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Guide de politique sur le soutien automatisé à la prise de décision version de 2021/Policy Playbook on Automated Support for Decision-making 2021 edition (Bilingual)
I wanted to share a copy of IRCC’s Policy Playbook on Automated Support for Decision-making. We learned from ATIP that even though there is language around the need to frequently update this document to adopt to the changing times and applications of automation and AI, it has not been updated since February 2021.
I think this is also the first time I have seen a bilingual version, but this is very crucial as one of the big critiques of IRCC’s Chinook 101 training materials was the apparent lack (or lack of access) to a French version.
This document is foundational to our understanding of where IRCC believes they were going, at least as of two-years ago. Is this document still good? Have the plan migrated to a new document?
Lots of questions raised and so far view answers.
Still on the beat…..
Having not blogged on here for awhile (admittedly struggling with writer’s block/half-written blogs – the usual) I wanted to take a short trip down memory lane through one of my more memorable cases.
I was representing an older Korean Appellant. He had gone through some traumatic injuries and as a result spent too much time with a family member in the United States (as a Green Card holder) and thereby breaching the residency obligation. It was not an insignificant breach.
The case started off with strong documentary evidence. This was pre-amendments to the IAD Rules, which now make it even more crucial to ensure front-end evidence is provide and letters. We made a very strong paper-based case which supported what occurred at the hearing.
Remember, this was back when there were in-person hearings. It seems like a lifetime ago, but up on the 16th floor of 300 West Georgia there are several hearing rooms. Ironically, we were assigned the smallest one, I believe just a handful of no more than eight seats in the witness booth.
The case already had several witnesses. The Appellant had several children, his spouse, and even a best friend were willing to testify.
One of my strategies, which I think is not only effective but also very necessary is to ensure the Appellant has enough to present their case. Back then, in many residency appeals they would schedule cases only for 2 hours. This was in large part due to backlogs, but also an assumption that removal order (residency obligation cases) were easier – required less witnesses, were less complex. This matter, contrary to that presumption, was quite complex with many layers, a long history, a vulnerable person, and a narrative that needed time to tell through multiple witnesses.
However, at this hearing, we also had another advantage – the entire Korean church congregation that the Appellant belonged to. The family had put the word out and even unexpected to me, twenty ajumas and ajusshi’s showed up at the hearing.
As the Member was about to set preliminary matters, he looked up and saw them all from a semi-circle form around my client like a choir around a conductor. He saw that there were members of the congregation would could not even fit in the room and the door was half propped open.
He respectfully gave everyone a chance to state their name, addressed everyone and thanked them for coming out. He ultimately suggested that they could go home as there was simply not enough space. After the room cleared out, he took at the voluminous disclosure, turned to the Minister, and in essence suggested that this appeared to be a very strong case on paper and whether the Minister still wanted to proceed.
The Minister was not ready to consent yet. We proceeded through direct examination and a cross-examination of the Appellant before we were able to reach a consent. Following this, I shared a lovely lunch with the family in Chinatown, nearby.
It was – to date – probably my most memorable IAD experience. It also goes to show, something I often mentor young lawyers and practitioners on – is the importance of the factual, and beyond that the visceral argument. There is a role in compassion and humanity, even amidst the growing boilerplate application of laws and principles.
I wanted to share this story. Perhaps more to re-inspire myself more than anything else.
After the Federal Court’s decision in Ocran v. MCI (Canada) 2022 FC 175. it was almost inevitable that we would be talking again about Chinook. Counsel (including ourselves) have been raising the use of Chinook and the concerns of Artificial Intelligence in memorandums of argument and accompanying affidavits, arguing – for example – that many of the standard template language used fall short of the Vavilov standard and in many cases are non-responsive or reflective to the Applicant’s submissions.
We have largely been successful in getting cases consented on using this approach, yet I cannot say our overall success in resolving judicial reviews have followed suite. Indeed, recently we have been stuck at the visa office more on re-opening than we have been in the past.
Today, the Federal Court rendered a decision that again engaged in Chinook and in this case also touched on Artificial Intelligence. Many took to Twitter and Linkedin to express concern about bad precedent. Scholars such as Paul Daly also weighed in on Justice Brown’s decision, highlighting that there is simply a lot we do not know about how Chinook is deployed.
I might take a different view than many on this case. While I think it might be read (and could be pointed to as precedent by the Department of Justice) as a decision upholding the reasonableness and fairness of utilizing Chinook and AI, I also think there was no record that tied in how the process affects the outcome, clearly the link that Justice Brown was concerned about.
Haghshenas v. Canada (MCI) 2023 FC 464
Mr. Haghshenas had his C-11 (LMIA exempt) work permit refused on the basis that he would not leave Canada at the end of his authorized stay pursuant to subsection 200(1) of the IRPR. It is interesting that in the Certified Tribunal Record and specifically the GCMS notes, there is no mention of Chinook 3+ as is commonly disclosed now. However, there is the wording of Indicators (meaning risk indicators) as N/A and Processing Word Flag as N/A. These are Module 5 flags, that make up one of the columns in the Chinook spreadsheet, so it is presumable that Chinook could have been used. However, we do note the screenshots that were part of the CTR do not appear to include the Chinook tab or any screenshot of what Chinook looked at. From the record, this lack of transparency on what tool was actually used did not appear to be challenged.
