On February 3 2011, the Canadian Immigration Department announced centralization in the initial processing of in-Canada Humanitarian and Compassionate applications.  In-Canada H&Cs will be initially screened in Vancouver and thereafter, if necessary, sent to a local Canadian immigration office.  This decision was no doubt an attempt to curtail the ever-longer processing times of such applications.  I have seen cases as old as 4-5 years.  Anti-immigration advocates take note: the delay in processing these cases does not mean that these applicants’ removals from Canada are delayed.  Indeed, there are cases where  applicants have been deported from Canada and their H&C case has remained in Canada, un-decided by an officer.

Most in Canada H&C applications are based on a person’s assertion of economic establishment in Canada, with evidence of some risk to the person if they are deported to their country of citizenship.   The ideal, more likely successful H&C case has even more:  an applicant that possesses financial establishment in Canada (such as savings and/or a house), as well as a basis for some fear of returning to her country of origin (especially where the government in that country doesn’t provide protection), and an adoring Canadian born child who is doing well in school, and can’t accompany the applicant back to the country of origin.

Admittedly, the above ingredients are rarely found in one application (I have had only one such case with the above ingredients).  For all other cases, the applicant is often at the mercy of the individual immigration officer applying the vague policy guidelines.   The policy guidelines of necessity have to be vague, so as to avoid a flood of successful H&C applicants that would overwhelm the annual intake of immigrants to Canada, and also, not be in line with Canada’s other processing categories.  Other categories include work and study visas leading to a CEC class visa, family class visas, provincial nominee visas, and federal skilled worker visas.

There are differing opinions on what amounts of supporting documents comprise a successful H&C application.  Some Canadian immigration lawyers and consultants submit all evidence of any type of economic or social activity in Canada.  Such an approach can cloud the merits of a strong H&C application by drowning the immigration officer in sundry documents such as cable bills, vague personal reference letters, and completion of education in recreational endeavours such as flower arranging.   I can’t imagine an immigration officer’s notes state something like, “Given the diligent selection of cable programming and notable upgrading of skills in flower arranging, as well as a letter from Mr. Jones’ upstairs neighbour who said “Mr. Jones  is a nice person”,  Mr. Jones appears to deserve a permanent resident visa on humanitarian and compassionate grounds”.

Evidence of volunteer work in Canada is useful, but not in and of itself determinative of a successful application based on establishment in Canada.   A more ideal candidate would have not just a volunteer letter, but a community that is actively helping the person settle in Canada (e.g.  a community that is donating funds and directly providing the wherewithal to cover the applicant’s living  and educational with a letter of support from a city council, a school principal and school superintendent.

A psychological report corroborating the relationship between a Canadian relative and the applicant (indicating the important role played by the H&C applicant) is very helpful.

Playing a key employment role for a Canadian employer that cannot be easily replaced by a local Canadian is also a compelling basis to assert economic establishment in Canada that will not likely be ignored by an immigration officer.

Immigration officers often discount the economic establishment of a person by stating something like:

“Although Ms. X has acquired some savings and assets in Canada, Ms. X received due process by making  a refugee claim, then taking that claim to Federal court, and then filing a risk assessment, and therefore it is expected that a measure of establishment will take place.”

In other words, the officer is stating that  Ms X was inevitably going to acquire some economic establishment since she kept filing immigration applications and appeals, so her establishment in Canada is not to be given any positive consideration whatsoever.  Regretfully, based on the vague nature of H&C guidelines, the Federal Court has confirmed that immigration officers have the authority to look at an H&C candidate’s economic establishment arbitrarily.  In such circumstances, it may be argued that the less stellar economic achievements of the candidate should not be counted negatively if, for example, there is some credible risk to them in their country of origin, or there is a Canadian relative who truly relies on the H&C applicant.

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