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Jason Kenny gives himself an A

The Harper government wants us all to understand that they have made significant and important changes to federal immigration. “Our government has a plan for a faster, more flexible, responsive and secure immigration system that will better meet Canada’s economic needs while continuing to uphold our humanitarian commitments,” Minister Jason Kenny said in a news release on 24 August 2012. “With our changes, immigrants will see their lives improve, and Canadians will see the economy grow.”His news release consisted of a list of the changes introduced over the last year followed by an appraisal of these changes.

Minister Kenny said that his mission over the past year was “to strengthen the integrity and economic responsiveness of the immigration system.” In order to do both he has introduced: an act to prosecute human smugglers; a major overhaul to the Federal Skilled Worker Program, specifically eliminating a seven year backlog of applications; reduced the backlog of existing sponsored parents/grandparent applications; took action against marriage fraud by barring sponsored spouses from sponsoring a new spouse for five years; reforming the Interim Federal Health Program to stop abuse by refugee claimants inside Canada; introduce basic levels of English/French language literacy for economic stream applicants (including provincial nominees); increased number of provincial nominations; introduced new processing stream for PhD graduates inside Canada; proposed changes in the assessment of foreign educational credentials for FSWP applicants who would submit credentials prior to applying to Canada.

The list is extensive and telling. In one highly controversial action, federal immigration suspended the sponsorship of parents in order to reduce the backlog. But the government created the backlog. The federal government could have expanded it’s work force or introduced other efficiencies but chose to address the issue by suspending sponsorships and introducing the Super Visa. Is this Super Visa only an interim measure or the face of things to come? If the response to the Super Visa is as overwhelming as the Minister suggests, what would stop him from saying we tried this system for two years and are satisfied that it works better than the former sponsorship? Can we trust this government on its word to applicants and sponsors alike?

The fears expressed above are not unfounded. Readers should examine the Minister’s words and actions regarding the FSWP and especially the way he reduced an existing backlog from 640,000 to close to 150,000. Minister Kenny trumpets this as an accomplishment. Many Canadians were shocked by his one-sided arbitrary suspension of applications that were in the cue for many years. Some, in point of fact, appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn this unfair and irresponsible act. The applicants, mainly from China and the Philippines, paid their fees and assumed they would be processed fairly. The action is clearly unfair and irresponsible, yet Minister Kenny expects us to praise him for his actions.

There was another way but the Minister complains about a lack of staff on one hand (hence the backlogs) yet joined in with the Harper government to eliminate 20,000 civil service jobs, including the immigration staff at the regional headquarters in Winnipeg.

Some of the changes introduced by the federal Minister are, in my opinion, effective and fair. There are, however, others already noted that are problematic. I could add to this list the introduction of the English/French language bar for economic stream applicants, suspension of health benefits for refugees and possible preconditions for applicants to meet Canadian standards before applying.

The Minister’s concludes his self assessment by saying: “We have made great strides in the past year, but we know there is always more work to do and look forward to even more improvements and reforms in the year ahead.”I am not convinced that his government has actually improved things for immigration but rather has undermined the system and cut the number of chances potential immigrants have to come to Canada. My grade for you Minister Kenny is a generous D or C, which, in so many ways fails to meet the high ideals and standards you claim to hold.

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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