Watchdog says immigration applicants need easier access to info on their files

 OTTAWA -- The federal information watchdog says the Immigration Department needs to provide easier access to information for immigration applicants seeking more than a bare-bones outline of their files.

In a new report today, information commissioner Caroline Maynard is calling for readier transparency as aspiring Canadians frequently have to resort to requests under the Access to Information Act.

Maynard says the recurring complaint to her office revolves around a lack of available information on details such as application status or the reasoning behind decisions, which can be hard to obtain through the department's online account portal.

The report says the Immigration Department received about 117,000 access-to-information requests in 2019-20 -- nearly three times more than all other federal institutions combined -- and became the target of the highest number of complaints to the information commissioner's office.

Maynard is calling on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to provide more timely responses to the requests as well as broader measures to reduce the need for those demands in the first place.

The department says it plans to modernize its digital platform in the next two to three years and launch a review that could result in more details about why an application was denied, all with a view to greater information for would-be residents.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2021.

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