A recent Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) request found that nearly 60,000 applications are in limbo due to mismanagement.
CBC submitted an ATIP request (a legal method of requesting information from government organizations) that revealed 779 inactive Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officers had been assigned (59,456) to process pending and reopened applications. Officers who are inactive no longer use or have access to the Global Case Management System (GCMS), IRCC’s universal system for processing citizenship and immigration applications.
The active cases were assigned to inactive officers at Canadian airports, border ports, and processing centers and officers at consulates in India, the United States, the Philippines, and Brazil.
ATIP revealed the unique placeholder codes, the last login date, and the number of applications assigned to the inactive immigration officers.
The placeholder codes on GCMS notes are the only way IRCC officers can be publicly identified. An individual can request GCMS notes under the ATIP in order to receive IRCC’s notes about their immigration applications; these notes include correspondence from and to IRCC, documents received from the applicant, detailed notes from the officer reviewing the file, and other relevant information.
There is currently no explanation for why IRCC has assigned applications to inactive users; however, according to CBC, IRCC was unable to remove these inactive users from the GCMS as they would lose traceability.
IRCC has taken steps to combat a huge backlog of applications as a result of increased scrutiny and the need to welcome newcomers to Canada. As part of its plans to increase application processing speed, the department has hired 1,250 additional employees and committed to using advanced data analytics; as well as investing millions of dollars in developing a new digital system that will eventually replace the GCMS. The backlog of applications has also decreased in recent months, standing at 2.2 million applicants on December 9th, 2022.
In spite of these improvements, IRCC is still struggling to meet previous service standards due to a large backlog of applications. Immigration streams with smaller targets show this effect more dramatically, such as the Parents and Grandparents Program (PGP), which operates on a lottery system with yearly selections. For the past two years, IRCC has recycled applications submitted to its 2020 pool; a departure from prior processes, which disproportionately impact elderly applicants.
In 2022, the department achieved gains (and continues to commit to more measures in the future), but IRCC has not yet reached its pre-pandemic application levels and must continue to address these shortcomings in order to regain service standards and normalcy in application processing.