OTTAWA - A federal court judge has quashed the hopes of hundreds of would-be immigrants seeking to force the government to review their files.
Over 800 skilled workers have seen their applications languish in a massive backlog that's set to be eliminated by the federal budget bill.
They are suing the government over the delay in processing their files and had sought an injunction that would force the immigration minister to keep their applications open while the case is before the courts.
That's because the budget bill is likely to pass before the case is over, meaning they would lose their applications.
But in a decision released Wednesday, the judge said he can't force the immigration minister to keep the files open.
He called their request devoid of merit in part because the bill hasn't passed and the courts can only get involved once legislation is enacted, not before.
He also ruled that the law as it stands doesn't give the minister power over the affected files so the courts can't stop the minister from doing something he doesn't have the power to do.
The case is still expected to be heard in court next month.
The lawsuit is one of two currently pending against the government over its decision to erase the files of 280,000 people and return their application fees.
A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says they were pleased and not surprised by the ruling.
Ana Curic says the government believes the bill will withstand any legal challenges and she called the backlog a roadblock to Canada's ability to respond to labour market needs.
The case at hand involved skilled workers who had applied to come to Canada prior to 2008, when the government made major changes to the immigration program.
As a result, their applications sunk to the bottom of the pile and they allege that's violated a promise to them that their files would be reviewed in a timely fashion.
In his decision, the judge says that there may be an issue with how long it has taken to process the files but he says it's unclear that a contractual obligation was created.
And he says even if there was, there's no legal reason Parliament can't extinguish such a right.
Highlights Of The 2011 National Household Survey
Here are some highlights from the 2011 National Household Survey. With files from <em>The Canadian Press</em>. (AFP/Getty Images)
As of May 2011, 33,476,688 people were enumerated in Canada, nearly twice as many as in 1961 and 10 times the number in 1861. (Alamy)
Population Growth Speeds Up
Canada's population grew by 5.9 per cent between 2006 and 2011, up slightly from 5.4 per cent during the previous five years. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jtbradford/" target="_hplink">Flickr: jtbradford</a>)
For the first time, more people in Canada live west of Ontario (30.7 per cent) than in Quebec and Atlantic Canada combined (30.6 per cent). (Flickr: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/derekgavey/" target="_hplink">derekGavey</a>)
We're Number One
Canada's population growth between 2006 and 2011 was the highest among G8 countries. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33498942@N04/" target="_hplink">Flickr: WarmSleepy</a>)
Exceptions To The Rule
Every province and most territories saw their population increase between 2006 and 2011; the rate of growth increased everywhere except in Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. (AP)
The growth rate in Ontario declined to 5.7 per cent, its lowest level since the early 1980s. (Alamy)
Saskatchewan Out Of The Red
Population growth in Saskatchewan hit 6.7 per cent, compared with a negative growth rate of 1.1 per cent between 2001 and 2006; the province welcomed more than 28,000 immigrants during the latest census period, nearly three times the number of the previous five-year period. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/justaprairieboy/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Just a Prairie Boy</a>)
Yukon And Manitoba Take Off
The rate of growth in both Yukon (11.6 per cent) and Manitoba (5.2 per cent) has doubled since 2006. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/us_mission_canada/" target="_hplink">Flickr: US Mission Canada</a>)
The East Is Growing Too
The rate of growth in Prince Edward Island (3.2 per cent), New Brunswick (2.9 per cent) and Newfoundland and Labrador (1.8 per cent) has increased substantially between 2006 and 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jw1697/" target="_hplink">Flickr JaimeW</a>)
Nearly seven of every 10 Canadians lived in one of Canada's 33 main urban centres in 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/markwoodbury" target="_hplink">Flickr mark.woodbury</a>)
.. Except Not In Ontario..
The rate of population growth in almost all census metropolitan areas located in Ontario slowed between 2006 and 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/husseinabdallah/" target="_hplink">Flickr abdallahh</a>)
Maybe Because Everyone Moved To Alberta
Of the 15 Canadian communities with the highest rates of growth, 10 were located in Alberta. (AFP/Getty Images)