November 12, 2009: MAVI v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

The appellants sponsored a relative’s entry into Canada under the family class immigration regime. As required by the relevant statutory regime, the appellants all signed undertakings in which they promised to provide for their sponsored relative’s essential needs and to ensure that their relative would not require social assistance during the sponsorship period. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) provides that the amount of any social assistance paid to a sponsored relative during the sponsorship period is a debt owed by the sponsor to the government and that the debt “may be recovered” either by the federal government or by the provincial government that made the payments. The appellants claim that circumstances beyond their control left them unable to honour their undertakings, and applied for a declaration that they are discharged from their sponsorship obligations. 

The Ontario Court of Appeal held that Canada and Ontario have a case-by-case discretion whether to enforce sponsorship debt taking into account a sponsor’s submissions concerning the sponsor’s circumstances and those of their sponsored relative. Canada and Ontario owe sponsors a duty of procedural fairness when enforcing sponsorship debt. The duty of procedural fairness includes (a) an obligation to provide sponsors with a process for explaining their own and their sponsored relative’s relevant personal and financial circumstances; (b) an obligation to consider those circumstances; and (c) an obligation to inform any sponsor who makes submissions that their submissions have been considered and of the decision that was made.

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