IRCC Is Going Through Vital Changes.
Last week, Canada’s immigration department (IRCC) implemented some vital changes after the influence of a recent study it commissioned. The changes aim to improve the operations of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
A few months ago, IRCC received a report from Neil Yeates, one of its previous Deputy Ministers, on how IRCC can become a more effective and efficient department. IRCC had commissioned Yeates’ report to assess whether their current structure is the best way for them to fulfill their mandate. The Deputy Minister, who is a senior civil servant in the government, is responsible for managing their department. They are in charge of implementing policies and strategies and managing budgets and people, all in a non-political role.
Christiane Fox, IRCC’s current Deputy Minister, corresponds with the department’s minister, who is a politician and is currently Immigration Minister Marc Miller. The Immigration Minister implements the mandate of the elected government.

Yeates: The organizational model of IRCC (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada) is defective.

In his report, Yeates concluded that the organizational model of IRCC (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada) is defective but is still running smoothly because of the hard work and dedication of the staff.
He recommends implementing a series of measures to reorganize the organizational structure (including structural changes for the business sector), reforming the governance system, implementing a better management system (especially planning and reporting), and facilitating the development of a culture to support the department’s goals and objectives (including consideration of a comprehensive review of the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act and measures to better leverage the experience and expertise of different employee groups).
Yeates explains that there are many reasons why IRCC’s current model is not working, but two stand out in particular:
a challenging operating environment in Canada and around the globe; and second, IRCC has grown exponentially since adopting its current organizational structure over the past 20 years. To emphasize this point, Yeates noted that IRCC’s total workforce increased from 5,352 employees in March 2013 to 12,949 employees in January 2023.

Fox: IRCC “felt like a calamity.”

Last week, in an interview with journalist Paul Wells, Fox said the Yeates report will influence noteworthy changes the department plans to pursue. Upon carrying out her role at IRCC in July 2022, Fox explained to Wells that the latest job “felt like a calamity” and that her colleagues at the department were under pressure and drained. She concluded that departmental changes were essential, and while she didn’t want to make them immediately, she also didn’t want to wait two years.
In June 2023, Fox had a plan of action after obtaining the Yeates report and consulting with public stakeholders, including IRCC applicants. Since then, she has been gradually proceeding with the changes.

IRCC has reorganized into a business-line model.

Among the changes last week, the department got reorganized across the following sectors:
Fox explains that Yeates recommended that, and the department is now getting organized across lines of business. This means that the department will divide IRCC employees across the various clients it serves, as well as divide in a way to is responsive to changes around the world. For example, the department has a new International Affairs and Crisis Response sector, which Fox noted to Wells is for helping the IRCC better plan for humanitarian crises and shape a plan of action. IRCC routinely deals with these, such as with Ukraine since last year and recent Afghanistan and Syrian refugee resettlement initiatives, just to name a few examples.
Fox also stresses the significance of IRCC taking more of a client focus moving forward, whereby the department incorporates the experiences of its applicants more strongly into the decisions it makes.

IRCC’s operating environment


Yeates explains the various forces affecting IRCC, the main ones being:


COVID-19 and Hybrid Work Environment:

The nature of work seems to be changing permanently due to the pandemic, and as such, more workers, including IRCC employees, are working remotely, in order to return to the office 2-3 days per week. Yeates explained that while working from home is effective, we still need to see what the impact on IRCC’s organizational culture will be.


Demand for IRCC Services:

Demand for IRCC programs often exceeds the department’s processing capacity as measured by the department’s service standards (the goals the department sets for processing applications for each business line). While IRCC has tools and resources to manage its inventory, such as limits for certain programs, inventory can increase very quickly whenever demand for programs exceeds processing capacity.

Development of IRCC:

As the request for IRCC’s program has developed, so has its workforce. In 2013 Yeates addressed its workforce as “medium in size”, with 5,217 non-executive staff, which has more than doubled by 2023 to 12,721 staff. Officials at the office have grown from 135 representatives in 2013 to 227 nowadays. Be that as it may, despite the program and staff development, the organizational structure at IRCC, which was outlined for a smaller division, has generally remained the same.

Review of Immigration Policy:

People have not generally challenged the dominant immigration narrative in Canada. The actual impact of immigration is not generally well recorded. As such, an immigration policy review at IRCC may be useful in helping IRCC shape the department’s future path.

Digital Transformation:

IRCC has significant funding for the modernization of its digital platform, and transformations like this are always challenging, particularly at a place like IRCC, which has many important responsibilities. However, there is no doubt that IRCC needs to become a fully digital department.

Global Uncertainty:

Global armed conflicts are increasing, which is threatening democracy, and factors like climate change affect global migration demand, which will impact the IRCC.

IRCC’s departmental culture is “committed.”

While emphasizing the purpose of his report is not to be crucial, Yeates observes IRCC presently has limited department-wide planning, lacks a multi-year strategic plan, and planning across the department is irregular, all of which pose a variety of challenges such as the inability to achieve the department’s goals and lack of accountability among staff.
The staff of IRCC describes the department as “collaborative, supportive, and committed.” These values have aided the department in overcoming the governance, department organizational structure, and management systems shortcomings.
Furthermore, Yeates pointed to a tension within the department between what he calls the “client service school” and the “IRPA school.” The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, established in 2001, has a framework to exclude applicants with listed reasons for application rejection. Immigration officers enforce IRPA, but the fact that there is a potential for these officers to have “unconscious bias,” which may impact their decision-making, is usually neglected.
On the other side are those who fall under the “client service school” and are willing to surrender requirements and be open to settlement to improve the service that IRCC clients receive.

Highlights of Yeates’ suggestions

Yeates makes recommendations across four areas: organizational structure, management systems, culture, and governance. Highlights of the suggestions are as follows:

Organizational Structure Suggestions:


Management System Suggestions:


Culture Suggestions:


Governance Suggestions:



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