegation that the Delegate exceeded his or her jurisdiction and, in my view, it was open to the Delegate to seek to have the new evidence submitted by the Applicant in support of his alleged new risk verified for authenticity.  Doing so does not support an allegation of bias.  Determining if a reasonable apprehension of bias exists involves asking “what would an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically- and having thought the matter through” would conclude that bias exists (Committee for Justice & Liberty v Canada (National Energy Board), 1976 CanLII 2 (SCC)[1978] 1 SCR 369 at pp 394-395).  Further, the threshold for finding a reasonable apprehension of bias is high and the onus lies with the person alleging its existence to rebut the presumption of impartiality (Zündel v Citron2000 CanLII 17137 (FCA)[2000] 4 FC 225 at para 36, citing R v S (RD), [1997] 2 SCR 484).  In my view, the Applicant has not established the existence of a reasonable apprehension of bias in these circumstances.

[63]  However, as the allegation of bias was made by the Applicant the Delegate could not simply choose to ignore it (Bongwalanga v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)2004 FC 352 (CanLII) at paras 15-16; see also Bajwa v Veterinary Medical Assn (British Columbia), 2011 BCCA 265 (CanLII) at paras 23-24, citing Tranchemontagne v Ontario (Director, Disability Support Program), 2006 SCC 14 (CanLII)).  Accordingly, had I not been able to address this issue on the merits, the failure to address the issue could also have been a reviewable error.

[64]  Given my findings above it is not necessary for me to also consider the reasonableness of the Delegate’s findings on risk.

[7] I.P.P. v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 123 (CanLII), <> – Russell J. – JR Dismissed.

This is a very length decision relating to an RPD member’s reported ‘zero percent acceptance rate’ of refugee claims and an application for recusal on the basis of a reasonable apprehension of bias and Professor Rehaag’s report. The member refused.

The Applicants (an extended family of 24 Mexican nationals) sought judicial review on the basis that the reasonable apprehension of bias in the RPD proceedings violated s.7 Charter and the administrative law principles of natural justice.

In Russel J’s decision (with over 60 references to the term ‘reasonable apprehension to bias’), he finds that there is no s.7 Charter violation or administrative breach of procedural fairness.

[235]  In my view, a reading of the transcript makes it clear that the Applicants really became concerned about the Member after learning about his acceptance rate in news articles and otherwise. This source of information is all negative. It would naturally cause the Applicants great concern, and no doubt could give rise to psychological and physical symptoms. But this is not something the Member has done or induced in the Applicants. It comes from outside the RPD. In my view, there is nothing in the hearing process itself, and the Member’s conduct throughout that process, that would cause an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically, to detect a reasonable apprehension of bias. What is more, I think that most of the allegations and evidence cited by the Applicants in this review to support their case for a reasonable apprehension of bias, even when they are accurate, have little substance to them and would not cause a fully-informed objective observer to detect bias on a balance of probabilities.


[277]  In my view, there is insufficient evidence, either from the proceedings themselves, or from witnesses commenting upon the Member’s general performance at the RPD, to support a reasonable apprehension of bias finding. From the Applicants’ perspectives, the Member was predisposed to decide against them. From the Member’s perspective, he was doing his duty:

I am bound by a Code of Conduct to decide cases based on the facts and the law before me and each case turns on its own merit…. All members are bound with the same case law and generally use the same standard documentary evidence packages for each country. Each of us are bound by the same Code of Conduct that we swore an oath to or affirmed, that we would decide cases properly on the facts and the law before us.

[8] Kamal v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship), 2018 FC 480 (CanLII), <> – Brown J. – JR Dismissed.

In Kamal, the Applicant (Bangladeshi national) sought to have an alleged expert to testify and to rely on a Response to Information Request [RIR] document, not earlier tendered (para 24) in relation to a s.34 terrorism case. The Immigration Division allowed a lengthy report authored by the alleged expert but dismissed the request for the proposed testimony. The Applicant argued that the ID member recuse herself on the ground of bias for ‘prejudging the case’ by disagreeing with the Applicant’s interpretation of the RIR (para 30). The ID found the allegation baseless and dismissed the recusal request.

[33]  Before me, the Applicant specifically alleged not only apprehension of bias but actual bias:

This finding by the ID is tainted by bias as it disallows the Applicant from rebutting the Minister’s case against him; indeed it is a grave breach of natural justice as by refusing [name of the alleged expert] to testify on this basis, the ID is effectively breaching the Applicant’s right to put forward his case.

[34]  In my respectful view, the allegations of apprehended bias and actual bias are unsupported. The ID made an evidentiary ruling in the course of an inadmissibility hearing. The Applicant requested relief from his failure to follow the rules established by the ID for the admission of oral evidence. It was open on the record for the ID to decline to abridge time; the ID not only considered the lateness of the filing but also considered the substance of the proposed testimony. The ID considered the Applicant’s newly-discovered RIR, which the Applicant used to support the request for oral testimony. The ID noted that the Applicant’s discovery of the RIR was extremely late in the day (the night before the hearing). Further, the ID found its lateness was inadequately explained.

[9] Abdi v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2018 FC 733 (CanLII), <> – McDonald J. – JR Granted. 

In one of the most important FC cases in 2018 that has inspired a greater conversation about children in care accessing citizenship. Justice McDonald addresses the Applicant’s (a Somali national) argument that the Minister’s Delegate (MD) redetermination process involved bias. Justice McDonald dismisses this argument writing:

[49]  Here, Mr. Abdi’s arguments are largely speculative, pointing only to perceived associations between the MD and CBSA officials. While the MD and the CBSA officials share a common employer, there is no evidence that the MD consulted with others before rendering her decision.

[50]  As noted above, the decision by CBSA to arrest Mr. Abdi is not at issue in this judicial review. Further, the actions of CBSA in taking Mr. Abdi into custody, without more, does not provide an objective indication of bias, sufficient to meet the high threshold set out in Committee for Justice and Liberty.

[51]  I conclude that there is insufficient evidence to support a reasonable apprehension of bias finding.

[10] Bains v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 740 (CanLII), <> – Boswell J. – JR Dismissed.

