Poison pen letters come out of the shadows

The poison pen letter is frequently the weapon of choice for those who wish to sabotage someone’s immigration application.

They’re often sent to immigration officials by a person who was once close to the applicant, such as a friend, relative, employer, or co-worker. Circumstances have since changed and they now wish, for myriad possible reasons, to scuttle the applicant’s immigration plans.

Sometimes the author discloses their identity. More often than not, they choose to remain nameless and faceless. Sometimes they include documents revealing undisclosed marriages and criminal records. Sometimes they contain compromising photos. Sometimes they contain nothing

The scenarios and motives are endless. There is the employer who owes his employee more money than he wishes to pay and who lets immigration authorities know that the employee is living in Canada illegally so he can be deported. There is the scorned ex-spouse who informs immigration authorities that their old flame’s new relationship is nothing more than an immigration ruse. Then there is the relative who once did everything to help the immigrant settle here but who now feels unappreciated.

Sometimes the allegations are true, sometimes they are not.

Regardless, the authors of such letters have some beef with the intending immigrant and look to immigration authorities to settle the score for them.

Our officials are always on the lookout for immigration fraud. so they’re always happy to receive this type of information, whether it is substantiated or not.

Knowing what to do with it, however, is often tricky.

Take the recent case of a Nigerian woman, Oluremi Esther Akinmayowa. Her husband submitted an in-Canada spousal sponsorship on her behalf. Unbeknown to the applicant or her husband, someone sent CIC an anonymous letter alleging, amongst other things, that she had paid $8,000 to enter in this “bogus” marriage. Immigration officials never disclosed this letter to the applicant or her sponsor. Instead, they interviewed the applicant and her husband and concluded that there were “discrepancies” in the answers they each gave.

The application was refused and the applicant appealed to the Federal Court.

Just before the appeal was heard, the applicant’s lawyer discovered the existence of this letter and disclosed it to the court for the first time.

Firstly, Federal Court of Canada Judge Michael Kelen found that some of the so-called discrepancies at the interview could be explained, and that the vast majority of answers given were, in fact, consistent and identical. The court concluded that, “Undoubtedly, the ‘whistle-blowing’ letter influenced the officer, as it would anyone.”

As to the lack of openness shown by CIC, Justice Kelen couldn’t have been too impressed with its failure to disclose the letter to the applicant or to the court.

He set aside the decision and concluded that “the rules of natural justice and the duty to act fairly require that the immigration department disclose such letters to the applicant concerned so that the applicant has an opportunity to respond before the decision-maker is influenced by this letter.”

Sounds fair.

It’s hard to imagine how our immigration officials could have thought otherwise.

Guidy Mamann, J.D. practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Frankel Sandaluk LLP and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. For more information, visit www.migrationlaw.com or email metro@migrationlaw.com

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