June 5, 2013
RBC Scandal, Refugee Intake Down 60%, Changes to the Family Class- Key Immigration Questions Facing Canada
In the wake of the RBC scandal, refugee intake dropping drastically, a diminishing family class, seemingly endless amendments to Canada’s immigration system and vociferous debate on both sides of the divide for more or less immigration certain issues remain at the forefront. One, our aging population is expected to double from 5 million in 2011 to 9.4 million in 2030; poses real challenges to Canada’s long-term stability. Two, our Old Age Security System will increase from 36.5 billion in 2010 to 109 billion by 2030. Three, rapid infusion of temporary labour has been at times used as a band aid with inevitable consequences (RBC) in favour of a more cohesive overall migration plan. Four, Canada’s reputation as a country of openness for those fleeing persecution or in need of humanitarian relief has changed. Canada’s immigration policy is now more than ever driven by economic factors. So this raises a number of key questions.
- Should economics be the overriding factor?
- Are societal concerns really factored into the equation?
- The cost/benefit analysis of legal, societal and economic consequences moving forward with terminations, retroactive & retrospective legislation, rapid amendment, and the applicability of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has not been fully explored. Why not?
- The lack of economic and social fusion across categories –i.e. think of the family class as more than a “non-economic” class and not rely on strict compartmentalization of immigrant applicants as economic and “other” has not been fully explored. Why not?
Key programs like the humanitarian and compassionate process cannot become a reluctant holdover from the past that is tolerated but not embraced. Our refugee system and discretionary provisions in immigration legislation infuse life and humanity into an increasingly technical and sterile compilation of rules, regulations and manuals. In turn, we have a responsibility to protect our resources and our citizenry but that responsibility is not absolute. It must be tempered by the ability to address deficiencies within our own immigration programs and meet international obligations while building a country allowing for the necessary flexibility to assess persons and not simply regulations.
We should explore expanded immigrant categories for both permanent and temporary resident applicants reflective of the varied reasons for short and long term migration and an expanded family class to include for example siblings. In other words, a balance to ensure not all is measured by economic contribution.
The challenge will be to end this reactive, myopic and disjointed overhaul and truly understand change to one area of the immigration system affects not only other areas of our immigration system but our society domestically and internationally. Accommodating reasonable enforcement is a key to the integrity of any system but it must balance facilitation and harmonization. So key questions must be answered before we continue tearing down our system. Waiting for the answers is worth the effort because after all in the end, the product is human.