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January 10, 2019

Liberals Unveiled a New Plan for Immigration Focused on Family Reunification, Middle Class Growth in 2015 – How Is It Working in 2019?

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

In 2015 then Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada said, “The Harper Conservatives froze family reunification applications for two years, then made the rules so rigid that thousands of hard-working people who would like to bring their parents to Canada don’t even bother to apply. Making it easier for families to be together makes good economic sense. When Canadians have support – like family involvement in child care – it helps to drive our productivity and economic growth, while strengthening the middle class,” said Mr. Trudeau. “I’m constantly inspired by the way Canadians come together to build strong communities, create jobs, and grow our economy. Liberals will continue to work with all Canadians to build a country where everyone has a real and fair chance to succeed.” He continued, “Liberals will reform our immigration system, and make family reunification a core priority of our government.” Did the Liberal government prioritize family class reunification?

Some of the changes included:

1. Doubling the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents to 10,000 each year.
2. Restoring the maximum age for dependents to 22 from 19, to allow more Canadians to bring their children to Canada.
3. Restored spouses immigrating to Canada receiving immediate permanent residency and repealing the then two-year waiting period.
4. Work permit pilot project for eligible in Canada spousal applicants.
5. One-year processing times for spousal and common law sponsorship applications.
6. Effective June 6th 2017 15 points additional points were awarded for candidates with Canadian citizen or permanent resident siblings in Canada under the Express Entry system.
7. Additional funding for family class processing.
8. Removal of distinctions between in-Canada and Family Class sponsorship application forms.

Given the above there is little question that family reunification has been prioritized but as we enter an election year some of the familiar refrains will likely reappear including:

1. Reducing the numbers of admissions in the family class was seen as a way to alleviate some pressure on our already burdened system and prioritize economic classes.
2. Parents and grandparents immigrating to Canada are predominately elderly and will not assume employment in Canada and present with excessive medical costs.
3. Canada long did away with the inclusion of siblings with a few exceptions in the family class for example, because selection was based primarily on relation rather than on potential economic benefit. More emphasis on economic categories has benefited Canada and this could not have been accomplished through family class migration.

What did not change though, is that there remains no direct sponsorship of brothers and sisters. Those who advocate in favour of an expanded rather than limited family class especially as it relates to parents and grandparents argue the financial, social and emotional support that family members provide is vital to the sponsor’s ability to integrate successfully into Canadian society. 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, and this would result in less of a burden on our stretched social resources and services.

In my view and I have advocated for this change for a number of years, is that we must continue to closely and carefully study the social as well as economic fusion and functionality across all categories. In that the family class need not only be thought of as a non-economic category and economic migration as a category that does not impact our nation building.

Family reunification has always been one of Canada’s objectives for immigration, especially since family reunification is seen as a “factor in promoting newcomer integration” and long-term settlement. In an immigration-friendly country like Canada we are increasing the number of immigrants entering into the country yearly so does it make sense to restrict the sponsorship of siblings, which, after all, are considered members of an immediate, and not extended, family?

Prior to the early 90’s, siblings were able to be directly sponsored under the family class. The Immigration Act of 1985 and the 1978 Regulations allowed for a much broader definition of admissible family members under the family class, which included siblings and most other relatives. This changed even though the family reunification objective under the law did not. The ultimate goal of such initiatives is to test and deliver an immigration program that has been carefully defined and debated. So, the Liberals have gone a long way in restoring family reunification and restoring siblings to a more prominent role in the immigration landscape should be next. Happy 2019 everyone!