New Canadian Media

By: Kelly Toughill in Halifax

Thousands of families will soon get a second chance to bring parents and grandparents to Canada.

That’s the good news recently announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The bad news is that there is no chance Canada will keep its promise to issue 10,000 permanent resident visas to extended family members in 2017.

Officials won’t even finish collecting the new applications until December and it will take months to process those applications after they arrive.

Problems with the parent and grandparent sponsorship program are a classic case of great intentions gone wrong. In this case, families who followed the rules were suddenly shut out of the system, and other families were given false hope that they could reunite with ailing relatives.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet have changed Canada’s immigration system significantly in the last 16 months. They reversed a much-criticized law that allowed the government to strip people of their Canadian citizenship. They set up new programs to help businesses recruit tech workers and to support Francophone immigration outside Quebec. They made it easier for entrepreneurs to come to Canada, and eased rules for workers who want to move to struggling Atlantic Canada. They shortened the wait time to sponsor a spouse and made the forms easier to read and understand. They helped international students by setting up a new, speedy immigration program in Atlantic Canada, giving students extra points for Canadian degrees and making it easier for international students to become citizens after they get permanent resident status.

Those changes were greeted with relief and even gratitude across Canada.

Changes to the parent and grandparent program were supposed to be another feel-good tweak to the system. Instead, the changes angered the very consitutuency the government was trying to please.

Under the Conservative government, Ottawa set a quota each year for the number of Canadian families that could sponsor a parent or grandparent for permanent resident status. The Liberal government doubled the quota from 5,000 to 10,000, but initially kept the same process: applications opened in early January and closed when the quota was reached – always within days.

To win one of the coveted visas, most families hired experienced immigration lawyers or consultants and paid stiff fees for private couriers to wait in line outside the Mississauga processing centre the night before the program opened.

Just three weeks before the program was expected to open this year, the government announced it was scrapping the first-come, first-served system. Instead, then-Immigration Minister John McCallum invited families to fill out an online form and promised to hold a lottery to decide who could formally apply. He called the new process “more fair and transparent.”

The announcement came after thousands of families had already prepared applications that require medical exams, police certificates and expensive translations, not to mention lawyers’ fees. Many families wasted months of work and thousands of dollars on applications they would never get to file.

The larger problem, though, was the online form set up to register for the lottery; families could fill out the form without figuring out if they were actually eligible to sponsor a parent or grandparent.

Most know that only Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor a parent or grandparent for permanent resident status. But many don’t know that you must be able to support that parent and that the only acceptable proof of your financial ability is past income tax forms. Many also didn’t realize that parents and grandparents must be healthy to immigrate to Canada.

When immigration lawyers and regulated consultants saw the online form, many immediately warned of coming pandemonium. Some dismissed those warnings as sour grapes, suggesting that lawyers were just mad that clients might be able to sponsor relatives without their high-priced help.

It turns out the lawyers were right.

Almost 100,000 families registered for the lottery, but only a fraction of the 10,000 that were invited to apply actually managed to do so.

Immigration consultants shared stories of clients showing up on their doorstep with expectations that Canada was going to immediately fly their relatives here because the family had “won the lottery.” Many had no idea they still had to pull together the complex and expensive application in 90 days. In June, an immigration official told a conference that only 700 of the 10,000 families had filed applications, and that 15 percent of those applications were incomplete.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada still doesn’t know how many of the 10,000 families invited to apply will actually get to bring their relatives to Canada. A spokesperson said this week that 6,020 of the 10,000 families invited to apply last February actually filed applications. However, immigration officers still don’t know how many of those application are complete or valid. Those numbers are expected later this fall.

In the meantime, Ottawa has quietly launched a second lottery. The notice was posted Friday afternoon before Labour Day. The new invitations were sent out on Sept. 6. Families must finish the applications by Dec. 8, and it will take several months after that deadline for permanent resident visas to be issued.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen vigorously defended the new application process in early summer, when the problems first became public. Hussen could not be reached for comment this week, but a spokesperson for the department suggested the new process might change.

“This is the first year that we’re using the new random selection intake process, and we are actively monitoring this model to see how we can make improvements in future years,” communications advisor Faith St.-John wrote in an email.

