In my capacity as an immigration consultant I work with employers who struggle to find qualified workers to fill positions in their growing companies. Many of these employers have turned to immigration as a solution to fill their growing number of vacant jobs. New policies introduced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) could mean that over time the number of new qualified immigrants interested in coming to Canada could possibly dwindle in response to Canada’s new stance on family reunification. A stance that is the opposite of everything that Canada once stood for in its Immigration policies.
As a country we have signed and ratified international conventions which affirm the importance of the family unit and the principle that families are entitled to protection by society and the state. Yet this year, changes will be introduced that will mean that immigrants can no longer include dependent children older than 18 years old. Instead they propose to reduce the maximum age of dependents from under 22 years of age to under 19 years of age, regardless of whether those dependents are full-time students or for other reasons are dependent on their parents.
The introduction of this new restriction not only means that families will be separated, it will also limit Canada’s potential to attract skilled workers - some of whom will refuse to immigrate if they are unable to include their 18+ dependent children in their applications. Currently, I am working with a number of skilled worker clients, who would be negatively affected by this rule change. I am confident that had this rule been in effect at the time of each of their applications, those affected would have declined their offers of employment in Canada as it would mean permanent separation from their 19 and 20 year old dependents. This rule change has the potential to severely hinder Saskatchewan’s ability to attract the workers it so badly needs to meet its growth objectives.
Until recently there was also a two year moratorium on the parent/grandparent sponsorship program. This program re-opened in January 2014 but with a strict 5,000 cap on applications, which was filled in less than a month. Some of the new requirements for this category made it very difficult for people to qualify to sponsor parents or grandparents. CIC significantly increased the financial requirements that a sponsor must meet in order to qualify by 30 per cent. This requirement has most severely affected members of racialized communities, refugees, women, and others who are disadvantaged economically. In other words, the very people who have historically come to Canada in order to better their lives and those who first helped to build this country.
These changes and the current policies will and have ultimately made it increasingly more difficult for new immigrants to keep their families intact. Children will be left behind and for many, the dream of having their parents and grandparents join them here in Canada, will remain out of reach. Ultimately these changes and current policies serve to keep new Canadian families apart. While some might agree on the basis that overage dependent children, parents and grandparents are a 'drain' on our systems and do not contribute economically a large body of evidence points to how extended families including parents and grandparents are important to the social and economic wellbeing of families and to their economic productivity.
In the system currently set-up by CIC, the only family members that can be sponsored at this time are dependent children and spouses of Canadians or Permanent Residents. NO other family members can be sponsored. This means that making the decision to come to Canada is ultimately a decision that means abandoning your family and leaving them behind forever. Would you be able to do it?
Canada used to be seen as a country that prioritized family reunification and humanitarianism. It has long been a part of how the outside world views us as Canadians. We can be that country again – and at the same time benefit not only as a country but as a province by attracting new immigrants to help fill our current labour shortages.
Let’s make a return to this identity by rebalancing immigration levels so that families make up a larger percentage of the total immigration; by expanding the definition of families to reflect the realities of diverse cultural communities and by removing barriers to reunification by allocating the resources needed to process applications in a timely manner.
If you agree, and if your Canada includes families of the people that come here to help our economy I urge you to discuss the matter with your local member of parliament and/or write a letter to Chris Alexander, the Minister for Immigration.
Anika Henderson - Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, Imagine Immigration & Consulting