This is a JR involving a Canadian sponsor and his Indian-national spouse. There was not much discussion in the matter about the law or application of the reasonable apprehension of bias test. The Applicant’s argument was that the IAD refusal of the spousal sponsorship was based on a moral judgment of hte Applicant as a sex offender. Boswell J writes in response to this allegation:

[20]  As to the Applicant’s allegation that the IAD showed bias based on a moral judgment of him being a sex offender, this too is devoid of merit. The Applicant provided no legal argument as to how the test for a reasonable apprehension of bias is met in this case. Just because the IAD asked itself why Ms. Bains and her family would agree to her marriage with a sexual offender does not, in my view, show bias of any kind.

[11] Yuan v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 755 (CanLII),
< – Strickland J. – JR Granted.

This very interesting case (that I quoted in the outset) involves an argument that the Member demonstrated a reasonable apprehension of bias by not asking the same questions at a second de novo hearing that had been asked by the same Member at the first hearing, which was tainted by interpretation issues. The case involves an Applicant (Chinese national) who made a refugee-claim based on her practice of Falun Gong that was found manifestly unfounded.

[28]  It is clear from the transcript of the de novo hearing that the Applicant herself was concerned that her poor performance in the first hearing would impact the decision to be rendered after the de novo hearing. However, the test for a reasonable apprehension of bias is not to be utilized by the “very sensitive conscience”.  Understandably, the Applicant would fall into that category in these circumstances, thus the test is not met simply on the basis of her concern.

[29]  Moreover, it was open to the Member to choose what questions he wished to put to the Applicant.  As he pointed out, it was a de novo hearing, accordingly, he was not compelled to try to recreate the first hearing.  Further, there is jurisprudence that suggests that religious knowledge cannot be equated with faith and that the quality and quantity of religious knowledge to prove faith is unverifiable (Zhang v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration)2012 FC 503(CanLII) at para 16). Put otherwise, religious knowledge cannot necessarily be equated to the genuineness of a claimant’s beliefs. While a certain level of knowledge may be expected, the sincerity of the belief is what is legally relevant (Ren v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 1402 (CanLII) at para 18Liang v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2017 FC 1020 (CanLII) at para 18.  Accordingly, the Member was not compelled to test this or to test it in the manner that the Applicant’s counsel would prefer.

[30]  That said, I acknowledge that there could be a perception that by not asking the Applicant the same questions as to her Falun Gong knowledge the Member was, in effect, precluding the Applicant the opportunity of the “redo” that she had sought and been denied at the close of the Member’s questions in the first hearing.  I would also point out, however, that when the Member did attempt to ask a different question about her religious knowledge – which of the five exercises is focused on getting rid of karma and jealousy – counsel objected to the question on the basis that it was misleading because there was no one exercise that does this and stated that, in his view, this was a trick question.  The Applicant then duly answered that it was necessary to practice all five exercises to achieve this.

[31]  With respect to the Applicant’s submission that the Member focused on peripheral matters rather than the Applicant’s “Falun Gong identity” (Rasheed v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) 2004 FC 587 (CanLII)(“Rasheed”), I note that the Member made a number of negative credibly findings.  In my view, even if one or all of them were unreasonable, this is demonstrative of reviewable error, not bias.  Further, in Kozak v Canada (MCI), 2006 FCA 124 (CanLII), the Federal Court of Appeal stated that the legal notion of bias also connotes circumstances that give rise to a belief by a reasonable and informed observer that the decision-maker has been influenced by some extraneous or improper consideration (at para 57).  Based on the record and the decision, I am not persuaded that in this matter the Member based his decision on improper considerations.  Rather, the Applicant would prefer that the Member had focused on other evidence.

[32]  In conclusion, viewing the matter in whole, I am not persuaded that the Applicant has established that an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically and having thought the matter through, would think that it is more likely than not that the Member, whether consciously or unconsciously, would or did not decide fairly and therefore that he erred by failing to recuse himself.

[12] Ching v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship), 2018 FC 839 (CanLII), <> – Diner J. – JR Granted.

In Ching, the Applicant (a  Chinese national) had sought recusal of the IAD member. The Applicant has had a decade long series of immigration proceedings, including the pursuit of a serious criminality finding against him. Justice Diner addresses the reasonable apprehension of bias argument in the last section of his decision after setting aside the appeal and remitting the matter. However, he had some harsh words for counsel’s raising of this ground.

[192]  Mr. Ching has a variety of ongoing administrative and civil proceedings, which overlap in many respects.  His litigation history also includes allegations of bias against the member who decided the IAD’s Inadmissibility Decision.  As a result, I will comment on his allegations of bias made in these Applications, with respect to the member who issued the IAD’s Refusal to Reconsider, for Mr. Ching’s future benefit.

[193]  Mr. Ching’s Amended Statement of Claim in his civil action impugns certain acts and omissions of the RCMP Liaison Office in China, and pleads that it conspired with the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Public Security in an attempt to deliver Mr. Ching to torture and unlawful imprisonment.  On February 6, 2017, during the reconsideration hearing, the IAD member disclosed to the parties that he was a former member of the RCMP.  The relevant excerpt of the transcript is as follows:

[transcript omitted for length]

[195]  Mr. Ching argued that the test set out in Committee for Justice and Liberty et al v National Energy Board et al1976 CanLII 2 (SCC), [1978] 1 SCR 369 [Committee for Justice] was met, namely that “an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically — and having thought the matter through”, would conclude it “more likely than not that [the member], whether consciously or unconsciously, would not decide fairly” (at 394).  Mr. Ching also submitted that actual bias need not be established, only a reasonable apprehension of bias, relying on R v S (RD)1997 CanLII 324 (SCC), [1997] 3 SCR 484 (at para 109) [RDS].

[196]  Mr. Ching’s position is untenable.  I remind him that allegations of bias must not be undertaken lightly and that the threshold for a finding of bias is high (RDS at para 113).  The member’s former membership in the RCMP, on its own, does not raise a reasonable apprehension of bias with respect to the IAD’s Refusal to Reconsider.  Further, Mr. Ching did not raise his bias concerns at the earliest reasonable opportunity, as required by the jurisprudence (see AB v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration)2016 FC 1385 (CanLII) at para 139).

[13] Nassif v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 873 (CanLII), <> – Annis J. – JR Dismissed.