Kelly Toughill is an associate professor of journalism at the University of King’s College and founder of Polestar Immigration Research Inc.

Published in Policy

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

In Pakistan, where retirement homes do not exist, children consider it a moral duty to take care of their parents as they age. 

Asad Khan says this is why he wanted to sponsor his father last year after his mother passed away. His sisters are married, and his elder brother lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

Khan, who works in Toronto as a human resources manager, couldn’t apply for his father’s sponsorship immediately as the annual cap of 5,000 applications is usually reached soon after Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) begins accepting applications the first week of January each year. 

Therefore, Khan opted for the super visa, which has an approval rate of 85 per cent and takes a maximum of eight weeks instead of the four or more years it takes to process a regular sponsorship. 

Khan was happy that he did not have to meet the required minimum income needed – a pre-requisite of sponsorship – or have to wait in a long queue to process his father’s application. 

“Because of [the] super visa, my father is not alone back home and waiting anxiously.”

“Because of [the] super visa, my father is not alone back home and waiting anxiously,” says Khan. “In fact he can travel back frequently.” 

Khan managed to get the visa in five weeks after buying medical insurance for his father, which must be renewed every year. 

Elderly are not a burden 

Sikander Lalani, CEO of Lalani Associates, a leading immigration consultancy provider in Pakistan, says that relocating in Canada is often not the preference of elderly Pakistani people, as they do not want to leave their homeland, culture, family and religious values at such a tender age. 

The only exception to this is if the situation is critical to the extent that there is nobody to take care of them back home. 

“The number of dependent parents who opt to settle in Canada is not more than 10 per cent of the total immigrants from Pakistan,” says Lalani. 

“They come here not for medical or other financial benefits, but only for [the] love and affection they carry for their kids.”

More Pakistani parents and grandparents prefer to shuttle back and forth between the two countries, Lalani explains. Those who have financial constraints and health issues will not visit frequently. 

“They come here not for medical or other financial benefits, but only for [the] love and affection they carry for their kids,” he adds.  

Khan says many Pakistani people who are elderly do not prefer to live in Canada because of the harsh weather, which is usually tough for them to bear, as is staying indoors for most of the year. Cold weather can also aggravate some of their medical conditions. 

In 2013, former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stated that the health-care costs of elderly immigrants creates a burden on the Canadian health-care system and other social resources. He further noted that a set of grandparents could cost the system $400,000. 

Lalani refutes the claim. “What burden are they talking about?” he asks. 

“They get [a] sponsorship fee. In return two family members – husband and wife – are contributing to [the] economy and paying hefty taxes. Later the kids – an average Pakistani family has three – will follow suit as [the] next generation. Is this a burden or constant contribution to [the] economy?” 

Family reunification reforms needed

When it comes to the reunification of spouses or children with their families, Lalani says that laws should not disrupt the basic structure of a family. He says that now, the biggest hindrance is the time consumed by the process, which varies between six months to four years. 

“It’s a trauma for a skilled person that he is away from his family – a mental torture."

“It’s a trauma for a skilled person that he is away from his family – a mental torture – how could you expect someone to concentrate on his job or studies or overall performance in a totally new environment with a stress that seems endless?” asks Lalani. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised reforms to the 2013 family reunification program during his election campaign. 

He pledged to double the number of parents and grandparents’ applications accepted from 5,000 to 10,000 and speed up the processing time, but Lalani says that it will take time to materialize. 

“It was a political statement, as the change in policy will face resistance from bureaucracy and making it a law is time consuming so it won’t trigger that fast.” 

The changes made in 2013 to the immigration rules also increased the minimum necessary income (MNI) to sponsor parents and grandparents by 30 per cent and reduced the maximum age of dependents from 22 years old to 18. 

“I think the Canadian government needs to work fast paced on the re-location of the basic family structure and also reversing the minimum age of dependent children from 18 to 22, because in Asian culture children under 23 are dependent on their parents unless they are married,” says Lalani. 

He notes that the pledge made by Trudeau did not say much on the MNI required for sponsors. 

