Updated Special Measures and Guidance Regarding Ukrainian Nationals Wishing to Visit or to Remain in Canada (Updated March 18, 2022)

On March 17th, 2022, the Government of Canada launched the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET). I have updated my special briefing note to Ukrainian Nationals to include these changes, which was published by the Ottawa Business Journal on March 21, 2022: https://obj.ca/index.php/article/local/ukraine-updated-measures-and-guidance-regarding-ukrainian-nationals-wishing-visit-or

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Ukraine: Special Measures and Guidance Regarding Ukrainian Nationals Wishing to Visit or to Remain in Canada

On March 3, 2022, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced new immigration measures for those affected by the situation in Ukraine. I have published a briefing note regarding these special measures to assist Ukrainian nationals wishing to visit or to remain in Canada

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Virtual Conference: ‘Advancing the Interests of the Afar Nation’, 22 January 2022

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Ottawa Citizen Article 13 January 2022 – Insight into a Nigerian Refugee Claim Appeal

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Navigating Canada’s Immigration System During COVID-19

Panelist/Presenter at the Conference Board of Canada: Canadian Immigration Summit on 26 May 2021

Published: 26 May 2021

Access the PDF version of this article here.

Research has determined that Canada has had challenges growing its GDP through productivity increases. Immigrants drive economic growth. Accordingly, greater levels of immigration present a single robust opportunity for Canada to increase its long-term economic growth. [1]


  1. What unique challenges have potential immigrants faced while navigating the immigration system during COVID?

Processing Times

Previously, IRCC was able to provide generally accurate predictions for how long it would take to process all streams of immigrations applications. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, they are unable to provide accurate processing times. We are experiencing significant delays in processing times of varying degrees. This causes both uncertainty and anxiety, as we cannot provide clients with any realistic expectation of when the processing of their application will likely be complete.

Permanent Resident Landings

At present, individuals who have had their permanent resident application approved and have been issued their Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR):

  • On or before March 18th, 2020: are exempt from travel restrictions only if they are coming to settle permanently, but must quarantine for 14 days; or
  • On or after March 19th, 2020: are unable to travel to Canada to be landed as a permanent resident, unless they meet a travel exemption. If a person’s COPR expires during this time, they must wait for IRCC to contact them when Canada is able to welcome them, and to confirm they are able to travel.

International Students

Many international students were left hanging when the Government of Canada limited entry to only those students whose study permits were issued on or before March 18th, 2020. Now, the government has expanded travel restriction exemptions to include those students who will be attending a learning institution which has an approved COVID-19 readiness plan and an in-person learning plan. All international students entering Canada must provide a plan for their mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entry.

Prior to COVID-19, 50% of an international student’s courses had to be completed in-person and in Canada to be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program. However, as an alternative to travelling during the pandemic, international students who were enrolled in a PGWP-eligible program in progress in March 2020 or who started a program of study from spring 2020 up to and including the fall 2021 semester can complete 100% of their program online from outside of Canada and still be eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program. The time international students spend studying remotely outside of Canada can be counted towards the overall length of the post-graduation work permituntil December 31, 2021, after which any time spent studying outside of Canada will not count towards the PGWP.


All meetings take place virtually – either by telephone or by one of the many video conferencing platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype). Only in necessary situations do we schedule meetings with clients in our offices.

Some of our clients are in countries where internet connection is spotty, or where there is a fear of government surveillance on some of the popular communication platforms. This can make virtual communication difficult. So too do multiple time zone accommodations.

2. What adaptations have been necessary to ensure fair and timely access to immigration decisions?

Immigration Targets

In October 2020, Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino announced Canada’s plan to welcome more than 1.2 million immigrants between 2021 and 2023 – with a target of 401,000  landings during 2021. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the previous target for 2021 had been 351,000. The new target is an increase of 14% as an attempt to off-set low immigration levels caused by COVID-19. Canada’s target for the year of 2020 had been 341,000 landings, however, the actual number of permanent residents landed was only 184,370 – representing a deficiency of 156,630 (or 46% off target) – the lowest number of new permanent residents since 1998. The government recognizes the importance of immigrants to Canada’s economy, and has now increased targets to aid our economic recovery.

Family Members

In the early days of the pandemic, there was public outcry about immediate family members being denied the ability to enter Canada. In June of 2019, the federal government dialed back the prohibition and allowed immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents who are foreign nationals to enter Canada for the purposes of reunification. In October 2020, the federal government also expanded the list of travel restriction exemptions to include entry for humanitarian and compassionate reasons, and also for international students.

Express Entry

On February 13th, 2021 the Government of Canada issued 27,332 Invitations to Apply (ITA) to candidates from the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) with Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores of as low as 75. These persons are likely already living in Canada working pursuant to work permit status. The previous draw on January 21st for candidates from the Canadian Experience Class issued 4,526 with a minimum CRS score of 454. The most recent draw for CEC candidates, which took place on May 20th, issued 1,842 ITA’s with a minimum CRS score of 397.


In normal times, most individuals whose applications for permanent residence were approved would have to travel to Canada to be landed and to validate their Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) before its expiry. Due to the pandemic, all in-person permanent resident landing appointments in Canada have been suspended. Instead, some newly approved permanent residents may receive a letter confirming that they are a permanent resident of Canada and allowing them to bypass the requirement of departing Canada then returning to validate their Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR).   

Six (6) New Immigration Pathways

On April 14th, Canada’s immigration minister Marco Mendicino announced six (6) new programs that will allow more than 90,000 temporary residents in Canada to apply to become permanent residents this year. These new pathways target essential workers, international students, and French speakers.  This special program started on May 6th and will operate until November 5th 2021, or until all 90,000 positions are taken, whichever first occurs.

Administrative Rules and Procedures

The government has loosened many rules around filing, original signatures, and the conduct of hearings over the duration of the pandemic.

