Shaping the future of Canada’s immigration system

A number of opinions on the issues set out in the current immigration consultations (see earlier Collacott: Immigration ‘conversation” is public relations exerciseIRCC Discussion guide on immigration: What about citizenship?).

In addition to my comments below, views of Debbie Douglas (faster processing of family reunification), Harald Bauder (more funding for settlement, pathways from temporary to permanent residency), Jeff Reitz (greater efforts on employment) and the Conference Board (increased immigration levels, spread across the country):

Having inherited an immigration system plagued with backlogs and heavy-handed enforcement, the Liberal government says it’s keen to hear what you think needs to be done about Canada’s immigration future.

Since the beginning of the summer, Immigration Minister John McCallum and his parliamentary secretary, Arif Virani, have held more than two dozen roundtable meetings across Canada with settlement services organizations, businesses and community groups to get their thoughts.

Although the meetings are by invitation only — more are coming in August — the public can submit ideas by email to the minister. Since early July, more than 2,500 online submissions have been received. Submissions end Aug. 5.

“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will be reviewing the feedback from Canadians to help guide decisions on how many people we will welcome in the coming years and the future of immigration in Canada,” said a department spokesperson.

While the final report won’t be ready till at least the fall, the Star interviewed a group of immigration experts to weigh in on the national dialogue by identifying gaps in the system and offering solutions.

Meaningful and accessible citizenship:

Andrew Griffith, a former director general at the immigration department, said Canada largely has its immigration policies and programs right, but an independent review by a royal commission would be helpful.

He said the consultation questions are biased towards economic class immigrants and miss out on important areas such as citizenship.

“Most immigrants choose to become citizens as part of their integration into Canadian society. If we believe in immigration integration, we should support political integration, in addition to economic, social and cultural,” said Griffith.

“The main instrument for doing so is citizenship, given that allows for full participation in the political process.”

Canada’s naturalization rate has been declining, from the peak of 93.3 per cent for immigrants who came before 1971, to just 36.7 per cent among those who arrived between 2006 and 2007.

Griffith said Ottawa must set targets for naturalization as a benchmark, to assess whether its policies strike the right balance in making citizenship accessible and meaningful.

Officials must also regularly review citizenship requirements to ensure that different ethnic groups and immigration classes (economic, family and refugees) have comparable outcomes. Reducing the hefty application fee from the current $530 would make citizenship more financially accessible.

Source: Shaping the future of Canada’s immigration system | Toronto Star

The Hill Times has the political reaction to the (trial balloon?) of differential immigration fees:

The federal government is seeking public feedback on letting some immigration applicants pay more for faster processing.

That idea is one of many put forward in an online consultation document the government is asking members of the public to fill out as it gears up for an overhaul of the immigration processing system.

The NDP’s immigration critic and a pair of Liberal and NDP MPs say bringing in a two-tiered Canadian immigration system is out of the question.

“I wouldn’t support it,” said NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.). “By doing that, effectively you’re saying you can buy your way into the system and bypass everybody.”

“They’re absolutely creating a two-tiered system if that were to proceed,” she said.

However, Liberal MP Peter Fonseca (Mississauga East-Cooksville, Ont.) and a Toronto immigration lawyer say such a system could help to improve immigration processing.

The issue is one close to MPs’ hearts as much of their constituency work is tied up in helping constituents with immigration questions, including application processing.

Many MPs have two staffers in their riding offices and at least one attends to constituents’ immigration needs. The most common complaints of constituents about immigration issues are related to long delays in the processing times of applications for family reunification, refugees, spousal sponsorship, temporary foreign workers, visitor visas, and Canadian citizenship applications.

Immigration reform

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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