1. Continuing concerns over the power to issue instructions
The CCR continues to be concerned about the new powers introduced through Bill C-50. We note that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration recommended that the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act be debated separately, based on similar concerns. It is regrettable that this recommendation was not followed: as a result the amendments did not receive the careful consideration that they deserved.
2. Mode of consultation
The CCR appreciates the government’s commitment to consultation before issuing instructions. However, the effectiveness of the consultations has been reduced by their limited scope, in terms of the narrowness of the list of organizations consulted and the questions identified. Member organizations of the CCR have expressed surprise and concern about the underrepresentation of the immigrant and refugee serving sector in some of the consultations across the country. The narrow focus of the consultation questions on labour market needs ignores the much broader implications of any instructions issued. The CCR also notes that the timing of the consultations (in the middle of the summer) is unfortunate.
3. Overall objectives of immigration
While these consultations are focused on economic immigrants and labour market shortages, it is important to remember the overall objectives of Canada’s immigration program. The objective listed first in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is:
“To permit Canada to pursue the maximum social, cultural and economic benefits of immigration.”
A narrow focus on short-term labour market needs will undermine efforts to reach this objective, by treating prospective immigrants as economic units rather than as future citizens with a wide range of contributions to make.
4. Need for a gender analysis
Any instructions issued need to take account of a detailed gender analysis, to ensure that they do not result in discriminatory impacts by gender. For example, giving priority processing to occupations predominantly held by men would discriminate against women applicants. More broadly, the CCR recommends the application of a comprehensive anti-racist and anti-oppression analysis.
5. Addressing backlogs: priority where human rights at stake
The significant backlogs faced by applicants for immigration in the Economic Class are quite properly a matter of broad concern. The CCR notes that unacceptably long delays are also faced by applicants for family reunification and for refugee resettlement. In many of these cases, fundamental human rights are at stake: the right of children to be reunited with family and refugees’ need for protection. Despite this, even children separated from both their parents and refugees in a vulnerable situation are often forced to wait for a year or more for immigration processing. The CCR calls on Citizenship and Immigration Canada to give highest priority to eliminating delays in cases where human rights are at stake.
The CCR is also concerned about the indirect implications of prioritization of economic applicants through the issuance of instructions. While refugee applicants are not covered by instructions, and CIC has stated that Family Class applications will not be covered at this time, the CCR is concerned that applications not covered by instructions will in practice receive lower priority, as visa offices organize themselves to meet the priorities established in the instructions.
6. Providing better opportunities for immigrants and refugees in Canada
There are many non-citizens in Canada whose skills and capacities are seriously under-used. Some are permanent residents, who face discrimination and other barriers in the labour market. Others are people with limited or no status (such as nationals from moratoria countries). In addition to the more general barriers confronting immigrants, they suffer discrimination on account of their lack of permanent status.
At a time when Canada is identifying significant labour market shortages, it is imperative to step up efforts to ensure that people who are already in Canada have the opportunity to participate in the economy to their full potential. This includes ensuring people that have access to secure immigration status. Such efforts must also address the barriers rooted in racism and sexism that affect many refugees and immigrants.
7. Respecting principles of fairness
Any instructions issued need to give full respect to the rights and interests of the applicants. This includes ensuring that applicants have full information and opportunities to make decisions about their application according to their own interests. It also means not discarding applications.
8. Examining applications for humanitarian and compassionate consideration
Instructions should not deprive applicants of the right to have humanitarian and compassionate considerations examined. The CCR is particularly concerned about applications relating to family reunification, but notes that there may be other circumstances that deserve humanitarian consideration, even where there is no family connection.
9. Increasing the numbers of refugees resettled to Canada
Although these consultations are focused on the proposed new instructions, the CCR notes that Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s announcement spoke of “consultations on Canada’s immigration priorities” and one of the backgrounders more specifically addresses levels planning. The CCR therefore takes this opportunity to urge the government to increase the number of refugees resettled to Canada. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees recently estimated that the total global number of people in need of resettlement is approximately 560,000, a dramatic increase in identified needs that calls for an energetic response from resettlement countries, including Canada. We can and should do more to respond to those in need of a permanent home.
10. Providing opportunities for refugees to immigrate through the Economic Class
The UNHCR has recently encouraged States to explore the opportunities for refugees to find a durable solution through immigration channels, given the large gap between the numbers of refugees in need of resettlement and of resettlement places available. Some refugees have the skills and other qualities Canada is seeking. The government should consider enabling their immigration in the skilled worker and other Economic Class streams. This would require some flexibility to respond to the realities of refugees (for example, they may not have a passport and therefore need a refugee travel document).