“It was criticized as a benefit for high-net worth [individuals],” Lalani says. “This still needs to be reconsidered as elderly people are not a burden at all.” 


Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this piece through the NCM Mentoring Program.

Published in Policy

by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) resumed receiving sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents (PGP) of Canadian citizens and permanent residents on Monday morning.

The case processing centre in Mississauga, Ontario opened its window for receiving the applications at 8 a.m. (EST). Only 5,000 new and complete applications will be accepted this year.

By capping the applications number at the same level as in the previous two years, the new Liberal government would seem to be going back on a crucial poll promise to double the number.

Unveiling his party’s promises on the immigration file during the federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the “Liberals will reform our immigration system, and make family reunification a core priority of our government.”

Trudeau then went on to say that his government will immediately increase the number of applications under PGP to 10,000 each year and double the budget for processing family class applications to reduce the waiting time.

This pledge resonated with immigrant families who were not pleased by the previous government’s efforts to limit permanent residency offers to elderly family members or by unduly long processing times extending to 47 months.

The IRCC website currently says the department is working on applications received on or before November 4, 2011.

‘Irresponsible promise’

Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Party’s immigration critic, said it was totally irresponsible of Trudeau to promise more than his government is able to deliver.

"This is just a further example of the mismanagement of the immigration file and another item to add to the list of broken promises," Rempel, MP for Calgary Nose Hill, told New Canadian Media in an emailed response.

"While we were in government, Canada welcomed more than 70,000 parents and grandparents from 2012-2014. This number represents the highest level of parent and grandparent admissions in nearly two decades. Thanks to the Conservative government's Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification, the backlog was reduced by nearly 54 per cent," Rempel said.

"Keeping a realistic goal of 5,000 applications a year was part of our Conservative government’s initiative to be prudent managers of government."

Late this evening, Immigration Minister John McCallum offered this defence: "We are committed to reuniting families and we intend to meet the commitment to double the intake of PGP sponsorship applications from 5,000 to 10,000 per year. To achieve this I will be consulting with cabinet colleagues early in the new year."

Recent phenomenon

The brief annual opening of the application window in the New Year is a recent phenomenon. It began in 2014 after the previous government had frozen the process for two years in November 2011. The stated purpose was to first clear a backlog of nearly 165,000 applications before taking in new ones.

Generally, a citizen or permanent resident is allowed to sponsor parents and grandparents to become permanent residents under the Family Class immigration stream. Family reunification is one of the three pillars of IRCC’s immigration program, the other two being economic classes and protected persons (refugees).

The moratorium on PGP applications was expected to reduce the backlog to about 50,000. In the meantime, the quota for actual admissions into the country under the program was increased by 60 per cent to 25,000 a year to help clear the backlog.

Major changes

Before lifting the freeze, the Harper government had also introduced major changes to Family Class immigration in May 2013. They were designed to align entry under this category with economic outcomes.

The overarching narrative spoke of reducing the burden imposed on tax payers by the entry of parents, grandparents and dependent children 18 years and above.

Announcing the new criteria for sponsoring parents and grandparents, Jason Kenney, the then Citizenship and Immigration Minister, said they were aimed at ensuring elderly immigrants didn't end up on welfare or in social housing.

Kenney also said that older immigrants are a burden on the health-care system and other social safety nets. A set of grandparents could cost the system as much as $400,000, he said.

Super visas

The new set of rules included the minimum necessary income level of sponsors going up by 30 per cent, proof of income threshold for a minimum of three years (in place of one year), only Canada Revenue Agency notices of assessment to be accepted as proof of income, sponsorship commitment period doubled to 20 years, and the maximum age of dependents was set at 18 instead of 21.

Predictably, the changes were not received well by immigration civic actors and newcomer groups adversely affected by them.

The NDP, the then official opposition party, slammed the changes. It said they will make it harder and more expensive for families to reunite. "The Conservatives think family reunification should be a luxury only for those who can afford it," its deputy immigration critic Sadia Groguhé said in a statement at the time.

Family Class sponsorship is not the only program through which parents and grandparents can enter Canada. Qualified applicants can also apply for temporary admission to Canada. They can also apply for extended, multiple-entry super visas.

