Pursuant to subsection 42.1(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and related regulations, a foreign national can apply for a declaration of relief – commonly referred to as "Ministerial relief" (MR) – if they have been found inadmissible to Canada under section 34 (security); paragraphs 35(1)(b) or (c) (human or international rights violations); and/or subsection 37(1) (organized criminality) of IRPA, resulting in a removal order being issued against them by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) and/or an application for temporary or permanent residence being refused by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in Canada or overseas.
The Ministerial Relief Unit (MRU) of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) receives and processes MR applications, including drafting recommendations to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness ("the Minister") on whether relief should be granted or denied. MR decisions rest solely with the Minister and cannot be delegated to government officials. MR is a discretionary authority, intended to be exceptional, and it is not meant to review or re-determine an inadmissibility finding.
This Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) examines privacy risks associated with the CBSA's MR program in light of the regulatory amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) relating to MR, which came into force on March 10, 2017 and were published in the Canada Gazette on March 22, 2017. The PIA assesses the management of personal information collected, used, disclosed and retained by the CBSA during the MR application process only.
Prior to the coming-into-force of the regulatory amendments, there was no formalized application framework for MR. Foreign nationals typically requested relief by providing documentary submissions with varying degrees of relevance to a decision on whether or not to grant relief. In addition, there was no formal criteria establishing when a person may apply for relief. Until recently, IRCC officers were directed to refer a person for consideration for MR and to await the outcome of the relief process prior to either rejecting their immigration application (i.e., temporary or permanent resident application) or referring allegations of inadmissibility to the IRB for determination. As a result, the current MR inventory includes applications from individuals who have yet to receive a final decision on admissibility. This has resulted in resources being used to assess applications of individuals who may not be inadmissible, and as a result, may not require relief.
The above-mentioned amendments to the IRPR brought greater clarity, consistency and control to the MR application process, case intake and inventory management. These amendments:
- establish when a foreign national may submit an application (i.e., once a final inadmissibility determination has been made). This will allow the CBSA to focus resources on processing MR cases where inadmissibility has already been established and upheld by the IRB or the courts, and will effectively reduce the future intake of cases where MR is not required;
- prescribe the use of an MR-specific application form (BSF766 - Application for a Declaration of Relief under Subsection 42.1(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA);
- allow the CBSA to return an MR application, unprocessed, when certain requirements are not met;
- allow applications to be closed when an applicant does not respond to a notice requiring them to confirm their intention to proceed with their application within the specified timeframe, or when other remedies have been obtained;
- require applicants to provide the Minister with updated address and contact information while applications for Ministerial relief are in process;
- address transitional cases impacted by the new regulations by clarifying which aspects of the regulatory amendments would apply to those requests for MR received prior to the coming-into-force of the MR regulations.
Protecting Your Personal Information
The personal information collected, used, disclosed and retained as part of this process is necessary to support the Agency's research and advice to the Minister on the merits of an application for MR. The regulatory measures augment the effectiveness of the MR application process by requiring the timely provision of information relevant to the assessment process. Collection and disclosure is minimized to safeguard the rights of applicants, and to reduce the risk of a breach of their personal information. The information collected is used to inform advice and recommendations to the Minister. Personal information collected is retained for a period of 80 years or until the individual reaches 100 years of age and only after the file has been closed.
The following non-exhaustive list of personal information related to MR applicants will be collected and managed by the CBSA MRU:
- the applicant's place of birth, gender, marital status, and the names of any former spouses or common-law partners;
- the applicant's telephone number and email address, if any;
- the applicant's former countries of citizenship or former countries of nationality;
- the applicant's education, including the name and location of all elementary and secondary schools and post-secondary, technical and vocational institutions attended, and the start and end dates for the periods during which they attended each school or institution;
- the applicant's criminal history, in any country, including Canada;
- the applicant's work history, including volunteer work, beginning from the age of 16 years, including start and end dates for each period of work, their job title and work description and the employer's name and address;
- the applicant's international travel history beginning from the age of 16 years, including a list of the countries visited, the purpose of the visits, the dates and duration of the visits and any immigration status sought from or granted by any country visited;
- whether the applicant was determined to be inadmissible under section 34, paragraph 35(1)(b) or (c) or subsection 37(1) of the IRPA, the date on which and the city and country in which the determination was made, and whether the determination resulted in a decision or a removal order referred to in subsection 24.1(1) of the IRPR;
- whether the applicant was ever arrested, detained or put in jail.
The above-listed information is collected via the standardized MR application form (BSF766), which is to be completed by the applicant and provided to the MRU, accompanied by any additional information the applicant feels relevant to the national interest assessment. Drafting a recommendation for the Minister requires assessing this information within the context of other immigration information in the possession of both IRCC and the CBSA.
Right of Access
Individuals are informed of the authority for collection, purpose, uses and disclosure of their personal information in a Privacy Notice Statement that appears on the application form.
When the CBSA MRU has prepared a recommendation for the Minister, a copy of the recommendation, and all information used in support of the recommendation (less any third party information that has been redacted), is provided to the applicant. The individual is invited to make any additional submissions prior to the recommendation and associated documents being referred to the Minister for decision.
Individuals may formally request access to their personal information, or access to corporate records related to or created by the CBSA MRU by filing a request with the Access to Information and Privacy Division. More information about this can be found on the Access to Information and Privacy page.
Individuals with concerns about the collection, use, disclosure or retention of their personal information may issue a complaint to CBSA Access to Information and Privacy Division. Complaints should be made in writing, and include the individual's name, contact information, and a brief description of their concerns.
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