In Nassif, the Applicant (presumably, Lebanese nationals) argued that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias demonstrated by the Officer questioning her right to enter Canada that transferred into the dismissal of the appeal of the removal order. Annis J refused this argument as it was not raised in the IAD appeal:

[23]  The applicant claims that the immigration officer demonstrated bias upon her arrival at the Montréal International Airport on May 3, 2014, by questioning her right to enter Canada, which was subsequently reflected in the officer’s decision to dismiss the appeal of the removal order.

[24]  There is no evidence indicating that the applicant or her counsel raised an apprehension of bias during the hearing before the IAD. The Court agrees with the respondent that the applicant is prohibited from raising this argument in the judicial review.

[14] Khan v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2018 FC 881 (CanLII), <> – Lafrenière J. – JR Dismissed.

In Khan, the Applicant’s vacation of convention refugee status was allowed by the RPD. The Applicant requested that the RPD member recuse themselves arose in the context of a series of postponement delays. I have reproduced paragraphs 14 – 21 of the decision below as they adequately set out what occur.

[14]  The proceedings before the RPD were delayed by several postponements. The hearing scheduled for November 2014 was postponed after the Applicant contested the validity of documents submitted by the Minister and he presented documents that shed doubt as to whether he was Arshad Iqbal.

[15]  Another hearing was scheduled for April 30, 2015. Three days before the hearing, counsel for the Applicant requested a postponement on the grounds that he was not available on that date and that the Applicant’s medical condition did not allow him to prepare for the hearing. A note from a medical doctor in British Columbia was produced in support of the request. A postponement was granted by the RPD. On April 29, 2015, the RPD received further correspondence from counsel for the Applicant indicating that the Applicant’s health problems were more serious than initially thought. Counsel indicated that a medical opinion on this issue would be sent, but nothing was ever submitted. The hearing was rescheduled for October 26, 2017, with two months’ notice to the parties.

[16]  Two days before the rescheduled hearing, counsel for the Applicant sought another postponement on the basis that his client was in a “psychological crisis” and unable to give instructions. The Minister objected to the request given the lack of proof supporting the Applicant’s condition.

[17]  At the hearing, counsel for the Applicant called two witnesses in support of his allegation that the Applicant was in Vancouver and unable to proceed for medical reasons. The Applicant’s wife and a friend, who was a pharmacist in Pakistan, testified that they visited the Applicant in September 2017 and that, during the visit, the Applicant was agitated, talking nonsense, paranoid and constantly repeating that people want to kill him. Both witnesses testified that the Applicant was taking medication; however, neither knew what medication had been prescribed to him. Both witnesses claimed that they did not know the Applicant’s address or phone number, and were only able to get in touch with him through an “Indian guy” who lives in Vancouver. The RPD found the two witnesses not to be credible and, in the absence of evidence of incapacity of the Applicant or other impediment to attend the hearing, rejected the request for postponement. Detailed reasons were provided orally at the hearing and are set out in paragraphs 20 to 24 of the Decision.

[18]  Counsel for the Applicant then made another request for a postponement on the grounds that he was not ready to proceed. Counsel stated that he had only prepared to request a postponement and had not prepared the case itself. According to counsel, he had three witnesses to call. The RPD denied the postponement request as counsel had had ample time to prepare his case and also declined the RPD’s offer to have the witnesses testify by phone.

[19]  Counsel for the Applicant then asked the RPD member to recuse herself from the case, arguing that she had acted in an “extremely belligerent fashion” towards him. Counsel claimed that the member constantly interrupted him in an impolite fashion, did not listen well to the witnesses, and did not act fairly. Counsel further accused the RPD member of snapping at him and behaving in an impolite fashion towards him in the past.

[20]  Applying the test for bias set out in Committee for Justice and Liberty et al v National Energy Board et al, [1978] 1 SCR 3691976 CanLII 2 (SCC), the RPD rejected the recusal motion, finding that the recusal request was arbitrary and not credibly grounded. The hearing subsequently proceeded, with no witnesses being called by the parties.

[21]  As reflected earlier, the RPD allowed the application of the Minister to vacate the refugee protection that had been conferred to the Applicant by the CRDD and to exclude him from refugee status under article 1Fb) of the Convention.

Counsel argued that the RPD displayed favouritism to the Minister causing the whole proceeding to be unfair, and rejecting all of the Applicant’s evidence for no reason (para 34).

Justice Lafrenière dismisses the reasonable apprehension of bias argument:

[36]  A review of the hearing transcript reveals that the RPD member did not show any bias towards the Applicant or his counsel or any predisposition on any issues. To the contrary, the RPD member was professional and courteous and exhibited great patience with Applicant’s counsel. Although she admonished Applicant’s counsel on occasion, her interventions were warranted given that he repeatedly made assertions, without evidence. I am satisfied that the RPD member conducted the proceeding in a fair, impartial and judicious manner.

[37]  Any informed person viewing the matter would not conclude there was a reasonable apprehension of bias from the RPD member. The Court reminds the Applicant that an allegation of bias against a tribunal is serious and cannot be invoked solely because the Applicant disagrees with the RPD’s decision.

[15] Gebreyesus v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 966 (CanLII), <> – Zinn J. – JR Dismissed.

The Applicants (husband and wife of respective Eritrean and Ethiopian nationality) sought JR of a negative RAD decision which upheld a negative RPD finding.

Counsel argued that the Panel member was alleged to have made an inaccurate reference to the Applicant’s Ethiopian citizenship and allowed an adjournment to allow the Minister to intervene leading to a reasonable apprehension of bias. The RPD then decided that the Applicant was excluded by Article 1E of the Refugee Convention. The RAD dismissed the appeal finding there was no reasonable apprehension of bias.

Zinn J. addressed the RPD’s actions as follows, without directly addressing the apprehension of bias but upholding the reasonableness of the decision:

[22]  In my view, the RPD acted in accordance with the Rules and there is nothing in its conduct to support the allegation that it had made a determination that Article 1E applied.  The RPD by way of its first letter had invited the Minister to address the exclusion issue only six days before the hearing.  When new evidence emerged in the hearing it was adjourned, pursuant to Rule 27, in order to update the Minister.  The panel did not take any position or make any findings and it arguably had an obligation to update the Minister, especially when as here the first notice was given so close to the hearing and the Minister had not yet responded.

[23]  Furthermore, when the questionable documents came to light, and the RPD concluded that the Minister’s participation might be of assistance, it had a statutory obligation to advise the Minister as set out in Sub Rule 27(2) of the Rules.

