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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott

   

Group challenges immigration changes:
a summary

By Michael Scott

On April 20, 2013, I participated in a town hall meeting on the future of immigration in Canada hosted by the grass roots Immigration Matters in Canada Coalition. The focus of the meeting was the Super Visa for visiting parents and grandparents, and the two-year moratorium on the sponsorship of parents and grandparents. The event, which attracted a crowd of around 100 on a Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg, was at times emotional, interesting and very informative. It was an example of interested parties coming together to discuss an issue important to all Canadians. It was an example of democracy in action with a real grass roots organization mobilizing to exert pressure on the federal immigration minister.

The meeting allowed guest speakers and participants to focus on the problems involved with the Super Visa and the suspension of parent and grandparent sponsorship.

The first speaker was Ali Saeed local businessman and founding member of the Ethiopian Society. He came to Canada as political refugee over 30 years ago. He related the heartbreaking story of his unsuccessful efforts to bring his mother to Canada even as a visitor. Her application was refused several times and he has not seen her in person since he arrived in Canada.

The other speakers included Shahina Sidiqqui, Executive Director of the Islamic Social Services and Quanhai Tonthat, the settlement and sponsorship coordinator from Interfaith. Both presented the very real problems faced by their client groups in bringing parents and grandparents to Canada as visitors and the social cost of the sponsorship moratorium.

I was the final speaker. I explained the differences in application for the regular Temporary Resident Visa and the so-called 10-year, multiple entry Super Visa. I also reminded attendees that the federal charge that somehow parents and grandparents are a detriment to the Canadian economy has not been proved by detractors like Minister Jason Kenny and right wing think tanks nor is it in point of fact correct.

Christine Melnick, the Manitoba Minister for Immigration and Multiculturalism, joined the presenters and spoke widely about the contributions of the province of Manitoba, especially the provincial nominee program, and the limits of her government’s actions.

Diwa Marcelino was the final speaker and he added his support to the grass roots meeting by widening the conversation to include the problems faced by OFWs in the country.

There was a lively question and answer period with strong audience participation. The focus was less on the Super Visa, which most decry as expensive and outside the means of many newcomer families. The overriding question and concern was on the uncertain future of parent and grandparent sponsorship.

What did the participants think might happen in November of this year when the two-year moratorium ends? One of the members of the Immigration Matters in Canada Coalition provided the attendees with a glimpse into the thought process of Immigration Minister Jason Kenny. She recited a number of suggestions that the federal immigration department had released as part of their community consultation. These include the following possible options:

  • Should sponsors be required to have higher incomes?
  • Should sponsors pay a substantial sponsorship fee ($40,000)?
  • Should sponsorship undertaking be for the lifetime of parents or grandparents rather than for 10 years?
  • Should only citizens be allowed to sponsor a parent or grandparents?
  • Should sponsorship be only for parents and grandparents and not for the accompanying siblings of the sponsor;
  • Should parents and grandparents be eligible only if at least half or a majority of their children reside permanently in Canada;
  • Should sponsorship of parents and grandparents be allowed only in special circumstances;
  • Should there be a cap on the number of parents and grandparents only in special circumstances?
    (Shaping the Future: Canada’s rapidly changing immigration policies, October 2012, Naomi Alboim & Karen Cohl, www.maytree.com).

I have no doubt that Minister Kenny is going to make a decision about parent and grandparent sponsorship by November of this year. Hopefully, reason will prevail and he will bring back a reasonable sponsorship program. The federal options are completely open at this time but there are a least two things we can all take away from the Saturday afternoon meeting. First, that there is a very real and substantial challenge to the sponsorship of parents and grandparents being undertaken by the current federal government. Second, there are concerned stakeholders, such as those represented by local settlement agencies, provincial government, community newspapers and finally grassroots lobbyists, who will not go quietly into the night. The opposition to Minister Kenny’s anti-immigration approach is very much alive and can be reflected in the polls.

One fundamental right that is open to all voting Canadians is to remove governments from office when they stop respecting Canada’s proud heritage of fairness, compassion, and positive immigration. We are not helpless voices. Collectively we can exert great pressure on the current government because the immigrant vote (people not born in Canada) is something that helped give Harper his majority government and it can take it away, too.

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: mscott.ici@gmail.com

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