Federal skilled workers gain ground in court challenge

A group of federal skilled workers fighting to keep their applications intact have learned some them may see their cases being resolved this week despite sweeping changes to Canada’s immigration system that have been looming since June.

The group are part of a legal proceeding filed in the Federal Court of Canada by Toronto’s Bellissimo Law Group, Quebec law firm Campbell Cohen, and other Canadian immigration lawyers, including Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman.

Legal Feeds reported in July that an agreement had been reached between the group and the Department of Justice that Citizenship and Immigration Canada would not return processing fees or federal skilled worker applications for 90 days, starting from June 29, 2012. Now the group’s lawyers are expected to ask the Federal Court for certification as a class proceeding lawsuit, following a move toward the successful resolution of a handful of the group’s cases this month.

“As a result of litigation, some applicants have already been advised that their application will not be terminated. This would likely not have been possible at this time had these individuals not joined the proceedings,” said Bellissimo Law Group in a statement. “Again, this proceeding is a unique event in the history of Canadian immigration. As such, there is no precedent to judge the potential success of our actions. The ultimate decision is up to the courts. That being said, we have already secured a 90-day stay on the return of applications and government processing fees, which is a good initial sign. A better picture of our chances for success will come about as we progress further in the litigation process.”

The federal government made the most significant changes to the federal skilled worker category under Bill C-38 in June. In that category, nearly 280,000 people who applied before Feb. 27, 2008 will have their federal skilled worker applications removed from the current applicant pool and will receive a refund of their fees. They have also been told to reapply under several new guidelines.

Those guidelines include having experience in one of 29 occupations listed by the federal government as being in high demand, or having a job offer in Canada.

According to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the new system aims to speed up the application process for applicants who are young, highly skilled, and have the ability to speak English or French. It also develops a separate category for in-demand tradespeople and business investors.

For those who don’t meet the new guidelines, a pilot program will enable provinces and territories to accept an additional 1,500 people a year from the current backlog of applicants.

“Additional numbers of applicants directly challenging the law lets the Canadian government know that there are many affected persons who feel the law is unfair,” said Bellissimo Law Group. “The more applicants who are willing to take a stand against what they feel is legally wrong sends a stronger message to the Canadian government.”

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