[16] Scott v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2018 FCA 178 (CanLII), <>  – Gleason J.A – Appeal Dismissed.

Self-representative argued that Justice Roy’s dismissal of an extension of time JR for was biased due to the fact that he formerly served as a government lawyer prior to appointment to bench (para 1). Justice Gleason found there was no reasonable apprehension of bias. She writes:

[3]  There is no indication that Justice Roy was previously involved in any matter involving the appellant and the mere fact that he held the positions as outlined in the appellant’s material is insufficient to establish a reasonable apprehension of bias, see, for example, Wewaykum Indian Band v. Canada2003 SCC 45 (CanLII)[2003] 2 S.C.R. 259 (Wewaykum)at paras. 76, 81-85; Amos v. Canada2017 FCA 213 (CanLII)2017 FCA 213 (Amos) at paras. 18-22. Neither his past functions as General Counsel in the Criminal Law Policy Section at the Department of Justice nor as Deputy Secretary to the Clerk of the Privy Council and National Security Advisor to the former Prime Minister required Justice Roy to have recused himself from deciding the appellant’s motion.

[4]  Those who wish to disqualify a judge bear a heavy onus in light of the presumption of impartiality and must prove that the facts are such that an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically and having thought the matter through, would conclude that it is likely that the judge would not decide the case fairly: Committee for Justice and Liberty v. Canada (National Energy Board)1976 CanLII 2 (SCC)[1978] 1 S.C.R. 369 at p. 394, (1976) 9 N.R. 115.

[5]  No such conclusion can be drawn in this case as there is no evidence or even any suggestion that Justice Roy was in any way involved in the appellant’s complaint against CSIS. As we held in Amos, absent such involvement, prior employment is insufficient to rebut the presumption of impartiality. In addition, as in Wewaykum, the passage of time militates strongly against a finding of bias in this case. Thus, an informed person, having thought the matter through and viewing it realistically, would not conclude that there was a reasonable apprehension that Justice Roy was biased.

[17] Alcina Rodriguez v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 995 (CanLII), <> – Gagné J – JR Dismissed.

This case involved the JR of the IAD’s refusal of a Cuban national’s spousal sponsorship. The context of this reasonable apprehension of bias seemed a little far-fetched and convoluted with a reasonableness and procedural fairness argument. As set out in the decision:

[33]  Mr. Rodriguez submits that the IAD gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias:

  1. By criticizing the fact that he was challenging the ID’s finding of misrepresentation;
  2. By indicating that the new evidence could have been presented to the ID and to the Superior Court, whereas the IAD hearing is a de novo hearing;
  3. By indicating to the minister’s counsel that there was no need to cross-examine him, an indication that its decision had already been made;
  4. By displaying animosity towards him through irrelevant statements;
  5. By misinterpreting his current spouse’s testimony;
  6. By minimizing his efforts to find employment and by discriminating against his status as a [translation] “homemaker”; and
  7. By citing the fact that he frequently goes out dancing to minimize the effects of his back pain.

[54]  Just because the IAD interprets the evidence in an unfavourable manner for Mr. Rodriguez does not mean that the IAD is biased.

[61]  Therefore, I am of the view that “an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically—and having thought the matter through—” would not conclude that there is a risk of bias on the part of the IAD in Mr. Rodriguez’s case.

[18] Lakatos v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 1061 (CanLII), < – Southcott J.  – JR Dismissed.

In Laktatos,  the RPD refused an argument from a family of Hungarian Romas. The Applicants argued that their discrimination and racism amounting to persecution. The Applicants objected to the RPD’s questioning of the adult female Applicant. Southcott J writes:

[2]  As explained in greater detail below, this application is dismissed, because I have found that the RPD did not demonstrate conduct giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias, and the Applicants’ arguments have not established that the Decision is substantively unreasonable.

[7]  They now apply for judicial review of this decision under section 72(1) of the IRPA. They submit that the decision is tainted by a reasonable apprehension of bias, that it breaches their parents’ Charter-protected right to parental decision-making, and that the immigration officer’s assessment of their best interests is unreasonable.

[16]  Portions of the Member’s questioning and his exchange with counsel, which are raised by the Applicants in support of their bias allegation, demonstrate that the Member was sceptical about components of the Applicants’ assertions. The Member questioned the assertion that the homeless are permitted starve to death in Hungary and sought support for this assertion in the country condition documentation. The Member also explained that he was having difficulty with the Applicants’ allegation that a Hungarian physician had refused to prescribe appropriate medication for their child, as the Applicants had not presented evidence to support the diagnosis that they alleged required the medication. Neither area of questioning demonstrates that the Member was not considering the Applicants’ claims fairly.

[17]  At the hearing of this application, the Applicants’ counsel raised concern about how the Member’s questioning affected Ms. Horvath’s ability to give her evidence. However, as the Respondent points out, the Applicants have not filed affidavit evidence from Ms. Horvath in support of this argument.

The appellant alleges that the Federal Court’s decision should be set aside because she claims there is a reasonable apprehension that Justice Roy was biased in light of the roles he held as a government lawyer prior to his appointment to the bench.

[19] Jani v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 1229 (CanLII), <> – Norris J. – JR Dismissed.

In Jani, the Applicants (a Canadian sponsor) argued that the H&C officer demonstrated bias in not understanding the situation relating to the Indian national children he was trying to sponsored that were barred under R.117(9)(d) IRPR. Norris J. dismisses this argument justifying that it was a different officer who conducted the officer and who made the decision [which as a side note, although not discussed in the decision: is not a breach of the procedural fairness concept of ‘who hears, decides‘]. Norris J writes:

[28]  The applicants rely on the record of the interview on March 23, 2017, and their father’s affidavit to support their submission that the decision denying their H&C applications is tainted by a reasonable apprehension of bias.  Mr. Jani states that during the interview the officer’s “manner and tone of questioning was quite hostile, as if she did not understand our situation at all.”  He felt the officer was critical of him for not having discussed a potential move to Canada and separation from their mother with Kshitij or Darshith.  Mr. Jani was of the view that the officer was biased towards himself and Ms. Pasla.

