Tag Archives: non-compliance

Are we R.228-ing too many R.229s? – New COVID-Based Quarantine Act Inadmissibility and the Case for Procedural Fairness Amid Changing Administrative Efficiencies

Introduction

I did an earlier-COVID post about the criminal inadmissibility consequences of the Quarantine Act. In today’s post I want to update the Government’s approach here but also bring a larger critique – that we should be advocating for the right of foreign nationals to access the Immigration Division (R.229 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations [IRPR]) where it is clear their case requires a balancing of evidentiary facts and greater (if still minimum by administrative legal standards) procedural fairness.

I see a worrisome trend of addressing (ramming) new inadmissibility through CBSA Minister’s Delegate [R.228] because it is administratively convenient. As technology improves and the ability of more hearings to be run administratively efficiently, is it still fair to deny foreign nationals at the heart of these matters, the ability to have an independent decision-maker preside over their cases and to present their full evidence?

The New Inadmissibility – Violation of Emergencies Act or Quarantine Act

On 20 April 2020, the Federal Government introduced a new inadmissibility for foreign national (visitors, students, and workers) who violate the Quarantine Act.  

The change adds an inadmissibility under s.41(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”) and does so by also creating automatic inadmissibility for any Foreign National with a Quarantine Act conviction.

22.1 For the purpose of determining whether a foreign national is inadmissible under paragraph 41(a) of the Act for having failed to comply with the condition set out in paragraph 43(1)(e) or 183(1)(d) of these Regulations, if the foreign national has been convicted for having contravened an order or regulation made under the Emergencies Act or the Quarantine Act, the facts on which the conviction is based shall be considered to be conclusively established.

This operates through the adding of a General condition under s.183(d) which applies to all temporary residents:

General conditions

  •  (1) Subject to section 185, the following conditions are imposed on all temporary residents:

    • (a) to leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay;

    • (b) to not work, unless authorized by this Part or Part 11;

    • (b.1) if authorized to work by this Part or Part 11, to not enter into an employment agreement, or extend the term of an employment agreement, with an employer who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages;

    • (b.2) if authorized to work by this Part or Part 11, to not enter into an employment agreement, or extend the term of an employment agreement, with an employer referred to in any of subparagraphs 200(3)(h)(i) to (iii);

    • (c) to not study, unless authorized by the Act, this Part or Part 12; and

    • (d) to comply with all requirements imposed on them by an order or regulation made under the Emergencies Act or the Quarantine Act.

The law also applies by way of adding a condition under Regulation 43(1)(e) in the context of continued examinations under s.23 IRPA.

Conditions

  •  (1) An officer must impose the following conditions on every person authorized to enter Canada under section 23 of the Act:

    • (a) to report in person at the time and place specified for the completion of the examination or the admissibility hearing;

    • (b) to not engage in any work in Canada;

    • (c) to not attend any educational institution in Canada;

    • (d) to report in person to an officer at a port of entry if the person withdraws their application to enter Canada; and

    • (e) to comply with all requirements imposed on them by an order or regulation made under the Emergencies Act or the Quarantine Act.

It is important hear that the IRPA imposes an obligation beyond the criminal context, to require compliance with ‘all requirements.’ There are several Quarantine Act requirements that do not directly attach a conviction for. Furthermore, this brings into the realm of immigration inadmissibility several convictions found in s.67-72 of the Quarantine Act that would not have rendered a foreign national inadmissible by way of a sole summary offence conviction.

There are major questions of its overbreadth and as well whether the inadmissibility will be disproportionately pursued against low-skilled workers working in fields such as agricultural, largely at the whim of the direction of the employer or their agents. While there are also employer compliance issues (which this piece will not explore) it is foreseeable that a wrong of the employer could be attached to the employee by way of inadmissibility.