The super visa was introduced in 2011 as an interim measure to circumvent the long wait times under the PGP program. A 10-year super visa allows entry periods lasting up to two years, but without any welfare benefits from the state, including health care. This visa program was made permanent in 2013.

Publisher's Note: An earlier version of this report did not include the government's response. 


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Policy
Friday, 23 October 2015 17:11

Pros and Cons of Family Reunification

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

Justin Trudeau has now officially been elected as Canada’s 29th Prime Minister and with him come promises of investment in infrastructure, electoral reform and changes to the lengthy family reunification process.

Some of those changes involve doubling the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents to 10,000 each year, speeding up permanent residency applications for spouses and raising the age limit for dependants.

These changes mark a reversal to the Conservative government’s overhaul of the family reunification process in 2011.

Limitations placed by the federal government at that time on the application process meant sons and daughters living in Canada could expect to wait up to six and a half years before their parents’ applications were processed.

Changes to regulations

Allowing immigrants to sponsor their parents and grandparents is concerning to many economists and politicians because of the heavy price tag it carries.

According to Fraser Institute Senior Fellow Martin Collacott, each grandparent ultimately costs Canadian taxpayers more than $300,000 in services and welfare benefits over the course of their time in the country.

"[T]he government attempted to limit Family Class immigration after noticing that some relatives who were brought to Canada ... were likely to make little economic contribution to Canada."

In his study, titled “Canadian family class immigration: The parent and grandparent component under review,” Collacott explains that the government attempted to limit Family Class immigration after noticing that some relatives who were brought to Canada were ultimately unskilled, had limited English language skills, and were likely to make little economic contribution to Canada.

Over the last few decades, these assumptions have led to an increase in the number of economic immigrants coming to Canada from 45 per cent in 1990 to 63 per cent. To contrast, family class immigrants have dropped from 34 per cent in 1990 to 25 per cent in 2014.

The group that has most acutely felt the effects of these changes are older prospective immigrants.

In 2011, the Conservative government temporarily stopped receiving applications for sponsored parents and grandparents in order to deal with a backlog of approximately 160,000 applicants.

When the stream reopened in 2014, the government limited the total number of applicants in this category to 5,000 per year.

“At the basis of this is an assumption that only economic immigrants are important.”

Jason Kenney, who was then the Citizenship and Immigration Minister, explained these changes when they were announced, by stating: “We're not looking for more people on welfare, we're not looking to add people as a social burden to Canada. If their expectation is that they need the support of the state then they should stay in their country of origin, not come to Canada.”

The reforms in 2013 also increased the minimum necessary income (MNI) to sponsor parents and grandparents by 30 per cent and reduced the maximum age of dependants from 22 years old to 18.

“This is not a random phenomenon,” explains Marc Yvan Valade, a PhD candidate in policy studies at Ryerson University. “At the basis of this is an assumption that only economic immigrants are important.”

A different type of contribution

Despite these arguments, some experts argue that this focus ignores the many non-economic contributions these immigrants make.

“If it would help immigrant families to secure a stronger foothold in our society and feel even more belonging and want to contribute, well this is a gain for all of us,” says Valade. “It’s a gain not only economically in the short term, but it’s a gain in the long term as a society.”

“[Family reunification] is a gain not only economically in the short term, but it’s a gain in the long term as a society.”

A study by the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary found that family separation could both exacerbate the vulnerabilities of the children in these families as well as hinder meaningful integration into Canadian culture.

“Contrary to the representation of sponsored relatives as a drain on the health-care system and social services, we heard instead that sponsored parents and grandparents were playing critical roles as child care providers that allowed their children to go out and become part of the workforce in Canada,” the study explains.

The Liberals' promise

Navdeep Bains, just-elected Liberal MP from Mississauga-Malton and a member of Trudeau’s economic advisory group, told New Canadian Media during the election campaign that the party’s policies reflect this understanding.

“Family reunification is important as it enhances the family support system,” he said. “It will have meaningful impact for new Canadians as it will enable families to earn double incomes if a couple or shift worker gets child care support from their parents. It is sound economics, as good family dynamics help people to thrive.”