[29]  There is a simple answer to the applicants’ submission.  The officer who conducted the interview is not the officer who made the decision.  The case had been reassigned in the interim. The officer who conducted the interview asked Mr. Jani and Ms. Pasla a number of direct questions about their relationship and the parentage of the children, among other things.  Given the unusual circumstances of this case, it was only fair for her to put her concerns squarely to Mr. Jani and Ms. Pasla and to give them an opportunity to address them before a decision was made.  But even if there were a reasonable basis to conclude that the officer who conducted the interview did not approach the applications with an open mind, something I need not decide, there is no basis whatsoever to conclude that the officer who made the decision was influenced improperly by the views of the officer who conducted the interview.


Of the 19 decisions (18 FC and 1 FCA),  judicial review was granted in 6 cases. In most of the 13 cases where judicial review was dimissed, the Federal Court (and FCA panel of) judges took quite a bit of care in establishing the contours of the law and the high thresholds. In many cases, an ardent defense of the system and the decision-makers rationale is carefully laid out. The same cannot be said for the cases where JR was granted. This was the case even in the reviewed decision of Justice Ahmed in Oyejobi, a judge who rarely minces words when analyzing the actions of decision-makers. Judges who granted JR preferred to overturn the decision on other basis, stating there was no need to engage with the argument.

My feeling is the ‘reasonable apprehension of bias’ not only is viewed as a case-specific procedural fairness issue but one that undermines the rule of law. As such, judges prefer not to give off the impression that there are potential systematic problems. As such, finding other procedural fairness faults or the decision-making unreasonable, allows focusing on safer, calmer waters.

Yet, with upward demands, should the Federal Court more actively engage with the concept in cases where it is successful, so as to ensure that there is not a chill created in raising the argument.  Where the Federal Court so clearly steps in the shoes of the decision-maker when upholding the lack of bias in the system, does that encourage challenging voices to hold back for fear of being ostracized. Is that even the role of the FC on judicial review? Should they simply keep their assessment short and thrift where the threshold of bias clearly not met and avoid a dicta defense?

It could also be very well that the cases where it was part of the successful argument were settled by the Department of Justice (my colleague Raj Sharma shared on example where he presumes this may have happened).

From my perspective, I do hope 2019 brings a few cases where the Federal Court utilizes reasonable apprehension of bias cases (even where the JR may have been granted on different grounds) to heed caution to decision-makers that a reasonable person may begin to formulate concerns with the decision-maker bias, especially the oft-misunderstood concept of unconscious bias. Counsel should not also be dissuaded by the high-bar or the fear of being criticized, for putting together well-though out criticisms of the structure of immigration-decision making that it inherently biased. I do see a room for the argument – even if we never have another Baker-like decision that spells out the bias so clearly and unequivocally.

Moving forward, this piece is still a work in progress. I hope to compare other years and look at other decisions where a reasonable apprehension of bias was found and to see if I track any historical trends. If anyone is interested in this project, please message me!

IRCC Clarifies Actively-Pursuing Studies Requirement – January 2019 Update

On 7 January 2019, IRCC updated their study permit program instructions to include  more clarity on the actively pursuing studies requirement. See link here:

There’s a lot to unpack but here’s a few points worth noting:

Discretion to IRCC – re: Institutional Changes

It is not uncommon for international students to change institutions a number of times during their studies. These instructions clarify that this can be examined by an Officer when determining compliance. The instructions write:

However, to assess if a student who has changed institutions or programs of study a number of times should be considered to be actively pursuing their studies, the officer should consider the student’s reasons for the changes. In cases where multiple program or institutional changes do not appear to support the expectation that the student is making reasonable progress toward the completion of a Canadian credential, the officer may determine that the study permit holder has not fulfilled their study permit condition to actively pursue their course or program of study.

150-Day Deadline for Program Changes, Leave, Deferral, and School Closures

A 150-day deadline has been set in these instructions for individuals seeking to resume studies after previous studies completed, leave, deferral of studies, and school closures.

The instruction in those cases is to change to visitor status/worker status or else leave Canada.

One thing missing in all of this is a formal way to invalidate study permits. Per R.222, the application for a visitor record does not do this (as much is also repeated in section G. Change of Status in the instructions.


  •  (1) A study permit becomes invalid upon the first to occur of the following days:

    • (a) the day that is 90 days after the day on which the permit holder completes their studies,

    • (b) the day on which a removal order made against the permit holder becomes enforceable, or

    • (c) the day on which the permit expires.

  • Marginal note:Exception

    (2) Paragraph (1)(a) does not apply to

    • (a) a person described in any of paragraphs 300(2)(a) to (i); or

    • (b) a family member of a foreign national who resides in Canada and is described in any of paragraphs 215(2)(a) to (i).

  • SOR/2014-14, s. 16.

Evidence of Compliance 

One of my previous concerns with the actively-pursuing studies requirement and the new email

Examples of evidence that officers may request include but are not limited to the following:

  • official document from the institution confirming enrolment status
  • official document from the institution confirming the reason for leave and the date of approval
  • official document from the institution confirming the date the student formally withdrew from an institution or program of study
  • official document from the institution confirming the date the student was suspended or dismissed
  • official document from the institution confirming the date the student ceased studying
  • current and previous transcripts
  • character references (such as a note from a professor)
  • note from a medical practitioner certifying the medical need and length of leave required
  • documentation or letter attesting that the school has ceased operations and is no longer offering courses or programs of study
  • any additional and relevant documents, at the discretion of the officer

Clarifying the Consequences of Non-Compliance

I am glad IRCC has clarified the consequences of non-compliance. The instructions state

Non-compliance with study permit conditions may result in enforcement action; that is, an exclusion order can be issued for non-compliance, per subparagraph R228(1)(c)(v).

Non-compliance with study permit conditions or engaging in unauthorized work or study may also negatively affect future applications that are made under the IRPA and IRPR. For example, a subsequent study permit or work permit may not be issued until a period of 6 months has passed, since the cessation of the unauthorized work or study or failure to comply with a condition, per section R221 and subsection R200(3).

The first step to curbing non-compliance is providing clear knowledge of the consequences of violations.

Clarifying Exemptions

Given the lay challenges of tracing the legislation, it is useful that IRCC has now clearly laid out the exemptions.