The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement acknowledges as much in what I still feel is a severely short assessment:

Gender-based analysis plus (GBA+)

The power imbalance inherent in most employment relationships is intensified for foreign workers as a result of their temporary status in Canada, and in the case of employer-specific work permit holders, the conditional nature of their authorization to only work for one employer. This imbalance can be further exacerbated by factors such a lack of proficiency in English or French, lack of knowledge of their rights, and misinformation. Gender and intersectional factors (e.g. age, race, low-wage level) may further increase vulnerability to workplace abuse.

One of the policy objectives of these regulatory amendments is to protect temporary foreign workers to help ensure that they are not put in situations where they are at risk of being infected by COVID-19 and/or at risk of infecting others. The proposal is expected to safeguard against an employer encouraging a worker to violate any requirements under the Quarantine Act or the Emergencies Act.

Colour me sceptical but I do not see how putting punitive immigration consequences on foreign workers protects temporary foreign workers. I do see individuals who are racialized and in low-paying jobs (with assumed lower levels of language ability and presumed less shelter-at-home circumstances) being subject to greater surveillance and immigration consequences.

 

No Referral to the Immigration Division

Where I think this provisions steps into the line of being a major problem in my perspective is is listed as a R.228 IRPR inadmissibility rather than as a s.229 IRPR admissibility.

11 (1) Subparagraph 228(1)(c)(v) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

  • (v) failing to comply with subsection 29(2) of the Act as a result of non-compliance with any condition set out in paragraph 183(1)(d), section 184 or subsection 220.1(1), an exclusion order,

(2) Paragraph 228(1)(c) of the Regulations is amended by adding “or” at the end of subparagraph (vi) and by adding the following after that subparagraph:

  • (vii) failing to comply with the condition set out in paragraph 43(1)(e), an exclusion order;

The difference between R.228 and R.229 IRPR is that R.228 IRPR allows a Minister’s Delegate of the Canada Border Services Agency (including at the Port of Entry) to issue an exclusion order.

Subsection 44(2) of the Act — foreign nationals

 (1) For the purposes of subsection 44(2) of the Act, and subject to subsections (3) and (4), if a report in respect of a foreign national does not include any grounds of inadmissibility other than those set out in the following circumstances, the report shall not be referred to the Immigration Division…

R.229 inadmissibilities require the Minister Delegate to refer the matter to the Immigration Division (ID):

Paragraph 45(d) of the Act — applicable removal order

  •  (1) For the purposes of paragraph 45(d) of the Act, the applicable removal order to be made by the Immigration Division against a person is

At an Immigration Division hearing, the burden of proof is on the Minister to prove that the person concerned is inadmissible to Canada. The ID Member who makes a decision is a third-party, impartial decision-maker. They are obligated to assess the submissions and the evidence submitted by the person concerned.

In a Minister’s Delegate-issued removal order, evidence is assessed but the MD’s are acting on the arresting officer, other law enforcement/public authorities, and other interviewing inland enforcement officers to render their decision. They are carrying out the decision effectively “in-house” thus eliminating a real need for additional procedural fairness (opportunities to respond) or in many cases adequate opportunities to provide further evidence. Most clients have no counsel for MD-issued removal orders and counsel are often given limited ability to advocate in this setting.

 

Continuing a Recent Trend of No Justification

One of the problems as well is that the RIAS does not provide further justification on why the inadmissibility was chosen for s.228 and not s.229.

The RIAS merely repeats four times a state similar to this:

The Regulations provide the authority for the Minister of Public Safety or the Minister’s delegate to issue a removal order for non-compliance with the new conditions that require compliance with an order or regulation under the Quarantine Act or the Emergencies Act, once a person has been found to be inadmissible. 

The last inadmissibility added – in February 2014 (effective June 2014) for non-compliance and not actively pursuing studies (IRPA s.29(2) x. s.41(a) x IRPR s.220.1) also contained similar language in it’s RIAS.

The Regulations allow for issuance of a removal order by delegated officers in circumstances where students are not complying with new study permit conditions, rather than being referred to the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board for a hearing.

In the international student context, this led to border officers removing international students for one-day trips to the United States during studies, poor grades, and until recently, as secondary admissibilities to inland admissibility investigations/matters (allegations of criminality, misrep, etc.).

