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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
*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... 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... 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.... 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... 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... 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... 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
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Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead - Benjamin Franklin The story of Farhan Mahmood urf/aka Muhammad Irfan (or vice versa?) reads like a 1970's Bollywood double-role masala flick. I've written in the past as to the apparent ease in circumventing our immigration laws. You don't need to be a criminal mastermind or Frank Abagnale to pull one over nice, polite Canada. I've written in the past how terrorists have entered this country and remained for decades. In this case, a foreign national was able to enter Canada and live here for years with a double identity. Not knowing who it is that we are allowing entry into Canada undermines the integrity of our immigration system and undermines the security of our society. All you need is the ability to get a another passport with a different name. It's harder to change the face that you... Continue reading
As I've previously written, Canada is a land of immigrants and it is a testament to our immigration system and safeguards that immigrants that choose this country don't increase crime and may in fact suppress it. The jury is still out on the economic costs to welcoming immigrants and it's clear that we need to improve the outcomes of those that come to this country because it's getting longer for them to achieve parity with native born Canadians. That being said, recent immigrants are still holding their own, and in the words of John Ivison of the National Post: The employment rate for foreign-born men was higher than for native-born men, a statistic that gives the lie to the popular image of the immigrant welfare scrounger. But, despite the positive impact immigrants have made to this country, the fact of the matter is that some have been able to circumvent... Continue reading
It's a provocative title, but let's be clear about a few points before anyone conflates what I'm trying to say and their own personal views on immigrants. The reality of the Canadian experience - more so than any other similar country - is that Canada is a land of immigrants. Indeed, the number of Canadians born abroad is more than ever, and that proportion is a little more than a fifth of the population. Further, immigrants do not increase crime. A bevy of criminologists have undermined that fallacy. Immigrants not only do not increase crime, it appears they may well suppress it. It is true that the jury is still out on the economic benefit of immigration - or, put another way, the true cost of immigration. Generally speaking, our immigration safeguards are working. Despite that, Kellie Leitch, a leadership aspirant for the Conservative Party, has raised the question of... Continue reading
Each Visa Office is unique. Some are facilitative, others not so much. Individuals - particularly those that are seeking visitor visas - seeking to come to Canada are supplicants; there is no right of entry to foreign nationals. Visa Officers hold the key and decide whether or not to let someone into Canada. The decision making process is opaque. Applicants send in their application and supporting documents and the result is somewhat akin to shaking a Magic 8 Ball. Many bona fide visitors are refused because of generalizations and stereotypes, particularly if they come from poor countries. A recent refusal at our office involved a middle aged couple from India. They were well established in that country, owning property, filing taxes, running a business. They had more than sufficient funds and were seeking to visit the wife's three siblings in Canada, all citizens. Most importantly, they were leaving behind their... Continue reading
Over the past few weeks, Canadians have been inundated with media reports of desperate migrants trekking over rugged, snow-covered terrain in freezing temperatures into Canada from the United States to claim asylum. The image of an RCMP officer joyfully welcoming a child migrant has likely appeared on your social media feed, along with a caption proudly proclaiming that refugees are welcome in Canada. This narrative of Canada as a shining castle on a hill and that its gates have been flung open for refugees is deeply flawed and does not reflect the enormous obstacles migrants face in obtaining asylum in Canada. The improbable election of Donald J. Trump has caused many journalists to heed to the wisdom of Jeet Heer: take Trump and his campaign promises both literally and seriously. The Executive Order banning immigration from seven Muslim majority countries and refugees for a 120-day period was the clearest indication... Continue reading
