‘Appalling’ shortage of immigration appeal judges means long delays for justice, Calgary lawyers warn

June 6, 2017

By Jennifer Lee, CBC News |

Calling it a “crisis,” Calgary lawyers are warning an extreme shortage of judges to deal with immigration appeals in western Canada will make already lengthy waits for family re-unification unacceptably long.

The Immigration Appeal Division — a tribunal that hears rejected family-class immigration cases — is experiencing a dramatic reduction in board members.

The majority of cases dealt with by the tribunal involve people trying to bring spouses and other family members to Canada. It also hears cases of permanent residents, refugees and others who have been ordered out of the country.

According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), 11 federally-appointed judges should be hearing appeals — in Calgary and Vancouver — for the entire western region. But as of June 16, the IRB says it will be down to just one judge in each city.

The Privy Council Office, which took over the appointment process last year, tells CBC News there is one full-time and one part-time position in Vancouver and one member in Calgary.

“I’m very alarmed,” said Peter Wong, a Calgary immigration lawyer who says, even when there was a full complement, the western region was short-staffed. “This crisis has already occurred.”

Fears of more delays, cancellations

The glut of vacancies is spurring a cascade of concern that the western arm of the Immigration Appeal Division — which dealt with 1,756 new cases last year alone — is about to grind to a halt.

Michael Greene, a partner in Calgary-based Sherritt Greene Immigration Lawyers, calls the situation “appalling.”

“Within a week, they’re basically going to have an empty house,” said Greene, who points out the one full-time judge left in Vancouver will be a new appointee.

New members generally take nine to 12 months to be considered fully productive.

“Everybody else will be gone and [there will be] nobody to handle this enormous volume,” said Greene.

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