“If the Ontario government wants to sign an agreement with us, we are happy to do so. The ball is in their court.”
“..when we have a question series that has been in place for several months, we find that the consultants learn what the questions are and put together kits to sell to the applicants, so they memorize and answer..”
“…limited criteria for the sponsorship of parents in the future will be offset by the Super Visa which is a huge success..”
By Asma Amanat
Since the Conservative government came into power, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney has been busy making immigration reforms to Canada’s broken system.
In the past year alone, the Minister has introduced and passed the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, modernized Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and introduced the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act.
Among the regulatory changes were banning the parental and grandparental sponsorships for two years, introducing super visa for parents and grand parents, taking action against marriage fraud, cracking down on crooked immigration representatives, combating residence fraud in the citizenship and permanent residence programs, and reforming the Interim Federal Health Program.
Among the proposed changes are programs like FSWP, Federal Skilled Trades Program, the Canadian Experience Class and the Live-in Caregiver Program.
We asked Minister Kenney if he is concerned about getting some of these reforms wrong.
“ I am confident that all of these reforms will result in a better, more efficient, better administered system with better economic results for newcomers,” he responded.
He added that “everything we’re doing has been based on consultation. All the regulatory changes have had public input and perspective of immigrant communities.” As an example he cited marriage fraud.
In 2009, Harper government introduced Canadian Experience Class (CEC). The goal was to give an opportunity to people who have international student visas or temporary work visas to obtain permanent resident status quickly, without these people having to go back to their home countries. In 2009, the target was to give 9,000 people permanent resident status under CEC, but only 2,500 people got the PR card. 2012’s target is about 10,000 people. Minister Kenney is hopeful that this year’s target will be met. The 20,000th person to get a PR card under CEC program is an Indian, Gaurav Gore.
Nonetheless, in the Canadian economy where people are afraid of getting pink slip whether they are in public or private sector, what is to stop some of these permanent residents from obtaining a Canadian PR card and leaving Canada for booming economies like India, China and Brazil.
Minister Kenney acknowledges that some of these economic migrants may return.
“One of the problems our system has had is too many economic immigrants have returned to their countries of origin after they failed to find jobs in Canada which is why our overall immigration reforms are designed to better connect immigrants to employers and increasingly to rely on job offers from employers as the key factor in selecting economic immigrants..there’s always a chance they might get laid off and have to look elsewhere, but it’s much better from an economic and human point of view to ask someone to stay when he has a good paying job than to bring in someone from abroad who has no job lined up, whose degree will not be recognized by Canadian employers, who has no Canadian work experience..what is better: to have someone earning $70,000 per year or some poor fellow driving a taxi?,” Minister Kenney said.
In the past few years, Minister Kenney has noted several times that more and more economic migrants are moving to economically booming Canadian provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“The number of primary immigrants going directly to Saskatchewan has quadrupled in the past 6 years and it’s doubled in Alberta. That is in part because of the strong economy but also because of the expansion of our Provincial Nominee program,” said Minister Kenney.
“We now have a proper distribution of immigrants across the country rather than the overwhelming majority going to our three biggest cities. The immigrants going through the program are doing very well economically and so this means better income and opportunity for the immigrants and [it] also helps the overall economy facing skill shortages,” he further added.
As for the much discussed Canada Ontario Immigration Act (COIA) during last year’s Ontario’s elections, Minister Kenney stated that “if the Ontario government wants to sign an agreement with us, we are happy to do so. The ball is in their court.”
He noted that if Ontario government was “serious about the settlement funding,” it would have tripled the settlement funding like his government has. The Minister also said that theOntariogovernment is asking the federal government to send them a cheque for $300 million “without asking them [theOntariogovernment] any questions. We just don’t take that seriously. I think they should put their money where their mouth is.”
Although Minister Kenney has reiterated that his government has increased the number of people in Family Class, many people are sceptical of the government’s motives.
“On average we’ve admitted 65,000 parents and grandparents, spouses and children per year. And that is an addition to the independent economic immigrants. Overall 180,000 immigrants were admitted last year just who were dependants and sponsored family members…So this is the most pro-family immigration government in Canadian history and that is not an opinion but a statistical fact,” said Immigration Minister.
He also said that by the time new sponsorship applications are accepted this year, the backlog to processing parents and grandparental sponsorship applications will be reduced by half to wait times of about four years.
While the Minister has not determined exactly what criteria will be established for parental and grandparental sponsorships, Minister Kenney explicitly expressed that “there will be new criteria because we cannot continue taking 40-50,000 applications.”
Minister Kenney said that unlike Liberals who accepted “applications and fees, and just stockpiling them for a couple of decades,” his government has decided to take the honesty is the best policy route.
He says “..let’s admit those whose families have the best ability to take care of them.” He believes that imposing higher language efficiency is unreasonable for “older people,” however “we have mused about some kind of contribution to healthcare cost, possibly higher minimum income or demonstrating that you’ve met the minimum income requirement for a longer period of time. Perhaps doing whatAustraliadoes in requiring that you get priority processing if the majority of your children are living inCanadaas opposed to one child.”
Minister Kenney noted that the “limited criteria for the sponsorship of parents in the future will be offset by the Super Visa which is a huge success,” with processing time of seven weeks only.
Since the Conservative government has made changes to citizenship test, some settlement agencies like Afghan Women’s Organization have noted that immigrants are having hard time passing the citizenship test.
In response to the question about citizenship test, Minister Kenney responded “we do monitor that [citizenship tests] very closely and when we see that a particular question is getting an inordinately high failure rate, we go back and revise it. Periodically, about twice a year, we are revising the questions. On the flip side of this, when we have a question series that has been in place for several months, we find that the consultants learn what the questions are and put together kits to sell to the applicants, so they memorize and answer..we find that the initial pass rate is over 80%; the problem with the old system is that it had a 98% pass rate and many immigrants told me the questions were insulting because they were meant for schoolchildren.”
In the Fall session of Parliament, Harper government is introducing an 800 page legislation. Are some of the immigration reforms part of this legislation?
“Well we already have Bill C 43, the Fast Removal of Foreign Criminals Act that we hope to pass this Fall..but most of the changes we’ve made and are making will be on the operational side, implementing legislation that has already been passed,” stated Minister Kenney.