In accordance with subsection R220.1(3), the following people are exempt from the study permit conditions under subsection R220.1(1):

  • a person in Canada who has made a refugee claim that has not yet been determined by the Refugee Protection Division as well as that person’s family members
  • a person in Canada on whom refugee protection has been conferred and their family members
  • a person who is a member of the Convention refugees abroad class or a humanitarian protected persons abroad class and their family members
  • a properly accredited diplomat; consular officer; representative or official of a country other than Canada, of the United Nations or any of its agencies or of any intergovernmental organization of which Canada is a member; the members of the suite of such a person; and the family members of such a person
  • a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act, including a person who has been designated as a civilian component of that visiting force under paragraph 4(c) of that Act, and their family members
  • a person who holds a study permit and has become temporarily destitute through circumstances beyond their control and beyond the control of any person on whom that person is dependent for the financial support to complete their term of study
  • a person whose study in Canada is under an agreement or arrangement between Canada and another country that provides for reciprocity of student exchange programs
  • a person who works in Canada as an officer of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service or of United States Customs carrying out pre-inspection duties, as an American member of the International Joint Commission or as a United States grain inspector, and their family members
  • a United States Government official in possession of an official United States passport who is assigned to a temporary posting in Canada and their family members
  • a family member of a foreign national who resides in Canada and is described as any of the following
    • a person who holds a study permit
    • a person who holds a work permit
    • a person who holds a temporary resident permit issued under subsection A24(1) that is valid for at least 6 months
    • a person who is subject to an unenforceable removal order
    • a person who is a member of the armed forces of a country that is a designated state for the purposes of the Visiting Forces Act, including a person who has been designated as a civilian component of those armed forces
    • a person who is an officer of a foreign government sent, under an exchange agreement between Canada and one or more countries, to take up duties with a federal or provincial agency
    • a participant in sports activities or events in Canada either as an individual participant or as a member of a foreign-based team or Canadian amateur team
    • an employee of a foreign news company for the purpose of reporting on events in Canada
    • a person who is responsible for assisting a congregation or group in the achievement of its spiritual goals and whose main duties are to preach doctrine, perform functions related to gatherings of the congregation or group, or provide spiritual counselling

It will be important for IRCC to standardize in their processes a request for a family information form. One common scenario especially in this context is the spouse of a skilled worker (PGWP) or perhaps another student (SP holder) who is unaware of the nature of their relationship (e.g., common-law partnership).


Overall, this is much needed clarity and change I’ve been pushing for. The 150-days seems fair and offers a guidepost for both student and school. I also liked that IRCC put in blue, the importance of updating contact information and creating a MyCIC account to ensure updates are received.

We will see how it all works out in practice and it is my hope that IRCC does not exercise discretion to remove students heavy handedly.

A Closer Look at the Minimum Income Requirement for Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship

The Minimum Necessary Income (or “MNI”) requirement affects the ability of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to sponsor certain foreign national members of the family class.

IRPR s. 120 states (emphasis added):

120. For the purposes of Part 5,

(a) permanent resident visa shall not be issued to a foreign national who makes an application as a member of the family class or to their accompanying family members unless a sponsorship undertaking in respect of the foreign national and those family members is in effect; and

(b) a foreign national who makes an application as a member of the family class and their accompanying family members shall not become permanent residents unless a sponsorship undertaking in respect of the foreign national and those family members is in effect and the sponsor who gave that undertaking still meets the requirements of section 133 and, if applicable, section 137.

Section 133(1)(j) states (emphasis added):

133. (1) A sponsorship application shall only be approved by an officer if, on the day on which the application was filed and from that day until the day a decision is made with respect to the application, there is evidence that the sponsor…

j) if the sponsor resides

(i) in a province other than a province referred to in paragraph 131(b),

(A) has a total income that is at least equal to the minimum necessary income, if the sponsorship application was filed in respect of a foreign national other than a foreign national referred to in clause (B), or

(B) has a total income that is at least equal to the minimum necessary income, plus 30%, for each of the three consecutive taxation years immediately preceding the date of filing of the sponsorship application, if the sponsorship application was filed in respect of a foreign national who is

(I) the sponsor’s mother or father, (my note: i.e. parent)

(II) the mother or father of the sponsor’s mother or father, (my note: i.e. grandparent) or

(III) an accompanying family member of the foreign national described in subclause (I) or (II), and

(ii) in a province referred to in paragraph 131(b), is able, within the meaning of the laws of that province and as determined by the competent authority of that province, to fulfil the undertaking referred to in that paragraph;

“Minimum necessary income” is defined in IRPR sections 2 and 134 and identified as “… the minimum amount of before-tax annual income necessary to support a group of persons ….”

minimum necessary income means the amount identified, in the most recent edition of the publication concerning low income cut-offs that is published annually by Statistics Canada under the Statistics Act, for urban areas of residence of 500,000 persons or more as the minimum amount of before-tax annual income necessary to support a group of persons equal in number to the total number of the following persons:

  • (a) a sponsor and their family members,

  • (b) the sponsored foreign national, and their family members, whether they are accompanying the foreign national or not, and

  • (c) every other person, and their family members,

    • (i) in respect of whom the sponsor has given or co-signed an undertaking that is still in effect, and

    • (ii) in respect of whom the sponsor’s spouse or common-law partner has given or co-signed an undertaking that is still in effect, if the sponsor’s spouse or common-law partner has co-signed with the sponsor the undertaking in respect of the foreign national referred to in paragraph (b). (revenu vital minimum)

By the above definition, it is important to properly calculate the size of your family and as well take into account any changes that might occur if your family size were to change during the application process.

It is also important to note R.134(1) on how income is calculated, especially the exclusions and how that may affect the income amounts (emphasis added)::

Income calculation rules

  •  (1) Subject to subsection (3), for the purpose of clause 133(1)(j)(i)(A), the sponsor’s total income shall be calculated in accordance with the following rules:

    • (a) the sponsor’s income shall be calculated on the basis of the last notice of assessment, or an equivalent document, issued by the Minister of National Revenue in respect of the most recent taxation year preceding the date of filing of the sponsorship application;

    • (b) if the sponsor produces a document referred to in paragraph (a), the sponsor’s income is the income earned as reported in that document less the amounts referred to in subparagraphs (c)(i) to (v);

    • (c) if the sponsor does not produce a document referred to in paragraph (a), or if the sponsor’s income as calculated under paragraph (b) is less than their minimum necessary income, the sponsor’s Canadian income for the 12-month period preceding the date of filing of the sponsorship application is the income earned by the sponsor not including

      • (i) any provincial allowance received by the sponsor for a program of instruction or training,

      • (ii) any social assistance received by the sponsor from a province,

      • (iii) any financial assistance received by the sponsor from the Government of Canada under a resettlement assistance program,

      • (iv) any amounts paid to the sponsor under the Employment Insurance Act, other than special benefits,

      • (v) any monthly guaranteed income supplement paid to the sponsor under the Old Age Security Act, and

      • (vi) any Canada child benefit paid to the sponsor under the Income Tax Act; and

    • (d) if there is a co-signer, the income of the co-signer, as calculated in accordance with paragraphs (a) to (c), with any modifications that the circumstances require, shall be included in the calculation of the sponsor’s income.

