Canada’s Conservative government claims to be improving the immigration system and improving the processing of economic class immigrants and refugees. But it continues to neglect family class immigration. The processing times for family sponsorship are steadily increasing, leading critics to call the system uncaring, inflexible and inhumane.
It currently takes 27 months to sponsor a husband or wife already residing in Canada through the in Canada stream and almost four years to assess a sponsor’s eligibility to bring in their parents and grandparents – who then must wait several more years to complete the formalities at Canadian visa agencies abroad.
There are numerous anecdotal examples of families facing long delays. For some the view is that the federal government department has adopted an insensitive approach to the process.
Djordje Momcilovic has a dim view of the situation. “I’m a proud Canadian and grateful for the opportunities this country has given me,” says Momcilovic. “But I’m not proud that the Canadian government is promoting family values and reunion but in fact it is keeping and tearing families apart.”
Analysts confirm the work culture at the immigration department has become more rigid and inflexible since the Conservatives started governing in 2006, with the system becoming more centralized and an increasing disconnect between applicants and decision-makers.
NDP’s multiculturalism critic Andrew Cash says MPs are constantly bombarded with requests for assistance in dealing with immigration issues.
“We see all manner of stories that really break your heart and are costly for Canada,” says Cash. “This government has failed to deal with the backlogs, and it is wreaking havoc in people’s lives. Right now, our bureaucracy is in a very tough time. We are seeing it not just at Citizenship and Immigration Canada but in other departments and ministries, where more and more power and control is concentrated at the minister’s office.”
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s office has said that in 2015 Canada will grant permanent residency status to around 70,000 people under the family class.
“Anecdotal accounts are not necessarily more broadly representative or, unfortunately, even factual in some cases,” says Kevin Menard, spokesperson for Chris Alexander. “Each case is unique, and each is assessed on its merits based on the information applicants provide to officials. We are working to eliminate backlogs and reduce processing times. Our government is committed to reuniting as many spouses and partners as possible, as quickly as possible, while ensuring permanent resident targets are met for all immigration streams,” says Menard.