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Raj Sharma
Vancouver and Calgary
Raj Sharma, of Stewart Sharma Harsanyi, Barristers & Solicitors (one of Western Canada's largest immigration law firms) reviews developments in Canadian immigration law.
Recent Activity
Misrepresentation is broadly defined under the Act; the system is predicated on individuals being truthful and forthcoming. I've been doing this for almost 15 years and my clients still surprise me with a new fact scenario. Don't accept advice from anyone (even a lawyer or a consultant) to do so; the consequences of misrepresentation reverberate for years. Continue reading
Another day, another tragedy. We received a cold call from an Indian national who had a study permit which expired in August 2017. For reasons of his own, he had stopped going to school, but continued working part-time based on his mistaken belief that he could work without going to school. In any event, he took steps to rectify his situation. His employer obtained an LMIA for him and he could have simply filed an in Canada work permit application to have his status changed. Did he make this relatively simple and straightforward application? Of course not. His consultant and his employer told him to take the LMIA and go to the border for his work permit. Outcome: Not only was the work permit not issued, this individual has now been asked to leave Canada and confirm his departure with immigration otherwise have a removal order issued against him. Foreign nationals can obtain a work permit if they meet the requirements under s.190(3)(f) by presenting an LMIA, job offer, supporting documents at a land POE. We would recommend this generally to nationals from a visa exempt country (an American, some Latin countries, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the usual suspects). The... Continue reading
Citizenship and Immigration has recently changed the checklist for the submission of spousal sponsorship applications. Their motivation to do so is noble: they wish to increase consistency with respect to forms and documents and in so doing decrease processing times. In the course of making these changes, they are experiencing some growing pains. Applications are being sent back, in some cases even where all documents on the checklist have been provide along with forms and corresponding fees. We recently experienced the return of an application which did meet the checklist and additional requirements. After it was returned we immediately contacted the Operations Manager at CPC-Mississauga. The Manager not only responded to us in a helpful manner, they actually called our office to assist and provide some instructions on what we could do to rectify the situation so that no prejudice would be accorded to our client. Our communication was open, friendly and responsive on both sides and we are now in a position where it appears the situation would be resolved. The above positive experience stood in stark contrast to our recent experience at an Alternate Dispute Resolution Conference (ADR). Our client had filed a conjugal partnership sponsorship which was... Continue reading
Rishi Nagar: Hi, I'm Rishi Nagar; I’m a journalist from India and now have the pleasure of working for one of Canada’s largest multicultural broadcasters. It’s my pleasure to take part in this conversation that is of significant interest to our community, that is, immigration, and the consequences of misrepresentation. Raj, what is misrepresentation? Raj Sharma: Thank you Mr. Nagar, misrepresentation is very broadly defined under the immigration and refugee protection act. Misrepresentation is basically either misrepresentation, it could be the withholding, it could be the omission of a material fact that could induce an error in the administration of the act. Here I think our community and we discussed this a lot on Red FM, we discussed this a lot in other forums but I think our community has driven a lot of the jurisprudence in the area of misrepresentation. It's something that I deal with on a daily basis. Rishi Nagar: How many types of misrepresentation are there? Raj Sharma: I don't know I think that's a tough question. I've been doing immigration since 2002 when I started as an immigration hearings officer and so it's been about 15 years and I'm still coming across new, novel approaches... Continue reading
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An allegation of misrepresentation is a big problem. It's one of the most common issues that we help address. I'll be speaking to this issue at the Canadian Bar Association, National Immigration Conference this year. The system - which handles hundreds of thousands of applications per year - requires individuals to tell the truth (the whole truth) because to definitely check every application would cause the system to grind to a halt (they would also need to hire private investigators in every source country). As a result, misrepresentation is broadly defined and carries with it serious consequences as a deterrence. Continue reading
