Takeaways from CBA National Immigration Conference – Pt. 1 – IRCC’s Increased Focus on the “Client Experience”


One of the highlights of the CBA Immigration Law Conference is that the Minister of Immigration speaks and talks about his government’s focus and priority moving forward.

In general, the Minister’s humility very much stood out to me. I think that being a former member of the immigration bar himself, a UOttawa grad (I threw that one in!), and most importantly a refugee who had to face the delays and uncertainly, added a certain humility to his tone.

There were some who were disappointed that the Minister did not take questions from the floor, as was done in previous years. I still remember Minister Alexander in Ottawa, two years back being asked about the sponsorship program given his own wife was a sponsored spouse.

I did believe that on a few questions, particularly relating to the major IRB delays that are really hampering the appeal process. On the flipside, I was very impressed by his apology for the issues with the portal not working very effectively over the past few weeks and his promise to do better.

The nice guy/gal approach was echoed by Dawn Edlund (Associate Assistant Deputy Minsiter, Operations, Department of Citizenship and Immigration) who spoke at the opening plenary. As summarized by my colleague Joshua Sohn:

Dawn mentioned that she had received feedback that some invitation letters (for example the Citizenship Oath) had felt too much like a summons to court for a parking ticket.  She acknowledged the challenges with the call centre and opening discussed the need to figure out strategies to streamline calls.

Ironically just the same day I received a bulletin from IRCC (that I had never received before) that was very well received on my end. The case involved a tricky procedural fairness letter to a concern initially raised by the overseas visa office. This email put both myself, and my client, at ease and we received the COPR just days later. I know the client was very eager to follow the helpful recommendations relating to settlement contained in the email.

Just today IRCC has acted on some of the frustration raised by those who have had spousal sponsorship applications sent back due to incompleteness by revising their spousal sponsorship checklists to make them clearer, cleaner and more intuitive.

Client experience

Overall, I am a big fan of this approach taken by IRCC to be better communicators with their clients. I don’t think we will ever run a visa system, particularly in this electronic day and age, that will allow individuals to physically speak to a processing officer in Canada, but one hopes that these steps are the next best thing.

I do think, however, that more transparency – particularly to more detailed reasons for refusal, great public access to Global Case Managing System notes for applicants, and faster streams for which to provide case updates – would go a long way. Right now, Access to Information Requests are a huge financial burden on government resources and a lot of litigation can be avoided by simply having clients know their application deficiencies at an earlier stage.

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