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Here are some news stories from January 5, 2008 regarding the Class Action in the Hinton case.

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http://www.embassymag.ca/html/index.php?display=story&full_path=/2008/january/9/visaapplicants/
January 9th, 2008
NEWS STORY

Visa Applicants Take Department to Federal Court

Citizenship and Immigration Canada faces a class action lawsuit alleging the department profited from millions of visa applications.

By Jeff Davis

What began as a $75 fee paid for a permanent resident visa ballooned last week into a massive class action lawsuit that could cost Citizenship and Immigration Canada hundreds of millions of dollars.

It all began when Alan Hinton, a software technician from Coquitlam, B.C., met his future wife Irena in Moscow seven years ago. He was in Russia to attend a friend's wedding, and met Irena through the bride.

A few days of touring Moscow turned to love and Mr. Hinton later returned to Russia, this time for his own wedding.

After taking their vows, the pair returned to Canada in 2001, with Mr. Hinton sponsoring his wife's permanent residence visa at a cost of $75.

Only afterwards, when he was approached by Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who had been investigating visa fees for years, did Mr. Hinton realize that he may have paid more than he should.

According to an affidavit filed with the Federal Court, Mr. Kurland alleges that "in the case of Mr. Hinton, who paid a fee of $75.00 for the determination of an application to sponsor his wife...the costs of the service was $36.69. Given this cost and the fee charges, there is a profit on the service of $38.31."

The class action suit, under examination by the Federal Court, charges the government inappropriately made a profit off of two million to three million other applicants who applied for visas over the past 13 years.

Justice Michael Harrington ruled on Jan. 4 that the case, filed by the Hintons in 2004, could stand as a class action. Mr. Harrington wrote that "this application for judicial review be treated and proceeded as an action and that it be treated as a class action."

Six years and one baby later, the Hintons say they are standing up for much more than the $38.31 they stand to be refunded.

"I felt very passionately about it," says Mr. Hinton. "I thought the government shouldn't be charging more money for services that they are supposed to be offering at a break-even cost.

"Basically, it came to light that this was happening, and we wanted to rectify it and hold the government accountable," he says.

A spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said the department is unable to comment as the case is currently before the courts.


Suit Covers 10 Years, $700 Million

Among the visa classes being examined include single entry visitor, multiple entry visitor, permanent residence, foreign worker and foreign student, according to court documents.

Mr. Kurland says the total cost of refunding visa applicants within the April 1, 1994 to March 31, 2004 period being examined is roughly $700 million. He adds that if the years from 2005 to 2007 are included, the bill could rise to nearly $1 billion.

Many people during this period applied for more than one visa, and Mr. Kurland says the class action encompasses some 12 million individual visa applications.

Mr. Kurland alleges that Citizenship and Immigration Canada made profits off visa applications in violation of the Financial Administration Act, which he submitted with his affidavit. The FAA, according to the Treasury Board Secretariat's website, is the "legislative framework that sets out the formal rules for the administration and management of the government."

Government agencies, such as the Passport Office, are allowed to make profits because they have been granted special exemptions, Mr. Kurland says. He says such exemptions have not been granted to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Mr. Kurland says it would be politically damaging for any governing party to announce that Citizenship and Immigration is eligible to make a profit. More now than ever, he says, the immigrant voters are an important constituency that must be courted carefully.

"The number one priority target the government needs to convert from minority to majority is the immigrant vote," he says. "It's political suicide for a government to exempt itself from the requirement of making a profit."

Mr. Kurland, in his affidavit, says the costs of visas are supposed to be set according to "the best available cost data."

However, according to the affidavit, Mr. Kurland discovered, through an Access to Information request, that for some periods under examination, CIC did not have accurate records on which to determine the full cost of processing. In the affidavit, Mr. Kurland quotes a 2002 CIC departmental assessment report that says "in the past five years, CIC's capacity for program monitoring has been insufficient."

The affidavit also states that Consulting and Audit Canada, a government agency that offers consulting and audit services to public sector managers, "did not audit or challenge Citizenship and Immigration's figures or costing model."

In addition, Mr. Kurland says in his affidavit that CIC's processing "costs were significantly reduced from 1998 onward, due to several factors." This was the result a downsizing process that resulted in "fewer Canada-based officers" and "fewer offices abroad," the affidavit says.