  • Exception

    (1.1) Subject to subsection (3), for the purpose of clause 133(1)(j)(i)(B), the sponsor’s total income shall be calculated in accordance with the following rules:

    • (a) the sponsor’s income shall be calculated on the basis of the income earned as reported in the notices of assessment, or an equivalent document, issued by the Minister of National Revenue in respect of each of the three consecutive taxation years immediately preceding the date of filing of the sponsorship application;

    • (b) the sponsor’s income is the income earned as reported in the documents referred to in paragraph (a), not including

      • (i) any provincial allowance received by the sponsor for a program of instruction or training,

      • (ii) any social assistance received by the sponsor from a province,

      • (iii) any financial assistance received by the sponsor from the Government of Canada under a resettlement assistance program,

      • (iv) any amounts paid to the sponsor under the Employment Insurance Act, other than special benefits,

      • (v) any monthly guaranteed income supplement paid to the sponsor under the Old Age Security Act, and

      • (vi) any Canada child benefit paid to the sponsor under the Income Tax Act; and

    • (c) if there is a co-signer, the income of the co-signer, as calculated in accordance with paragraphs (a) and (b), with any modifications that the circumstances require, shall be included in the calculation of the sponsor’s income.

Finally, a clause that  frequently captures individuals, especially in those applications that take increased time to process is IRCC’s ability under R. 134(2) [subject to R.134(3) calculation rules] to ask for updated evidence of income if more than 12 months have elapsed since the receipt of the sponsorship application or an officer receives information that the sponsor is no longer able to fulfil the obligations of the sponsorship undertaking (emphasis added):

  • Updated evidence of income

    (2) An officer may request from the sponsor, after the receipt of the sponsorship application but before a decision is made on an application for permanent residence, updated evidence of income if

    • (a) the officer receives information indicating that the sponsor is no longer able to fulfil the obligations of the sponsorship undertaking; or

    • (b) more than 12 months have elapsed since the receipt of the sponsorship application.

  • Modified income calculation rules

    (3) When an officer receives the updated evidence of income requested under subsection (2), the sponsor’s total income shall be calculated in accordance with subsection (1) or (1.1), as applicable, except that

    • (a) in the case of paragraph (1)(a), the sponsor’s income shall be calculated on the basis of the last notice of assessment, or an equivalent document, issued by the Minister of National Revenue in respect of the most recent taxation year preceding the day on which the officer receives the updated evidence;

    • (b) in the case of paragraph (1)(c), the sponsor’s income is the sponsor’s Canadian income earned during the 12-month period preceding the day on which the officer receives the updated evidence; and

    • (c) in the case of paragraph (1.1)(a), the sponsor’s income shall be calculated on the basis of the income earned as reported in the notices of assessment, or an equivalent document, issued by the Minister of National Revenue in respect of each of the three consecutive taxation years immediately preceding the day on which the officer receives the updated evidence.


What is the $$ Required for the Minimum Income Requirement (as of the date of this post)?

IRCC sets out the MNIs for parent and grandparent sponsorship, which discussed above, are the Minimum Necessary Income (“MNI”) plus 30%. IRCC obtains that information by either by an Applicant’s consent on Question 8 of the Financial Evaluation for Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship form or by completing the Income Sources for the Sponsorship of Parents and Grandparents form and submitting NOAs for the three preceding years.

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Expect this to change with the 2019 program reveal (requiring 2018, 2017, and 2016 Minimum Income)



A co-signer’s undertaking  is governed by R. 132(5) IRPR which draws the minimum income requirement provisions of R. 133(1) and R. 134 into the fold.

  • Co-signature — undertaking

    (5) Subject to paragraph 137(c), the sponsor’s undertaking may be co-signed by the spouse or common-law partner of the sponsor if the spouse or common-law partner meets the requirements set out in subsection 130(1), except paragraph 130(1)(c), and those set out in subsection 133(1), except paragraph 133(1)(a), and, in that case,

    • (a) the sponsor’s income shall be calculated in accordance with paragraph 134(1)(b) or (c) or (1.1)(b), as applicable; and

    • (b) the co-signing spouse or common-law partner is jointly and severally or solidarily bound with the sponsor to perform the obligations in the undertaking and is jointly and severally or solidarily liable with the sponsor for any breach of those obligations.

The above provision on the face is actually a bit confusing. The spouse needs to be meet the requirements of 130(1) except R. 130(1)(c) yet is exempted from R. 133(1)(a) , which circularly requires that the sponsor must continue to meet the sponsorship requirements from the day the application is filed until the day a decision is made.

What I interpret this to mean – although I may be wrong, so take this with a grain of salt – is that the Co-signer must meet the R. 130(1) requirements at the time the application is submitted but is not required to provide evidence of ongoing compliance. In that sense, a Co-signer could reside in another country (for example to work abroad) but the Sponsor could not (per R.130(1)(b) and R. 133(1)(a) IRPR).

Co-signer issues can be quite complicated (especially with updating relationships)- I won’t go into too many details in this post but see Agyemang v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 CanLII 115279 (CA IRB) for a representative case of the complexities that may occur.

IRCC sets out the requirements for a co-signer in their policy guide as follows:

May I have a co-signer?

Your spouse or common-law partner may help you meet the income requirement by co-signing the sponsorship application. A common-law partner is a person who is living with you in a conjugal relationship and has done so for at least one year prior to the signing of the undertaking.

The co-signer must:

  • meet the same eligibility requirements as the sponsor;
  • agree to co-sign the undertaking;
  • agree to be responsible for the basic requirements of the person you want to sponsor and his or her family members for the validity period of the undertaking.