Pre-pandemic, electronic filing was not an option for the majority of immigration applications, but IRCC has relaxed this and now allows most submissions and filings via email, or in the case of refugee claims, a secure platform called “epost.” This change allows our office and our clients to safely work from home without the need to come into the office to compile physical copies of applications.

Previously, physical signatures were a necessity on almost all application forms and official documents. IRCC has loosened restrictions around electronic signatures for applicants. Also, on March 26, 2020, the IRB issued a practice notice allowing Board Members to use electronic signatures for Reasons for Decisions and Orders. The shift toward acceptance of electronic signatures allows for greater efficiency during the pandemic, when many are working remotely.

Virtual hearings are not only allowed, but now strongly encouraged now. This allows for individuals to virtually attend from their homes, or from our offices, and to avoid unnecessary travel and gatherings. This is a modernization that we have mixed feelings about. The accessibility is great for those who cannot safely travel to a hearing location. However, in refugee hearings, or hearings where credibility is a factor, being able to see your Board Member in-person and have them see you (and your facial expressions, body language, etc.) can be important.

3. What lessons from this period can we take forward to design a fairer more efficient immigration system?

The government should make every effort possible to meet their lofty targets for immigration in the coming years. This means hiring more officers and deploying more resources to tackle the many existing applications and the additional incoming applications.

It also means considering the creation of new programs – including lowering eligibility criteria – to allow different streams of immigrants who could strengthen Canada’s economy. By assessing the labour market and determining which areas are in need of workers, the federal government could expand existing programs or create new ones to ensure that no corner of our economy is left neglected.


  1. COVID has affected more immigrants than others, particularly women, who have faced greater job insecurity and higher rates of abuse. What trends related to female immigrants do we see, how did you react, and what can we learn?
  2. Border closures have left many immigrants in vulnerable or challenging circumstances. Some people were separated from spouses, stuck partway through life or job transitions, or have faced other struggles. How well do we feel Canada navigated these difficulties, and how should we address these issues as borders open?
  3. The government has many competing immigration priorities – pilots, temporary pathways, refugees, a possible specialized pathway for those in Hong Kong. How should the government focus its scarce resources in the months and years after the pandemic?
  4. The U.S.- Canada border has vital importance to our economy in Canada.  When, and on what basis, should Canada consider re-opening the border for the movement of people?

[1] Gupta, El-Assal, and Bajwa, Can’t Go It Alone.

Letter to UNHCR concerning the current refugee crisis in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia

9 December 2020

Mr. Creates, President and Co-Founder of the Can-Go Afar Foundation, sent a letter to the High Commissioner of the UNHCR expressing a number of concerns regarding the current conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, and in the bordering areas.

Building the Bridge over Troubled Waters – Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan in the wake of the United States Presidential Election

Access the PDF version of this article here.

Published: 17 November 2020

On 30 October 2020, the Honourable Marco Mendicino, the Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan.[1] Every year, the Government of Canada outlines the number of new permanent residents Canada aims to welcome over the coming years, and what numbers will be admitted under the economic, family, refugee, and humanitarian and compassionate grounds categories.

Canada aims to attract 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023.[2] Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government sought to bring in 351,000 new immigrants per year.[3] This represents an increase of about 50,000 permanent residents for each year – an increase of 15% – to compensate for the shortfall created by the coronavirus pandemic and ensure that Canada has enough workers to fill labour market gaps and remain competitive globally.[4] Next year’s Immigration Levels Plan is as follows:

  • 232,500 immigrants in the economic class;
  • 103,500 in the family class;
  • 59,500 refugees and protected persons; and
  • 5,500 on humanitarian, compassionate, and other grounds.[5]

These numbers only account for permanent residents; they do not include the hundreds of thousands of both temporary foreign workers and international students expected to move to Canada annually.

The Immigration Levels Plan is the most ambitious in Canadian history. By comparison, in 1913, a Conservative government welcomed 401,000 new immigrants in the hopes of encouraging settlement in Western Canada.[6] This represented over 5 percent of Canada’s population at the time in newcomers. The country has never crossed the 400,000 threshold again, until now. The Immigration Levels Plan represents encouraging news for immigration advocates who expressed concerns that the impacts of COVID-19 would lead to a reduction in Canada’s immigration levels. Border closures, flight cancellations and vanished job opportunities have all had an impact on the immigration system: estimates suggest that as of August 2020, immigration levels were down 43.5 per cent versus last year and further that the government’s plan to welcome 341,000 newcomers in 2020 will not be achieved.[7]

The Immigration Levels Plan’s focus is on economic growth. About 60% of admissions are expected to come through economic pathways, which encompass a wide range of programs both at the federal and provincial levels: the Federal High-Skilled program, the Federal Business program, the Economic Agri-Food and Rural and Northern Immigration pilot programs, the Atlantic Immigration pilot program, the Provincial Nominee programs, and the Quebec Skilled Workers and Business programs.[8] This is in line with Canada’s immigration levels plans for the past several years.

In opposition to a global trend among developed countries, Canada also continues to present itself as a safe-haven for refugees and asylum-seekers. Around 60,500 such persons are planned to be granted permanent resident status annually.[9] For comparison, in the 2018-2020 Immigration Levels Plan, the government aimed to welcome on average only around 45,000 refugees per year.[10] This represents an increase in the number of refugees and asylum-seekers welcome to Canada of 35%. Around 40% of admitted refugees will be privately sponsored, with a similar number of protected persons in Canada and their family numbers to be granted permanent residence. Most of the remainder’s path to permanent residence will be government assisted refugees.[11]

The Immigration Levels Plan sets a path for increases to immigration to help the Canadian economy recover from COVID-19, while also trying to stimulate future business and employment growth. As said by Minister Marco Mendicino in the lead up to releasing the 2020-2023 Immigration Levels Plan:

