“The tribunal is supposed to be immigrants’ last resort as the Parliament has given it the discretionary power to give immigrants a second chance if they breach the law,” said immigration lawyer Lawrence Wong, who obtained the data through an access to information request.
“But that second chance in reality is hard to come by. The national sentiment is pretty much the same. If you are an immigrant, don’t make a mistake. If you do, we want to see you kicked out.”
It’s believed to be the first time data about the loss of permanent residency at ports of entry has been made public, revealing the extent of residency noncompliance among immigrants trying to get back to Canada after lengthy stays overseas, said Wong.
Canada’s immigration law requires permanent residents to be physically present in Canada for at least 730 days in every five-year period in order to maintain their status. Otherwise, their residency will be revoked.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency, on average 1,423 permanent residents a year were stopped at the border for failing the requirement from 2010 to 2014, the most recent statistics available. During the period, Canada accepted some 260,000 newcomers annually.
The number of removal orders issued against these individuals had risen sharply to 1,413 in 2014 from 605 in 2008, when former Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney took over the department and cracked down on fraud.
Across Canada, Quebec had the highest detection rate; more than a third of the removal orders were issued in the province against the non-compliant immigrants returning to Canada.
Between 2008 and 2014, a total of 3,575 immigrants were slapped with removal orders for residency non-compliance at Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport in Montreal, dwarfing the 439 and 972 people respectively intercepted at Toronto’s Pearson airport and the Vancouver International Airport.
The numbers do not include those who had their permanent residency revoked due to criminality and misrepresentation, who were refused travel documents to return to Canada or who applied to voluntarily relinquish their permanent residence.
While all these immigrants who lost their status can appeal to the immigration appeal division based on errors in law or humanitarian and compassionate grounds such as hardship from separation with family in Canada, the border services agency data show their success rate hovers at about 10 per cent — and has declined in the past few years.
Those who successfully restored their permanent resident status dropped significantly from 127 or 17 per cent of 746 appellants in 2008 to 78 or 7.7 per cent of 1,008 people in 2014.
“Once you are issued a removal order, the chances of saving your permanent status are really very limited,” said Wong.