[Raj: Canada's refugee laws are broader than most countries and includes "Persons in Need of Protection" not just "Convention Refugees"] Generalized Risk and Gang Violence The protection afforded to a claimant under paragraph 97(1)(b) of IRPA must be personal and not one faced generally by others in the country. The million dollar question in the last number of years is what is meant by personal risk, and how have the courts defined it in recent years? In the past few years the jurisprudence has become muddied to say the least, with often competing lines of interpretation on when a risk becomes personalized when an individual is faced with gang related violence. Decisions of the RPD emboldened by certain decisions from the Federal Court have repeatedly denied otherwise well founded claims for protection because the risk to them is generalized. This is particularly the case for applicants from countries in Central America, where crime and gang violence is rampant. In recent jurisprudence, the courts have clearly grappled with where the line in the sand should be drawn in these cases. For example, is a shopkeeper who flees Guatemala because he refuses to pay extortion money simply a victim of crime for... Continue reading
Individuals looking for assistance in dealing with Canada's immigration authorities can hire a lawyer or a registered immigration consultant. There has been, over the years, many issues regarding the regulation, governance, and quality of representation with both. The following audio is my appearance (along that of Lorne Waldman) before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration discussing the ongoing issues arising from the regulation and governance of immigration consultants earlier this month. Continue reading
Mr. Chair: Thank you. Ms. Dzerowicz, five minutes please. Ms. Dzerowicz: Thank you. I didn't expect to have time but delighted that I do. I'm just going to continue with some of the questioning and I only have five minutes so if you could respond as quickly as possible. I'm just going to go back to the governance and maybe start off where you left off Mr. Sharma where you suggested maybe we could have Immigration Consultants register with Provincial Law Societies. If we were to do that, what would happen to the education requirements and what would happen with ICCRC? Raj Sharma: ICCRC would be gone. Ms. Dzerowicz: So it’d be gone. That would be an alternative system, and then educational requirements would? Raj Sharma: Would be set by the Provincial Law Societies. Ms. Dzerowicz: How about the conflict between a lot of lawyers who would love to see them just do the Immigration Consultants, or would that just shake out? Raj Sharma: Well, I'm sure certain lawyers didn't want paralegals to be providing legal work in Ontario either. They'll have to be cognizant that, again, lawyers don't have the monopoly over the delivery of all legal work in... Continue reading
Mr. Chair: Thank you Mr. Sharma. Perhaps you could continue that later. Mr. Saroya, you have five minutes please. Mr. Saroya: Thank you Mr. Chair and thank you both, Raj and Lorne. The two fine lawyers are here but we are talking [inaudible 00:45:25] consultants. I agree with the both of you, what you have said so far. The real issue is previous terms of the government, they're trying to fix the issue. They're [inaudible 00:45:39] the problem still exists. We hear it every single day. Most of the [MP's 00:45:47] have at least two members looking for answers on a daily basis. I think the problem is we have consultants, they have the sub-consultant, then they have the ghost consultants and each sitting back in India, back in Pakistan, and Hong Kong and China. I even heard from somebody that said consultant number so and so is looking to hire some people back home who can find some cases. Then he will go back twice a year, three times a year when he can fix the fix. The crookedness has gone so far, I don't think ICCRC have the courage to fix it. It hasn't worked, it won't work,... Continue reading
Mr. Tabarra: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll be splitting my time with my colleagues and Mr. Sarai. My question is for both of you. You mentioned, Mr. Sharma, in your opening statements that anyone over 18 can pass an exam. An exam consists of six months and 320 hours, and they can represent a lot of their clients. My question to both of you is in regards to the UK system, how there's a tier certification that has seven levels of advanced services that Immigration Consultants can give. Sorry Mr. Waldman, you mentioned also that a minimum standard of education, so if you can just elaborate on maybe how we can learn from the UK system and how we can get a certain of education and certification for consultants to have in order to perform their services properly and better service to their clients. Mr. Waldman: Yeah. As I said, I think that ICCRC should be doing it but if they're not, the government can put into the regulations minimum standards and they could say, "If a consultant ... In order to be a member of the ICCRC and to provide these services, the consultant must have this education in... Continue reading
