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  A call to action

    Immigration changes threaten your ability to sponsor your parents


How many of you heard the CBC reports on changes in the sponsorship of parents and grandparents? If you heard that all such sponsorships are off, relax; this has not happened yet.

What has occurred is some very drastic change in the processing times for parent and grandparent sponsorships. Last year 15,322 visas were issued to parents and grandparents. This was down from the 20,005 in 2006, 15,813 in 2007, 16,599 in 2008 and 17,178 in 2009, according to Statistics Canada tables.

The CBC report says that the federal target for 2011 has been lowered to only 11,000. This means of course that if you want to sponsor your parents or grandparents, it is probably going to take much longer than the four years we are accustomed to. What is the government’s justification for making such a major cut and where will it stop?

The CBC radio morning news broke the story to the general public on February 14, 2011. The Canadians who are most affected by such a change are members of newcomer communities such as those from the Philippines. The news story itself consists of three distinct parts:

  • • a report of the federal Minister’s comments on the cuts in Etobicoke, Ontario;
  • • the justification for such a move offered by the right wing lobby group Immigration Centre for Policy Reform and:
  • • the comments of an immigration lawyer who is representing a sponsor who has been trying to bring his parents to Canada for years.

Allow me to fill in some of the information gaps and suggest a possible course of action.

Longer processing times

It is true that CBC radio and TV reported alarming changes in federal immigration’s processing of applications to sponsor parents and grandparents. Their source was Vancouver-based lawyer Richard Curland who discovered, through the Freedom of Information Act, that Canada Immigration would issue only 11,000 family reunification visas this year – down from the 16,000 (actually 15,322) in 2010. He warned CBC news that the slashed rate and the 140,000 existing case backlog would mean that a parent could wait about 13 years for a visa if they were to apply today. The immigration representative concluded, saying “frankly, there’s a better chance of the parents seeing a coffin before a Canadian visa.” I shall not add to the drama of his comments but there is no question that the reduction of 2011 targets would result in longer processing times and less approvals.

Why the change?

The reasons for such a change on the part of government is difficult to understand because the Minister of Immigration has not engaged the newcomer communities nor has the change been debated publicly. It appears that the decision was made in isolation or as a result of pressure from lobby groups such as the Immigration Centre of Policy Reform.

The federal Minister of Immigration Jason Kenny responded to questions about the change in target numbers in his Etobicoke, Ontario speech. “There have to be choices made… I know that the most popular thing they could do politically would be to say that this year, were going to go from 14,000 to 100,000 parents and grandparents… But it wouldn’t be responsible because that means fewer economic immigrants coming and paying taxes, or fewer refugees to save from refugee camps.”

Kenny apparently thinks that older parents and grandparents, who are not destined for the work force, do not help the Canadian economy, but only take from it. His conclusions are no different than those voiced by the right wing lobby group Immigration Centre for Policy Reform, who appear to be opposed to almost any immigration and have especially singled out parents and grandparents as a burden to Canada because they do not work or pay taxes but receive health care and old age security benefits after 10 years in Canada. I warned about the influence and negative attitudes of this lobby group in an earlier Pilipino Expressarticle and now, once more, I advise readers to become aware and mobilized against such drastic cuts in immigration to Canada.

The value of parents & grandparents

The Immigration Centre for Policy Reform and our Minister of Immigration display a lack of knowledge about the economic benefit of the reunification of families. They do not appreciate that many immigrants entering the workforce and other Canadians with young children rely heavily upon their parents and grandparents to take care of the kids. The parents may not contribute directly to the economy but they do provide valuable support to those who do. They are not just cheap babysitters but an integral part of many newcomer families. Are the critics aware of the extended family and what it means and how many things we get from our parents and grandparents?

What about the Canadian dream that our country uses to recruit skilled workers from abroad? Canada is the choice of many because of our personal freedoms to worship, study, work, associate etc. Newcomers should have the same benefits of other Canadians such as the support of close family.

What about an accurate measure of the value of the extended family within the Canadian framework? Are the children of extended families more or less likely to become involved in anti-social activity for example? Where is the balanced view; where is the public discussion on the subject? Are the proponents of the cuts aware of the fundamental differences between extended families and nuclear families?

Filipino newcomer families, for example, are accustomed to the extended family and wish it to continue even if they are in Canada. In sharp contrast, the detractors of sponsorship for parents and grandparents make conclusions based upon narrow research and apparently limited knowledge of the newcomer needs and expectations.

It is true that Canada, like all the other nations of the world, is challenged by the global recession – but is the best solution to cut the reunification of families? I think not.

A call to action

The right wing lobby group should not be the only group heard. This lobby is the same group who maintain that all immigration is bad, that immigrants are stealing our jobs and that letting in parents and grandparents is adding to Canada’s economic ills. The challenge of the readers should be to our community leaders to lobby for equal rights for all Canadians and of course to our elected politicians to hear our voices and correct this unfair and economically harmful approach to immigration screening.

Why have elected members in opposition, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois, not raised the question in question period in the House of Commons? The changes will have an immediate effect but the silence is deafening. If you thought it was a bad having to wait more than four years to bring in your parents or grandparents, imagine waiting 13 years or more – or actually losing your right to sponsor them. It is time for us all to get engaged and demand a change in direction and practice by federal immigration.

Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail:

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