The co-signer will be equally liable if obligations are not performed.

If your co-signer is a common-law partner, you must submit the Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union (IMM 5409).

One of the current major gaps is that IRPR does not allow siblings (such as brothers/sisters) to both serve as co-signers. I would suggest that in many cases, allowing this type of arrangement (or at least some public policy exemption) may make more sense than having an in-law serve in that role.

Why are the MNIs so contentious – Some Case Law and Experiences

2014 Change in Regulations

In 2 January 2014,  IRPR ss. 133(1)(j) and s. 134 was amended to increase the MNI by 30 percent for this appeal from that considered by the visa officer. Madam Justice Simpson in Tharmarasa v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 FC 1174 (CanLII) examined the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement [RIAS], finding that the IAD should have applied the old regulations, departing from the approach taken by the Federal Court in Patel v. Canada (MCI) 2016 FC 1221 and Begun v. Canada (MCI) 2017 FC 409.

Still other members have taken a different approach. In X (Re), 2018 CanLII 101225 (CA IRB)

[9]               Section 133(1)(j)(i)(B) of the Regulations applies to the Appellant’s sponsorship application because she is sponsoring a parentOn January 1, 2014, section 133(1)(j)(i) of the Regulations was amended to increase the MNI by thirty percent for the sponsorships of parents. Section 134 (1.1) of the Regulations also provides the income calculation rules that are applicable in cases where an appellant sponsors their parents. Prior to 2014, the calculation required assessing the income an appellant earned in the year immediately preceding the sponsorship application. Since January 1, 2014, the calculation requires assessing income earned in each of the three consecutive taxation years immediately preceding the date of the filing of the sponsorship application.[3]

[10]           In Gill,[4] it was held that the sponsor did not have the right to have her application determined under the previous version of the Regulations, as people who apply for permanent residence have no accrued or accruing rights until a final decision has been made on their application. The final decision on an application is the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) decision. Therefore, the sponsorship requirements applicable at the time of this appeal are the requirements under the amended Regulations. This sponsorship application for the Appellant’s father was filed on June 28, 2010. Despite Gill, the parties at the hearing agreed that they would consider the visa officer’s assessment of the Appellant’s income for 2014 only. The parties agreed that the MNI had not been met for ten persons at the time of the assessment. [5]

[11]           As such, I find that the visa officer’s refusal is legally valid.

It is not uncommon for two lines of jurisprudence to come out of the Federal Court – an issue I hope IRCC will try to navigate by clarifying instructions to IAD board members.

There also are implications for the new thresholds in appeals. As the Panel in Rajah v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 CanLII 107684 (CA IRB) sets out – the present ability to meet the new MNIs may lower the threshold re: discretionary relief.

Discretionary Relief – Is the Lower Threshold Available?

[14]           For the purpose of determining the standard of discretionary relief to be applied in a financial refusal, the sponsor’s ability to meet the MNI at the date of hearing is relevant. The cases of Jugpall[9] and Dang[10] suggest that a lesser standard of granting relief will be applicable in cases where the appellant now meets the financial requirements of sponsorship.

[15]           As I have previously held, it is my view that the current MNI provisions for sponsoring parents should apply when determining if a sponsor now meets the financial requirements under the IRPA and its Regulations.[11] Chief Justice Crampton’s decision in Gill[12] confirms that the new MNI requirements should apply when determining if an appellant is to have access to a lower threshold for the exercise of special relief. The issue was also more recently considered by Justice Russell in Sran,[13] where the Court determined that the IAD’s use of the new regulatory provision in this context was reasonable. As such, the onus is on the appellant to establish based on Revenue Canada Notices of Assessment that he met the MNI for the past three years.

[16]           In her written submissions, counsel for the appellant concedes that the appellant did not meet the MNI for 2015 and 2016. The lower Jugpall threshold does not apply.

In this matter, the Appellant was ultimately successful in demonstrating humanitarian and compassionate grounds and the appeal was allowed.

IRCC Incorrectly Relying on Tax Years Four Years Back – the Shifting Window/Alternative Forms of Income

One of the historical issues that made assessment very challenging was IRCC’s practices of ‘skipping’ the most immediate year due to the fact taxes were not filed by the time the Application to Sponsor went in.

Still, the shifting window or even the “uncertainty” of whether one meets the tax requirements of a particular filing years. Certain times, especially where individuals are self-employed, there will be conflict between the amount that it makes sense to declare for tax and what is best for the business.

Calculating Family Size
The issues of calculating family size were also prominent in X (Re) 2018. From paragraphs 18-31, the Member had to assess whether certain half-siblings were dependent who were 21 and just under the age where a child stops becoming dependent were being cared for by the Sponsor.

In cases such as as Alavehzadeh v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2016 CanLII 73710 (CA IRB) [and the companion case Begum v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2016 CanLII 73712 (CA IRB), that eventually went up to the FC and FCA]  IAD Panels have faced situations, when assessing humanitarian and compassionate considerations, from applicants who come from large multi-family units, where siblings work to contribute to the household and an Appellant themselves may not have the funds themselves.  In Alavehzadeh, the Panel found that s.67 allowed for considerations that may overcome deficiency and provides sufficient broad discretion to take into account individual circumstances.

We saw this in Jir v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2018 CanLII 81824 (CA IRB), where the Sponsor’s consistent work history and cash-only payment as a babysitter contributed to a positive humanitarian and compassionate grounds finding, even though there was a lack of proof of the payment.

Unfortunately,  the Federal Court of Appeal in Begum ruled decisively that MNIs do not violation s.7 and s.15 of the Charter, finding there was no Charter right to family reunification  (see Begum v. MCI  2018 FCA 181 at paras 100-110) and that there quantitative evidence fell short of meeting the burden of demonstrating an adverse impact (see Begum v. MCI  2018 FCA 181 at paras 41-92).

Updating the Visa Office Diligently

It is very important to ensure that visa offices are updated as soon as changes occur and that any implications on the MNI are brought to the Officer’s attention. I have been involved in several cases where visa officer’s mistakenly consider a newborn child as part of the MNI in a tax-year where they have not yet been born. these changes are not always intuitive and the relevant tax years (as we discussed above) is often a source of internal confusion.

Hope this posts helps you navigate the MNI! I eagerly await seeing how the 2019 process will work out 🙂