Drawback for Tories in new riding
Immigrants frustrated by Conservatives’ cap on family reunification
For Brampton realtor Satinder Singh Goindi, there is one key issue in the upcoming federal election — and one political party whose recent track record has put it at a distinct disadvantage.
“The Conservative policy to cut family reunification, they crushed our backbone,” said Goindi, reiterating what has become something of a political mantra for many in the city’s influential Punjabi-Canadian community in the newly formed riding of Brampton North.
Frustration over the two-year moratorium on applications by parents and grandparents trying to join their family in Canada, introduced after the Conservatives swept Peel in 2011, may signal yet another dramatic reversal of fortunes for the Harper government in the region.
And with three new seats in Peel, including Brampton North, there’s even more at stake this time.
After being shut out in the region by the Liberals for two decades, the Conservatives’ stunning victory in Peel in 2011 was no accident. It was secured following a targeted effort to capitalize on growing apathy toward the Grits among immigrants in Brampton, a city that is 70 per cent visible minorities, who said the party stopped working for them — allowing them to enter the country, but doing little to help them flourish.
A leaked Conservative strategy document ahead of the 2011 campaign revealed which targeted ridings were “very ethnic.” A heavy rotation of TV commercials targeting “ethnic voters” was launched.
Harper focused on ethnic media interviews in the GTA. For one of his visits in 2011, staffers for the Conservative candidate in Etobicoke Centre ( just south of Brampton) asked for supporters to come dressed in “folklore costumes which represent their ethnic backgrounds. These people will sit in front row behind the PM — great TV photo op.”
However, the moratorium on family reunification, introduced months after the 2011election, shook many in Brampton.
Radio host Rajinder Saini, owner of the Parvasi Media group, says “The real anger in Brampton right now is over the immigration issue.
“What the radio listeners are saying, when they call in, is how disturbing it was to see Kenney make promises for immigration reforms to get their votes in 2011, and then turn around and almost destroy family reunification,” he says.
Then, in 2013, the Conservatives drastically curtailed immigration opportunities under previous family reunification policies: the minimum income necessary to sponsor family members was increased by 30 per cent; the period needed to show minimum income was extended from one year to three years; children over 18 can no longer be sponsored as a dependent; and parent and grandparent sponsorships were capped at 5,000 a year. Brampton North Conservative candidate Parm Gill defends his party’s immigration reforms. Asked if he is hearing pushback at the door about his party’s reforms to family reunification, Gill replies, “absolutely not.”
Gill, who emigrated from India as a child, says the Conservative changes to family reunification policies are better suited to Canada’s economic needs. “We want to have a process that is fair to all Canadians,” Gill said.
According to Gill, applications from parents and grandparents previously numbered from 15,000 to 17,000 per year, which created a backlog of 150,000 applications. He says cutting that backlog by imposing a cap of only 5,000 applications a year for parents and grandparents is something Brampton residents understand.
“For the most part, people appreciate the common-sense changes that we’ve brought forward to reform the immigration system,” he said.
However, Goindi says the Conservative approach to curtail family immigration is out of touch. He’s campaigning for Martin Singh, the NDP candidate in Brampton North, a pharmacist who converted to Sikhism in 1990.
“It’s an economic issue,” Goindi says. “Our parents come over and provide so much stability and support, looking after our children, allowing us to work long hours.”
This frustration has not been lost on the Liberals, who pledged sweeping changes to the immigration system in September.
At a campaign stop in Brampton last month, federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised to double the family reunification limits that allow people to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada, which means that the number would jump to 10,000 from the 5,000 that was imposed by the Harper government last year. “A Liberal government will make family reunification at the core of its immigration policy,” Trudeau said on Sept. 25.
The Liberal candidate is criminal lawyer Ruby Sahota, who is the daughter of an executive member of one the largest Sikh temples in North America. The New Democratic Party pledged last week to get rid of the cap on the number of parents and grandparents who can apply to immigrate to Canada to be reunited with their families.
Parm Gill, federal Conservative candidate for Brampton North, says he is “absolutely not” hearing pushback about immigration reforms.
Ruby Sahota, federal Liberal candidate for Brampton North, is a criminal lawyer and the daughter of an executive member of one of the largest Sikh temples in North America.
Martin Singh, federal NDP candidate for Brampton North. Last week, the NDP pledged to get rid of the family reunification cap.