I want to thank the committee for an opportunity to speak here today.
My name is Clarles Bosdet. I am pleased to see a few familiar faces from earlier times. I want to focus on some suggestions today, and by way of explaining where those suggestions come from, give you very quickly where I get my perspective on this.
I have been hired by companies to help vet their policies and procedures and to help them prepare for compliance audits, recently helping one company to come into compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, which was the biggest change in securities law in the United States since 1934. I've been brought in to help on compliance matters with various regulatory schemes, including nuclear navy quality assurance and other corporate governance matters. Before that, I was news and opinion editor of the largest daily law newspaper in the United States and editor-in-chief of a couple of smaller ones before that. Earlier, I worked as a document analyst in complex litigation cases for a couple of law firms in California.
My journey to this table began when I applied for a certificate of citizenship and the application for the certificate was denied. That began what became a tortuous two-year process that didn't make any sense to me. For starters, it seemed to be following a script, and I wasn't privy to what that script was. I understand policies and procedures and so forth, but it got to the point that what I was receiving in letter after letter from my evaluator didn't acknowledge the stuff that I was sending in and also didn't really match the content of what was in some of these things. It didn't acknowledge, in some cases, secondary evidence that the citizenship policy manual plainly states is acceptable and will be accepted in lieu of primary evidence.
In my case, I believe the evaluator thoroughly violated the proscription against placing an undue burden on an applicant, which says you can't place somebody at an extraordinary financial burden to try to meet the proof requirements that the evaluator is placing on them.
There was also a certain lack of professionalism. This evaluator sought to disprove my own citizenship by applying a foreign nationality law to one of my ancestors. In a subsequent discussion, it was very clear that this evaluator did not understand--was completely ignorant of--the fact that there was a difference between this foreign nationality law and Canada's. The two systems handled things differently, and this person didn't know that. That bothered me a lot, because this person, I was told, is the quality assurance evaluator for the citizenship case processing centre in Sydney. She passes judgment on the other files that come on her desk, and a lot of Mennonite families from my home province of Manitoba were apparently run through the same script that we later surmised she was running me through.
What bothered me wasn't that she was ignorant of the law; what bothered me more than anything was a complete lack of interest in learning anything new. I expected her to say she would check on that, or ask me to send her something that would tell her what I was talking about, or say she didn't know that and would consult with somebody on it. There was none of that. Her response was that we treat this all the same, and besides, I've been doing this for many years, and I've been doing this for a long time. I just thought that was an astounding thing to say.
There followed a series of disingenuous and misleading request letters that looked fine if all you knew was what you read in the letters, but in truth many of the things that appeared in these letters were belied by a stack of evidence sitting on her desk, evidence that she was pretending wasn't there.
She shoved the burden of proof onto me in one really onerous regard, and that was trying to prove a negative. She surmised that maybe somebody in my family tree was born someplace else and suggested that I go out into the middle of Mexico and search the records there, because maybe that's where my grandfather's birth certificate was. I suggested back to her that maybe he was born at any town between the middle of Mexico and Arichat, Nova Scotia, where an entire stack of documents said he was from, including his Canadian military enlistment papers, his registration as a British subject, and his--oh, by the way--Canadian passport in 1942 that was issued first sometime in the 1930s--and she had a letter from the British consulate confirming that.
On appeal, it didn't stop there. I kicked up a bit of a fuss, and my case eventually was taken over by an evaluator in Ottawa. The case processing centre evaluator on my file apparently misrepresented my case to the Ottawa person, and this came to light when the Ottawa evaluator called me, and a whole raft of things came to light. She had been misinformed about the nature of the evidence in the case. She had not been informed about a significant number of key documents. I don't know how you leave out things like registration as a British subject or passports, acceptable secondary evidence, apparently a lot of which wasn't mentioned in this phone call.
The Sydney evaluator--and this is the quality assurance evaluator, mind you--then faxed what she said were the pertinent documents or the important ones in the case. The Ottawa evaluator, when I finally got around to discussing this thing with her, was astounded at the stuff that had not been faxed to her, because she had a deadline to meet. She had to rule on my case. My full file from Sydney did not arrive in Ottawa until hours before the ruling was due on the minister's desk.
If I had not faxed 110 pages of material to the Ottawa evaluator, she would have nothing but the say-so of the Sydney evaluator to go on in making her determination. As I understood it later, the Ottawa evaluator concluded I was a Canadian citizen. I don't hold that privilege right now because somebody else disagreed with that, and that's sort of getting off onto another track already. However, what this did for me, and the reason that I'm here today, is that it pointed out--and I've seen it confirmed at mid-level and at high levels in this department--systemic problems, some of which seem to be the same from top to bottom. There are issues of fairness and issues of inefficiency. There is no real administrative solution at hand to when somebody runs amok, as seemed to be the case with my file. For heaven's sake, this department doesn't live up, in many ways, to the values that we profess to hold dear.
What we need to do and what this committee needs to do is to fix this system in a way, all the way down to the desk level in Sydney, because nothing else you do matters. You can pass amendments, you can rewrite the Citizenship Act to turn out the perfect act, but what I know from my work as a process auditor and from helping people with this kind of stuff is that it's sort of like a relay race. No matter how good the first three people are, if the last one drops the baton, the whole object of the race is defeated, and that's what's happening, in my view, in Sydney, Nova Scotia, in the case processing centre, where all of the citizenship applications go.
I want to turn to two things: evidence and then recourse when evidence goes out the window. As I mentioned, and as members of this committee are probably aware, we have primary evidence like birth certificates. We have secondary evidence consisting of passports or maybe even driver's licences, and other things. They're all spelled out in the policy manuals, CP 14.
I would suggest that the committee consider statutorily shifting the burden of proof from the way it seems to be executed now in Sydney--that is to say, from a prosecutorial standpoint--to having a statement of what is acceptable primary evidence and acceptable secondary evidence, and if somebody submits adequate primary and secondary evidence or secondary in lieu of primary evidence, then you should accept that.
The onus should not be, in my view, on a citizen whose resources are far more limited than the evaluator's are to overcome every single objection. In many instances, those objections seem to have no bearing whatsoever on the case at hand. The denial letters, if they're issued, should inform people of what the recourse is, and I'll say more on that in a bit, but right now the only resource seems to be pretty inadequate.
There is one thing here too. I would propose to the committee that it might consider putting expiry dates on challenges to official documents issued by the Canadian government. If you issue a passport in 1942, somebody 60 years later should not be able to come along and, for no reasons they disclose to you, say this is not acceptable.