Letter to minister Kenney on the closure of Kingston's Citizenship and Immigration office
April 23, 2012
To: Hon. Jason Kenney
Minister, Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Dear Mr. Kenney,
Kingston’s Citizenship and Immigration office, under different departmental names, has been in existence, serving the complex needs of Kingston and area, since before 1960. I am shocked to learn that the recent cuts to your department’s budget include the closure of this office and the loss to your department, our city, and our regional economy of two of your experts.
Local CIC overview
As you may know, my constituency is comprised of a wide cross section of citizens – some Canadian born, some recently arrived. There are Permanent Residents who have chosen to make Canada and Kingston their home, visitors who have come to see close relatives, temporary workers in local industries and institutions of learning, and refugees who seek asylum in Canada. For over 50 years, they have sought the expertise of Kingston’s CIC officers when they needed advice and guidance. Local officers have encountered every possible sort of immigration or citizenship issue and have dealt with them with professionalism, competence and sensitivity. My office, which deals with a large volume of citizenship and immigration problems, is fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with the local officers.
Smooth processing of citizenship and immigration applications is also relevant to reaping local economic benefits from the bright minds and new ideas that are developed at local research institutions.
The Kingston CIC has been staffed recently by two experienced officers, and back on contract until recently, a third long-serving officer. All work to capacity, handling both simple and complex cases in a timely and competent manner. The fact that the office takes clients by appointment, and can open to the public for only two hours per day, reflects the quantity of work accomplished there.
Kingston is in the cachement area of the Ottawa CIC office where Kingston and area citizenship files were held in the final stages of processing. Due to the volume of applications, all the Kingston files were moved to Kingston last fall to be administered here. Several longstanding files were promptly reviewed and processing was resumed, to the clients’ relief. The Kingston CIC office does a great job of serving the Kingston area.
Our office regularly hears from local clients who attempt to use the Call Centre, where they may wait all day on the line for an agent, and may or may not find the information provided helpful, complete, and accurate. The department’s expectation that clients will know how to ask the right questions, understand the answers, and follow up is unrealistic. Until now, the local CIC has been generous with time and expertise when clients go to them with problems.
The department’s expectation that clients who attempt to click their way around the CIC website will be technologically competent and able to research answers is also utopian. Many clients do not have access to the internet, and most lack the necessary search skills and understanding of policy to get accurate information. The local CIC staff has been essential in helping these constituents.
On Line Forms
Our experience is that CIC clients are often not able to locate forms and complete applications online.
Repercussions to Office Closure
Even with the local office in operation, Queen’s University, the Royal Military College, St. Lawrence College, the two local school boards, and a host of local and area businesses contact my office with all manner of questions and problems. I fully anticipate that, with the closure of our CIC office, the volume of citizenship and immigration work will grow enormously. Difficult issues will have to be referred to the Ottawa office where, as is well known, the work load is immense.
In addition to the foregoing, in my view, the closure of Kingston’s CIC office will have a detrimental effect on the community. Your department in co-operation with city administrations has with some success encouraged Canada’s skilled worker immigrants to settle in smaller communities like Kingston, away from larger centres. Indeed the City of Kingston has created the Kingston Immigration Partnership to implement its own strategic plan for encouraging immigration as a means to foster a more prosperous and vibrant society. With the loss of all types of services to immigrants in the smaller communities, what reason will there be for them to remain there or choose them in the first place? You highlighted in a speech in Nova Scotia on Apr. 19 that the new changes will make it “faster, more flexible and more focused on jobs, growth and prosperity.” To close the Kingston office is counter to your policies and will have a detrimental effect upon the improvements that you are hoping to make.
Finally, in closing CIC offices and ending the employment of hundreds of CIC employees, you and your department are losing valuable knowledge and expertise and thousands of hours of experience in immigration policy and procedure. The consequences of such loss will be felt across the country.
I urge you to reconsider the closure of Kingston’s CIC office and the release of its officers.
Thank you for considering my views and I look forward to discussing this with you at your earliest opportunity.
Ted Hsu, M.P.