“Immigration is essential to getting us through the pandemic, but also to our short-term economic recovery and our long-term economic growth. Canadians have seen how newcomers are playing an outsized role in our hospitals and care homes, and helping us to keep food on the table. As we look to recovery, newcomers create jobs not just by giving our businesses the skills they need to thrive, but also by starting businesses themselves. Our plan will help to address some of our most acute labour shortages and to grow our population to keep Canada competitive on the world stage.” [12]

The recognition of immigrants’ contributions to Canada’s recovery is not mere political lip service but is also exemplified in the Immigration Levels Plan through the creation of a pathway to permanent residency for eligible asylum claimants who were working on the front lines of the pandemic between March 13 and August 14, 2020, providing direct care to patients in health-care institutions.[13]

A recent study by the Environics Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes original social research on issues of public policy and social change, has found that Canadians have become more accepting and supportive of immigrants and refugees over the past year. The survey was based on telephone interviews with 2,000 Canadians in September 2020. The study concluded that most Canadians are comfortable with current immigration levels, that they see immigrants as good for the economy and not a threat to Canadian jobs, and further that they believe that immigration is essential to growing the country’s population. By a one-to-five margin, Canadians believe that immigration makes Canada a better country. More than 56% of the respondents agreed that Canada needs more immigration to increase its population. 84% of Canadians agree that the economic impact of immigration is positive.[14]

This narrative is particularly encouraging when looking South, as the United States presidential election unfolded. While there is a public consensus in Canada that the economy depends on making space for newcomers, measures taken by the Trump administration over the last four years have consistently sought a decrease in the number of immigrants. The number of permanent visas issued by the US administration has decreased by 13%; refugee admissions to the US were the fewest in 40 years in 2018, with the number of refugees admitted from a number of majority-Muslim countries, including Iraq, Somalia, Iran and Syria falling almost to zero soon after Trump took office.[15] The Trump administration’s immigration policy eventually led to the July 2020 landmark Canadian Federal Court decision in Canadian Council for Refugees v Canada, in which Justice Ann Marie McDonald determined that the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the US was unconstitutional as the US could no longer be designated a “safe third country” in light of the compelling evidence of appalling conditions in US detention centres.[16]

Furthermore, the US debate surrounding migration has become increasingly polarized through Trump’s presidency. Pew Research polls showed that Democrats and Republicans are growing further apart on subjects on which they once agreed, including the need for border security. Around 70% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said that increasing border security is very important, whereas only 15% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents hold similar views.[17]While Trump fought to build a wall, senators like Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillebrand called for abolishing the US customs enforcement agency. Meanwhile, Canadian politicians rarely disagree on immigration and on whether to maintain a high rate of newcomers. The few politicians recommending reducing immigration totals are Maxine Bernier of the newly formed Peoples Party of Canada and Quebec Premier Francois Legault.[18]

The fractures in American society regarding immigration are not limited to politicians; and are not going to be healed through the presidential election and the election of Democrat Joe Biden as president. As communities become increasingly polarized, US residents and citizens are looking to their welcoming Northern neighbour as a place of solace. A look at Google Trend for the search “move to Canada” shows that the number of searches spiked after the 2016 election and surged a second time on the night of 3 November 2020 as the results of the presidential election appeared more and more unsure.[19] When Canada’s Express Entry immigration program was launched in 2015, only 600 US residents obtained invitations to apply for permanent residence. In 2019, this figure stood at over 10,000. The number of US citizens arriving as economic class immigrants has also increased on an absolute basis since 2016: 4,800 individuals did so in 2019 compared with 3,300 in 2015.[20]

Canada, through its Immigration Levels Plan, is moving forward with open arms in recognition of the contribution of immigration to the country, while the US appears to retreat further into protectionist ideas. While the election of Democrat president-elect Joe Biden feels like a breath of fresh air after four strenuous years, it is not enough to heal the ideological fractures within American society. For US citizens and residents seeking to escape these fractures, Canada’s openness to immigration is a bridge over troubled waters.

[1] Government of Canada, “Government of Canada announces plan to support economic recovery through immigration” (30 October, 2020), online: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2020/10/government-of-canada-announces-plan-to-support-economic-recovery-through-immigration.html [Immigration Levels Plan Announcement]

[2] Ibid

[3] Government of Canada, “CIMM – Immigration Levels Plan 2020-2022” (12 March 2020), online: < https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/transparency/committees/march-12-2020/immigration-levels-plan.html>

[4] Immigration Levels Plan Announcement, supra note 1

[5] Government of Canada, “Supplementary Information for the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan” (30 October 2020), online: < https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/notices/supplementary-immigration-levels-2021-2023.html> [Immigration Levels Plan]

[6] Statistics Canada, “150 years of immigration in Canada” (29 June 2016), online: < https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2016006-eng.htm>

[7] Stephanie Levitz, “US election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year” (27 October 2020) Powell River Peak, online: <https://www.prpeak.com/u-s-election-results-one-factor-that-could-impact-immigration-to-canada-next-year-1.24227876>

[8] Immigration Levels Plan, supra note 5

[9] Immigration Levels Plan, supra note 5

[10] Government of Canada, “CIMM – Immigration Levels Plan 2020-2022” (12 March 2020), online: < https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/transparency/committees/march-12-2020/immigration-levels-plan.html>

[11] Immigration Levels Plan, supra note 5

[12] Immigration Levels Plan Announcement, supra note 1

[13] Ibid

[14] Environics Institute, “Canadian public opinion about immigration and refugees, Final Report” (2020), online (pdf): <https://www.environicsinstitute.org/docs/default-source/project-documents/fc-fall-2020—immigration/focus-canada-fall-2020—public-opinion-on-immigration-refugees—final-report.pdf?sfvrsn=bd51588f_2>

[15] Ed Lowther, “US elections 20202: Trump’s impact on immigration – in seven charts” (21 October 2020), online: <https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-54638643>

