Wealthy foreigners to sue Canada over end of visa plan
By Julie Gordon
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Wealthy foreigners hoping to fast-track immigration to Canada are preparing to sue Ottawa over the government's cancellation of its immigrant investor program, which has been assailed for allowing rich Chinese to buy their way into Canada.
Timothy Leahy, a lawyer who represents a group of mostly Chinese would-be immigrants in an ongoing case over long wait times for the now-defunct program, said he expects to file a second lawsuit within two months. This time, he and fellow immigration lawyer Rocco Galati are eyeing class action.
"We're going to try to start a so-called class action for the investors whose files were closed," Leahy said. "If closing down the files is struck down as illegal, it would apply to everybody."
That would mean the revival of thousands of applications that were killed when the Conservative government's Bill C-31 passed through parliament in June. The legislation cancels the "millionaire" immigration stream for which some processing times had lengthened to more than five years.
Canada's Federal Court ruled against Leahy's group of would-be immigrant-investors on the wait times case in June, though Leahy has filed an appeal that he expects to be heard sometime next year. The new lawsuit would be a separate case challenging the cancellation of the program
Launched in the mid-1980s, the immigrant investor program promised a fast-track visa for foreigners who had a minimum net worth of C$800,000 ($732,533) and at least C$400,000 to invest in the country. The minimums were later upped to a net worth of C$1.6 million and C$800,000 to invest.
Nancy Caron, spokeswoman for the government's citizenship and immigration department, said the backlog of investor applications was bogging down the immigration system. She said that with its cancellation, the government can now focus on initiatives that will better meet the country's economic needs. Canada receives about 257,000 immigrants each year.
The program was wildly popular, particularly with ethnic Chinese investors - first from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and later from mainland China. Vancouver, with its proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, was the preferred destination. Continued...