There is increasing and deserved attention on a new government bill expanding the powers of US Customs officers operating at preclearance centres at airports and other ports of entry in Canada. Some of the dangers of the bill are outlined below: http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/6140/Preclearance-bill-raises-concerns.html The above article referenced concerns about U.S border officers having the right to detain Canadian travellers to the United States. These concerns were expressed before the Trump presidency. In light of the many and numerous horror stories of travellers being detained, harangued, strip searched, and being subjected to intrusive and intimidating questioning, the Liberal government needs to rethink this Bill. As of right now, no government official has even been able to outline what actual tangible benefits Canada would accrue as a result of this deal. Are there any benefits? What has been negotiated? How is this going to ostensibly help trade and freer borders? The Liberals need... Continue reading
I've been reading “Points of Entry: How Canada's Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In” by Vic Satzewich. The author managed to - after obtaining with some difficulty the necessary bureaucratic blessings - interview over a hundred visa and case officers, and attend and examine the inner workings of a number of overseas visa offices. Reading the book confirmed many of my own experiences both as a former immigration officer and now for more than a decade, an immigration lawyer charged with facilitating my client's interactions with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada - formerly known as Citizenship and Immigration Canada. In this post, I'm going to focus on the Visa Office Interview. Interviews are rarely scheduled for most temporary resident visas. After two recent TRV's were refused, I sought judicial review challenging those decisions. After succeeding, both were sent back for re-determination by different officers and interviews were convoked for both.... Continue reading
The refugees are coming! The refugees are coming !Even after we exercised our moral authority to specifically help the Syrians by thousands, the refugees keep coming! They are now not even passively waiting for deportation or unfair treatment by the American authorities or danger and risk in their home countries, they are proactively taking their lives and the lives of their children into their own hands and illegally crossing our borders in the search for safety. Outrageous! These people, thinking their lives have worth and dignity and value and acting in a manner that maximizes their chances for health, safety and even possible beneficial economic outcomes. We must stop them! We must stop them at any cost! Our borders are sacrosanct and we must utilize our proverbial stick and take away any carrots to stop this infiltration and these queue jumpers who should wait nicely in refugee camps for us... Continue reading
It's always a pleasure discussing immigration and refugee issues with the reporters from VICE Canada. Here, I discussed the plight of those that brave sub-zero temperatures, knee and waist deep snow to seek refuge in this country with VICE report Jake Kivanc. Some excerpts are below: In Ottawa, some Conservative MPs—such as Michelle Rempel—have balked at the idea of providing refuge to individuals entering Canada illegally. However, critics of that narrative say the cost of crossing is already incredibly high as it is. "Canada appears to some people to be Disneyland for refugees," Raj Sharma, a Calgary immigration lawyer whose firm has been working overtime due to the number of new claimants, told VICE Tuesday. "There is a very difficult process here, it's not like people are just being given a pass to do as they wish," Sharma told VICE, adding that many who have been arrested are still awaiting... Continue reading
I discussed President Trump's new Executive Order yesterday with reporter Tracy Nagai with Global News. To borrow a term from his favourite pastime, he took a mulligan. Rather than fight out his first (both flawed in its drafting and flawed in its execution) Executive Order all the way to the Supreme Court, he simply went back to the drawing board. But a rose by any other name smells as sweet; a #muslimban by any other name, is still a #muslimban. Like some bad zombie movie, the Executive Order has come back to life, stumbling and shambling about causing chaos and confusion in its wake. Continue reading
Part 1 of my interview on AM770 discussing immigration developments on February 13, 2017 with Danielle Smith; specifically, the spike in refugee claims that we are seeing: Danielle Smith: ... Okay, a few of you have been asking, are you going to talk about M103? Yes, indeedy we are. We've got Derek [inaudible 00:02:58] coming up a little bit later, but I wanted to get into a whole battery of issues that took place while I was away and are continuing to occur. Remember when I played that clip from our immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, who I thought did a very measured job of saying, "Hey look, the Americans can do whatever it is they want to do in controlling who comes into their country and we will do what we will do. We will offer temporary asylum to those who find themselves stranded and I have been assured," he... Continue reading
I, along with a representative of the Muslim community in Alberta were interviewed on Alberta Primetime this week. I wanted to post a partial transcript of that interview because I want people to know that words matter, particularly the words that politicians employ. I think there's a reason why politicians like Kellie Leitch have been so silent these last few days; why he campaign has suffered the loss of its manager. Deep down, on some level perhaps a realization of their role in acts that target minorities and refugees. ... Michael Higgins: Mustafa, it didn't take long for news of the ban to spread, but it also didn't take long for the rhetoric to begin flowing. What's your view on how Canadians are responding? Mustafa Farouk: I think that the reaction's mixed. I think the vast majority of Canadians are reacting as we expect them to: with shock, outrage, this... Continue reading
