According to a recent mandate letter sent from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to his new immigration minister, John McCallum, the first issue of importance is the Syrian refugee crisis. The government has promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by Dec. 31.
However the mandate also reveals other important topics that experts say need attention as well.
Spouses need to work
Spousal status and family reunification is an important issue, especially in the immigrant rich ridings of Greater Toronto which saw many liberals elected. The Conservatives gave conditional two-year residency to spouses and common-law partners, but spouses were prevented from working until their applications for permanent residence reached a certain stage. This restriction was imposed to address the issue of marriage fraud. However stakeholders assert it has created an unfair roadblock for spouses who are required to enter the Canadian labour market.
During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to grant immediate permanent residence status to spouses of immigrants.
The immigration Minister’s mandate letter directs him to “bring forward a proposal regarding permanent residence for new spouses entering Canada.” It also directs him to return the age of dependent children who can be sponsored by parents back to 22 from age 19.
Express Entry System Flaws
The Express Entry program, introduced by the Tories to fast track permanent residence applications of certain skilled worker immigrants based on a revamped point system is facing numerous defects. Many otherwise highly qualified candidates are not being considered for permanent residence under the express entry system.
There are other more serious problems with the point system’s treatment of student applicants and temporary foreign workers who are already in Canada. Many students and most low-skilled foreign workers cannot qualify to apply because they are not given credit for studies or work in Canada.
Lower skilled temporary foreign workers who have been in Canada for some time have no way to gain permanent residency even when employers are able to demonstrate that there are no Canadians to fill jobs.
Experts warn mistakes are being made following Conservative changes to the refugee determination system. Billed as making the system “faster and fairer,” the changes introduced an appeal process at the Immigration and Refugee Board. However there are proven instances where applicants are not receiving fair hearings.
Parents, grandparents need more help
The Liberals also promised to double the number of parents and grandparents processed as permanent residents each year to 10,000. However, the government needs to make it clear how it will pay for the health-care costs that come with adding more seniors to the population.
While the McCallum’s mandate letter includes the promise to boost intake of parents and grandparents, it does not mention any increased funding to process the increased number of applications, or to pay health-care expenses.
Experts believe the resettlement process needs to be better funded. The $100 million that the liberals promised to inject into refugee resettlement services is not mentioned in McCallum’s letter of instructions.
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