Jenny Kwan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I appreciate that. Again, I think it's most unfortunate that we can't get on with a debate with a motion that I table and a motion that really calls for a study on a critical issue that's before us. If we don't do this, the fear mongering will continue and it's not good for our country. It is not good for all of us together in a multi-cultural society. I implore the government members to think about that and maybe we can get on with it and do the work that is so very much necessary. With that, I'll turn my attention back to the study at hand. As I was saying, I thank both the witnesses for their comments. I do want to follow up on some specific questions. First off, given the situation that we have with ICCRC, which frankly on all accounts is not doing their job, most certainly not doing their job properly, the issues being raised from other witnesses, "Should consultants be self-regulated?" I wonder if I can get Mr. Sharma to answer that question and I'll turn to Mr. Waldman on that. Raj Sharma: I think... Continue reading
Mr. Chair: Thank you Mr. Waldman. Thank you. Mr. Tilson, seven minutes please. David Tilson: Lawyers don't like consultants and they don't like paralegals. I can quite frankly understand why. I think we need paralegals, and I think we need consultants. All of the issues that you're raising are good ones. Paralegals, as I understand it, can only do certain things. They're restricted from doing all sorts of things. I guess what the committee is looking for is recommendations from witnesses such as you so that we in turn can recommend to the government changes. If we maintained having consultants, you mentioned education, but are there certain things that perhaps they just don't have the training for, may never have the training for, and should be restricted to doing certain things? Mr. Sharma, perhaps we could start with you as to what, if you could recommend to the committee what consultants should not do. Raj Sharma: Look, in terms of, let's say we get the 320 hours, and I'm very mindful that lawyers may be perceived as being anti Immigration Consultants ... I don't want my, and I don't want to come across as this as being self-serving in any... Continue reading
Mr. Chair: Thank you Mr. Waldman. The first round of questions, Mr. Anandasangaree. Anandasangaree: Thank you Mr. Chair and thank you both for joining us and sharing your perspectives. I think one of the major challenges that we are facing apart from the regulated consultants is the issue of ghost consultants and those who are effectively operating under the radar. In Ontario, for example, the Law Society regulates those who are providing legal services, and if they're not licensed to do so, there are provisions for the Law Society to enforce against those people as there are in the medical profession as well as a dental practice. What can we do to address the issue of those who are not licensed and who will probably never be licensed? What kind of enforced mechanisms should be use and what is the right authorities at the CBSA or is RCMP, the right organization to do the enforcement whether it's in Canada or outside? Start with you Lorne. Mr. Waldman: Well, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act prohibits anyone who isn't licensed from providing paid legal services in the immigration context, so the law already has in place provisions that would ensure that... Continue reading
Mr. Chair: Good afternoon. Pursuant to standing order 108-2 and the motions adopted by the committee on October 4, 2016 and April 3, 2017, the committee will resume its study on Immigration Consultants. We had Mr. David Arnold from an Australian High Commission scheduled, but I understand that an hour ago we unfortunately received a message that he had to stay on post. There will be a written submission, and if there are any questions that have been prepared for this witness, please submit those questions. They'll be passed on to Mr. Arnold and responded to. Before us today, we have Mr. Raj Sharma, Managing Partner, Stewart Sharma Harsanyi and Mr. Lorne Waldman, the Barrister and Solicitor for Lorne Waldman and Associates. Welcome, gentleman. Mr. Sharma, the floor is yours, seven minutes. Raj Sharma: Thank you, sir. First of all, I'd like to say that it's an absolute honor and privilege to appear and participate in your study of the legal regulatory and disciplinary frameworks governing and overseeing Immigration Consultants in Canada. By way of background, I am an immigration lawyer in Calgary. Before I went into private practice, I was a Refugee Protection Officer with the Refugee Protection Division... Continue reading
My opening remarks to the Parliamentary Committee on Citizenship and Immigration delivered on May 8, 2017 in Ottawa: Thank you; it’s an honour and privilege to appear and participate in your study of the legal, regulatory and disciplinary frameworks governing and overseeing immigration consultants in Canada. I am an immigration lawyer practicing in Calgary; before I went into private practice I was a Refugee Protection Officer at the Refugee Protection Division, at the Immigration and Refugee Board. As a former immigration hearings officer and now as an immigration lawyer I’ve done hundreds of hearings before every Division of the IRB. I, my law partner, and our associates appear regularly before the Federal Court of Canada which requires a review of the record below. Over the years, I’ve also had the opportunity to host a Punjabi language radio show in Calgary and for obvious reasons immigration is a matter that is very important to my community. I've heard many horror stories. Few come forward to complain and even if they did, it's clear that the ICCRC has failed in terms of disciplining it's errant members. I’ve seen lawyers and immigration consultants at all three divisions of the IRB. I’ve seen their... Continue reading
