Quebec announces reduced immigration targets, fuelling tensions with Ottawa

To watch.

Any reopening of the agreement to provide Quebec a role in family reunification and refugees would need to be accompanied by reopening the block grant of $490 million provided to Quebec (2017-18) for selection and integration (see Chantal Hébert’s earlier column By campaigning to cut immigration, Quebec’s opposition parties are playing politics with their province’s future):

Quebec plans to slash the number of immigrants it accepts next year, delivering on an election promise by Premier François Legault and setting the province on a collision course with Ottawa.

The Quebec government announced targets on Tuesday to reduce the number of newcomers to 40,000 in 2019, 24 per cent fewer than the 53,300 anticipated this year.

The plan is turning into the first major source of tension between the federal Liberals and the new Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government, just three days before a federal-provincial meeting in Montreal.

While the biggest drop in numbers would occur among qualified workers and other economic immigrants, which are under provincial control, Quebec also wants to cut into two streams of newcomers that fall under federal control: family reunifications involving spouses, children and parents, which would see 2,800 fewer immigrants, and refugees and asylum seekers, which would be cut by 2,450 people.

Groups working with immigrants and refugees called the CAQ plan “cruel” and said it is already stirring panic among families in Quebec who fear they will not be reunited with loved ones abroad.

The CAQ is also facing criticism for the cuts because Quebec is struggling with a chronic manpower shortage.

In Ottawa on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised questions about the timing of the plan.

“What I hear from business people across Quebec is that companies are worried about a labour shortage. I’m not sure that this is the best moment to reduce the intake of newcomers,” he told reporters.

Mr. Legault campaigned on a pledge to reduce immigration, arguing that one in five immigrants ends up leaving Quebec. He has framed the cuts not just in terms of better matching newcomers to the needs of the labour market, but as a way of safeguarding Quebec’s identity, values and French language.

The federal government said it will continue to hold discussions with the Quebec government on the issue, including defending the integrity of the family reunification program.

“We are disappointed,” Dominic LeBlanc, the federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday. “We don’t want a two-tier system in which families in Quebec need more time to bring in their spouses and parents than those in New Brunswick or Ontario. That’s not an ideal situation.”

Mr. LeBlanc added that both the Quebec and Canadian governments should make sure they meet their international obligations in terms of taking in refugees.

Mr. Legault said his government was elected after campaigning on lower immigration levels.

“We have a clear mandate from the population,” he said outside the National Assembly. “The population clearly understood that a CAQ government will reduce the number of immigrants to 40,000. … I trust the good judgment of the federal government.”

Quebec says the reduction will be temporary, with Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette calling it a “transition.”

“Faced with the difficulties of integration for a large number of immigrants, we had to act and have the courage to take the means to favour their long-term settlement in Quebec,” he said at a news conference.

In the legislature, he said: “What we want to do is deploy the resources to ensure each person who chooses Quebec succeeds.”

The government’s plan was denounced by an umbrella organization for groups working with immigrants and refugees in Quebec. The Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes called the plan “cruel” and unprecedented in Quebec’s history of immigration policy.

“This decision of the government is creating a wind of panic among numerous families that we are meeting in our organization,” said Lida Ahgasi, co-president of the Table, in a statement. “It’s a totally counterproductive decision, since we know that successful integration can only be accomplished within the family. If we want to take care of newcomers, we especially have to respect and protect the integrity of their family unit.”

At their first meeting after the Oct. 1 Quebec election, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Legault tried to negotiate a deal on immigration. However, Quebec decided on numbers without informing the federal government of its intentions ahead of time. Under the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration deal, federal funding to facilitate the integration of immigrants in Quebec will still go up next year, even though the intake numbers will go down.

Source: Quebec announces reduced immigration targets, fuelling tensions with Ottawa

Parent sponsorship program still deeply flawed despite changes, immigration lawyers warn

No perfect system:

The federal government has made changes to a problem-plagued lottery program for those wishing to bring their parents or grandparents to Canada, but immigration lawyers warn the updated system is still deeply flawed.

