Angry, wealthy immigrants sue Canadian government over cancelled immigration program

It’s a battle between the lawyers and the politicians as the fallout continues from the cancellation of Canada’s Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) earlier this year.

As predicted by many when the Conservative government canceled the IIP, several wealthy immigrant investors have filed lawsuits against the Canadian government claiming they were treated unfairly and that the government didn’t meet its legal obligations for a timely processing of their immigration applications.

Representing approximately 1,500 former IIP applicants-mostly from Mainland China, two Canadian attorneys recently presented their case before a Toronto court, arguing that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) failed to assess their clients’ immigration applications in a reasonable timeframe and that their rights under Canadian law had been breached.

One of the complainants’ lawyers, Tim Leahy, cited the experience of one of his clients as a typical example of the Canadian government’s failing to meet its IIP commitments. Although the government predicted IIP application processing time to be between 18-24 months, “one client sold her hairdressing salon (in China, in anticipation of moving to Canada) and has been waiting  and waiting with no income.”

According to Leahy, as a result of the government’s broken IIP promises, his clients are entitled to $5 million per IIP applicant and his or her dependants. The lawsuit will be focused on 94 key complainants, but it’s expected that it will apply to all IIP applicants named in the suit. According to Leahy, non-Chinese investors included in the lawsuit had filed IIP applications in several other countries, including Turkey, England, South Africa and India.

Leahy conceded that the IIP program was unpopular among Canadians, who perceived it—critics would say correctly—as being a means for wealthy foreign nationals to buy, rather than earn, their Canadian citizenships. “The idea that millionaires are buying their (Canadian) residence sits very badly on the Canadian mentality, so the perception is negative,” Leahy told the New York Times.

The vast majority of both IIP applicants, and those included in the lawsuit, are wealthy Chinese nationals; a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) confirmed that “China has been among the top source countries for Canadian immigration for more than a decade, and it would continue to rank as such.”

However, the Canadian government remains convinced that canceling the IIP program was the right decision.

A spokesman for CIC said that the cancellation of the IIP program was justified as it “provided limited economic benefit to Canada”, and eliminating the backlog of applications associated with the IIP allows the government to “focus on attracting experienced business people and raising investment capital that is the maximum benefit to Canada’s economy.”