Mr. Kurland says it took him 13 years of Access to Information requests to garner enough information to bring this case forward.


'An Enormously Huge Case'
Peter Showler, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and specialist in immigration and refugee law, says "certainly at first blush it looks as though it is quite a valid application."

By becoming a class action, he says, this case "has just exploded into an enormously huge case from the point of view of the government."

Mr. Showler adds that Mr. Kurland is an "extremely credible lawyer" who is particularly skilled at making Access to Information requests to the government.

He says that if this case wins, it would also reflect badly on the government, which will have been overcharging refugees as well.

Mr. Showler says that refugees are obliged to apply for permanent residency within six months of getting refugee status, and that "its when they're at their economically most vulnerable point that they've got to find that money."

"If it proves that on top of that the government is actually reaping a profit, that would just be extraordinarily offensive...and morally objectionable," he says.

Olivia Chow, the NDP immigration critic, shares Mr. Showler's concern over the charging of refugees.

"The NDP has never supported user fees in the first place," she says, "but even if there are user fees, they should not be overcharged as it is now. It's grossly unfair."

"Why would you collect profit from a refugee who is stuck in a refugee camp," she says, "I don't care if it's legal or illegal. It's not fair.

jdavis@embassymag.ca


h ttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080105.IMMIGRATION05//TPStory/National

THE GLOBE AND MAIL JANUARY 5, 2008

Class-action suit over visa fees to proceed


Immigration illegally inflates the $36.69 cost of an application to $75, says lawyer for man who sponsored his Russian wife

GLORIA GALLOWAY-January 5, 2008

OTTAWA -- The Immigration Department is being accused of inflating the costs of visa fees for as many as three million immigrants and foreign visitors in a case that could ultimately cost the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Federal Court ruled yesterday that the lawsuit brought against the Immigration Minister by Alan Hinton of Coquitlam, B.C., who was charged $75 to sponsor his Russian wife to come to Canada in 2001, could proceed as a class action.

Mr. Justice Sean Harrington ruled that the court action launched by Mr. Hinton will cover, with a few exceptions, anyone who applied to come to Canada between April 1, 1994, and March 31, 2004.

Richard Kurland, a lawyer for Mr. Hinton, obtained documents under federal Access to Information laws that show the cost to the government of processing a sponsorship immigration application was $36.69.

Mr. Kurland, who accuses the government of reaping an "illicit profit," argues that the Financial Administration Act does not allow the government to charge a fee that exceeds the amount it costs to provide the actual service.

While the potential refund to the Hintons is just $38.31, some immigration processing fees range as high as $1,050 a person. In many cases, the fees are charged to several people within the same family. In others, one person is required to pay multiple fees.

"Twelve million visa fees are on the table," said Mr. Kurland, clearly elated with the decision yesterday. A successful resolution to the suit, he said, would mean that one out of every 17 Canadians may be eligible for a partial refund of their processing fees.

The law is quite clear, Mr. Kurland said. "The Financial Administration Act doesn't allow government to profit on government services."

Departments can apply for exemptions. Passport Canada, for instance, is permitted to make a profit on the processing of passports, he said.

But the Immigration Department, he said, could never ask for such an exemption "because politically it is suicide to tell immigrants that the government is profiting on their visas at a time that they are claiming that processing times are too long because they don't have resources for more visa offices."

The Immigration Department did not return calls yesterday, but the government argued in court against allowing the Hinton case to proceed - and against the certification of the class action.

Mr. Kurland said it took him 13 years of requests under the Access to Information legislation to find out the true costs of processing the visas.

And unless this situation is fixed, he said, the government is going to face hordes of disgruntled voters in the swing ridings that have become the home to the millions of immigrants arriving over the past two decades.

The class action goes back only as far as 1994 because of legal deadlines for contesting the immigration fees and extends to 2004 because that is when the Hintons launched their suit. But Mr. Kurland said he will ask the court to include everyone who paid the immigration processing fee up to the end of 2007.


http://www.nationalpost.com/todays_paper/story.html?id=216106

THE NATIONAL POST JANUARY 5, 2008

Immigrant visa class action gets go-ahead

Overcharging Alleged
Richard Foot, CanWest News Service

The Federal Court of Canada has given the green light to a national class-action lawsuit alleging the Department of Citizenship and Immigration profits from its visa application fees, and has illegally raked in more than $700-million over the past decade from new immigrants.