Ultimately, the refusal decision itself is actually quite personalized – not carrying the usual pure template characteristics of Module 4 Refusal Notes generator. There is personalized assessment of the actual business plan, the profits considered (and labelled speculative by the Officer), and concerns about whether registration under the licensed contractor process has been done. From my own experiences, this decision seems quite removed from the usual Module 3 and perhaps suggests that either Chinook was not fully engaged OR that the functionality of Chinook has gotten much better to the point where it’s use becomes blurred. It could reasonably be both.
In upholding the procedural fairness and reasonableness of the decision, Justice Brown does engage in two areas about a discussion of Chinook and AI.
In dismissing the Applicant’s argument on procedural fairness, Justice Brown writes:
 As to artificial intelligence, the Applicant submits the Decision is based on artificial intelligence generated by Microsoft in the form of
“Chinook” software. However, the evidence is that the Decision was made by a Visa Officer and not by software. I agree the Decision had input assembled by artificial intelligence, but it seems to me the Court on judicial review is to look at the record and the Decision and determine its reasonableness in accordance with Vavilov. Whether a decision is reasonable or unreasonable will determine if it is upheld or set aside, whether or not artificial intelligence was used. To hold otherwise would elevate process over substance.
He writes later, under the reasonableness of decision, heading:
 Regarding the use of the
“Chinook” software, the Applicant suggests that there are questions about its reliability and efficacy. In this way, the Applicant suggests that a decision rendered using Chinook cannot be termed reasonable until it is elaborated to all stakeholders how machine learning has replaced human input and how it affects application outcomes. I have already dealt with this argument under procedural fairness, and found the use of artificial intelligence is irrelevant given that (a) an Officer made the Decision in question, and that (b) judicial review deals with the procedural fairness and or reasonableness of the Decision as required by Vavilov.
Justice Brown appeared to be concerned with the lack of the Applicant’s tying of the process of utilizing artificial intelligence or Chinook to how it actually impacted the reasonableness or fairness of the decision. Justice Brown is looking at the final decision and correctly suggests – an Officer made it, the Record justifies it – how it got from A to C is not the reviewable decision it is the A of the input provided to the Officer and the C of the Officer’s decision.
I want to question about the missing B – the context.
It is interesting to note also, in looking at the Record, that the Respondent (Minister) did not engage in any discussion of Chinook or AI. The argument was solely raised by the Applicant – in two paragraphs in the written memorandum of argument and one paragraph in the reply. The Applicant’s argument, one rejected by Justice Brown, was that the uncertainty of the reliability, efficacy, and lack of communication created an uncertainty of how these tools were used, which ultimately impacted the fairness/reasonableness.
The Applicant captures these arguments in paragraphs 9, 10 , and 32 of their memorandum, writing:
The nature of the decision and the process followed in making it
9. While the reason originally given to the Applicant was that the visa officer (the
decision maker) believed that the Applicant would not leave Canada based on the
purpose of visit, the reasons now given during these proceedings reveal that the
background rationale of the decision maker does not support refusal based on
purpose of visit. In fact, the application was delayed for nearly five months and in
the end the decision was arrived at with the help of Artificial Intelligence
technology of Chinook 3+. It is not certain as to what information was analysed
by the aforesaid software and what was presented to the decision maker to
make up a decision. It can be presumed that not enough of human input has
gone into it, which is not appropriate for a complicated case involving business
immigration. It is also not apt in view of the importance of the decision to the
individual, who has committed a great deal of funds for this purpose. (emphasis added)
10. Chinook is a processing tool that it developed to deal with the higher volume of
applications. This tool allows DMs to review applications more quickly.
Specifically, the DM is able to pull information from the GCMS system for many
applications at the same time, review the information and make decisions and
generate notes in using a built-in note generator, in a fraction of the time it
previously took to review the same number of applications. It can be presumed
that not enough human input has gone into it, which is not appropriate for a
complicated case involving business immigration. In the case at hand, Chinook
Module 5- indicator management tool was used, which consists of risk indicators
and local word flags. A local word flag is used to assist in prioritizing applications.
It is left up to Chinook to search for these indicators and flags and create a
report, which is then copy and pasted into GCMS by the DM. The present case is
one that deserved priority processing being covered by GATS. Since the
appropriate inputs may not have been fed into the mechanised processes of
Chinook, which would flag priority in suchlike GATS cases, the DM¶s GCMS
notes read 3processing priority word flag: N/A . This is clearly wrong and betrays
the fallout in using technology to supplant human input. The use of Chinook has
caused there to be a lack of effective oversight on the decisions being generated.
