Calgary·Q&A

Lawyer questions Kellie Leitch's understanding of immigration system

A conservative leadership candidate’s controversial proposal for screening immigrants entering Canada is putting the spotlight on how exactly people get admitted to the country. Calgary immigration lawyer Evelyn Ackah says it's not easy to get into Canada.

‘If it was easy, I would not have a job,’ immigration lawyer says

Evelyn Ackah, an immigration lawyer in Calgary, questions Kellie Leitch’s knowledge of the current immigration system in Canada. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

A conservative leadership candidate's controversial proposal for screening immigrants entering Canada is putting the spotlight on how exactly people get admitted to the country.

Kellie Leitch told the Calgary Eyeopener Thursday the fact a video she put on social media last week has been viewed by so many people is proof her message on immigration is resonating with the public. 

Leitch thinks all immigrants, refugees and visitors to Canada should have a face-to-face interview with an immigration officer and be screened for "Canadian values."

But immigration lawyer Evelyn Ackah questions Leitch's knowledge of the current system. Ackah, the managing lawyer at the Calgary firm Ackah Business Immigration Law, spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener Friday.

The following interview has been condensed and edited.

Immigrating to Canada is "a lot of work and years and years of effort and really expensive," Evelyn Ackah says.

Q: What do you make of Kellie Leitch's proposal that every immigration applicant who wants to come to Canada should be interviewed face to face?

A: Well I think that she doesn't understand the immigration system. So for one, almost all immigrants are actually seen already face to face. If you're coming in as a permanent resident, which is an immigrant, or a refugee, you are screened at the consulate.

You're screened by the humanitarian organizations, you've got police checks done for every place you lived for six months or more since you were 18. There's full scrutiny.

Q: Leitch also thinks we need to screen immigrants to make sure they hold "Canadian values" such as equal opportunity, hard work, helping others, generosity, freedom and tolerance. What do you make of that argument?

A: How do you test for that?

It doesn't really seem to be practical, and it doesn't seem to make sense. I think really what's underlying that is she's looking at certain types of people, and I think if she was more honest and up front about that, then we can have a real discussion.

Q: For someone who hasn't gone through the immigration screening system, is it easy to get into Canada?

A: If it was easy I would not have a job. You would not need an immigration lawyer to go through the forms and the process and the interviews and the prepping and all of that if it was easy. It is actually a lot of work and years and years of effort and really expensive.

The reality is it is a lot of work and people spend years trying to get into our wonderful country and when they get here, the majority of them, I would say 99 per cent of them, want to be outstanding Canadian citizens.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

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