On February 13, 2011, Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism announced that, in 2010, Canada welcomed the highest number of legal immigrants in more than 50 years (280,636 permanent residents). A day later, New Democrat immigration critic Olivia Chow stated during a press conference that information obtained under an Access to Information Act request revealed that the federal government intends to further reduce the immigration targets for parents and grandparents from 15,300 in 2010 to 11,000.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada‘s website, it is currently taking 41 months for the sponsor to be assessed in the case of parents and grandparents. Assessment of sponsors is the first stage in family sponsorships. After that, it can take between 12 and 45 months to complete the permanent residence process, depending on the country. With these proposed reductions, the wait time will become even longer.
In defending the Canadian Government’s decision, Minister Kenney stated that there are trade-offs and the Canadian Government is focused on the priorities of Canadians, which are economic growth and prosperity. He also said that Canada needs more newcomers working and paying taxes and contributing to our health care system and this is the focus of Canada’s immigration system. Kenney also stated that spouses and children of Canadian citizens and permanent residents continue to be the priority in the case of family sponsorships and that parents and grandparents can still come to Canada for visits while their cases are pending.
Critics have responded by saying that restricting the number of parents and grandparents who can come to Canada to join family members here may deter those same skilled immigrants that the Canadian Government is trying to attract. According to Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae, many of the skilled immigrants that Canada wants to attract come because they believe they can sponsor their relatives; if they can’t do it, it is going to affect their choice of country. New Democrat immigration critic Olivia Chow also criticized the Conservative position, saying that parents and grandparents do not drain the system. Liberal MP Joe Volpe, a former immigration minister, also criticized the Conservative position. According to him, the Conservatives tell families to be responsible for their own child care when parents go to work, but this ignores the fact that new Canadians entering the workforce often rely on parents and grandparents for child care and help around the home.
It seems self-evident that many new immigrants rely on their extended families, in particular parents and grandparents. The current delay in processing family sponsorships for these family members likely discourages at least some immigrants from choosing Canada over other countries. The additional wait time that will inevitably result from the reduced immigration targets for these extended family members will only make it worse.
It remains to be seen what effect this will have on the foreign recruitment of skilled workers in future years.
Henry J. Chang
Blaney McMurtry LLP
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