It is also not apt in view of the importance of the decision to the individual, who
has committed a great deal of funds for this purpose (Baker supra). (emphasis added)
32. On the issue of Chinook, while it can be believed that faced with a large volume of
cases, IRCC has been working to develop efficiency-enhancing tools to assist
visa officers in the decision-making process. Chinook is one such tool. IRCC has
been placing heavy reliance on it for more than a year now. However, as always
with use of any technology, there are questions about its reliability and efficacy for
the purpose it sets out to achieve. There are concerns about the manner in which
information is processed and analysed. The working of the system is still unclear
to the general public. A decision rendered using it cannot be termed reasonable until it is elaborated to all stakeholders to what extent has machine replaced human input and how it impacts the final outcome. The test set by the Supreme Court in Vavilov has not been met.
The Applicant appeared to be almost making an argument that the complexity of the Applicant’s case suggested Chinook should not have been used and therefore a human should have reviewed it. However – there seemed to have been a gap in engaging both the fact that IRCC did not indicate it had used Chinook and that the reasons actually were more than normally responsive to the facts. I think also, the argument that a positive world flag should have been implemented but was not, ultimately did not get picked up the Court – but lacked a record of affidavit evidence or a challenge to the CTR […]
OPINION: IRCC Should Prioritize Work-Permit Holding Self-Employed/Contractors Seeking PR via Express Entry
As the debate goes on over whether the changes to Express Entry allowing for the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to tweak invitations and draws to target specific occupations or groups, I have a suggestion in the case it does go that way.
The current system of Canadian Experience Class (“CEC”) and Federal Skilled Worker (“FSW”) (and how the points are divided up) is at odds with the way the economy and workforce is going – around the issue of self-employment/contract work. Anecdotally (I do not yet have stats on this), individuals are now more interested in the gig economy, the ability to pursue multiple opportunities, of working virtually. Many of these types of opportunities are provided a contractor/self-employed basis.
Canada’s much-maligned self-employed program is both limited in scope (with a focus on athletics, arts, music requiring a certain level of cultural activity/world class performance and farmers) and in the excessive processing delays and lack of regulation to ensure carry-through of successful applicants. Spots are few and those clients of mine who have gone through the program recently have taken many years of precarious status to get to the finish line.
What I have seen a trend in at my offices over the pandemic and into this post-pandemic, are individuals who are self-employed/contractors in Canada – many either doing work that does not meet the requirements of the self-employed program but in other areas of research (on grants) or contractual work (as entrepreneurs and small businesses owners) who are excluded from the CEC. While their work counts towards the FSW, because their work does not count towards the Canadian Work Experience points, they often fall short of the draws.
If IRCC does choose this model of micro-managing and selecting occupations and subgroups, perhaps one group that could get early attention would be these individuals. They would not be hard to find in the system. Ask that applicants update their profile to also include self-employed/contractual history in Express Entry, and to put it in the work history section (rather than just in personal history). Based on these submissions, scoop a portion of them through an FSW draw specifically aimed at those who have Canadian contractual/self-employment experience in the past three years.
I really hope we shed light on this group. Among a recent consultation I had was with a PhD researcher who as been in Canada since high school, but because they are performing their work (equivalent to full-time hours) on a grant rather than as an employee they cannot get the extra points to be selected as current Comprehensive Ranking Score (“CRS”) thresholds. Because they are older (having chosen to go the PhD route), they lose points for language. An individual like this is forced by our Economic immigration options to abandon the research they are doing – which significantly benefits Canada – in order to likely hold a survival skilled employment position for a year, only to return back after becoming a PR. This defies logic and does not support our overall goal. Employers, I can even draw an example of my own legal industry, increasing are relying on contractual arrangements to keep doors open and indeed, the flexibility of choosing hours and balancing hybridity (not to mention the potential tax benefits for contractors/self-employed individuals) make these models also attractive for those we contract with.
I hope we shed light on how we are falling short and find solutions to help this important subset of migrants seeking permanency and support in Canada.
My Value Proposition
My Canadian immigration/refugee legal practice is based on trust, honesty, hard-work, and communication. I don’t work for you. I work with you.
You know your story best, I help frame it and deal with the deeper workings of the system that you may not understand. I hope to educate you as we work together and empower you.
I aim for that moment in every matter, big or small, when a client tells me that I have become like family to them. This is why I do what I do.
I am a social justice advocate and a BIPOC. I stand with brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ2+ and Indigenous communities. I don’t discriminate based on the income-level of my clients – and open my doors to all. I understand the positions of relative privilege I come from and wish to never impose them on you. At the same time, I also come from vulnerability and can relate to your vulnerable experiences.
I am a fierce proponent of diversity and equality. I want to challenge the racist/prejudiced institutions that still underlie our Canadian democracy and still simmer in deep-ceded mistrusts between cultural communities. I want to shatter those barriers for the next generation – our kids.
I come from humble roots, the product of immigrant parents with an immigrant spouse. I know that my birth in this country does not entitle me to anything here. I am a settler on First Nations land. Reconciliation is not something we can stick on our chests but something we need to open our hearts to. It involves acknowledging wrongdoing for the past but an optimistic hope for the future.
I love my job! I get to help people for a living through some of their most difficult and life-altering times. I am grateful for my work and for my every client.