Last week, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced significant changes as part of a new initiative aimed at enhancing its operations.

Earlier this year, Neil Yeates, a former Deputy Minister of IRCC, authored a report assessing the department’s effectiveness and efficiency. Commissioned by IRCC to evaluate the suitability of its current organizational structure in achieving its objectives, Yeates, in his capacity as Deputy Minister, played a non-political role overseeing the department’s management, policy implementation, and resource allocation.

The present Deputy Minister of IRCC, Christiane Fox, communicates with the department’s minister, currently Immigration Minister Marc Miller, and is responsible for executing the government’s mandate.

Yeates’ report, which CIC News has obtained, underscores that “the current organizational model at IRCC is broken but is being held together by the hard work and dedication of staff.” He suggests a series of steps to realign the organizational structure, including a significant shift towards a business line-based structure. Yeates also emphasizes the need for reforming the governance system, implementing stronger management systems (particularly in planning and reporting), and fostering a culture that better supports the department’s objectives. This might include a review of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and measures to leverage the diverse expertise of staff groups.

Yeates identifies two key reasons for the broken state of IRCC’s current model: the challenging operating environment within Canada and globally, and the department’s exponential growth since the current organizational structure was established over 20 years ago. He notes that IRCC’s workforce has grown significantly, from 5,352 employees in March 2013 to 12,949 employees as of January 2023.

In an interview with journalist Paul Wells last week, Deputy Minister Fox stated that the Yeates report would shape substantial changes that the department intends to pursue. Upon assuming her role at IRCC in July 2022, Fox described it as a situation that “felt like a crisis,” with her colleagues feeling stressed and fatigued. She concluded that departmental changes were imperative and wanted to avoid a two-year wait.

Since receiving the Yeates report and consulting with public stakeholders, including IRCC applicants, Fox has been gradually implementing changes. One notable change is the reorganization of the department into various sectors, aligning with the recommendations made by Yeates. These sectors cover areas such as Asylum and Refugees Resettlement, Citizenship and Passport, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer, Client Service, Innovation, and Chief Digital Officer, Communications, Corporate Services, Economic, Family, and Social Migration, International Affairs and Crisis Response, Migration Integrity, Service Delivery, Settlement Integration and Francophone Affairs, and Strategic Policy.

Fox emphasizes the adoption of a business-line organization approach, wherein IRCC employees are divided based on the specific clients and regions they serve, aiming for greater responsiveness to global changes. For instance, the department has introduced a new sector called International Affairs and Crisis Response to enhance planning for humanitarian crises and formulate effective action plans.

Furthermore, Fox stresses the importance of a client-focused approach, incorporating the experiences of applicants into the department’s decision-making processes.

Yeates’ report delves into several factors affecting IRCC, including the hybrid work environment and COVID-19’s lasting impact, increased demand for IRCC services, the department’s growth, the need for an immigration policy review, digital transformation, and global uncertainties.

The report acknowledges that while the department’s culture is characterized as “committed, collaborative, and supportive,” there are organizational challenges related to limited department-wide planning, lack of a multi-year strategic plan, inconsistent planning across the department, and concerns about unconscious bias among immigration officers.

Yeates’ recommendations span four areas: Organizational Structure, Governance, Management Systems, and Culture. Key recommendations include a transition to a business line organization, development of protocols for crisis and emergency management, establishment of new committees, implementation of a planning and reporting regime, and a review of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to align it better with desired outcomes and service delivery improvements.

In conclusion, these changes are set to transform IRCC’s organizational structure, operations, and culture to address the evolving needs and challenges of the department and better serve its clients.

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