|Sherrie Mejilla, centre left, born in Guam and raised in Seattle, looks on before taking the oath of citizenship during a special Canada Day citizenship ceremony in Vancouver on July 1, 2012. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press|
“The vast majority of these employees perform administrative support functions of application processing across all citizenship and immigration business lines and are not direct decision-makers, department spokesperson Nancy Chan wrote in an email Tuesday.
The department was responding to an exclusive story in the Star this week about the “high error rate” in immigration application processing identified in the government’s own internal reviews.
The three so-called “quality management” reviews obtained by the Star under an access to information request focused on applications in three areas: permanent residence, refugee work permits, and Canadian Experience Class.
Of some 996 files handled between Nov. 1 and Dec. 6, 2013, at the Vegreville, Alta., operation, which deals with permanent residence applications, the quality management team identified a wide range of shortcomings, including staff failing to: use correct form letters, address missing documents, and provide accurate binding timelines.
Similar concerns over the “high error rate” were also cited in the operations of the other two programs.
The immigration department’s rank and file blames the errors on the rising number of “casual employees” hired to replace well-trained permanent staff.
On Tuesday, Chan said only 22 — or 10 per cent — of the 226 staff in Vegreville were casuals at the time of the audit, and currently only two of the 209 employees there are hired on a casual basis.
However, at the centralized processing centre that conducts initial administrative screening of a variety of immigration applications, 26 per cent of the 1,718 employees there are casual employees or students.
“Employees receive an initial three-day training on the department’s Global Case Management System, but there is additional training and coaching that takes place depending on the line of business,” wrote Chan.
“Before any employee begins to make any application decision, they receive comprehensive training on eligibility and admissibility assessments.”
Chan said immigration officials conduct quality monitoring exercises regularly to evaluate programs and procedures and adjust staff training accordingly.
“CIC is focused on making our application processes and our correspondence with clients simpler and clearer,” said Chan. “The integrity of these programs was not compromised.”