[16] Canadian Council for Refugees v Canada, 2020 FC 770

[17] Andrew Daniller, “Americans’ immigration policy priorities: Divisions between – and within – the two parties” (Pew Research Centre, 12 November 2019), online: < https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/11/12/americans-immigration-policy-priorities-divisions-between-and-within-the-two-parties/>

[18] Douglas Todd, “Canada vs U.S. on immigration: Five differences, five similarities” (Vancouver Sun, 1 June 2019), online: <https://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/douglas-todd-whats-different-and-similar-in-canada-and-u-s-immigration-policy>

[19] Google Trends search for “move to Canada” (1 November 2020 – 5 November 2020), online: <https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=2020-11-01%202020-11-05&geo=US&q=move%20to%20canada>; Google Trends search for “move to Canada” (5 November 2020 – 10 November 2020), online: < https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=2016-11-05%202016-11-10&geo=US&q=move%20to%20canada>

[20] Kareem El-Assal, “Has Trump increased U.S. immigration to Canada?” (1 October 2020), online: < https://www.cicnews.com/2020/10/has-trump-increased-u-s-immigration-to-canada-1015930.html#gs.ksuwu4>

Canada—a Great Place to Ride out the Storm and Stay Awhile—or Stay for Good!

Access the PDF version of this article here.

Date: 11 August 2020

This article is best described as a fact-based white paper, which seeks to be a report or guide to inform readers in a concise manner about a complex issue, and at the same time presents the author’s views on the matter. We have tried to help advance understanding about an important issue of our time, to solve a challenge, and perhaps assist with a decision. The author is a certified specialist by the Law Society of Ontario on matters related to Immigration, Citizenship, and Refugee Law.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of our lives, from how we live to—for increasing numbers—where we live. Cross-border travel and immigration has significantly slowed in order to prevent, and control, the spread of COVID-19. The Canadian border remains closed to non-essential traffic until at least 21 August 2020. Despite the travel restrictions, the Canadian border is seeing an increase in Americans looking to enter—and, for many, to stay in—Canada, much like the increase in 2018 after President Donald Trump’s election. The number of U.S. citizens granted permanent residency in Canada in 2019 was the third highest number—this century.[1] Current data from Canada Border Services shows that land border crossings from the United States are increasing. From 6 April to 12 April 2020 over 100,000 travelers entered Canada. During the same period in July, that number rose to 170,000 travelers.[2] Canadian immigration lawyers say they have seen double to triple the standard amount of inquiries from U.S. citizens looking to stay in or immigrate to Canada.[3] A quick glance at recent headlines may show why this comes as no surprise—Canada is uniquely situated to bring in “the brightest and the best from around the world.”[4]

The current situation may mirror that of when Americans flocked to the Canadian border during the Vietnam War, making up what has been called “the largest, best-educated group this country ever received.”[5]

From 1965-1972 an estimated 40,000 U.S. military dodgers and deserters sought the protection, and freedoms, of Canada.[6]  After an uptick in U.S. immigration and public pressure fueled by opposition to the Vietnam War, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his cabinet implemented an open door policy.[7]

Canadian Immigration policy gets its foundation primarily from the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act[8] although Canada is also party to agreements with other countries, the U.S. included. One such agreement is the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America for Cooperation in the Examination of Refugee Status Claims from nationals of Third Countries, commonly referred to as the Safe Third Country Agreement (“STCA”). The STCA was enacted in 2004, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks shook the world. Under the STCA, anyone who arrives at a Canadian land port-of-entry via the U.S. is ineligible to make a refugee claim in Canada unless they already have at least one close family member in Canada. Those arriving at a Canadian land port-of-entry via the United States without a close family member already in Canada are typically denied access to Canada’s generous refugee determination program. They are then sent back to the U.S., which had been designated a “safe third country.” 

But in the 22 July 2020 landmark Federal Court decision in Canadian Council for Refugees v. Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship)[9], Justice Ann Marie McDonald determined that the STCA is unconstitutional because the U.S. can no longer be designated a “safe third country.” This ruling resulted after an assessment of compelling evidence about the incidence of U.S. detention of refugees awaiting a decision on their claims, combined with evidence about the appalling conditions of U.S. detention centres. Refugee claimants denied entry into Canada were sent back to U.S. detention centres where they were denied medical care, food, and human dignity. In finding a violation of the life, liberty, and security of the person rights contained in section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms[10], Justice McDonald wrote, “The evidence clearly demonstrates that those returned to the U.S. by Canadian officials are detained as a penalty.”[11]

Justice McDonald is not the only one who has recognized that the U.S. is no longer safe. Two studies by the Brookings Institution and the University of California indicate that U.S. citizens recognize a lack of safety and feel the need to arm themselves should circumstances worsen.[12] Data from these studies demonstrate that Americans purchased an additional three million firearms from March 2020 to June 2020 in comparison to previous years. This upswing in gun sales was accompanied by a firearm violence increase of 8%.[13] These numbers may be driven by personal safety concerns amid anxiety and unease over the ongoing socio-political and pandemic crises.

As of this day, the U.S. has more than 5 million cases of COVID-19 with over 163,000 deaths while Canada has recorded 122,000 cases with 9,000 deaths.[14] Although the U.S. has a much larger population than does Canada, the U.S. currently has 149 daily new cases per million population, while Canada has only 17 daily new cases per million.[15] While Canadian COVID-19 cases remain relatively stable, U.S. COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and rise sharply. The rise in cases is cause for security concerns—both health and employment. Canadian job recovery has outpaced that of the U.S. The Canadian labour market has recovered about 55% of jobs lost, meanwhile the U.S has recouped only an estimated 42% of pandemic job losses.[16]

Economic conditions have led mortgage rates in Canada to drop to record lows, helping new home buyers and current homeowners.[17] There is a considerable and growing upswing in the residential real estate sector. Canadian data demonstrating a recovering oil price suggest an increase in automobile sales.[18] 

Average wages in Canada were up 10.8% in April 2020 and online retail sales more than doubled in the same month.[19]

Also, the increase in online economic activity can be attributed to Canada’s booming tech sector. Tech companies, like Ottawa’s Shopify, the company fueling e-commerce around the world for stores and individuals alike, represent Canada’s fastest growing sector and 5% of Canada’s entire GDP.[20] An Economist magazine author wrote that, “What is in little doubt is that the COVID-19 crisis, which has turned so many people’s lives upside down, will eventually produce a wealth of new business opportunities”[21], and Canadian tech companies are encouraging these opportunities—and also immigration.

