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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

PM gives voice to concerns of COPR holders

by Michael Scott

The current travel restrictions to Canada are impacting more persons than visitors. Many are familiar with the two-month ban on non-essential travel but are unaware how far the ban extends. A Canadian Member of Parliament (MP) has brought public attention to the plight of foreign nationals with Confirmations of Permanent Residence (COPR), who cannot enter Canada. In a letter addressed to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino, opposition MP Christine Normandin described the plight of COPR holders as an “untenable situation for the department.”

COPR holders and families and friends inside Canada can appreciate the critical words of the Bloc Quebecois immigration critic. Normandin plays an important role in the Canadian political system, akin to that of the tribunes in ancient Rome. Her position as official critic does not mean that her only purpose in life is to criticize for the sake of criticizing. It may appear that way to overly sensitive government supporters and office holders but the general public should appreciate the role of the opposition critic in giving voice to those who feel they cannot speak out. Many COPR holders and immigration applicants would rather suffer in silence than appear critical or unappreciative of immigration authorities, who appear to hold power over their admission or denial. It might be better to suffer in silence than create waves or in the words of homespun wisdom, “let sleeping dogs lie.”

Minister Mendicino has several times admitted that his department is trying to improve things, but the facts speak for themselves. In 2020, Canada forecast 341,000 arrivals but the actual number of arrivals was only 184,370. The coronavirus has had a major impact over the past year and is still impacting numbers to Canada, including the COPR holders waiting in the cue. But there is room for improvement.

The immigration critic, acknowledges the reality of the coronavirus, but still raises some valid concerns. She correctly points out that many COPR holders have been forced to obtain extensions and undergo medical exams, which are only valid for one year and the necessity to redo these steps is costly for applicants and departmental staff.

“We are concerned that this will place an additional burden on immigration officers if, while waiting for the restrictions to be lifted, applicants are required to undergo repeat medical examinations and criminal background checks, which officers will then have to reassess,” said Normandin.

The immigration critic offered an alternative approach. Normandin suggests that COPRs, issued after March 18, 2020 be exempt from travel restrictions to Canada, and that all valid COPRs be extended by 12 months. She explains, “The COPR holders for whom we are requesting a lifting of the restrictions are mainly skilled workers and immigrant investors who will be called upon to participate in the economic recovery through their contribution of labour, [and] through job creation in the case of immigrant investors.”

IRCC does have a responsibility to reunite families, bring in necessary skilled workers, etc. but also to ensure the health and safety of the country. The proposed modification of the country’s travel ban is an example of risk management. The government needs to manage the risk of spreading the virus with measures to stimulate economic recovery. Normandin’s suggestions are appreciated, especially for giving voice to the voiceless, and giving working alternatives. We now wait to see how Minister Mendicino and IRCC respond to the plight of the COPR holders and the suggestions for change from the opposition.

Michael Scott is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC, R525678) who has 30 years of experience with Immigration Canada and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. He currently works as a licensed consultant with Immigration Connexion International Ltd. Contact him at 204-691-1166 or 204-227-0292. E-mail: mscott.ici@gmail.com.

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