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Yesterday the Senate approved (with some amendments) the Liberal government's Bill C-6 which repeals many parts of the current (and short lived) Citizenship Act. My summary and a video follow. Continue reading
I was invited to attend at the Minister of Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada Roundtable to discuss settlement levels and whether IRCC has struck the right balance between immigration classes (economic and non-economic) and programs. I was invited last year to discuss similar policy issues and objectives with the previous Minister (The Honourable John McCallum). Both invitations for my attendance were due to Member of Parliament Darshan Kang. MP Kang and I have known each other for some time. As in the South Asian/Punjabi custom I simply call him "uncle." He is held in high esteem within the South Asian community in Calgary. Being a Liberal in Conservative Alberta, that is, to quote Clarence Darrow is akin to be a stranger in a strange land. Unlike many who saw expediency or opportunism in becoming Conservatives, either provincially or federally, Mr. Kang remained in the Liberal fold. His principled politics and reputation saw him become a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Provincial Liberal Party. He then surprisingly, remarkably made the decision to run in the Federal Election and became a Liberal Member of Parliament in a sea of Conservative blue. MP Kang is an ardent advocate of immigrants and immigration... Continue reading
It was my pleasure discussing the plight of many temporary foreign workers at the Human Rights Forum a couple of years ago; my speech drawing parallels between the low skill (low wage) temporary foreign workers and those termed 'coolies' from the past is below. Anoush Newman: Hello and good afternoon, everyone. My name is Anoush Newman, and I'm the 2015 director for The Human Rights Forum at the GlobalFest. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to our 2015 Human Rights Forum. This project was conceived by the GlobalFest Calgary shortly after the city of Calgary signed on as a cosignatory for the Canadian Municipalities Against Racism, Discrimination Declaration. And, since 2007 GlobalFest has been organizing these forums to promote civil liberty and equality, hopefully, leading to less discriminatory practices. We take great pride in the fact that our forum is very unique and unmatched locally and nationally. We believe that with these types of projects that we build liberal democratic society to protect the rights of all the members of the community. Although we live in one small corner of this great nation, but we are greatly affected by global issues, issues that might be considered too... Continue reading
*Note names and other identifying details have been changed to protect my client’s privacy Mandeep first came to my office two years ago. What he told was surprisingly and saddening. Satvinder, his father, came to Canada in the early 90’s sponsored by his sibling as a single sibling (an option under the former Immigration Act) - this was to be the initial lie. In reality he was already married and he and his wife Pammy already had Mandeep (Mandeep was just a toddler when his father came to Canada). Satvinder turned around and sponsored Pammy, showing their marriage took place after his landing in Canada (the second lie). Pammy arrived in Canada quickly, about a year later, leaving Mandeep behind with family. The problem of course was then Mandeep (who was obviously older than the changed date of the marriage) and how to bring him to Canada. Lies have a tendency to multiply. One lie needs other lies, and inevitably one lie leads to another and yet another. Mandeep was "adopted" by his own parents by way of a Deed of Adoption and sponsored to Canada. This fraudulent adoption was refused; there was an interview in Delhi with Mandeep and... Continue reading
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Immigration authorities made the allegation that my client (a young man, a foreign national in Canada) was inadmissible under paragraph 34(1)(f) of the IRPA - that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) (of which he is a member) is an organization that has engaged in the subversion by force of the Bangladeshi government and has engaged in terrorism. When I first reviewed the Minister's admissibility package, I was somewhat taken aback. Politics on the subcontinent, particularly Bangladesh and Pakistan are rough-and-tumble affairs. As a former Refugee Protection Officer, I reviewed hundreds of refugee stories. Details became blurred with PPP members fearing the PML, Awami League or AL members fearing the BNP, and a whole host of other acronyms (JKLF, etc. popping up) and, with changes in government, allegations of harm, violence being reversed. It never crossed our minds back then to invoke s.34 against whole political parties notwithstanding the violence perpetuated by individual "goons". We certainly did it for other, limited, brutal organizations such as the SSP. The fact of the matter is that relations between the Awami League (now in power) and the BNP are deeply bitter and vituperative. It looks like it has crossed someone's mind because this is... Continue reading
