IRCC’s Chinook Program: Winds of Change

Learn of the debate surrounding a new IRCC operational procedure

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is the government department that facilitates immigration to Canada and Canadian refugee claims. Some immigration officers use a computer program known as ‘Chinook’ to generate a final decision and reasons more quickly and in a different manner than was done previously. The program was developed in March 2018 by immigration officers and personnel who had a computer science background. It was developed entirely in-house meaning it was created within the organization with no outside help. The reason for developing the program appears to have been to increase efficiency in the processing of immigration applications, especially because of the increase in such applications (temporary resident visa applications more than doubling in the past decade). The program itself pulls information from each application in the GCMS system and uses a Microsoft Excel-based spreadsheet which allows the user to handle 1,000 applications at the same time. The program differentiates between high-risk and low-risk applications. The user selects approval or refusal and the system populates template ‘reasons.’ At the end of a session, the excel spreadsheet and working notes are deleted but the decision and chosen reasons are transferred to the GCMS system.

There are a number of reasons to suspect that the Chinook program is problematic. First, there is a small amount of information about it publicly available. The program’s existence was disclosed by the IRCC in an affidavit in the case Abigail Ocran v. Canada (MCI) in September 2021 and subsequent to access to information requests its training manual was disclosed. This has not elucidated some aspects of the program, which still remain unknown, like certain options in its menu such as ‘Toolbox.’ Second, there is a maxim in Canadian administrative law called  delegatus non potest delegare meaning a delegate shall not redelegate; is some of their decisionmaking being redelegated to an AI? Third, by virtue of shortening the processing times, it seems logical to conclude that immigration applications are not getting as much time and attention as they used to. Fourth, there is a debate about the extent to which the program’s algorithms and structure contribute to the decision-making process, although IRCC’s position is that it is always an immigration officer that is making the decision. Fifth, the increase in IRCC’s refusal rate coincides with the emergence of this new program and some have questioned the ability of the program to produce reasons for refusal that are applicable to the case and logical; for instance, in the Ocran case, there were two reasons for refusal that seemed contradictory – first her strong ties 9to Canada and second that her connection to the third party who was going to be financially supporting her (her maternal uncle, who lives in Canada) was too remote.

The combination of facts that the refusal rate of visa applications is increasing, that visa applications may not be getting as much time and attention as they used to be, and that the technology is causing illogical reasons for refusal to be generated in some cases, all indicate that there may be in an error the refusal of any one’s visa application. Our firm has experience in handling the judicial review of immigration matters. If you have been refused an immigration visa, contact our firm for a case review and we can guide you as to your options.

Privacy Preference Center