Beware the Poison Pen Letter

I wrapped up an immigration appeal earlier this month (sadly, a 845 AM Toronto start time which meant a 645 start time here in Calgary). My client’s sponsorship was refused because of a poison pen letter (details were redacted in the officer’s notes). Suffice it to say the poison pen letter alleged that my client married and had a child before he landed in Canada; that the marriage certificate and birth certificate subsequent to his landing were fraudulent. The visa officer somehow was persuaded notwithstanding a good response to the PFL made by the previous representative. My client contacted me after the refusal and we filed the notice of appeal with the Immigration Appeal Division.

The country in question is Pakistan and luckily the procedures for registration of such documents are clear and the documents themselves can be verified.

It was not difficult to establish the bona fides of both documents. The successful outcome was due in no small part to Minister’s Counsel -she reached out to the visa office to gather additional information and came quickly to the conclusion that there was no actual evidence that could impugn the document in question.

The appeal also illustrated the new reality of remote hearings. My client was in Karachi Pakistan, I was in Calgary, the IAD Member, MC and interpreter were in Ontario. 5 different locations and three different time zones.

The IAD will not give such anonymous letters weight, but visa officers do. Such anonymous letters are sometimes written by family members and “friends”. Sometimes they are written by busy-bodies and sometimes by good Samaritans that want to alert immigration of potential fraud or malfeasance. Such letters may contain accurate information; often they contain prejudicial information intended to cause disruption and harm to the target individual or their family members.

Unfortunately the poison contained in that anonymous letter resulted in a multi-year delay for my client, his wife and their child.

Immigration is hard enough without the ill-intentioned interference of third parties.

Additional resources:

good article by CILA regarding judicial treatment of the poison pen letter.