It is the first time in the history of the Federal Court that a contested class action has been certified -- or allowed to proceed as a class claim -- said Richard Kurland, the Vancouver lawyer spearheading the matter.

The lawsuit alleges that since 1998, the government has been overcharging on the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency.

Using government documents obtained through the Access to Information process, the lawsuit estimates that roughly 12 million such applications have been processed since 1998 and that at least two million Canadian residents deserve money back from Ottawa.

The difference between the high number of applications and the fewer number of affected people stems from the fact that many immigrants or foreigners filed more than one application over the past decade. Others, especially those on visitor visas, are no longer in Canada and, therefore, not included in the class.

Federal departments are forbidden under the Financial Administration Act to charge any more in fees than the amount they need to recoup the cost of their services. The Act also requires departments to have mechanisms in place to ensure that profits aren't made from public services.

In a separate case involving the New Brunswick government last year, the Supreme Court ruled that governments must also repay service fees to citizens if those fees were illegally obtained.

Mr. Kurland said the Immigration Department has been "systematically violating" the law for years, in many cases charging more than double what it costs to process visa applications.

In one of a number of defences made in response to the lawsuit, federal lawyers have argued that the Financial Administration Act does not apply to the department.

Mr. Kurland suspects the government might have been boosting its immigration fees to fund enforcement activities at Canadian border posts. Even if that's true, he said the law prohibits federal departments from using fees for one service to fund the costs of another.

"What I can't understand is how these rules could not be followed year after year," he said.

The representative plaintiff at the centre of the class action is Alan Hinton of B.C. In 2003, Mr. Hinton paid a $75 fee to sponsor his Russian wife, Irene, to emigrate to Canada.

Calculations based on the department's own documents show that the actual unit cost of that application was only $36.69, resulting in a $38.31 profit for Ottawa, the lawsuit says.

Mr. Kurland said some families, who have filed numerous applications over the past few years to sponsor relatives coming to Canada, could be owed hundreds if not thousands of dollars by the government.

Mr. Kurland's colleague, Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman, said the class action, if successful, could have an impact on governments of all levels across the country.

"The principle involved here is an extremely important one," he said. "All governments charge fees for various services. The question this case raises is how responsible those governments should be in how they cost out these things."

Officials at the Immigration Department did not respond yesterday to a request for comment.


© 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.


LA PRESSE

http://www.cyberpresse.ca/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080105/CPACTUALITES/801050826/5358/CPPRESSE&template=printart&print=1

Le samedi 05 janv 2008

Demande de recours collectif contre Immigration Canada

Louise Leduc

Entre 1994 et 2004, le gouvernement fédéral a encaissé 700 millions de dollars aux dépens d'immigrants à qui il a facturé des sommes nettement exagérées pour leur accorder des visas, estime un trio d'avocats. Ils viennent d'obtenir la permission d'intenter un recours collectif qui pourrait toucher plus de 12 millions de visas.

La décision est tombée hier: non, cette cause n'est pas farfelue, et les tribunaux devront se pencher sur le fond de la question, a tranché la Cour fédérale.

Cela fait 13 ans que l'avocat Richard Kurland, de Vancouver, qui représente des multinationales à la recherche de personnel à l'étranger, travaille d'arrache-pied à ce dossier.

À coup de demandes répétées d'accès à l'information - que peut présenter tout citoyen qui souhaite obtenir une information du gouvernement -, M. Kurland a réussi, bribe par bribe, à apprendre par exemple qu'à Taipei (Taiwan), produire un visa de visiteur coûte 7$. Or, on exige 75$ du demandeur.

Pour un visa d'immigrant? Les frais d'administration liés à la production du document - vérifications d'usage, entrevue avec un employé de l'ambassade, etc. - s'élèvent à 360$, selon les renseignements qu'a obtenus M. Kurland. Les étrangers qui le réclament doivent toutefois débourser 550$.