The 2018 sponsorship program for parents and grandparents opened Tuesday. This year, those interested will have to provide more information about who they want to sponsor and whether they meet the program’s income requirements before their names are entered in the lottery. The change is an attempt to winnow out those who aren’t eligible to apply, after thousands of people selected last year failed to follow through with their applications.

“Helping more people reunite with their parents and grandparents in Canada demonstrates the government’s commitment to keeping families together, leading to successful integration and stronger ties to Canada,” said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen in a statement from Dec. 22, when the 2018 program was announced.

But Elizabeth Wozniak, a Halifax-based immigration lawyer, said the lottery system is “just a bit of a crapshoot.” She believes ineligible applicants will still submit the initial paperwork, bogging down the system and making it harder for those who do meet the criteria to bring their loved ones to Canada.

“Anyone can throw their name in once again, same as last year,” she said. “It’s just going to be more of the same.”

In years past, the sponsorship program for parents and grandparents was first-come, first-served. People submitted full applications during the earliest days of the new year, and the first 5,000 would be processed. In 2016, that number was doubled to 10,000.

But last year, the government decided to change the rules and use a lottery system instead. Those interested had to submit only basic information using an online form between January and February, after which 10,000 names were randomly selected to submit complete applications.

The change was intended to make the system fairer for those living further afield and for those who couldn’t afford a lawyer to help them prepare the full application on time.

Last year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada received 95,000 online forms, and randomly chose 10,000 of them. But according to information presented by Hussen in the House of Commons in December, the department only ended up receiving 6,020 applications.

Wozniak said the program’s income requirements are the biggest obstacle for would-be applicants. The government requires that sponsors prove they meet income thresholds for the previous three years, which vary depending on the size of their family.

But the 2017 online form didn’t ask for any information about income, which meant ineligible people could be selected from the lottery and only then realize they couldn’t actually apply.

This year, the new online form asks whether would-be applicants meet the income thresholds — but it doesn’t require proof. Wozniak said that’s not good enough. “Ineligible people can still be selected and they won’t be vetted out,” she said.

Last year, the immigration department eventually sent out a second round of invitations to make up the rest of the 10,000 spots. The applications were due in December. The government has yet to say whether it reached its target.

Wozniak said she had about 25 clients who were in the pool last year, and none were selected in either draw. “It was a real letdown for people who were eligible,” she said.

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Matthew Jeffery said the new online form is a “definite improvement” over last year, but cautioned that it will still be difficult to weed out ineligible applicants.

“At the end of the day, I consider the process arbitrary and unnecessary,” he said. “It boils down to luck. So someone who’s qualified to sponsor their parents and has been for a long time, if they’re unlucky, they may never be able to sponsor their parents.”

He believes the 10,000-person limit should be scrapped altogether, and said he thinks the income threshold and other requirements are enough to limit the number of applicants.

Wozniak said the old first-come, first-served system was working fine.

“It wasn’t great, it wasn’t perfect… but we had no issues getting eligible people into processing,” she said. “It’s much more certain and it was faster, easier, more predictable.”

As for her 25 clients from last year, she said, their parents and grandparents would be permanent residents by now under the old system: “No doubt.”

Source: Parent sponsorship program still deeply flawed despite changes, immigration lawyers warn

Subsequent article with some of the comments during consultations on the changes: ‘Cruel’ immigration lottery system relaunched after angry backlash – Kathleen Harris

‘ Family Class’ immigration reforms a good first step but taxpayers still face significant costs from sponsorship of parents and grandparents

Most recent paper by Martin Collacott of the Fraser Institute on family class immigration and in particular, the Parent and Grandparent family class reforms, advocating further tightening and greater cost recovery. As always, easier for these studies to quantify costs to governments (OAS, healthcare etc) and harder to quantify benefits (e.g., value of childcare and other family-related services), and a costs-benefits comparison with the Live-In Caregiver program would be interesting.

But given the current economic focus of our immigration program, bringing in older family members has fewer economic benefits than younger ones, and the paper argues for a greater financial contribution to cover the additional costs to governments.

Worth reading – haven’t seen much comment on this paper yet.

‘ Family Class’ immigration reforms a good first step but taxpayers still face significant costs from sponsorship of parents and grandparents | Fraser Institute.