In the days leading up to his party’s Oct. 19 win, long-time Liberal MP John McCallum said his party intended to “put the family reunification program back on [the] rails.”

"Super Visas are not a substitute for family reunification.”

“Let’s be clear, Super Visas are not a substitute for family reunification,” McCallum said.

Introduced by the Conservatives, the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa (Super Visa) is a temporary resident permit that allows parents and grandparents to stay for up to two years in Canada per visit, and is valid for up to 10 years.

“The family reunification program is a priority for us. It is a huge issue, that is cause for anger, frustration and tears,” added McCallum, who formerly served as the party critic on the immigration file. “We see it as part of an immigration program that will welcome new Canadians with a smile instead of a scowl.”

Valade is optimistic about these changes, but says the real test will be whether sufficient resources are made available to treat demands in a reasonable time.

“Overall, the whole Family Class program should be reviewed in a way that considers the immigrant family as an asset for Canadian society, and a contribution to immigrant integration.”

With additional reporting by Election Desk Editor Ranjit Bhaskar in the Greater Toronto Area.


This is part two of a two-part series looking at family reunification policy. Read the first instalment here.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Policy

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

On the eve of Canada’s 148th birthday, the Association for Canadian Studies released the findings of a survey titled: “Is Canada a Land of Equal Opportunity for All?” Three-quarters of the country’s population answered with a resounding yes. It’s the sort of response that’s in line with popular thinking that Canada is welcoming, inclusive and just. But emerging research suggests when it comes to immigration policy, Canada has a lot of work left to do.

Cultural Carriers

Devon Franklin, a graduate student in Ryerson University’s Immigration and Settlement program, is calling for a closer examination of recent policy reform to the sponsorship of parents and grandparents by immigrants to Canada.

In her paper, “The Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program Reforms: The Consequences of a Neoliberal Shift” Franklin calls out Canada on its narrow conception of what ‘economic contribution’ means. She asks, “Are we really comfortable with having a country that values people solely for economic contribution and solely for a cost-benefit model?”

Her work is in direct response to concerns raised by former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in 2013 of, “the abuse of [the government’s] generosity in the parent and grandparent sponsorship program,” and the subsequently imposed regulations on the sponsor to have greater economic capacity.

The policy reform increased sponsors’ required minimum annual salary by 30 per cent. It also called for the sponsor to demonstrate an ability to take care of their parent or grandparent for 20 years as opposed to the previous 10.

While Franklin affirms she is not naïve to the fact that elderly parents or grandparents may be in need of health care or social assistance, this type of “cost-benefit” assessment of immigrants’ families undermines the cultural, social and indirect economic value they have.

For example, Franklin explains, parents and grandparents provide the needed childcare supports for the woman in an immigrant family to enter the workforce; they are also “cultural carriers” of tradition and heritage to children.

[P]arents and grandparents ... are also “cultural carriers” of tradition and heritage to children.
 

“I think we need to adapt with the changing demographics of Canada,” Franklin tells New Canadian Media. “We’re supposed to be a multicultural country that embraces new cultures – we need to understand that there are cultures that want to live in an intergenerational household and that requires parents and grandparents being able to be sponsored over here.”

Indefinite detentions

This month, Renu Mandhane, executive director of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, will meet with the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland.

The topic at hand: Canada’s compliance with the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and specifically how a recent study by IHRP, “We Have No Rights”: Arbitrary imprisonment and cruel treatment of migrants with mental health issues in Canada, points to a disturbing trend in Canada’s detainment of migrants.

The purpose of the meeting is to encourage the UN to place pressure on the Canadian government to begin work on recommendations put forth in the IHRP’s damning 129-page report that takes an in-depth look at the stories of migrant detainees, specifically those suffering from mental health issues.

For example, the report indicates that of the over 7,300 migrants held in detention in 2013, 30 per cent were sent to maximum security provincial jails versus one of the three immigration holding centres stationed in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.

Furthermore, Mandhane shares with New Canadian Media that the IHRP found that people without immigration status, suffering from mental health issues, seemed to be routinely detained in provincial jails. While the government maintains this is because more treatment options are available in these facilities, Mandhane says her department’s research found otherwise.