I think a question needs to be legitimately asked about why two admissibilities both of which go against the usual R.228 black and white assessment (e.g. are expired permits – overstay, not holding required immigration document, failing to appear for examination, criminal conviction inside Canada as examples) are being put in the same box.

Given the limited application (at least documented) of the Quarantine Act as we explored last blog, should not an independent decision-maker who develops specific expertise to assess evidence be required? What happens if the allegation is not based solely on a conviction but actually on an issue such as the truthfulness of a disclosure or response (s. 15 -s.16 of the Quarantine Act). How would these proceed without witnesses and the type of evidentiary disclosure needed?

Remember when we frame this issue, we also look at the primary elements of procedural fairness as set out of by IRCC.

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/service-delivery/procedural-fairness.html 

The right to be heard or the right to reasons is not too hard in the context of an individual who violates a clear law on the face, but this law is far from clear and arguably with construction that is far from perfect.

It is my hope that it is used infrequently and that we move through this COVID period with discretion and seeking understanding before applying punitive measures, but we have seen in the ways that fines have been levied for COVID offences generally that this has not been the case.

In the interim, we need to hold the Government to account to explain and justify why the Immigration Division could not have been given jurisdiction to issue the removal order.

Immigration Division

One of the main arguments for an R.228 removal in administrative efficiency. The idea being these issues are so important and emergent that they need to be dealt with quickly, and possibly even at the Border.

With COVID one of the things we are seeing is an improvement in the ability to hear cases virtually or leverage technology to make things more efficient. Subject to the very important aim of giving individuals the right to an oral hearing (and ideally in person) particularly in the context of long-term detainees and refugees, I don’t see why the administrative efficiency argument still stands.

Post-COVID I expect that we will see many more hearings (including admissibility hearings) operate via online video conferences. These conferences can include the ability to share and provide evidence quickly, disclose immediately, and likely timelines can be shortened for scheduling. With all these things, what is the continued justification for not referring cases that do require an assessment of evidence to render a reasonable and fair decision?

Judicial Review as a Possible Outcome

Unfortunately, if there is unfortunately a second wave or if the Quarantine Act becomes engaged increasingly for inadmissibility, I suspect that we will have quick removals and unfortunately little basis for stay of removals. For workers, it is likely that inadmissibility would also sever the employer/employee relationship removing the argument they likely had for significant harm. Students and Visitors will probably have similar difficulties establishing significant harm in most cases if their entry was for studies or family-based visits (which are already being scrutinized).

Ultimately, I believe we will probably get poorly justified removals that will require judicial reviews to sort out. However, unlike the actively pursuing studies provision of R.220.1 IRPR which the Federal Court has generally upheld in reported decisions, I think the Quarantine Act will be much more difficult to navigate. There are also holes around issues such as overbreadth and vagueness, and certainly procedural fairness issues, that will emerge in such litigation.

I am interested to see how this will all pan out. If you  have a case on the basis of this new inadmissibility, I am eager to hear from you: will@edelmann.ca

Take care and stay safe!

 

‘Actively Pursuing Studies’ – Possible Port of Entry Issues

As I mentioned in a post written in September 2015, the requirement that a study permit holder “actively pursue studies” in Canada while holding their study permit creates major challenges.

When I first wrote my post in 2015, I imagined that exclusion orders issued pursuant to Immigration and Refugee Protections Act s.29(2) + s.41(a) would occur mostly in the context of in-land investigations. I imagined these would be situations where Designated Learning Institutions (“DLIs”) when required to update CIC (now “IRCC”) via the student compliance portal would trigger Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) to investigate. Other than that I thought that international students would otherwise be brought to the attention of CBSA by external means (i.e. police-reporting, working without authorizations, etc.), where studying without authorization would be an add-on to existing concerns.

My understanding now is that with IRCC’s International Student Program (“ISP”) student compliance delivery instructions still pending final publication for sometime later this year, the main trigger of these investigations are actually reports to CBSA or initiated by CBSA themselves.

