MALCOLM: It’s time to rethink Canada’s family reunification system

The simple answer is that significant numbers of immigrants want to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada to be with them and assist with childcare, and that their votes matter in a significant number of ridings.

So apart from her over the top rhetoric, the economic concerns are valid but neglect the humanitarian aspects of the policy. The “super visa” was and is a creative way to address the demand but one that appears not to satisfy the demand.

As Malcolm notes, all major parties support this program and the two major parties also support annual levels of around 20,000. We will see if Bernier’s party includes a specific reference in its proposed immigration policies:

Why do we allow elderly immigrants to come to Canada as permanent residents?

Why do we have a special immigration program — the “parents and grandparents” category — geared entirely towards relocating retirees to Canada, putting them on citizenship track and, eventually, giving them full access to our government-funded universal health care system?

Are we insane? No other advanced economy has a program that is anything like this.

The parents and grandparents program made the news this week — not because of the sheer ridiculousness of admitting elderly immigrants as permanent residents, but because many immigration lawyers complained to the media that the 2019 program filled up too quickly and many foreigners didn’t have a chance to apply.

It’s programs like this that show the extent to which Canada’s immigration system is broken.

Canada already has a visitor visa program dedicated to family reunification and welcoming parents and grandparents — as visitors.

The “super visa” has no annual cap, no backlog and no waitlist.

It allows relatives to stay in Canada for up to two years at a time, and the visa is good for ten years. Frankly, it’s more generous than comparable programs in other Western countries.

The super visa offers the best of both worlds. It shows Canada’s openness by allowing extended family units to stay together and for the older generation to offer a helping hand in immigrant households.

But it also provides a protection for Canadians and our taxpayer-funded social welfare programs. The super visa requires visiting seniors to purchase health insurance — a basic requirement for any world travel and something most immigrants are more than happy to do.

Nonetheless, Canada maintains a bizarre parallel program that admits a lucky 20,000 elderly immigrants each year as permanent residents.

Canada has a broad immigration program for two specific reasons: one, to help boost the economy, and two, to offset declining birth rates.

But bringing in elderly immigrants directly contradicts the stated purpose behind our immigration system.

It creates an added burden on our social welfare programs from people who never meaningfully contributed to the tax base, yet will eventually displace Canadians — folks who worked their entire adult lives to fund universal health care through their taxes — in doctors offices and emergency waiting rooms across the country.

Both major parties maintain this reckless program because most Canadians don’t notice it and the ones who do — immigrants from select communities who practice vote-bank politics — vocally demand it.

Unlike Canada, most Western democracies have built safeguards into their immigration system. They have strict rules when it comes to granting citizenship, designed to protect the country’s finances and prevent free-riders from manipulating the system.

Canada has no such qualms. When it comes to welcoming elderly immigrants as citizens, we don’t even ask that they learn a little bit of English or French — enough to communicate in an emergency or spark a friendship with a neighbour.

Instead, it’s all about entitlements and handouts.

Canada has long enjoyed something of a national consensus on immigration. Canadians, by and large, recognize the economic benefits of growing our population and welcoming like-minded people from around the world who will work hard, play by the rules, join the Canadian family and contribute to our country.

But when both major parties condone a program that so blatantly contradicts basic principles of both fairness and economics, it leaves many Canadians feeling resentful towards the immigration system as a whole.

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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