Published on

  Sponsorship of parents and the federal election

Immigration is a subject that is now getting a lot of public attention. It’s election time and all the candidates are competing for your vote. Which candidate you vote for is your decision but find out what they are saying about the issues. Where do they stand on immigration, for example?

I wrote a piece on the negative changes in the sponsorship of parents and grandparents to balance the public statements from both the right wing immigration lobby group the Immigration Centre on Policy Reform and also the changes announced by the federal immigration minister, Jason Kenny. Family sponsorship now is on the lips of all candidates and the reader is advised to understand both the issue and what is being said.

Let’s look once again at the issue which broke first on CBC radio but was followed up by my article A Call to Action: Immigration changes threaten your ability to sponsor your parents (Pilipino Express, March 1, 2011). We both reported that the federal government had placed a cap of around 11,000 on the number of visas that would be issued for 2011. This number was down considerably from the 15,322 visas issued to parents and grandparents in 2010. The justification provided by supporters of this deep cut in numbers was that parents and grandparents add little to the economy, take too much in terms of pensions and other payments etc. “There have to be choices” and the Minister made his by cutting the numbers.

Where is the ruling Conservative Party on the issue of family immigration?

A good reference point is the Conservative Party of Canada Press Release of April 14, 2011 where the Immigration Minister Jason Kenny defended his party’s record on immigration. He contrasts his government’s record with the previous Liberal government by citing the change from the $975.00 right of landing fee to the $490.00 right of permanent residence, as well as highlighting the increase in the numbers of immigrants arriving in Canada and cuts in the processing times at visa posts around the world. He also said that his government has plans to increase family immigration to 65,500 for 2011 with as many as 17,500 visas for sponsored parents and grandparents.

The number of 11,000 that was circulated several months back is, in Kenny’s words of today, part of “a great deal of misinformation spread about this commitment.” He concludes by saying that his government now intends to “admit more parents and grandparents than the 15,300 who came to Canada in 2010. There will be no cuts.” He said opponents of the government are “using fear and misinformation on the sensitive issue of immigrants.” It is a welcome departure from his earlier words about cuts, but the voters can decide if the Minister has actually had a true change of heart or he is only saying something different because the Conservatives want your vote.

What is the Liberal Party’s plan for immigration?

In contrast we have the official Liberal opposition who are strongly opposed to the Conservative government on most issues but are somewhat vague with the specifics of their plans regarding family class immigration. In their recent Your Family, Your Future, Your Canada publication, the Liberals also target long waiting times, the need to consult with new Canadians and conclude that “family reunification must remain a crucial part of Canada’s immigration policy.” The party assures voters that a Liberal government would “restore balance by increasing family class visas.” Are the PCs fair when they assert that their record on immigration is better than that of the Liberals? Before checking the historical record for both parties, the reader should also be aware of what the NDP is saying about the same issue.

The NDP on immigration

In the leaders debate televised in early April 2011, the NDP leader Jack Layton alone called attention to the federal government’s intention to lower the number of parents and grandparents admitted to the country in 2011. He used the example of his wife MP Olivia Chow as a Canadian who would be hurt by changes in the numbers of parents admitted under this stream. He publically asked Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe to join him in maintaining that there would be no such cuts. His challenge was answered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who did not say that the cuts were not planned or announced, but rather changed the issue by saying his government was committed to immigration and that they were responsible for a record number of arrivals. Was this political gamesmanship orasidestep–orwashejustnot prepared to answer the question? The debate and the talk in the newcomer communities is one way to understand why Jason Kenny and the PCs have changed their strong stance on reducing family immigration. It would appear that the point raised by Lack Layton in the debate did, in fact, resonate with potential Canadian voters.

The real numbers

On the issue of family immigration both Liberal and Conservative governments from the early 1980s have continued a trend towards shifting immigration from family to economic stream applications. Did you know that in 1984, 50.4% of all immigration to Canada was under family class while 29.5% was economic. The last year that family immigration exceeded 40% was 1994 and around the same time economic immigration exceeded 50%. Since 1997 family immigration has dropped to the below 30% range while economic has been between in 50% and 60% per cent range.

In the last five years of the Harper government family immigration has been 28.0% (2006), 27.9% (2007), 26.5% (2008), 25.9% (2009) and 21.5% (2010). During the same period economic immigration increased steadily from 54.9 in 2006 to 66.6% in 2010 (Statistics Canada). The Conservative minister is correct in pointing out that more newcomers arrived in 2010 than in other previous years but his words sounds rather hollow when you are aware that his government has cut family immigration every year.

What about the sponsorship of parents?

In 2006, the numbers of parents and grandparents admitted to Canada under family class immigration was 20,005, followed by 15,813 in 2007, 16,599 in 2008, 17,178 in 2009 and 15,322 visas issued in 2010 (Statistics Canada). It would appear that the actual numbers have been steadily decreasing. The proposed 11,000 cap for 2011 is not a fabrication or misinformation – it was based on an announcement from the federal minister himself.

I applaud Minister Kenny if he saw the error of his intention to cut the number of arrivals further, but I question the sincerity of his conversion. Can you trust this Conservative government and this minister of immigration not to change his face back to the harsh opponent of parent and grandparent sponsorship after they get your vote?

What about the Liberals who followed a similar path away from family immigration when they were in power and who now are critical of the NDP immigration proposals? It would appear that on the issue of family immigration, the NDP – the party that really deserves the credit for the success of the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program – appears to be the best choice amongst the three parties.

However the lesson for all to learn is that politicians must take responsibility for their actions and words – and not just say nice things at election time to get our vote.

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:

Have a comment on this article? Send us your feedback