Selon M. Kurland, tout cela est d'autant plus inacceptable dans le cas du Québec, qui est la seule province à sélectionner elle-même ses immigrants. Pour immigrer ici, un candidat aura d'abord dû payer 390$ pour son certificat de sélection et 150$ pour chaque personne à sa charge. «Vu que le Québec a déjà pris sa décision et fait le gros du travail, qu'est-ce qui reste tant à faire aux autorités fédérales pour qu'elles réclament plus de 550$?» demande M. Kurland.

Une fois qu'ils sont acceptés, les futurs immigrants doivent enfin payer 490$ en «frais d'établissement». Une taxe à l'établissement, quoi. Avant l'arrivée au pouvoir de Stephen Harper, cette taxe était deux fois plus élevée (975$); le premier ministre a ainsi respecté sa promesse de la réduire. C'est un pas dans la bonne direction mais, aux yeux de bon nombre d'avocats spécialisés en droit de l'immigration, il reste encore beaucoup de ménage à faire.

Joseph Allen, avocat et président de l'Association québécoise des avocats et des avocates en droit de l'immigration, croit que les trois juristes (Richard Kurland, Lorne Waldman et Gerard Cuttler) qui pilotent le recours collectif ont une cause plus qu'intéressante devant eux. «Aussi bien à Ottawa qu'à Québec, les gouvernements ne rendent pas des services à la hauteur des frais qu'ils exigent, dit M. Allen. Au Proche-Orient, il faut souvent trois ou quatre ans pour que les dossiers soient traités.»

Pendant ce temps, l'argent dort dans les coffres et prolifère. «Les chèques des demandeurs ne sont d'ailleurs pas faits au ministère de l'Immigration, mais au Receveur général, à Ottawa, et au ministère des Finances, à Québec, fait remarquer Patrice Brunet, avocat en droit de l'immigration au Québec. Ça sert à engraisser le fonds consolidé de ces deux ordres de gouvernement.»

Selon les avocats qui pilotent le recours collectif, il n'est pas acceptable que le gouvernement fasse des profits sur les services qu'il offre - des profits que Richard Kurland évalue à au moins 25%.

Mais comment les personnes en cause seront-elles jointes? Selon l'avocat Richard Kurland, seulement 15% de toutes les personnes qui pourraient être admissibles au recours collectif vivent à l'étranger. La majorité est déjà au pays grâce à des visas temporaires.

La décision rendue hier par la Cour fédérale ne touche que les gens qui ont présenté une demande de visa entre 1994 et 2004. Cette période a été retenue pour des raisons techniques, mais Richard Kurland entend dès lundi entreprendre d'autres démarches pour inclure les demandeurs plus récents.

Le ministère de la Citoyenneté et de l'Immigration, à Ottawa, n'a pas voulu commenter, hier. Karen Shadd-Evelyn, responsable des relations avec les médias, s'est bornée à dire: «Il s'agit d'une affaire complexe. Nous examinons la décision de la Cour et les options qui s'offrent à nous sur le plan juridique.»



http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=382cec5b-8e80-4827-b9fd-303f793970ef&k=99610

OTTAWA CITIZEN

Suit against government over visa fees can proceed, court rules
Class-action alleges Immigration has overcharged more than $700 million

Richard Foot, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Federal Court of Canada has given the green light to a national, class-action lawsuit alleging that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration profits off its visa application fees, and has illegally raked in more than $700 million over the past decade from new immigrants.

It is the first time in the history of the Federal Court that a contested class action has been certified -- or allowed to proceed as a class claim, says Richard Kurland, the Vancouver lawyer spearheading the matter.

The lawsuit alleges that since 1998, the government has been overcharging on the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency.

Using government documents obtained through the access to information process, the lawsuit estimates that roughly 12 million such applications have been processed since 1998 and that at least two million Canadian residents deserve money back from the federal government.

The difference between the high number of applications and the lower number of affected people stems from the fact that many immigrants or foreigners filed more than one application over the past decade.

Others, especially those on visitor visas, are no longer in Canada and, therefore, not included in the class.

Federal government departments are forbidden, under the Financial Administration Act, to charge any more in fees than the amount they need to recoup the cost of their services.

The act also requires departments to have mechanisms in place to ensure that profits aren't made off public services.

