PSAC strike will affect immigration services
by Michael Scott
Last week, 155,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) went on strike. The immediate impact was service disruptions across many federal agencies, including Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC). It is important to note that federal employees with IRCC, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) were all affected. At this point we can safely predict a negative impact on the service provided by all federal agencies. As someone who walked the picket line for PSAC in the past as well as crossed the picket line as designated worker, my sympathies are both with former colleagues and the public at large. There are no winners when services are withdrawn, and workers have an interruption in their pay. Federal workers need to support families and live, and the public is highly dependent upon the services they provide and impacted by any withdrawal of service or delay.
It is safe to assume that inland processing of temporary status immigration applications will be delayed as a result of the strike action. This would impact submissions such as extension applications for work, study, or visitor status. Online submissions will continue but the signs are not encouraging. The IRCC website has not indicated how permanent residency applications will be affected. Citizenship ceremonies and in-person appointments will be rescheduled. Urgent requests may be honoured depending upon the availability of designated staff. Overseas services through the worldwide visa offices will continue but users should expect some delays. The department is intent on holding overseas interviews and hoping the strike is only temporary and of short duration.
CBSA has announced that they will continue to provide services at Ports of Entry to travellers and businesses during the strike. International travellers can still submit online applications for temporary entry into Canada, such as work permits or study permits. CBSA is silent on whether or not they would continue to provide “flagpole” services as border crossings, where a foreign national leaves the country and re-enters to make an immigration application. If you are not sure you would be advised to check with immigration authorities at the call centre, 1-888-242-2100, but anticipate long waits and delays.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is dependent upon the processing of Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) applications. The department will give priority to agriculture, food processing, trucking, and health-related services, but all applications will be affected by the disruption in services.
Inland biometrics appointments are currently unavailable, and Service Canada did not indicate when normal services will be restored. The National Job Bank will be partially or fully disrupted during the strike.
Detention reviews hearings will be delayed or rebooked during the strike. The full impact of the strike on all federal services will become clearer within days. The situation is not normal work practice and patience is recommended for users.
My sincere sympathies are with all parties in the strike. It was not the intention of government authorities to force their workers to strike for better work conditions or pay, nor is the intention of PSAC to negotiate on the suffering to the Canadian public. Both parties publicly sympathize with users. The sooner the differences are resolved, and a new contract signed, the better it is for all concerned. However, I am reminded of the times when federal workers were legislated back to work. There is only so much that unions and workers can accomplish by withdrawing their work before the government forces them to return. This situation is not an optimum one, but government services are essential, and the public has a right to a consistent and high level of service. Good luck to all.
Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.