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Are super visas another sign of ‘super’ economic migration reliance?

By Mario Bellissimo

Published in Embassy Mag

It’s time for dialogue based on this Immigration Act objective: ‘To permit Canada to pursue the maximum social, cultural and economic benefits of immigration.’

The government has placed a two-year moratorium on new parent and grandparent sponsorships to alleviate the current backlog and in turn created a new parent and grandparent ‘super visa’ that comes into effect on Dec. 1.

The multiple-entry visa is valid for up to 10 years and allows applicants to stay in Canada for up to two years without the need to renew their status. The visas are supposed to take eight weeks on average to be issued and applicants have to get private Canadian health insurance for the duration of their stay.

At the same, earlier this month, Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced the provincial nominee program, which is now the second-largest source of economic immigration to Canada, will be afforded a record amount of space in the immigration program for 2012. Citizenship and Immigration Canada plans to welcome 42,000 to 45,000 new people under the program in 2012. Another clear sign economic migration rules the day.

There is a lot to like about how Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has worked to regain control of what was a runaway immigration program with liberalized access to visas. It was a system that led to poor integration and settlement, skills wastage, a decline in English-speaking professional migration to Canada as well as labour shortages.

He has capped (federal skilled workers, investors), suspended (parents, entrepreneurs), restricted (spouses, common law) and scratched his way to controlling the intake. But the pressure is mounting. In the face of daunting demographics, emptying schools across the nation and a foreign worker program that is too complex and cumbersome, much work remains.

In a previous article in Embassy, I discussed our declining family class. I wrote that the time is right to proactively build economically and culturally rather than react to current circumstances relying heavily upon tired myopic compartmentalizations of immigrant applicants and categories.

To this end, in recent meetings with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, I asked officials if there was any consideration being given to a standalone siblings category that fused economic considerations and family reunification. The answer was no. CIC officials reiterated that no other country has a parent/grandparent category to the scale of Canada’s program. The pervasive messaging disseminated by CIC is that our programs are far too generous by international standards.

But what I found most appealing about Canada’s immigration system, including our protected person program for that matter, was that we were global leaders. Canada measured itself by Canadian standards and not the standards of other countries. So as we move towards a national dialogue on the future of immigrant categories and levels as suggested by the minister, my concern is that the parameters of that dialogue have already been framed before the discussions begin. CIC maintains that Canada must suspend programs because intake outweighs output and economic migration must be increased at the expense of the family class and other humanitarian and protected persons categories.

I caution against over-reliance on economic migration for long-term nation building and the faulty premise that family class categories must be compromised to make room for more economic migrants. In fact, for one, much of the minister’s good work will quickly be for naught if we allow for further decentralization of a national immigration program to satisfy temporary regional occupational needs. The provincial nominee programs, for example, are piecemeal in that different rules apply for different provinces and there exists no national framework—this leads to great uncertainty in the system.

Second, although measures like the super visas appear to be effective compromises for a moratorium on the surface, the international messaging is precarious. I have seen many potential sponsors over the past few days just distraught by the suddenness of the decision and the long-term implications for their lives as new Canadians. They are open to potential new requirements but can’t understand why the program must be suspended for two years while CIC figures out its next steps.

Core programs and essential immigration objectives like family reunification are the very life blood of any migration program and fuel the appeal, reflect our fundamental values and inspire faith in Canada as a country and a welcome destination for future Canadians.

So where do we go from here?

A good start is to look at the first objective listed in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which reads: “To permit Canada to pursue the maximum social, cultural and economic benefits of immigration.” A national dialogue that is framed in these terms will allow for an effective exchange. A dialogue couched in the need for ‘super’ economic migration and how to make it work to the exclusion or minimization of other factors will doom us to a regional immigration program that is reactive to changing occupational lists that may be neither the best predictor of successful and lasting resettlement, nor inspire and engage future Canadians to maximize the social and cultural fabric of this wonderful country.

Mario D. Bellissimo is a practising lawyer and a Certified Specialist in Immigration & Refugee Law. He is the founder of Bellissimo Law Group, is a lecturer and has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada. Contact him at info@bellissimolawgroup.com.


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