It may come to a surprise to some individuals, but CBSA often is not provided instruction on how to interpret IRCC rule/policy changes, but rather, like myself as a practitioner or a client, have to react to them by developing their own positions. These positions, as admitted by CBSA,  are not always perfect and often can lead to inconsistent application. That turns into the legal grey area that often gets clients in trouble.

Yesterday, I attended a talk where CBSA program directors talked about the recent Port of Entry issues they have noticed. This talks reconfirmed (my fear) that the ‘actively-pursuing studies’ requirement has been interpreted by CBSA quite broadly and that this requirement has created challenges for international students.  I had been hearing similar issues from in the international student community, but this talk reaffirmed them.

Travelling during “Regular School Term”

When a student is ‘actively-pursuing studies’ they are expected to be in class when there is class. Full stop.  Inevitably, trips taken during class will happen. Things happen back in the home country, emergency trips to see loved ones, health and financial issues, or even the occasional mid-term getaway.  We could all use the occasional break, right?

Well, the challenge is, that without program delivery instructions set by IRCC as to how discretion is to be exercised, there is a huge risk to an individual who leaves Canada during the regularly scheduled school term and tries to gain re-entry into Canada.

As a colleague of mine correctly pointed out, there are also challenges with the way the legislation is being interpreted right now in sense that a plain-letter interpretation of the law suggests that the law does not apply while an individual is abroad with a study permit. However, I now understand that the study permit holder does not need to be in Canada and not studying but arguably can be in their home country and holding a study permit, not studying and still fall into the requirement to actively-pursue studies.

Conditions — study permit holder

220.1 (1) The holder of a study permit in Canada is subject to the following conditions:

  • (a) they shall enroll at a designated learning institution and remain enrolled at a designated learning institution until they complete their studies; and
  • (b) they shall actively pursue their course or program of study.

CBSA’s recommendation, and one I would fully adopt for students is that they need to bring with them adequate documentation when they leave Canada in the middle of the school term. I would go a step further and suggest that this is true ot just a student’s own school term – which may or may not correlate to when a majority of students are expected to be in school.

One of the examples that CBSA provided of a “possible flag”, was an international student attempting to arrive in Canada mid-way through September. This is of course, premised on the fact that the designated-learning institution operates on a Fall/Winter semester school year. In fact many DLIs go according to different schedules, particularly those that offer continuous courses over summer but provide options for students to take authorized breaks.

Proving your Breaks

Students would be wise to have (among other relevant documentation):

  • a school calendar;
  • school policies relating to educational breaks/gaps;
  • a letter of permission from the school authorizing the late return/trip abroad; amd
  • proof that the student performed the activity/task that they were authorized to miss school for.

They should also be prepared to answer questions in secondary examination, if referred. Particularly, where a student’s first language is not English, the international student should know how to ask for interpreter and/or answer basic questions about there whereabouts and activities while abroad. Answers provided incorrectly or, worse yet, with misleading intentions may result in further immigration consequences such as misrepresentation.

Students would also be wise to ensure they are compliant with other customs policies. Often times another violation, i.e. failing to declare goods upon entry, will trigger a referral to secondary which will itself trigger a non-compliance with study permit conditions finding.

Consequences of Exclusion

As alluded to earlier, a student, if upon examination is determined not to be a student who is ‘actively pursuing studies’ could be issued an exclusion order on the spot and removed from Canada. Anecdotally, I have heard individuals who have been removed the day of their attempted entry and asked to buy a ticket to board a plane home.

From a procedural fairness perspective, it is my hope that CBSA adopts a policy that will require them to continue the investigation inland. I say this because my understanding of procedural fairness requires that an applicant is provided a meaningful opportunity to respond.

Without a full investigation of the school’s policies, of attendance records, and giving the student a chance to defend themselves in the event a designated learning institution says otherwise, I don’t think the opportunity to respond can be provided. A few hour examination is simply not enough.

Conclusion

Until IRCC comes up with clear policies communicated with CBSA Border Services Officers that apply the law,  travelling during school time without a valid reason and valid evidence is in my perspective, playing Russian roulette .