In a separate case involving the New Brunswick government last year, the Supreme Court ruled that governments must also repay service fees to citizens if those fees were illegally obtained.

Mr. Kurland says the Immigration Department has been "systematically violating" the law for years, in many cases charging more than double what it costs to process visa applications.

In one of a number of defences made in response to the lawsuit, federal lawyers have argued that the Financial Administration Act does not apply to the department.

The representative plaintiff at the centre of the class action is Alan Hinton of Coquitlam, B.C.

In 2003, Mr. Hinton paid a $75 fee to sponsor his Russian wife, Irene, to immigrate to Canada.

Calculations based on the department's own documents show that the actual unit cost of that application was only $36.69, resulting in a $38.31 profit for the federal government, the lawsuit says.

Mr. Kurland says some families, who have filed numerous applications over the past few years to sponsor relatives coming to Canada, could be owed hundreds if not thousands of dollars by the government.

Mr. Kurland's colleague, Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman, says the class action, if successful could have an impact on governments of all levels across the country.

"The principle involved here is an extremely important one," he says.

"All governments charge fees for various services. The question this case raises is how responsible those governments should be in how they cost out these things."

Officials at the Immigration Department did not respond yesterday to a request for comment.


© The Ottawa Citizen 2008


http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=a446d0e2-60c9-42c3-aeca-b841a1d27ca9&k=93974

MONTREAL GAZETTE JANUARY 5, 2008

Court green-lights visa class-action suit

First time a contested case is certified. Citizenship and Immigration illegally collected $700 million since 1998, lawyer says

RICHARD FOOT, CanWest News Service; Vancouver Sun contributed to this report


The Federal Court of Canada has approved a national class-action lawsuit alleging the Department of Citizenship and Immigration profits off its visa application fees, and has illegally raked in more than $700 million from new immigrants in the past decade.

It is the first time in the history of the Federal Court that a contested class-action has been certified, said Richard Kurland, the Vancouver lawyer spearheading the case.

The lawsuit alleges since 1998, the government has been overcharging the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency.

Using government documents obtained through the access to information process, the lawsuit estimates roughly 12 million applications have been processed since 1998 and that at least 2 million Canadian residents deserve money back from Ottawa.

The difference between the high number of applications and the fewer number of affected people stems from the fact many immigrants or foreigners filed more than one application during the past decade. Others, especially those on visitor visas, are no longer in Canada and, therefore, not included in the lawsuit.

Federal departments are forbidden, under the Financial Administration Act, to charge any more in fees than the amount they need to recoup the cost of their services. The act also requires departments to have mechanisms in place to ensure profits aren't made off public services.

In a separate case involving the New Brunswick government last year, the Supreme Court ruled governments also must repay service fees to citizens if those fees were illegally obtained.

Kurland said the Immigration Department has been "systematically violating" the law for years, in many cases charging more than double what it costs to process visa applications.

In one of a number of defences made in response to the lawsuit, federal lawyers have argued the Financial Administration Act does not apply to the department.

Kurland said he suspects the government might have been boosting its immigration fees to fund enforcement activities at Canadian border posts. Even if that's true, he said the law prohibits federal departments from using fees for one service to fund the costs of another.

"What I can't understand is how these rules could not be followed year after year," he said yesterday.

The representative plaintiff at the centre of the class-action is Alan Hinton of Coquitlam, B.C. In 2003, Hinton paid a $75 fee to sponsor his Russian wife, Irene, to immigrate to Canada.

Calculations based on the department's own documents show the actual cost of that application was only $36.69, resulting in a $38.31 profit for Ottawa, the lawsuit alleges.

"It's not the money, it's the principle," said Hinton, a 30-year-old computer software worker.

"We recognized that the government was overcharging for this service and we just felt it only right we complain. There's a lot of people in our situation and it's a hardship."

First time a contested case is certified. Citizenship and Immigration illegally collected $700 million since 1998, lawyer says

Kurland said some families, who have filed numerous applications over the past few years to sponsor relatives coming to Canada, could be owed hundreds if not thousands of dollars by the government.

Kurland's colleague, Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman, said the class-action, if successful, could have an impact on governments of all levels across the country.