This is advice that I'm not sure I'm qualified to give; or, perhaps, it's that any such advice should be accepted for what it is, and with a grain of salt. My own path to the law and my approach to the practice of law will necessarily be different, and specific to myself and my time. I was exposed to the barrister tradition of the law at a relatively young and impressionable age and that too in a moment of great stress for myself and my family. To paraphrase Dershowitz, lawyers tend to hero-worship and advice should be suspect given that the one offering it often wants the recipient to follow in his or her own footsteps. But the profession seems as popular as ever. Perhaps lawyer-aspirants are still swayed by media or film portrayals of lawyers as warriors in the courtroom, striving, seeking and obtaining justice for their clients. Maybe they're swayed by the glamour of law or perceptions of law as a means to an end or an end unto itself for raking in hand over fist money. My first thought is that all lawyer-aspirants needs to understand that there's little glamour, but unremitting hard work and you... Continue reading
The Canadian immigration system seeks firstly to bar criminals or terrorists entry. If these proclivities come to light after the fact, those tasked with enforcement seek to excise these individuals from our society. While they have formidable powers sometimes removal is stymied by the refusal, reluctance or intransigence of the country of origin or country of return. Jahanzeb Malik, a citizen of Pakistan came to Canada as an international student and was sponsored by his spouse and became a Permanent Resident. Canada sought to deport rather than try him for terrorism or other crimes in a criminal court. Had he obtained Canadian Citizenship, he would not be subject to the jurisdiction of the IRPA and the Immigration and Refugee Board. The standard of proof to strip a Permanent Resident of status under the IRPA is far lower than that of "beyond a reasonable doubt". He was found inadmissible by the Immigration Division under s.34 based on evidence that he was plotting to bomb the US Consulate and the financial district in Toronto. The decision is chilling, detailing Malik's commitment to his cause, his dedication to wreak destruction and seek the death of innocent Canadians. Malik and his lawyer didn't challenge... Continue reading
I was recently at the Immigration Appeal Division to deal with a negative residency determination made against my client. I wanted to provide an overview regarding the residency appeal procedure. After the appellant files an appeal against a negative residency appeal with the IRB they receive the Appeal Record. The hearing is then scheduled. In such appeals the appellant will receive a notice to appear indicating the address of the Immigration and Refugee Board (here in Calgary, at Suite 201-225 Manning Road NE). Such hearings are typically scheduled for two hours. The opposing party, the Minister, is represented by the hearings officer. Permanent Residents face a negative residency determination and such appeals when they don't comply with the residency obligation (s.28 of the IRPA). The first step of course is to seek exemption from the requirement and put your best foot forward to the responsible, however, if a negative determination has been made, then the PR has the right to seek relief at the IAD. Such matters are not a foregone conclusion. As they say, however, the devil is in the details, and if residency appeals were based solely on the fact of non-compliance or shortfall in terms of the... Continue reading
We recently successfully obtained study permits for two students from the Middle East. One hailed from a country listed on the United States travel ban list while the other country is undergoing political turmoil and violence and our client is an ethnic minority in this country. Of course we prepared the files appropriately. Where we could show positive travel history we did. We showed family support and income in both cases. We provided statements from our clients indicating their "gameplan" in terms of why they wished to undertake these studies and why they would return home at the completion of studies. The reality is we file similar applications every day and even well prepared applications fail on the basis of a cursory review from a Visa Officer at a foreign consulate or Embassy. We have successfully challenged improper refusals to the Federal Court, but the inequities in the system remain obvious. Why are similar and sometimes even identical applications subject to different outcomes? The Liberal government discussed having an administrative appeals process instituted for visitor visa refusals. While this would be worthwhile, it seems like reforming the study permit process would result in more benefits to our programs and policies... Continue reading
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Here are my notes, such as they are, for my presentation today at the Legal Education Society of Alberta (LESA) Immigration Fundamentals Seminar. The consequences of criminality for refugees, foreign nationals, permanent residents and even citizens are manifold. Continue reading