My Canada in­cludes all fam­i­lies

The Southwest Booster - - OPINION -

To the edi­tor: In my ca­pac­ity as an im­mi­gra­tion con­sul­tant I work with em­ploy­ers who strug­gle to find qual­i­fied work­ers to fill po­si­tions in their grow­ing com­pa­nies. Many of these em­ploy­ers have turned to im­mi­gra­tion as a so­lu­tion to fill their grow­ing num­ber of va­cant jobs. New poli­cies in­tro­duced by Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Canada (CIC) could mean that over time the num­ber of new qual­i­fied im­mi­grants in­ter­ested in com­ing to Canada could pos­si­bly dwin­dle in re­sponse to Canada’s new stance on fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion. A stance that is the op­po­site of ev­ery­thing that Canada once stood for in its Im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

As a coun­try we have signed and rat­i­fied in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions which af­firm the im­por­tance of the fam­ily unit and the prin­ci­ple that fam­i­lies are en­ti­tled to pro­tec­tion by so­ci­ety and the state. Yet this year, changes will be in­tro­duced that will mean that im­mi­grants can no longer in­clude de­pen­dent chil­dren older than 18 years old. In­stead they pro­pose to re­duce the max­i­mum age of de­pen­dents from un­der 22 years of age to un­der 19 years of age, re­gard­less of whether those de­pen­dents are full-time stu­dents or for other rea­sons are de­pen­dent on their par­ents.

The in­tro­duc­tion of this new re­stric­tion not only means that fam­i­lies will be sep­a­rated, it will also limit Canada’s po­ten­tial to at­tract skilled work­ers - some of whom will refuse to im­mi­grate if they are un­able to in­clude their 18+ de­pen­dent chil­dren in their ap­pli­ca­tions. Cur­rently, I am work­ing with a num­ber of skilled worker clients, who would be neg­a­tively af­fected by this rule change. I am con­fi­dent that had this rule been in ef­fect at the time of each of their ap­pli­ca­tions, those af­fected would have de­clined their of­fers of em­ploy­ment in Canada as it would mean per­ma­nent sep­a­ra­tion from their 19 and 20 year old de­pen­dents. This rule change has the po­ten­tial to se­verely hin­der Saskatchew­an’s abil­ity to at­tract the work­ers it so badly needs to meet its growth ob­jec­tives.

Un­til re­cently there was also a two year mora­to­rium on the par­ent/grand­par­ent spon­sor­ship pro­gram. This pro­gram re- opened in Jan­uary 2014 but with a strict 5,000 cap on ap­pli­ca­tions, which was filled in less than a month. Some of the new re­quire­ments for this cat­e­gory made it very dif­fi­cult for people to qual­ify to spon­sor par­ents or grand­par­ents. CIC sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased the fi­nan­cial re­quire­ments that a spon­sor must meet in or­der to qual­ify by 30 per cent. This re­quire­ment has most se­verely af­fected mem­bers of racial­ized com­mu­ni­ties, refugees, women, and oth­ers who are dis­ad­van­taged eco­nom­i­cally. In other words, the very people who have his­tor­i­cally come to Canada in or­der to bet­ter their lives and those who first helped to build this coun­try.

These changes and the cur­rent poli­cies will and have ul­ti­mately made it in­creas­ingly more dif­fi­cult for new im­mi­grants to keep their fam­i­lies in­tact. Chil­dren will be left be­hind and for many, the dream of hav­ing their par­ents and grand­par­ents join them here in Canada, will re­main out of reach. Ul­ti­mately these changes and cur­rent poli­cies serve to keep new Cana­dian fam­i­lies apart. While some might agree on the ba­sis that over­age de­pen­dent chil­dren, par­ents and grand­par­ents are a ‘drain’ on our sys­tems and do not con­trib­ute eco­nom­i­cally a large body of ev­i­dence points to how ex­tended fam­i­lies in­clud­ing par­ents and grand­par­ents are im­por­tant to the so­cial and eco­nomic well­be­ing of fam­i­lies and to their eco­nomic pro­duc­tiv­ity.

In the sys­tem cur­rently set-up by CIC, the only fam­ily mem­bers that can be spon­sored at this time are de­pen­dent chil­dren and spouses of Cana­di­ans or Per­ma­nent Res­i­dents. NO other fam­ily mem­bers can be spon­sored. This means that mak­ing the de­ci­sion to come to Canada is ul­ti­mately a de­ci­sion that means aban­don­ing your fam­ily and leav­ing them be­hind for­ever. Would you be able to do it?

Canada used to be seen as a coun­try that pri­or­i­tized fam­ily re­uni­fi­ca­tion and hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism. It has long been a part of how the out­side world views us as Cana­di­ans. We can be that coun­try again – and at the same time ben­e­fit not only as a coun­try but as a prov­ince by at­tract­ing new im­mi­grants to help fill our cur­rent labour short­ages.

Let’s make a re­turn to this iden­tity by re­bal­anc­ing im­mi­gra­tion lev­els so that fam­i­lies make up a larger per­cent­age of the to­tal im­mi­gra­tion; by ex­pand­ing the def­i­ni­tion of fam­i­lies to re­flect the re­al­i­ties of di­verse cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties and by re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers to re­uni­fi­ca­tion by al­lo­cat­ing the re­sources needed to process ap­pli­ca­tions in a timely man­ner.

If you agree, and if your Canada in­cludes fam­i­lies of the people that come here to help our econ­omy I urge you to dis­cuss the mat­ter with your lo­cal mem­ber of par­lia­ment and/or write a let­ter to Chris Alexan­der, the Min­is­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion.

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