Annual immigration report glosses over contentious issues

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BY WILLIAM MACINTOSH
 
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William Macintosh
 
THE annual immigration report is another attempt by the government to sell itself as a competent manager of the economy. Immigration measures planned for 2014 continue to focus on the means of attracting permanent residents who will benefit Canada, and who are not a drain on health or social services.
 
It glosses over contentious issues, such as whether or not current policy is meeting other objectives of immigration law, such as reuniting families in Canada, and maximizing social and cultural benefits of immigration. The results of the government’s measures will not be known for several years, by the time the government seeks renewal of a mandate to govern in 2015.
 
On Monday this week Immigration Minister Chris Alexander stood in the House of Commons to announce the filing of the 2013 annual report on immigration. It was a perfunctory performance, lasting less than a minute, unaccompanied by any speech or comment on the report’s contents.
 
Mandated by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the report includes a description of activities and initiatives undertaken by the Immigration Department in the previous year. As well, it lists the number of persons who became permanent residents and the number projected to become permanent residents in the next year; including those entering under provincial immigration programs. The report usually lauds the government’s achievements and sets the tone on what matters most to the government.
 
This year’s report is no exception. The Minister’s introductory message notes the government’s focus on economic interests. He states, “For Canada to remain competitive in the global economy and support our national interests, we must ensure our immigration system is designed to best meet our current and future labour market needs.” The government plans to continue high levels of immigration to Canada, with 240,000 to 265,000 new permanent residents expected in the next year.
 
News releases issued by the Immigration Department after the report’s release indicate that economic class immigration will increase to 63 per cent of all permanent residents in 2014, with 26 per cent admitted under the family class and 11 per cent admitted as refugees and on other humanitarian grounds. As well, under the economic class, up to 47,000 permanent residents will be admitted under provincial nominee programs. Provincial programs are viewed as strengthening local economics by allowing provinces to select immigrants to meet specific labour market needs and promote business development.
 
The number of permanent residents admitted under the Canadian experience class will also increase, to 15,000 in 2014.
 
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Chris Alexander Photo by Chandra Bodalia
 
WHILE not new, the annual report provides details on the government’s intention to start a new method of selecting economic immigrants in 2015, under what is called an “Expression of Interest” management system.
 
Copied from immigration programs in Australia and New Zealand, an EOI system allows prospective immigrants to indicate their desire to move to Canada by providing information about their qualifications. Eligible applicants will have their information posted on-line, to allow potential employers to select specific applicants. Those that receive job offers or who have in-demand skills will be invited to file immigration applications, which the government will process on a priority basis. The government expects an EOI system will reduce backlogs and keep processing times to a minimum.
 
Lost in the spin highlighting the government’s achievements and goals of working to improve the economy is the long-term reduction of the program for sponsoring parents and grandparents, known by its bureaucratic acronym, PGP. The government is still committed to changes beginning in January, 2014, which will reduce the number of new sponsorships for parents and grandparents. New rules will require sponsors to sign longer-term undertakings (20 years) to support these relatives, increase the required income to sponsor them and increase the qualifying period for proving the required income level to three years.
 
On Tuesday, in an attempt to appear supportive of family sponsorship, the Immigration Department issued another news release, stating the government’s intention to reduce the PGP backlog. Anyone sponsoring parents knows that wait times have increased up to eight years in some cases. The government expects it will have admitted up to 50,000 parents and grandparents in 2012 and 2013, with 20,000 more added in 2014.
 
While existing applications will benefit from these measures, future sponsors will be limited to a cap of 5,000 applications each year (involving 9,000 immigrants), if they meet the more stringent sponsorship qualifications. This sleight-of-hand will see the backlog of applicants reduced to about 42,000 by the end of 2015. The release notes the government’s program to issue super visas, allowing parents and grandparents to come to Canada as visitors for up to two years, implying that it is acceptable substitute for permanent sponsorship. It has approved 26,000 visas since the end of 2011, which number is fewer per year than would have been sponsored previously for permanent residence.
Tuesday also saw the release of a second news release advising that the government will increase the number of live-in caregivers granted permanent residence in the next year to 17,500. Live-in caregivers are admitted as workers who, after completing two years’ work, may apply for permanent residence. The government allowed a backlog to develop in processing their permanent resident applications by failing to increase processing levels, despite allowing more into Canada as temporary workers.
 
The annual report does not address the issue of temporary foreign workers admitted to Canada. The latest immigration statistics show that 125,000 temporary workers were admitted in the first six months of this year, a 5-per-cent increase from last year. New rules restricting language requirements, mandating equal pay for foreign workers and requiring employers to pay a $275 processing fee came into effect in July. It is not known yet if these measures have decreased the number of temporary workers admitted to Canada.
 
William Macintosh started practising as an immigration lawyer in 1984. You can reach him for advice or help on any immigration or citizenship matter at 778-714-8787.