The multi-cultural and multi-ethnic City of Toronto is now offering more technology jobs than the Cities of San Francisco, New York, and Seattle.[22] U.K. based tech investor, Entrepreneur First (which has raised U.S. $500 million in venture capital) cited Canada’s world-class university programs, research labs, and untapped talent potential as a reason for choosing Toronto for its North American headquarters.[23] The general manager of Entrepreneur First went so far as to say, “EF as a whole believes a disproportionate share of the next decade’s big tech giants will actually be built in Canada.”[24] And in the race to the top, Canadian tech companies are not afraid of poaching foreign talent. TechToronto, an organization that helps newcomers navigate the city’s tech scene, has noted just how welcoming Canada’s tech industry is for immigrants—especially when compared to the U.S.[25]  

After President Donald Trump suspended new work visas for immigrants, including the H-1B high-skill visa, Shopify vice-president Kaz Nejatian took to Twitter and invited foreigners to apply to Shopify and come to Canada.[26] While Nejatian questioned the wisdom of President Trump’s decision, Canadian businesses may benefit from his executive order. In an Ottawa Business Journal article, both myself and Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke noted the upside of this executive order for Canadian employers and employees—real opportunity.[27]

In May of this year, Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette announced a pilot project to hire 550 orderlies from abroad to work in residential and long-term care centers. Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendocino noted the important role that immigration plays in keeping Canada moving during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet he did not stop there when stating “immigration is fundamentally about people coming together to build a stronger country, and that is an enduring value that I believe in, that I have faith in Canadians that they believe in, that we will see endure long after COVID-19 is behind us.”[28]  Former Immigration Minister and Ambassador to China John McCallum also shared this sentiment and expressed COVID-19’s temporary immigration pause when saying “The Canadian government remains extremely positive about continuing high levels of immigration.”[29]

Much like its predecessor NAFTA, the newly ratified United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA) supports immigration into Canada. The USMCA places no limits on the number of times eligible professionals and businesspersons may renew their status in Canada. In addition, Chapter 16 of the USMCA allows eligible workers facilitated entry to Canada without their employer needing to first obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment. There are three Canadian immigration programs that support immigration under USMCA: 1) Express Entry, 2) the Global Talent Stream, and 3) the Provincial Nominee Programs. 

Express Entry is an online system that allows skilled workers to submit applications for permanent residency.

In 2015, 600 U.S. residents immigrated via Express Entry. In 2019 that number rose to 10,000.[30]  That figure will likely rise again given the uncertainty surrounding both U.S. immigration and U.S. stability. Skilled workers from the U.S. have a competitive edge in Canada because they are typically fluent in English and have high levels of education and work experience.[31]

The Global Talent Stream launched in 2017. This program allows skilled workers to obtain a Canadian work permit within two weeks (often much less) after obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment approval (which is also fast-tracked). This immigration stream is lauded in the tech sector and remains open during the COVID-19 pandemic.[32]

Provincial Nominee Programs allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate individuals who wish to immigrate to a particular province. Each province has a unique program with immigration streams that target certain groups such as students, skilled workers and semi-skilled workers.[33]  These programs get their power from the nature of the Canadian constitution and the fact that immigration remains part of both federal and provincial jurisdictions.

If the increase in U.S. inquiries regarding both Canadian citizenship and permanent resident status demonstrates anything, it is that the current differences between life in the U.S. and Canada are motivating migration. One system prides protectionism and fear, the other collaboration and acceptance. While the U.S. displays a “Don’t Trespass!” sign, Canada’s welcome mat benefits from rising nativism elsewhere. It goes without saying that Canada remains a safe haven and a welcoming place where people can ride out the pandemic, and other socio-political storms—with hope. The question is, do you feel hopeful?


1] Patrick Cain, “About 2,000 more Americans than normal have moved to Canada since Trump’s election” (21 August 2018), online: Global News <https://globalnews.ca/news/4396938/move-to-canada-donald-trump/>.

[2] Kristen Robinson, “More Americans eye move to Canada as COVID-19 cases surge in U.S.” (20 July 2020), online: Global News <https://globalnews.ca/news/7195561/americans-immigration-canada-coronavirus/>.

[3] Kristen Robinson, “More Americans eye move to Canada as COVID-19 cases surge in U.S.” (20 July 2020), online: Global News <https://globalnews.ca/news/7195561/americans-immigration-canada-coronavirus/>.

[4] John Ibbitson & Darrell Bricker, “The coming baby bust”, The Globe and Mail (8 August 2020) O1.

[5] Giuseppe Valiante, “U.S. Vietnam war draft dodgers left their mark on Canada” (16 April 2015), online: Maclean’s <https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/u-s-vietnam-war-draft-dodgers-left-their-mark-on-canada/>;

6] Giuseppe Valiante, “U.S. Vietnam war draft dodgers left their mark on Canada” (16 April 2015), online: Maclean’s <https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/u-s-vietnam-war-draft-dodgers-left-their-mark-on-canada/>.

[7] Luke Stewart, “‘Hell, they’re your problem, not ours’: Draft Dodgers, Military Deserters and Canada-United States Relations in the Vietnam War Era” (2018) 85 Canadian Studies; Renée Goldsmith Kasinsky, “The Continental Channeling of American Vietnam War Refugees” (1976) 6 Crime and Social Justice 28.

[8] SC 2001, c 27.

[9] 2020 FC 770.

[10] The Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.

