Sponsorship of parents:
a continuing story
It is never boring to write about immigration. It seems that every day something comes up that causes concern and discussion about the subject. I thought I would be writing today about the new online family support stream application to the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program but instead I have become caught up in this year’s debate about family sponsorship.
How many of the readers want to know what is happening with the sponsorship of parents and grandparents? If the question sounds like déjà vu, it is. Changes to family class sponsorship have been foremost in our minds since the spring of this year when the federal immigration Minister Jason Kenny said that the government would be limiting the number of parent sponsorships allowed in 2011.
As a recap, CBC radio broke the story on February 14, 2011 that Minister Kenny had announced that Canada would issue only 11,000 permanent resident visas for the year. The reaction to his comments was swift and effective. By the time of the election that same Minister was recanting his statements and explaining that the 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 also accused his critics of “using fear and misinformation on the sensitive issue of immigration” (See my article “Sponsorship of parents and the federal election,” Pilipino Express, May 1, 2011. Vol. 7, No. 9). The Conservatives’ promise was heard and the Harper government was returned with a majority, including a large percentage of votes from immigrant communities.
However, I cautioned then that I was not convinced Minister Kenny and his government were sincere in their change of heart about the sponsorship of parents. Did the proposal to cut sponsorship of parents and grandparents disappear? No. It is with us today and once again the same Minister of Immigration is threatening to cut the numbers drastically.
The same Minister Jason Kenny who was first reported to be cutting family sponsorship, then promising to maintain it, is once again cutting the numbers. On October 20, 2011 he announced to the Citizenship and Immigration committee of the Commons that he favoured shorter processing times (a good thing) but he also cautioned against admitting “senior citizens” who have “much, much lower labour market participation and higher utilization of the public health system.” The Minister has appeared to learn from the error of his earlier announcements and now avoids being too specific – but there is no question that he continues to oppose the sponsorship of senior-aged applicants and to cut the numbers allowed in under family class immigration.
In the spring of this year, the well-funded anti-immigration lobby group, the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, supported the Minister in his opposition to the sponsorship of parents and grandparents. National Post staff writer Lorne Gunter repeated his objections in an October 23, 2011. Mr. Gunter once again made the standard argument against senior-aged immigration: i.e. they are not intended for the labour market and they are a draw on the health system.
The detractors keep saying this but it does not make it is true. We have only to compare their opinions with the well-researched studies done by Professor Jeffrey Reitz of the University of Toronto. He found that immigrants are less likely to use the social services than Canadian-born citizens, not the other way round. In addition, many of the sponsored parents and grandparents actually entered the work force directly, or second hand, as childcare workers, allowing their younger sponsors to work. (See my article “Read a good article about immigration?” Pilipino Express August 16, 2011 Vol. 7, No. 16 and CBC News, October 20, 2011).
What about the immigration backlog as a reason for cutting family immigration numbers? Yes, Minister Kenny is correct when he says that Canada has a backlog of over one million names. We would all join in praising him for taking steps to make the process faster and fairer. But is it necessary to cut family class immigration numbers to achieve these ends? The NDP immigration critic Ron Davies makes a valid point when he says that the department of immigration should hire more staff. This makes sense if all parties agree that immigration is an added value to Canada. All parties should also be aware that there are processing and right of permanent resident fees that defray some of the costs of administering the programs.
There is no conclusion to this story because the debate continues. However, the reader should be aware that a recent study by the Institute for Research on Public Policy confirms what we already know – that a majority of Canadians favour immigration (CBC news October 20, 2011). This is true even amongst identified supporters of the Conservative party. Hopefully, Minister Kenny has learned not only to temper his remarks but also to listen to the opinions of the majority of Canadians. Our parents and grandparents are first not a detriment to our economic wellbeing but an infusion. The value they add cannot be measured only in economic terms but also in other intangibles. All Canadians, “new” and “old,” should be entitled to the same basic rights and freedoms, such as having the support of close family members.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org