Family reunification

Thousands of families excluded from benefit of increased age of dependent children

Mon, 05/08/2017

Canadian Council for Refugees

Media Release
For immediate release
8 May 2017

Thousands of families excluded from benefit of increased age of dependent children

English
Newsletter type: 

Modernizing client service delivery

Summary: 

The CCR prepared this submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration as part of its study on Modernization of Client Service Delivery.

Proposed change to Age of dependent children: Comments

Summary: 

The attached document forms the comments of the Canadian Council for Refugees on the proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on 29 October 2016.

CCR strenuously opposed the 2014 change reducing age of dependants. We welcome the government’s proposal to revert to the previous maximum age of under 22 years.

Family reunification submission November 2016

Summary: 

The CCR provided a written submission to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) as part of its fall 2016 study on family reunification.

Excluded Family Members: Brief on R. 117(9)(d)

Summary: 

Section 117(9)(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations imposes a lifelong sponsorship ban on family members who were not examined at the time of the sponsor’s immigration to Canada. Although R.117(9)(d) affects all categories of immigrants, it has a disproportionately negative effect on refugees and vulnerable migrants who fail to disclose a family member. Their reasons for doing so include fear of endangering the family member, gender-based oppression, lack of information, and unexpected life events. The regime set out in R.117(9)(d) is overbroad, excessive, and inflicts devastating harm on vulnerable people, especially children. 

Equally Human, Equally Entitled To Rights

Summary: 

Report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on Canada’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

CCR comments on proposed regulatory changes re. marriage

Summary: 

The CCR commented on proposed regulations to: 

  1. Raise from 16 to 18 the minimum age of eligibility to immigrate to Canada as a spouse or partner.
  2. No longer recognize marriages that were conducted abroad by proxy, telephone, fax, Internet or other similar forms.

 

Focus on refugee and immigrant families

Summary: 

Reuniting families is a key objective of Canada’s immigration program, but too often families are kept apart.

Priority: 

Bill C-31 – Diminishing Refugee Protection: Submission to Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

Summary: 

The CCR has called for the withdrawal of Bill C-31 because it provides for an unworkable process that will fail to respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international obligations and will fail to give protection to refugees. What is more, it will be harmful to the successful settlement of refugees in Canada.

CCR Backgrounder - CIC Consultations on the Parent and Grandparent Program

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is holding online consultations until May 25th to review and redesign the sponsorship system for parents and grandparents. Along with the online questionnaire it was announced that “Minister Jason Kenney will host a series of multi-city in-person meetings with stakeholders”. These meetings are invite-only.

These consultations are part of the government’s Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification, announced in November 2011, which consists of three principal changes:

  • To reduce the applications backlog, the government is increasing by over 60 percent the number of sponsored parents and grandparents admitted to Canada in 2012, from nearly 15,500 in 2010 to 25,000 in 2012. At the same time a two-year ban on new applications for sponsored parents and grandparents was put in place, in November 2011.
  • The 10-year, multiple-entry “Parent and Grandparent Supervisa” was introduced. The supervisa is only accessible for those who can afford to buy one year’s worth of Canadian medical insurance (even if they only plan to visit Canada for weeks or months).
  • Following consultations, the Parent and Grandparent Program will be redesigned in order to “avoid future large backlogs and be sensitive to fiscal constraints”.

The online consultations are open to stakeholders and the public and are being carried out via a questionnaire. Respondents are asked to indicate whether or not they agree with the different proposals that are clearly directed towards decreasing numbers of applicants and accepted parents and grandparents. Options given include restrictions on applications and eligibility and increased financial requirements.  The proposals present a certain bias: the starting point is an assumption that parents and grandparents are a burden on Canadian society and that their numbers should be decreased. The only venue for expression of alternate opinions or proposals is in the comments box below each section.

The CCR encourages people to respond to the questionnaire, and to use the comments boxes to give opinions beyond the simplistic poll of the discouraging proposals being made to shrink the Parent and Grandparent Program. We have prepared a backgrounder for you to take into account when responding.

You can access CIC's online questionnaire by clicking this link.

 

Context: Family Reunification as a Canadian Value

Family reunification is one of the primary guiding principles of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), and welcoming parents and grandparents of permanent residents and citizens is a positive reflection of Canadian values. As a country that acknowledges and prioritizes family values, family reunification should be an integral part of our immigration program. We recognize that all families are valuable, regardless of their background and we understand the importance of extended family.

CIC is proposing to make Canada’s system more restrictive, which would be a step backwards in our family-friendly immigration program. Parents and grandparents contribute to Canadian society in significant ways, and depicting them as a burden is misleading and unfair. Family reunification should be a priority for Canada, and the Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) plays an important role in reuniting families.

In recent years Canada has been increasing the percentage of economic immigrants and decreasing Family Class and refugee/humanitarian admissions. The proportion of overall immigration taken up by economic immigration has increased significantly in recent years – from 55% in 2005 to 66% in 2010. Over the same period, Family Class has shrunk from 28% to 21.5% and Refugees from 14% to 9%. Over a longer period, Family Class has decreased even more dramatically, from 43.9% of all immigration in 1993, to 21.5% in 2010. This downward trend is worrisome, and there needs to be real discussion and consultation with Canadians about what they want Canada’s immigration program to look like.

The CCR believes that Canada should rebalance immigration levels in order to establish greater equality between the three pillars, reprioritizing and dedicating more resources to the processing of family reunification and humanitarian considerations.