[11] 2020 FC 770 at para 138.

12] Christopher Ingraham, “Spike in violent crime follows rise in gun-buying amid social upheaval” (15 July 2020), online: The Washington Post <https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/15/gun-sales-jump-protests-coronavirus/>.

[13] Christopher Ingraham, “Spike in violent crime follows rise in gun-buying amid social upheaval” (15 July 2020), online: The Washington Post <https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/15/gun-sales-jump-protests-coronavirus/>.

[14] John Hopkins University & Medicine, “COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins” (11 August 2020) online: John Hopkins University & Medicine <https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html>.

[15] Our World in Data, “Total and daily confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people” (11 August 2020), online: Our World in Data <https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/total-daily-covid-cases-per-million?country=~CAN>.

[16] Matt Lundy, “Economy adds jobs for third month”, The Globe and Mail (8 August 2020) B1.

[17] Pete Evans, “How COVID-19 has changed Canada’s economy for the worse — but also for the better” (23 June 2020), online: CBC <https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/covid-economy-changes-1.5618734>.

[18]  Pete Evans, “How COVID-19 has changed Canada’s economy for the worse — but also for the better” (23 June 2020), online: CBC <https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/covid-economy-changes-1.5618734>.

19]  CBC News, “Canada lost nearly 2 million jobs in April amid COVID-19 crisis: Statistics Canada” (8 May 2020), online: CBC <https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-jobs-april-1.5561001> ; Pete Evans, “How COVID-19 has changed Canada’s economy for the worse — but also for the better” (23 June 2020), online: CBC <https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/covid-economy-changes-1.5618734>.

[20] Pete Evans, “How COVID-19 has changed Canada’s economy for the worse — but also for the better” (23 June 2020), online: CBC <https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/covid-economy-changes-1.5618734>.

[21] Brett Ryder, “Creative destruction in times of covid” (16 May 2020), online: The Economist <https://www.economist.com/business/2020/05/16/creative-destruction-in-times-of-covid>.

[22] Joel Rose, “Canada Wins, U.S. Loses In Global Fight For High-Tech Workers” (27 January 2020), online: NPR <https://www.npr.org/2020/01/27/799402801/canada-wins-u-s-loses-in-global-fight-for-high-tech-workers>.

[23] Yeji Jesse Lee, “U.K. tech investment fund chooses Canada for North American headquarters” (4 August 2020), online: The Globe and Mail <https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-uk-tech-investment-fund-chooses-canada-for-north-american/>.

[24] Yeji Jesse Lee, “U.K. tech investment fund chooses Canada for North American headquarters” (4 August 2020), online: The Globe and Mail <https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-uk-tech-investment-fund-chooses-canada-for-north-american/>.

[25] Joel Rose, “Canada Wins, U.S. Loses In Global Fight For High-Tech Workers” (27 January 2020), online: NPR <https://www.npr.org/2020/01/27/799402801/canada-wins-u-s-loses-in-global-fight-for-high-tech-workers>.

[26] Financial Post, “’Canada is awesome’: Shopify moves to poach foreign talent blocked by Trump’s immigrant visa ban” (23 June 2020), online: Financial Post <https://financialpost.com/technology/shopify-poach-foreign-talent-blocked-trump-immigrant-visa-ban>; Also worth noting, a Canadian company called MobSquad opens virtual subsidiaries for US tech companies unable to hire international tech workers due to visa restrictions and rejection.

[27] David Sali, “Trump’s visa ban could be boost for talent-hungry Ottawa firms, immigration lawyer says” (25 June 2020), online: Ottawa Business Journal <https://obj.ca/article/trumps-visa-ban-could-be-boost-talent-hungry-ottawa-firms-immigration-lawyer-says>.

[28] Stephanie Levitz, “Canada will need newcomers after coronavirus pandemic, immigration minister says” (15 May 2020), online: Global News <https://globalnews.ca/news/6949767/immigration-coronavirus-canada/>.

[29] Nathan Vanderklippe, “Canada’s troubles with China are only temporary, says former ambassador: ‘Chinese people and Canadian people are good friends’” (29 July 2020), online: The Globe and Mail <www.theglobeandmail.com>.

30] Kareem El-Assal, “U.S. immigration to Canada is skyrocketing” (4 July 2020), online: CIC News <https://www.cicnews.com/2020/07/u-s-immigration-to-canada-is-skyrocketing-0714940.html#gs.c14f4f>.

[31] Government of Canada , “How Express Entry Works” (12 August 2019), online: Government of Canada<https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate- anada/express-entry/works.html>.

[32] Government of Canada, “Program requirements for the Global Talent Stream” (13 March 2020), online: Government of Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/foreign-workers/global-talent/requirements.html>.

[33] Government of Canada, “How the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) works” (3 March 2019), online: Government of Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/provincial-nominees/works.html>.

The Dawn of the USMCA Era: Facilitating Trade, Mobility, and Revisiting COVID-19 Temporary Travel Restrictions

Access the PDF version of this article here.

Date: 30 June 2020

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), will come into effect on 1 July 2020.  On its face, all its provisions dealing with the mobility of people – Chapter 16 on temporary entry for business persons –remain substantively unchanged compared to Chapter 16 in the NAFTA. Nevertheless, it might be a bit early to jump to the conclusion that the new Agreement, or how it will be interpreted and applied by border officers, will have no new affect on the mobility of people.

The USMCA primarily aims to facilitate trade among the three signatory parties to the benefit of their local industries. However, when we are talking about trade in services or goods, are we able to exclude the human aspect? It is people who are negotiating deals, who are making the investments, who are managing the businesses, who are operating the machines, and who are transporting the goods. This is especially noteworthy under current circumstances, where the border closure under COVID-19 has substantially limited the travel between Canada and the United States. The intent behind the border closure is obvious: to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus by minimizing the influx of people. This seems to be a logical precaution to protect public health. But what is the cost of this seemingly inflexible measure? The dawn of the USMCA era might be a suitable time for us to revisit this matter.

