Raj Napal: “Detention Reviews in Canada” will be useful to anyone working in immigration law

Raj Napal is an instructor at Ashton College and teaches the Immigration Consultant Diploma program. He is the author of the “Detention Reviews in Canada”, which provides a comprehensive overview of the detention review process and outlines practical steps that can help secure a detainee’s release. Raj Napal was called to the English Bar in 1981 and practiced as a trial lawyer in criminal and civil litigation for 15 years before his call to the Ontario Bar in 1996. He’s also an experienced author, having written books on several subjects.

We caught up with Raj to talk about his new book and his experience as a faculty member of the IMCD program at Ashton College.

1. Why and when did you decide to write your book, “Detention Reviews in Canada”?

In the mid-nineties, when I began practicing immigration law in Ontario, Canada, I was retained to represent an immigrant at a detention review hearing. I did extensive research but could not find any books that would give me practical guidance on how I should approach it competently. In the end, I had to use my basic knowledge of immigration law to proceed with the case. I made a mess of it because there were steps that I should have taken. But I did not because of my ignorance at the time of the procedural protocol necessary to advocate effectively and persuasively to secure the release of my client. Needless to say, my client was detained. If a practical handbook on immigration law had been available at the time, the result of the hearing would have been different.

It was two decades later, in August 2016, when I started to teach the immigration diploma program at Ashton College that I decided to write the book I could’ve used then. I gathered my classroom notes that included a case study of an actual detention review case that I had successfully won years before. I used these materials to begin writing this book.

2. How did you manage to write a book while working and doing other things? What are some of the key things you did to keep the project on track? What was your writing schedule?

The writing began in January 2018 but was not completed until the end of 2018. It took a whole year to finish the rough manuscript of the book. It took that long because I could not devote myself exclusively to working on the book and practice law and teach. I wrote the book on and off when I had some spare time. I kept the project on track by setting deadlines for each chapter. I usually woke up at around 5.00 a.m. and wrote for two or more hours before my professional workday began. Of note is the fact that my publishing contract with Brush Education was signed in January 2019, but the arduous work of editing and rewriting with the editors at Brush continued for another eight months. So, overall, this book took nearly 20 months from its conception to birth.

3. How much time did you spend researching the subject matter? How did you go about getting all the information?

A large amount of time was spent researching the subject to ensure that the material was accurate and up to date. The main resource I used involved extensive reading of nearly all the case laws available on the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) on detention reviews and online research of specific topics. In fact, the research continued even during the publishing cycle of the manuscript as the amended Chairperson Guideline was released on April 1, 2019, and I had to incorporate this critical resource in the book.

4. How will this book be useful to current and future students and practicing consultants? How does it feel knowing that your book will soon be incorporated into the IMCD program as a supplemental material?

This book will be beneficial to students, consultants and lawyers because it explains the whole process of a detention review case through the in-depth examination of a case study. It also contains all the laws and rules involved in detention reviews and useful precedents and templates that need to be prepared in these types of cases. I am pleased that this book will be included in the supplemental materials list in the IMCD program. It will give the instructors a resource that they can use to teach this subject comprehensively, with a focus on the practical issues that are raised in these hearings.

I have been using the handbook to teach my current students and have received positive feedback on the book’s practical approach. The book will also teach students to draft good retainer agreements and help them understand the basic rules of advocacy and appeals. This knowledge will be useful to them in other areas of immigration law. Throughout the book, I have made observations about ethical issues that can arise and how to resolve them.

5. How can students get the most out of the book?

Students can peruse the book to gain insights into the essential elements involved in a typical detention review case or use one of the sections of the book to polish their advocacy skills. This book also deals with ethical issues and knowledge of the judicial review process in the Federal Court, which will help the students in their immigration practice.

6. Tell us a bit about your experience as a faculty member at Ashton College. How would you rate the immigration consultant diploma program at Ashton College?

I have had an excellent experience at Ashton College. The direction I received from the staff and particularly the director, Ron McKay, was invaluable. They gave me the freedom to develop my own case studies to help students understand the core subjects.

I received my first teaching contract from Ashton College in August 2016, and even now, every time I teach my students, I gain valuable perspective on the teaching process. I also learn from my students, as their intelligent and searching questions, help me focus more deeply on the subject. I am indebted to both the faculty members and students who encouraged me to develop detailed lesson plans and case studies. Without their encouragement and assistance, this book would not have been born.

The immigration consultant diploma program at Ashton College is one of the leading programs in the country today. It’s an excellent course with a pool of experienced and skilled instructors.

7. How did you come into the immigration field? What were some of the challenges you faced?

I was working in England as a barrister before I came to Canada in 1995. It was after I came here that I started practicing immigration law for the first time. I found the subject fascinating. And although the extensive law research required in IRB and Federal Court work is challenging, nothing is more satisfying than finding a solution to an immigration-related issue.

8. What are some of the qualities a good immigration consultant should have? Do you have any advice for current and future immigration consultants?

An immigration consultant must know their way around IRPA and IRPR and be familiar with the important sections of the Act and Regulations. They must know how to do legal research, especially case law, and keep up to date with the law. If they practice in the IRB, they must know the rules of the ID, IAD, RPD and RAD, so they comply with all the procedural protocols.

They must be honest and have integrity, always applying the relevant IRCC Code of Ethics. They must never take up a case or client by offering a guaranteed outcome. That is dishonest as the decision-maker on any immigration case is always a third party. They cannot predict what the final decision would be. They must not accept a retainer unless there is a reasonable chance of success. If there is no merit in the case, they should not take the case.

If a consultant has given an estimate of the time needed to file papers to the IRCC or the CBSA, or the IRB, they must respect the deadline. Therefore, I always tell my students to be liberal when providing time estimates, as sometimes things may not go as per plan.

Consultants must stick to all the deadlines set by IRPA, IRPR and the Division Rules. If they have missed a deadline, they must admit their mistake to the client. They must never lie to a client, immigration officer, CBSA officer or the IRB.

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