“What this points to from a legal perspective is the fact that the decision of where you actually are held once you’re detained by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is entirely discretionary – so there’s no laws or policies that really highlight when someone should be held in a maximum security jail versus in a holding centre.”

The report examines in detail everything from the anxiety, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that can be caused by the fact that, unlike criminal detention, there are no known end dates for immigration detainees. At one provincial jail in Lindsay, Ont. a doctor only appears by video. Detainees said they were treated like, “garbage,” “animals”, or “something less than human.”

Particularly troubling for Mandhane is the lengthy periods of time some detainees were held for – some for two or three years, others for as long as 11 years.

“It was very surprising to me that there were people basically being warehoused in jails without any criminal charges for extremely lengthy periods of time,” she says.

Particularly troubling for Mandhane is the lengthy periods of time some detainees were held for – some for two or three years, others for as long as 11 years.

While Mandhane says there have been little in-roads made to date with the Minister of Public Safety Stephen Blaney’s office – the IHRP met with his office prior to releasing the study offering an opportunity to respond, but nothing came of it. The study has been gaining some attention in the mainstream media, particularly in the days following the death of Abdurahman Hassan, a migrant who died while being detained in the Lindsay, Ont. jail by CBSA. His family said the findings of this report mirror his experience in detention.

What the IHRP is calling for is an external review body for the CBSA to ensure accountability, transparency and the end to arbitrary decision-making in the detainment of immigrants where gaps in policy exist. It would also like to see a complete abandonment of the use of provincial jails in immigration detention, and the use of holding centres only when an individual “cannot be managed in the community,” Mandhane explains.

“We need to use more community alternatives to detention so people could be released on reporting conditions or a bond or surety, or if they are determined a flight risk, with electronic monitoring.”

For Mandhane, the report strikes a personal chord as her parents immigrated to Canada from India and most of her students and colleagues have an “immigration story.”

“[Canada] sort of [has] this identity as being a place people can seek refuge or a better life or opportunities and I just think the way we are treating non-citizens really needs to be assessed,” she says. “It kind of shows a bit of a disconnect between what we say we are and what we’re actually doing.”


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Policy

 News East West

TORONTO: Canadians seeking to sponsor their parents and grandparents (PGP) can apply from January 2.

The PGP is a first-come, first-served program under which only 5,000 new

News East West

Read Full Article

Published in Policy
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 16:07

New rules undermine "family values"

by Jacklyn Neborak

Family. Your mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather are people you should not have to put a price on. However, family reunification for Canadian immigrants has now become a matter of money, only accessible to high-earning Canadians. Restrictive quotas and temporary solutions that discourage permanent family migration have come into effect on Jan. 2.

Not only is this package of reforms destructive to current newcomer families, but it also directly undermines longstanding Canadian values. Historically, the family has been one of the most valued factors in the Canadian nation-building process. For example, from 1980-1994, 90 per cent of Indian immigrants to British Columbia were admitted to Canada under the Family Class. During this time, 33 per cent were age 50 or older. From 1996-2000, 27 per cent were 50 or older and from 2000-2003, 24 per cent were in that age group. This is just a snapshot of how significant the Family Class of immigration was for establishing the Indian community in British Columbia.

Canadian immigration policies have traditionally recognized the value of the family unit by emphasizing the importance of family reunification. Formally, this dates as far back as The Immigration Acts of 1906 and 1910. The first provision for admitting immigrants with relatives was outlined in 1908 and, in 1910, the legislation specified that wives, children, parents, brothers, and sisters could all benefit from family reunification. This legislation was the foundation for immigration policy in the 20th century.

By 1976, a separate and distinct Family Class category was codified into the 1976 Immigration Act and in 1978, the Family Class expanded to include parents of any age. At this point in time, the only exceptions and or possible exclusions under the Family Class were morally problematic cases such as adoptions of convenience.

Today’s exclusion criteria, however, challenge the intrinsic value of family. Citizenship and Immigration Canada, CIC's package of reforms seeks to unhinge the longstanding value placed upon family reunification, by moving away from Family Class immigration and instead prioritizing Economic Classes of immigration.