"The principle involved here is an extremely important one," he said. "All governments charge fees for various services. The question this case raises is how responsible those governments should be in how they cost out these things."

Officials at the Immigration Department did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.



http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=d620c36f-a529-415b-9f02-bb1a892fb92d

CALGARY HERALD JANUARY 5, 2008

Ottawa accused of charging too much for visas

OTTAWA - The Federal Court of Canada has given the green light to a national, class-action lawsuit alleging the Citizenship and Immigration Department profits from its visa application fees and has illegally raked in more than $700 million over the past decade from new immigrants. It is the first time in the court's history that a contested class action has been allowed to proceed as a class claim, says Richard Kurland, the Vancouver lawyer spearheading the matter.

The lawsuit alleges that since 1998, the government has been overcharging on the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency. The lawsuit estimates roughly 12 million such applications have been processed since 1998 and at least two million Canadian residents deserve money back from Ottawa.

© The Calgary Herald 2008




http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=87169544-b50c-441b-a972-8405e3abf1bd

VANCOUVER SUN JANUARY 5, 2008

Class-action lawsuit targets visa fees

Richard Foot
CanWest News Service

The Federal Court of Canada has given the green light to a national class-action lawsuit launched by a Coquitlam man against the federal Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

The lawsuit claims the department makes a profit on visa application fees, and has illegally raked in more than $700 million over the past decade from new immigrants. It is the first time in the history of the Federal Court that a contested class action has been certified -- or allowed to proceed as a class claim, says Richard Kurland, the Vancouver lawyer spearheading the matter.

The lawsuit alleges that since 1998 the government has been overcharging on the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency.

Federal departments are forbidden, under the Financial Administration Act, to charge any more in fees than the amount they need to recoup the cost of their services. The Act also requires departments to have mechanisms in place to ensure that profits aren't made off public services.

The case is based on government documents obtained through the access to information process.

Using them, the lawsuit estimates that roughly 12 million such visa applications have been processed since 1998 and that at least two million Canadian residents deserve money back from Ottawa.

The difference between the high number of applications and the fewer number of affected people stems from the fact that many immigrants or foreigners filed more than one application over the past decade. Others, especially those on visitor visas, are no longer in Canada and, therefore, not included in the class.

Kurland says the Immigration Department has been "systematically violating" the law for years, in many cases charging more than double what it costs to process visa applications.

In one of a number of defences made in response to the lawsuit, federal lawyers have argued that the Financial Administration Act does not apply to the department.

Kurland suspects the government might have been boosting its immigration fees to fund enforcement activities at Canadian border posts. Even if that's true, he says the law prohibits federal departments from using fees for one service to fund the costs of another.

"What I can't understand is how these rules could not be followed year after year," he said Friday.

The representative plaintiff at the centre of the class action is Alan Hinton of Coquitlam. In 2003, Hinton paid a $75 fee to sponsor his Russian wife Irene to immigrate to Canada.

Calculations based on the department's own documents show that the actual unit cost of that application was only $36.69, resulting in a $38.31 profit for Ottawa, the lawsuit says.

Kurland says some families, who have filed numerous applications over the past few years to sponsor relatives coming to Canada, could be owed hundreds if not thousands of dollars by the government.

Kurland's colleague, Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman, says the class action, if successful, could have an impact on governments of all levels across the country.

Officials at the Immigration Department did not respond Friday to a request for comment.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008 Copyright © 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.




http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=48c0a92f-0c04-4e21-8bb8-049fbdf15d8a&k=64187

THE PROVINCE JANUARY 4, 2008

Federal Court approves class-action immigration lawsuit

Richard Foot

The Federal Court of Canada has given the green light to a national, class-action lawsuit alleging that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration profits off its visa application fees, and has illegally raked in more than $700 million over the past decade from new immigrants.

It is the first time in the history of the Federal Court that a contested class action has been certified - or allowed to proceed as a class claim, says Richard Kurland, the Vancouver lawyer spearheading the matter.

The lawsuit alleges that since 1998, the government has been overcharging on the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency.

Using government documents obtained through the access to information process, the lawsuit estimates that roughly 12 million such applications have been processed since 1998 and that at least two million Canadian residents deserve money back from Ottawa.

