From August 1 this year, the cut-off age for immigrant and refugee children will change from 21 to 18 as Canada lets economic motives determine immigration policy. This change in the cut-off age is against one of the official objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act – to reunite families.
This summer the federal government seems to be quietly amending its immigration and refugee protection regulations. Since they have only set aside $62,000 for both implementation and communications, it’s obvious that they want to avoid public attention.
Until August 1, unmarried dependants aged 21 and under could be included in their parents’ immigration or refugee applications. There were exceptions for full-time students over 21 depending financially on their parents. But under the new regulations, the cut-off age is 18 and under and there are no exceptions for students.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, “The amendments to the definition of dependent child respond to government priorities of having an immigration system focused on Canada’s economic and labour force needs.” Their own regulatory impact analysis statement provides evidence that during immigration, the younger a child is, the better is their long-term labour market outcomes. They claim that on an average, Canadian education delivers a higher financial return than foreign education.
Despite the economic evidence, Canada stands to lose out on some highly qualified immigrants who would be unwilling to move to a new country without their 19- or 20-year-old progeny.
However there will still be economic migrants to Canada and the amendments will have a graver impact on those who have little choice in their immigration, particularly refugees. This was noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association, and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.
Sixty groups and individuals submitted their comments after the changes were first proposed, most of these were in opposition.
The refugees and asylum seekers will now have to consider if safety in Canada is worth leaving a 19-year-old daughter or son behind in a potentially life-threatening situation. It would especially create gendered dangers in countries where women are oppressed. Many of them no longer in their parents’ house, could be forced to marry, face destitution or worse.
With this change, it is estimated that 7,000 young adults will lose the chance to come to Canada next year with their families. About 800 of them will be the children of refugees.
However, the government claims that the regulatory changes better reflect life in Canada, where children are apparently fully independent by age 19. The Canadian reality is however different and most high school graduates are neither ready nor willing to make it entirely on their own without their parents’ financial, social and emotional support. About 42% young adults in their 20s in Canada still live with their parents, and most of them have never faced famine, war, or torture.
Qualifying for a refugee status internationally or in Canada is not easy and those who are accepted have gone through more than most can imagine. It’s unconscionable to add a forced familial separation on them.
Source: The Star