I discussed the Executive Order implemented on January 27, 2017 and the resulting chaos and confusion with Global News on January 30, 2017. Speaker 1: ...the outcry continues for a ban on immigration and refugees. Is part of this government attempt to stop radical terrorists from entering America. This morning, a look into the international rules and and impact of vetting people. Immigration lawyer Raj Sharma joins us this morning with more insight into what this could potentially entail. I know Raj throughout the weekend, there was a lot of kind of uncertainty as to how this was being ruled out, but things seem to be a little bit more clear this morning. However, I want to start by asking you, have you seen anything like this rolled out internationally before? Raj Sharma: No. If you look at the United States, the country itself was founded as a haven or... Continue reading
It was a pleasure discussing immigration developments with Danielle Smith on AM770 last week, just before Trump's Executive Order caused chaos and confusion over the weekend. A transcript of our conversation: Danielle Smith: Let me just take a pause, 'cause I don't want to end up short changing the conversation with my next guest. We're going to get into a different topic immigration impacts for Canada. Two big things that have happened in the last couple days. Number one, shutting down the Mexican boarder by building a well. Number two, which were expecting an executive order today, a suspension on refugee claims in America. Now how is that going to impact us? Raj Sharma is my guest he's a Calgary Immigration Lawyer, we'll talk to him about that when we get back on News Talk 770. Okay, welcome back! Now we've got two big decisions happening in the United States... Continue reading
It was a pleasure being asked to discuss the #muslimban on CBC last night. A transcript of my discussion with CBC Calgary's Rob Brown follows. Rob Brown: One of the biggest protests over that travel ban was in Toronto today. Demonstrators gathering outside the US Consulate to condemn Donald Trump's controversial decision. Demonstrator: This is what democracy looks like! Demonstrators: This is what democracy looks like! Demonstrator: What does democracy look like? Demonstrators: This is what democracy looks like! Rob Brown: The US President signed the Executive Order on Friday, late Friday. Protestors say many refugees stuck in airports are being turned back to dangerous places because of their religion, their language, or their skin color. Still not entirely clear what this travel ban means for some Canadians, so to help clear up some of that confusion, I'm joined now by Calgary immigration lawyer, Raj Sharma. Pleasure to welcome you... Continue reading
It has been mere days since Trump took the oath of office; just a few rotations of this celestial body as it orbits around our Sun and much has changed already. Trump has carried out his promise to ban Muslims - albeit temporary, and from just 7 countries (coincidentally none of them have a Trump business presence). A fish rots from the head down and I have little doubt the sentiments and (unfounded) suspicions against immigrants and refugees that Trump enunciates ad nauseum will permeate throughout US immigration decision makers and those that execute policy.I discussed the consequences for Canada of an anti immigration US president with Vice. I know that we will see increased deportations from our giant neighbour to the South. Some of those facing removal or now living in fear and anxiety will look to Canada for relief, for succor. One consequence will almost certainly be an... Continue reading
I've been writing of my experience in attending the most recent CBA National Immigration Law Conference in Vancouver and speaking to some of the top Canadian immigration lawyers. These discussions are now part of the SSHLaw Immigration Podcast - Profile Series. All of the lawyers were asked the same basic questions; to introduce themselves, how they came to the practice of immigration law, what they find most rewarding and finally what advice they would give to their younger selves or to lawyers just starting out. Here, we caught up with Ryan Rosenberg, the managing partner of Larlee Rosenberg, one of the biggest immigration law firms in Western Canada. Like all of the lawyers interviewed for this Podcast series, he is clearly passionate about what he does and offers some great insight into the practice of immigration law. Continue reading
I've written a number of times of the harsh provision contained at s.117(9)(d) of the Regulations and the harsh consequences that flow from it. In effect, if someone lands, becomes a Permanent Resident and was at the time of landing, married or had a child and did not disclose these family members to immigration, then they cannot be sponsored as members of the family class later on. This non-disclosure can be deliberate or inadvertent. I've handled these cases for many years; as far as I know I may be one of the few if only to have succeeded in a highly unusual case at the IAD (an appeal to the IAD is almost invariably not in the cards for these types of refusal). The only realistic way around s.117(9)(d) is a request for humanitarian and compassionate relief, exemption under s.25(1) of the IRPA. If your request for relief is refused,... Continue reading