It is obvious that the current lockdown has taken a toll on our economy. Many people are out of work, many businesses are shut down, and many tenants (both commercial and residential) can no longer afford to pay their landlords. These are all vivid examples of the economic harm that we now witness in our daily lives. Canada has for many decades enjoyed the benefits of its intimate economic connection with the United States. People used to be able to conveniently cross the border for work, tourism and shopping. Canadian companies also cooperate closely with their United States counterparts on trade and supplies. However, for the time being, other than the small number of people who qualify under the short list for “essential travel”, the expediency of cross-border travel which has played such an important role in the Canadian economy no longer exists.

The advent of the USMCA should cause us to think about border closure and the mobility of people because the Agreement contains new measures that will further the economic relationships between the signatory countries. There has not yet been any signs that the travel restrictions will soon be altered in any meaningful or substantive way. Given the inseparability between trade and the movement of people, the more benefits that the parties of the Agreement had intended, the more we are losing by prohibiting people from travelling across the border.

The USMCA has innovations that will incentivize broader participation in cross-border trade, which likely entails more frequent movement of people on a new larger scale. For example, the USMCA is raising the de minimis threshold for the exported goods to enter another country duty-free. This will exempt customs duties and taxes for lower-value shipments. As a result, this change encourages smaller businesses to participate in export, since it can now save them the duties and taxes which had been previously too burdensome. The trade in goods is essentially about the people working on various links in the supply chain, including investing, managing, manufacturing and marketing. In a world without COVID-19, people would freely make in-person business trips to negotiate deals, inspect their manufacturers’ facilities, or study their target markets. It is however paradoxical that while the USMCA is proactively taking new steps to promote trade and vitalize the economies of our three countries, the current travel restrictions are frustrating that objective by rendering virtually all cross-border travel impossible.

Notably, at the negotiation stage of the USMCA, Canada was seeking to modernize and expand NAFTA’s original list of professionals and business persons who can be granted easy access, but this endeavour did not succeed. The Trump Whitehouse would have nothing to do with it. It is a pity that the USMCA has lagged behind the pace of modernization by maintaining a list of professions that represented the economy 30 years ago. Canada’s priority has always been to maintain and promote a smooth influx of people, which is an indispensable component of our economic development. Unfortunately, because of current travel restrictions, statistics have already shown that both business travel and immigration have plummeted during the pandemic, which will likely further negatively impact the Canadian economy.

Economic benefits intended by the USMCA cannot be effectively achieved if we disregard the human aspect that is so critical to free trade. In order to uphold robust trade and commerce across borders, a flexible and efficient mechanism must be found to facilitate the mobility of people. This is especially worth noting during this lockdown period. A border closure appears to be an easy and immediate solution to the health crisis, but perhaps it is now time to work towards more flexible measures. No one can precisely estimate how long our battle against the virus will last. Maintaining the current state and allowing the economy to deteriorate indefinitely is too high a price. Risk can never be eliminated altogether but can be managed. The new opportunities brought by the implementation of the USMCA are urging us to consider gradually lifting the travel restrictions in regions and by ways where and how feasible.

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Case Commentary: Canada (Citizenship and Immigration and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness) v. Kljajic, 2020 FC 570

Date of Decision: 30 April 2020                                            

 Commentary Date: 8 May 2020

Access the PDF version here.


Applicants for status in Canada have an obligation to honestly disclose information required of them. The consequences of failing to do so are serious and could lead to deportation. One material misrepresentation or omission, regarding a significant point, even decades comprising many successes in Canada later, can result in a complete uprooting of an individual’s life.

A recent decision by Chief Justice Crampton of the Federal Court, Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v. Kljajic, 2020 FC 570, shows the severe consequences of failing to be forthright when applying to enter Canada and sets a new precedent that will likely deter future applicants from making false declarations on their application forms.

Despite many years of law-abiding behaviour in Canada, a purposeful misrepresentation on an application may not be forgiven in Canada, no matter how old the deception.


The defendant in this case, Cedo Kljajic, obtained permanent residence in Canada as a member of the refugee class in 1995. He became a Canadian citizen in 1999. During his 25 years in Canada, Mr. Kljajic had no issues with the law, was a contributing member of society, and had planted strong and deep roots.

Both the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the plaintiffs in this case, alleged that Mr. Kljajic knowingly concealed important facts and made false representations when applying for status in Canada. More specifically, amongst other misrepresentations, he concealed his former high-ranking position of Undersecretary for Public Security of the Bosnian Serb Republic (“RS MUP”), a government known to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. On his application, Mr. Kljajic also denied any involvement in the commission of any war crime or any crime against humanity. The failure to honestly and accurately disclose will be the focus of this case commentary.

The Court found that Mr. Kljajic became a permanent resident of Canada by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances. As a result, he was also presumed to have obtained citizenship by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances.

Mr. Kljajic was also found inadmissible to Canada pursuant to paragraph 35(1)(b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”) because there were reasonable grounds to believe he was a prescribed senior official of a government that had engaged in systematic or gross human rights violations, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, within the meaning of subsections 6(3) to (5) of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. Further, he was found inadmissible pursuant to paragraph 35(1)(a) of the IRPA because he was complicit in the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the RS MUP against non-Serbs.

The Court’s analysis of Mr. Kljajic’s inadmissibility to Canada is beyond the scope of this case commentary. Instead, I wish to focus on the duty to disclose, and the duty to answer questions honestly and accurately. These joint duties have broad application to all refugee claims, and equally to all applications for immigration (i.e.. permanent resident status) and to citizenship.

Case Analysis

Chief Justice Crampton makes several important determinations in this seminal case regarding the duty to disclose information on a refugee application. Crampton applied the leading jurisprudence and adeptly synthesized the law in this area. These determinations will likely shape the legal landscape for future cases in this area, including permanent resident and citizenship applications.