The difference between the high number of applications and the fewer number of affected people stems from the fact that many immigrants or foreigners filed more than one application over the past decade. Others, especially those on visitor visas, are no longer in Canada and, therefore, not included in the class.

Federal departments are forbidden, under the Financial Administration Act, to charge any more in fees than the amount they need to recoup the cost of their services. The act also requires departments to have mechanisms in place to ensure that profits aren't made off public services.

In a separate case involving the New Brunswick government last year, the Supreme Court ruled that governments must also repay service fees to citizens if those fees were illegally obtained.

Kurland says the Immigration Department has been "systematically violating" the law for years, in many cases charging more than double what it costs to process visa applications.

In one of a number of defences made in response to the lawsuit, federal lawyers have argued that the Financial Administration Act does not apply to the department.

Kurland suspects the government might have been boosting its immigration fees to fund enforcement activities at Canadian border posts. Even if that's true, he says the law prohibits federal departments from using fees for one service to fund the costs of another.

"What I can't understand is how these rules could not be followed year after year," he said Friday.

The representative plaintiff at the centre of the class action is Alan Hinton of Coquitlam, B.C. In 2003, Hinton paid a $75 fee to sponsor his Russian wife, Irene, to immigrate to Canada.

Calculations based on the department's own documents show that the actual unit cost of that application was only $36.69, resulting in a $38.31 profit for Ottawa, the lawsuit says.

Kurland says some families, who have filed numerous applications over the past few years to sponsor relatives coming to Canada, could be owed hundreds if not thousands of dollars by the government.

Kurland's colleague, Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman, says the class action, if successful could have an impact on governments of all levels across the country.

"The principle involved here is an extremely important one," he says. "All governments charge fees for various services. The question this case raises is how responsible those governments should be in how they cost out these things."

Officials at the Immigration Department did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

- CanWest News Service

© 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.





http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=4137dce4-2d3a-4716-b872-5db0f5049d40

EDMONTON JOURNAL JANUARY 5, 2008

Immigration fees lawsuit will proceed
CanWest News Service


OTTAWA - The Federal Court of Canada has given the green light to a national, class-action lawsuit alleging that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration profits off its visa application fees, and has illegally raked in more than $700 million over the past decade from new immigrants.

It is the first time in the history of the Federal Court that a contested class action has been certified -- or allowed to proceed as a class claim, says Richard Kurland, the Vancouver lawyer spearheading the matter.

The lawsuit alleges that since 1998, the government has been overcharging on the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency.

The lawsuit estimates that roughly 12 million such applications have been processed since 1998 and that at least two million Canadian residents deserve money back from Ottawa.

© The Edmonton Journal 2008



http://www.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/news/story.html?id=88e4629a-51a0-49fd-914d-dbab7ca23407

REGINA LEADER JANUARY 5, 2008

Court gives go-ahead for visa lawsuit

Richard Foot, CanWest News Service

The Federal Court of Canada has given the green light to a national, class-action lawsuit alleging that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration profits off its visa application fees, and has illegally raked in more than $700 million over the past decade from new immigrants.

It is the first time in the history of the Federal Court that a contested class action has been certified -- or allowed to proceed as a class claim, says Richard Kurland, the Vancouver lawyer spearheading the matter.

The lawsuit alleges that since 1998, the government has been overcharging on the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency.

Using government documents obtained through the access to information process, the lawsuit estimates that roughly 12 million such applications have been processed since 1998 and that at least two million Canadian residents deserve money back from Ottawa.

The difference between the high number of applications and the fewer number of affected people stems from the fact that many immigrants or foreigners filed more than one application over the past decade. Others, especially those on visitor visas, are no longer in Canada and, therefore, not included in the class.

Federal departments are forbidden, under the Financial Administration Act, to charge any more in fees than the amount they need to recoup the cost of their services. The Act also requires departments to have mechanisms in place to ensure that profits aren't made off public services.

Kurland says the Immigration Department has been "systematically violating" the law for years, in many cases charging more than double what it costs to process visa applications.

In one of a number of defences made in response to the lawsuit, federal lawyers have argued that the Financial Administration Act does not apply to the department. Kurland suspects the government might have been boosting its immigration fees to fund enforcement activities at Canadian border posts. Even if that's true, he says the law prohibits federal departments from using fees for one service to fund the costs of another.

