August 10, 2015

Federal Election: Will Immigration be an Issue?

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

As we enter one of the longest federal election campaigns in Canadian history, time should be taken to discuss various issues, including one as an important as immigration.  Interestingly, immigration issues rarely become campaign issues, perhaps because of their polarizing effect.  Despite dominating headlines at times, immigration matters are often tangential at this stage of the political cycle.

As I have written previously, just a few years ago Canada’s immigration system was seemingly broken and stifled by lengthy processing queues, inflexible core programs, and overly bureaucratic measures, which led to backlogs of nearly a million people. The aging population, expected to double to 9.3 million by 2030, poses real challenges to Canada’s long-term stability as the Old Age Security system will increase from $36.5 billion, in 2010, to more than double at $108 billion by 2030. However, over the last few years the changes to our immigration system have been dizzying.  The solutions are not simple, but fast and furious reform seems to be outpacing an overall cohesive vision moving forward.  In the past several years, facilitating this vision and borrowing heavily from our international counterparts (particularly Australia), the Government has reshaped, redefined, and repositioned much of Canada’s immigration policy.

The priorities are laudable in a system in need of change, and by Ministers and a Department who have not shied away from difficult challenges but the pace, consistency, and most importantly the mode of many of the changes raises serious legal and practical questions as to the prioritization of administrative efficiency and the impact on the democratic and nation building process in the world of immigration law and policy. One such example is, where should family class reunification sit within this new vision?

Those who advocate in favour of an expanded, rather than limited family class, argue the financial, social, and emotional support that family members provide is vital to the sponsor’s ability to integrate successfully into Canadian society.  The new program is not inclusive for most, elderly relatives or children who need to be cared for would benefit by this care coming from a relative, as opposed to a social or private service. This would result in less of a burden on our stretched social resources and services. In addition, the sponsor’s time and anxiety would be freed and they could focus on their employment and social integration which would benefit the Canadian economy, culture, and society as a whole.

Others argue elderly immigrants consume precious Canadian resources at a rate much higher than younger migrants, thus a balance must be struck and welcome these initiatives. In the end, the program has survived albeit in a much altered form and the debate will continue as to the appropriate balance being struck.  Economic considerations in family class reunification is a reality in 2015. Approximately only 25% of the global immigration numbers include family class members and others, or simply put, non-economic migrants.

One of Canada’s main goals, like all countries, is to increase our global competitiveness surrounding immigration. A steady increase in immigrants who will contribute to, in my opinion, our overall social and economic well-being, are crucial to that objective.  I have long advocated that our lens must change. The family class need not only be thought of as a non-economic category but also economic migration as a category that does not impact our nation building. This program, regardless of the side of debate, is an example of cross considerations. And so it begins. Much is left to do. From my perspective, we have to carefully examine the overall immigration numbers, the impact of resettlement, and potential inclusion of siblings in the family class category with economic conditions. Flexibility and ingenuity are the keys to a balanced and fair immigration program that does away with “one size fits all” categories, and is responsive to the diverse offerings of the hundreds of thousands of applicants we receive each year.  Reacting to current economic circumstances, while relying heavily upon tired myopic compartmentalizations of immigrant applicants and categories, must give way to proactive, flexible, and creative immigrant streams. This will inspire and engage future Canadians to maximize the social and cultural fabric of this wonderful country.

So those are my thoughts, we want to hear from you, our thousands of followers. In the next blog we will be circulating some questions about immigration policy and we would appreciate your opinion.  For now I leave you with this question. Should family reunification form a larger part of Canada’s immigration program? Thank you for reading.