Burden of proof

First, to demonstrate that a person became a permanent resident by false representation or fraud or by knowingly concealing material circumstances, the Court ruled that the government must simply demonstrate that the deception likely had the effect of averting further inquiries in respect of circumstances that could have had a material bearing on the assessment of the person’s application. The standard of proof is the civil “balance of probabilities.”

This finding is important because it would otherwise be a very heavy burden to prove that the application would have been rejected but for the deception. Proving that the deception or misrepresentation likely stopped further inquiries about material circumstances is a more reasonable endeavour. Put differently, it would be challenging, and therefore unnecessary, to definitively conclude how the application would have been decided if Mr. Kljajic had been honest. The evidence showed that he likely would have been screened out, but he also may have simply been subject to further questioning. It would place a heavy burden on the government to prove which outcome would have occurred; to some extent it would have depended on the individual reviewing the application. Therefore, this lower standard is appropriate in these circumstances.


Second, the withheld or misleading information does not itself need to concern a decisive or potentially important issue. Withholding material information or providing a misleading answer that likely had the effect of averting further inquires are both considered concealment of material circumstances.

The facts that Mr. Kljajic omitted were material circumstances because if they had been disclosed his application would either have been screened out or further inquiries would have been made. It is very likely that he would not have been permitted to enter Canada given the circumstances at the time.

Intent to Mislead

Third, even if the omitted facts are material circumstances, the Court must determine if the individual intended to mislead those assessing his application. The Canadian government did not have to prove that Mr. Kljajic knew the circumstances were material, they simply had to show that he there were reasonable grounds to believe that had the intent of misleading those assessing his application.

Innocent misrepresentations, inadvertent omissions of immaterial information, and mere technical transgressions, are not included in the concept of knowingly concealing material circumstances, and are not therefore violations of the law. The very narrow and limited examples include innocently forgetting to include important information, mistakes due to honest translation errors, or omitting information that one genuinely believes to be inconsequential. However, willful blindness will not be excused.

Mr. Kljajic indicated on his permanent residence application that he read and spoke English well and that no one assisted him in preparing his application. He also signed the standard declaration on the last page of the Canadian government form stating that the information provided was “truthful, complete and correct” and that he understood all of the statements in the declaration. Therefore, the Court determined that his concealment was not innocent.

Mr. Kljajic argued that he had concealed the information out of fear for the safety of himself and his family due to possible reprisals by his own nationals, and therefore he did not intentionally conceal it from Canadian immigration officials. However, the Court in this case held that even if the information is concealed due to fear, a judge cannot conclude that the deception was innocent. Mr. Kljajic specifically did not want anyone in the Canadian embassy to know about his links to the Bosnian security and intelligence operations RS MUP due to his alleged fear of other members in RS MUP and the paramilitary group Yellow Wasps. This was not an innocent misrepresentation because he did purposely hide the information. He knew this information was important or he would not have chosen to hide it.

Justifying Knowingly Concealing Material Circumstances

Fourth, knowingly concealing material circumstances can only be justifiable in very exceptional circumstances. Situations that may be justifiable include circumstances that amount to duress or where the defence of necessity applies. Since Mr. Kljajic’s application was completed of his own free will and he was not in urgent and imminent danger, these defences were not available to him.

As Chief Justice Crampton notes, a strict limitation on justifying knowing concealment of material circumstances is crucial to the integrity of Canada’s immigration and citizenship programs. He explained that without this protection, our programs would be very vulnerable as there might be a myriad of conceivable justifications for concealing material circumstances. Examples could include a desire to reunite with a spouse or family member, a desire to escape dangerous or threatening circumstances, or a desire to escape poverty and desolate circumstances. If we allow individuals to justify their deception with reasons such as these, the Court ruled, it would seriously undermine the rule of law. If Mr. Kljajic was excused from withholding material information on his application due to his fear, it could open the floodgates to many other deceptions from applicants. Our immigration system relies on honest declarations on important forms. Without such honesty, immigration officials cannot properly and fully assess whether to approve an application.

Mr. Kljajic’s excuses for his material omissions and pleas to stay in Canada were not appropriate justification for his actions. He argued that he had limited awareness of the war crimes and that the consequences he would have faced for leaving the RS MUP without official permission were severe. However, the Court found that the evidence did not support these claims. Mr. Kljajic also argued that the false representations were not intended to mislead Canadian immigration officials but instead to protect himself and his family from his superior at the RS MUP or a paramilitary group. He further testified that he sincerely believed that he had never been complicit in the commission of any war crimes.

Mr. Kljajic also testified about his work history in Canada, the absence of any troubles with the law in Canada during the last 25 years, and the fact that his children and grandchildren all live in Canada. Despite any sympathy one might feel for his situation, the Court ruled that that none of these factors justified his actions of concealment and misrepresentation.


This case shows how serious the consequences of dishonesty on a permanent residence application can be. There is no limitation period when it comes to this type of violation. Even though Mr. Kljajic’s concealment and misrepresentation was many years ago, it is still unlawful and will likely result in his deportation from Canada where he has built his life for the past 25 years.

Canada’s strong stance on dishonesty is logical. Our courts have consistently ruled that if we were to allow individuals to deceive and misrepresent to gain status in Canada and then forgive them later for this behaviour if they could hide it for long enough, it might encourage more people to misrepresent on their applications. What reason would someone have to tell the absolute truth when they could withhold information, or make false representations, thereby giving themselves a better chance to receive refugee protection, permanent resident status, and indeed citizenship?

This case appropriately sets an example that honesty in refugee and immigration applications is mandatory. No matter what your status is at the time the material misrepresentation is discovered – whether it be refugee status, permanent resident status, or citizenship – the consequences will likely be the same. Once an individual is found to have provided misleading information about a material circumstance, they may face deportation.

As Chief Justice Crampton wrote, “The light of the law must be allowed to shine on all of the circumstances…”