Making it Harder

Reforms to the Family Class of immigration were introduced in early May 2013 and are now in effect. They include:

· Increasing the minimum necessary income for sponsoring parents and grandparents by 30 per cent. Currently, a sponsor must demonstrate a level of income that meets the minimum necessary income or low-income cut off for a given family size as established by Statistics Canada.

· Lengthening the period for demonstrating the minimum income from one year to three years. This requires those interested in sponsoring parents and grandparents to demonstrate that they can meet the new income threshold for three consecutive tax years prior to submitting a sponsorship application.

· Evidence of income confined to documents issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Not only will income stability have to be established for three years, this income stability must now be proved using CRA notices of assessment.

· Extending the sponsorship undertaking period to 20 years instead of 10 years. This means that those interested in sponsoring parents and grandparents will now be committed to a lengthened sponsorship undertaking of 20 years. Sponsors and co-signers will be responsible for repaying any provincial social assistance benefits paid to the parent or grandparent for 20 years.

· Changing the maximum age of dependents. The maximum age for dependents will be lowered from the current age set at 22 to 18 years of age for all immigration programs.

· Making the Super Visa a permanent fixture in the immigration system. The Super Visa provides multiple entries for a period up to 10 years. The key difference is that the Super Visa allows an individual to stay for up to two years on each entry into Canada while a 10-year multiple entry visa would only allow a stay for six months for each entry.

Responses to the Changes

CIC has tried to justify these changes by claiming that Family Class migrants are an economic burden to taxpayers.

“The [Parent and Grandparent] PGP program generates costs to Canadian taxpayers, as PGPs are unlikely to engage in paid employment or to become financially independent when in Canada,” noted a statement from the CIC.

Despite CIC’s attempt to justify these changes, others within the field of immigration such as settlement agencies, lawyers, and not-for-profit groups, strongly oppose the reforms. These civic stakeholders charge that this package of reforms should not be implemented since they do not meet the current objectives of The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, they undermine the social value of family in Canada, and they promote inequality.

The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), for instance, has stated: "We would still need to consider the broader issue of our inequitable immigration practices. These practices include permitting only those with a higher level of income to reunify with family members, either as permanent residents or as visitors, and making it easier for those from only some countries to reunify more easily with family because they are not subject to a visa restriction."

Out of reach

The CIC claims that despite the tightening up of the Family Class of immigration, the introduction of the Super Visa is a viable alternative for bringing family members to Canada. The CIC cites that since the launch of the Super Visa, more than 15,000 visas have been issued to date, with over 1,000 visas being issued to parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens or permanent residents every month.

However, the Super Visa is far from an optimal solution. Obtaining a Super Visa requires obtaining a health insurance policy and costly application fees that, at best, only grant a maximum two-year stay, before having to repeat the process over again. Another problem is that the Super Visa benefits immigrants from certain countries. Higher approval rates for applicants for Super Visas from the U.S. and Europe have been reported, with substantially lower approval rates for applicants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Other alternatives are just as economically out of reach. The CIC’s suggestion that dependent children over 18 apply independently through other streams like the Canadian Experience Class presents similar prohibitive costs. For example, international students must pay international tuition rates which are substantially higher; student visa application fees; and then gain at least one year of work experience in a managerial, professional, technical, or trade occupation in order to begin applying for permanent residency under the Canadian Experience Class. Furthermore, the Canadian Experience Class costs $550.00.

Canada would not be a country rich in multiculturalism and diversity without immigration policies that promote family reunification. Those of us with relatives that sacrificed everything to immigrate to Canada would not have the privileges or opportunities we currently have at our disposal without Canada’s immigration policies that historically valued family reunification.

By allowing this package of reforms to be implemented, Canada is setting a dangerous standard of placing economic values ahead of equality for all Canadians. This threatens the future of Canadian nation-building. My Canada includes opportunity for all families and so should yours.

Jacklyn recently completed the Master's of Immigration and Settlement program at Ryerson University. This comment is adapted from a working paper she wrote for the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement, Family Reunification? A Critical Analysis of Citizenship and Immigration Canada's 2013 Reforms to the Family Class. 

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Published in Commentary

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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