Lottery system has merit, but also flaws, says immigration lawyer

A change to the way immigrants apply to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada has been poorly executed and is unfair, Kitchener immigration lawyer Jennifer Roggemann says.

Clients frustrated by changes made a few weeks before documents were due

Kitchener immigration lawyer Jennifer Roggemann says her clients who had completed paperwork to apply to bring parents and grandparents to Canada are frustrated after the federal government announced in mid-December it was changing the system from first-come, first served to a lottery. (Gajus/Shutterstock)

A change to the way immigrants apply to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada has been poorly executed and is unfair, according to a Kitchener immigration lawyer.

Jennifer Roggemann said the federal government announced in mid-December the system would change from first-come, first-serve to a lottery system.

The short notice of the change meant many of her clients – who had their paperwork ready to go under the old system – are now left waiting to see if they will win the chance to apply.

"They're frustrated," she said. "Most of my clients, they hired in June, July, even last February to start this process."

She said when the government said there would be changes announced Dec. 8, and then it got pushed to Dec. 14, she knew it was going to mean big changes.

"I said to my clients, stop. All stop. This is going to be the major one," she said.

'Lottery can never be fair'

Between Jan. 3 and Feb. 2, 2017, Canadian citizens and permanent residents who want to sponsor their parents or grandparents can complete an online form. The department will then randomly pick 10,000 prospective sponsors and invite them to complete the full application.

Kevork Tanielian of Toronto said he has completed all the required forms to bring his mother to Canada from Bulgaria, but it's all been "for nothing," given the changes to the system.

"It's been like a roller coaster in a sense, because it took a tremendous amount of paperwork that needed to be completed," Tanielian told CBC Toronto's Metro Morning on Wednesday.

"But at the last moment we were told that this is already gone. So all of this time and money that we put into preparing the paperwork was for nothing at this point."
Olena Stetskevych of Ottawa immigrated to Canada from Ukraine in late 2010. The only child said the plan was to bring her parents here as soon as possible. (Robyn Miller)

Olena Stetskevych of Ottawa said she was planning on submitting her application to bring her parents from Ukraine this year after working the required three years in Canada.

"Lottery can never be fair. It's a matter of luck," Stetskevych said.

"There is no fairness there because it's not intended to be fair. It's just a game. You can be lucky or not lucky."

Lottery form doesn't ensure eligibility

Roggemann said she was surprised to see that the online form people fill out to be part of the lottery does nothing to ensure that those applying are even eligible.

She said she expected to see at least a question about income, but all the form asks for is a person's name, address and email.

"Are you kidding, this is it?" she said, adding that the form is only online, so anyone who does not have access to internet is also at a disadvantage.

"There's no guarantee [the] 10,000 they draw will be actually eligible and will have a complete application," Roggemann said.

She said the the lottery leaves those applying in a tough spot. If they have all their documents ready to go in case they are allowed to apply, they risk having those documents expire if they aren't picked and have to try again in 2018.

Then there's the people who will apply, but won't be prepared. When they're told they can apply, she said they'll have just a few weeks to scramble and get everything in order.

Finally, she asks, what happens if, of the 10,000 who can apply, 10 per cent aren't eligible? She said the government has not been clear on how it will handle that situation.

Roggemann allows that the idea of a draw has merit, because it puts everyone on equal footing, but said that the way this lottery has been rolled out has some big problems with it that need to be worked out.

with files from Robyn Miller, Andrea janus

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