Under the Conservative government, Canada has arguably adopted a more hostile stance towards Canadian spouses sponsoring a foreign spouse and foreigners looking to settle in the country, which has resulted in a decade of decline in immigration. Canada immigration policies have damaged Canada’s international reputation as a country that openly welcomes newcomers.
The decline can be readily seen in family reunification, asylum seekers, citizenship applicants and business immigrants. Canada’s rate of immigration has also declined under the Conservatives.
For family reunification applicants, processing times have increased by up to 500 per cent over the past decade. This was largely due to the debilitating 2011 budget cuts imposed by the Conservative government. The ever increasing waiting times have led to ever increasing numbers of people who find themselves lost in the immigration system. Additionally, as if the emotional and financial burden on immigrant families was not enough, the Conservative government also reduced the age of eligible dependents qualifying for family reunification from 22 to 18. Applicants with children over age 19 must now consider relocating to Canada without their families or hope their children secure admission to Canada under a study program. Yet, family reunification is supposed to be one of the hallmarks of Canadian immigration policy. Just not under the Harper government.
For refugees, the Conservative government has not only implemented legal reforms that deny due process to vulnerable asylum seekers, but has also tried to reduce or eliminate the basic health care services they are entitled to. Although the Federal Court overruled the move, calling it « cruel and unusual » because it jeopardizes refugees’ health and shocks the conscience of Canadians, the Conservative government is currently challenging the ruling.
Canada has traditionally been a safe haven to oppressed minorities across the world, being home to thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Hungary, and Uganda, among other countries. But this has all changed under the Conservative government, which to date has been very reluctant to admit refugees from Syria. Canada’s pitiful recent record in admitting refugees from Syria has led to widespread criticism, with the Liberal Party of Canada calling for the admission of 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada.
The Conservative government’s failure on immigration has even affected citizenship applicants. The government has not only quadrupled fees and doubled processing times, but also adopted unnecessary hard line policies with aspiring citizens. Applicants must wait longer to qualify and no longer get any credit for time spent in Canada as students, while older citizenship applicants face more difficult knowledge based language tests.
The government even abolished most business immigration programs, including the Federal Immigrant Investor program which had more than 15,000 pending applicants waiting to invest $800,000 each for a period of 5-years. It recently introduced a largely uncompetitive replacement program that has thus far failed to live up to government expectations. Policy makers are way out of touch with this industry.
Canada’s rate of immigration has historically been in the area of .8% of our population or in numerical terms, ranging from 220,000 to 260,000 since 2001. But our population is now approaching 35 Million and our annual immigration levels continue to remain in this same range. It results in a declining rate of immigration under the Conservatives. A shortfall of some 30,000 immigrants to Canada each year can be estimated to cost more than 250 Million dollars to Canada each year.
The dire state of the immigration system in Canada today is the net result of the Conservative government’s restrictive views on immigration along with extensive budget cutbacks. The irony is the government goes to great lengths to devise campaigns to market itself as immigration friendly.
If it will not acknowledge its closed door policies, then an immediate increase in funding, coupled with a more welcoming attitude by the government, would be the way to reverse and repair Canada’s maligned reputation.