The representative plaintiff at the centre of the class action is Alan Hinton of Coquitlam, B.C. In 2003, Hinton paid a $75 fee to sponsor his Russian wife Irene to immigrate to Canada.

Calculations based on the department's own documents show that the actual unit cost of that application was only $36.69, resulting in a $38.31 profit for Ottawa, the lawsuit says. Officials at the Immigration Department did not respond Friday to a request for comment.
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008




http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=81ab1a39-9058-42fe-80ba-42adcf1ee6c2


VICTORIA TIMES JANUARY 5, 2008

Court approves lawsuit over immigration fees

Richard Foot, CanWest News Service


The Federal Court of Canada has given the green light to a national, class-action lawsuit alleging that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration profits off its visa application fees, and has illegally raked in more than $700 million over the past decade from new immigrants.

The lawsuit alleges that since 1998, the government has been overcharging on the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency.

The lawsuit estimates that roughly 12 million such applications have been processed since 1998 and that at least two million Canadian residents deserve refunds.



© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008


http://www.canada.com/windsorstar/news/story.html?id=42656961-19c8-48b2-908a-302609cee57b

WINDSOR STAR JANUARY 5, 2008

Visa class-action OK'd
Lawsuit alleges ministry fleeced immigrants for hundreds of millions

Richard Foot, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Federal Court of Canada has given the green light to a national, class-action lawsuit alleging that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration profits off its visa application fees, and has illegally raked in more than $700 million over the past decade from new immigrants.

It is the first time in the history of the Federal Court that a contested class action has been certified -- or allowed to proceed as a class claim, says Richard Kurland, the Vancouver lawyer spearheading the matter.

The lawsuit alleges that since 1998, the government has been overcharging on the fees it collects from people applying for immigration visas, whether they are visitors to Canada, foreign workers or students, or people seeking permanent residency.

Using government documents obtained through the access to information process, the lawsuit estimates that roughly 12 million such applications have been processed since 1998 and that at least two million Canadian residents deserve money back from Ottawa.

The difference between the high number of applications and the fewer number of affected people stems from the fact that many immigrants or foreigners filed more than one application over the past decade. Others, especially those on visitor visas, are no longer in Canada and, therefore, not included in the class.

Federal departments are forbidden, under the Financial Administration Act, to charge any more in fees than the amount they need to recoup the cost of their services. The Act also requires departments to have mechanisms in place to ensure that profits aren't made off public services.

In a separate case involving the New Brunswick government last year, the Supreme Court ruled that governments must also repay service fees to citizens if those fees were illegally obtained.

Kurland says the Immigration Department has been "systematically violating" the law for years, in many cases charging more than double what it costs to process visa applications.

In one of a number of defences made in response to the lawsuit, federal lawyers have argued that the Financial Administration Act does not apply to the department.

Kurland suspects the government might have been boosting its immigration fees to fund enforcement activities at Canadian border posts. Even if that's true, he says the law prohibits federal departments from using fees for one service to fund the costs of another.

"What I can't understand is how these rules could not be followed year after year," he said Friday.

The representative plaintiff at the centre of the class action is Alan Hinton of Coquitlam, B.C. In 2003, Hinton paid a $75 fee to sponsor his Russian wife Irene to immigrate to Canada.

Calculations based on the department's own documents show that the actual unit cost of that application was only $36.69, resulting in a $38.31 profit for Ottawa, the lawsuit says.

"It's not the money, it's the principle," said Hinton, a 30-year-old computer software worker.

"We recognized that the government was overcharging for this service and we just felt it only right we "There's a lot of people in our situation and it's a hardship."

Kurland says some families, who have filed numerous applications over the past few years to sponsor relatives coming to Canada, could be owed hundreds if not thousands of dollars by the government.

Kurland's colleague, Toronto lawyer Lorne Waldman, says the class action, if successful could have an impact on governments of all levels across the country.

"The principle involved here is an extremely important one," he says. "All governments charge fees for various services. The question this case raises is how responsible those governments should be in how they cost out these things."

Officials at the Immigration Department did not respond Friday to a request for comment. -- with files from The Vancouver Sun


© The Windsor Star 2008

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