 

CCR resources on family reunification and rebalancing immigration levels

To see the CCR’s 2011 recent resolution on the importance of re-prioritizing family reunification in the Canadian immigration program, visit:

http://ccrweb.ca/en/res/increased-commitment-family-reunification

To see CCR priorities in immigration levels planning, submitted to CIC for last years consultations, visit: http://ccrweb.ca/en/levels-2011

 

Questionnaire Categories

Managing the number of people who can apply

CIC is proposing that the number of applications accepted under the PGP needs to be managed (i.e. limited) because there is a backlog. Possible solutions can be to limit applicants or to allocate more resources to processing. CIC is taking the approach that to address the backlog the number of applicants must be reduced. The CCR supports reprioritizing family reunification and thus putting more resources toward processing these applications.

 

A Modernized Parent and Grandparent Immigration Program: Should we try to ease the economic impact of parents and grandparents?

It is acknowledged in the CIC backgrounder, as well as in considerable research conducted over the years, that parents and grandparents contribute to the Canadian economy and society in many ways. Many parents who come to Canada enter the workforce, while grandparents often allow their children and grandchildren to increase their workforce participation by taking active roles in child-rearing and housekeeping. Money earned in Canada is more often spent in Canada, rather than being sent to family members abroad. Family reunification also has positive impacts on the mental health, well-being, and integration outcomes of new Canadians. While the costs of elderly grandparents to the health care and social support systems have been quantified and are thus judged to be a burden, these costs haven’t been measured against all the positive outcomes of their presence in Canada. It is misleading to characterize these integral family members as a burden, when they bring positive economic and social benefits and so many Canadians want to be reunited and are willing to sponsor them.

Lifetime Sponsorship

Currently, sponsors of parents and grandparents under the PGP are required to take financial responsibility for their sponsored family member(s) for ten years. CIC proposes that this could be changed to a lifetime sponsorship. If someone has been in Canada for ten years, they have become a permanent resident, if not a citizen. Lifetime sponsorship would mean Canada would be denying care to some of its residents and citizens based on their age or origins. Requiring lifetime sponsorship will lead to two classes of Canadians: those for whom the Canadian government is willing to pay for services in exchange for their participation in society and paying of taxes, and those for whom the government outsources those costs to their younger family members.

This proposal also begs the question of what will happen if the sponsor dies before their parent or grandparent; will the surviving relative be deported, even if they are a permanent resident or a citizen? And if after 20 years the sponsor hits on hard financial times – will the relative be deported? It is not clear that this proposal is either fair or practical.

Fees

CIC suggests that fees such as the $40,000 per person charged by Australia to some sponsored parents could be implemented in Canada. If this came about, it would mean that only the very wealthy would have access to the PGP. Family reunification is a cornerstone of Canada’s immigration policy and a stated objective of IRPA. It should be implemented equitably and not only for the wealthy. This proposal goes completely against Canadian values of fairness and equality, and would introduce an element of discrimination based on income to our immigration program.

Changes to Minimum Necessary Income

CIC proposes that either the Minimum Necessary Income (MNI) threshold for sponsors of parents and grandparents be increased, or that the length of time the sponsor must meet the MNI should be increased, or both. Increasing the MNI of sponsors would further restrict the number of people able to sponsor their family members, privileging the wealthy at the expense of middle-income people who meet the current MNI requirements. Increasing the length of time the sponsor must meet the minimum MNI would pose problems for people who, after ten years, face unforeseen financial difficulties, again bringing up the question of what would happen to the sponsored person in such situations, who by that time might already be a citizen or a permanent resident. This proposal would make family reunification more difficult, and make access to it more exclusive.

 

Should we redefine the eligibility of family members who accompany parents and grandparents?

Redefining eligibility by imposing stricter criteria is proposed by CIC in order to limit numbers of applications in this category. However, if the Family Class of immigration were expanded to rebalance the levels of immigration across the different categories, such limiting of applications would be unnecessary.

Focus on parents rather than siblings of sponsors

Being reunited with siblings is just as important to many new Canadians as being reunited with parents and grandparents. Sponsored siblings will be able to contribute to Canadian society in many positive ways, as well as improving the settlement outcomes of their sponsoring family members. If CIC were to re-prioritize family reunification, siblings wouldn’t be excluded from sponsorship.

Balance of Family Test

CIC is proposing that at least half of the children of any parent or grandparent applying to be sponsored must reside in Canada for them to be eligible for sponsorship under the PGP. This approach seems arbitrary and would have a negative impact on many Canadians trying to reunite with their family members. For example, if parents living in their home country have eight children, three of whom are in Canada, three in the U.S., and two in the home country, they would not be eligible for sponsorship to Canada. Is it fair to prohibit Canadian residents and citizens from sponsoring their parents and grandparents simply because some of their siblings chose to live in countries other than Canada?

 

Should we emphasize a commitment to Canada on the part of sponsors? 

Citizenship as a requirement to sponsor

It is surprising that CIC is proposing that citizenship should be a requirement to sponsor family members, since 85% of newcomers to Canada become citizens anyway, so such a measure would only affect a small group of people. However, it could affect this small group negatively. Some examples of the 15% of newcomers who don’t become citizens as soon as they are eligible are:

  • those who haven’t applied for citizenship because their country of origin does not allow dual citizenship
  • refugees who, due to trauma, have difficulty achieving the language proficiency levels required for citizenship

For many in the minority group of permanent residents who don’t seek citizenship, it is not a lack of commitment to Canada that prevents them from applying.

This proposal would mean that citizenship would become a tool for exclusion from sponsorship. Is it right that the small group of people who remain permanent residents would be barred from reunification with their family members?

Focus on Special Needs and Exceptional Cases

In this proposal CIC suggests that entry could be limited to those who meet exceptional criteria and who require compassionate consideration. This proposal is shocking because the criteria would make almost everyone ineligible, and would essentially eliminate the PGP, but for certain humanitarian and compassionate cases. This approach would make the cases where families are reunited into an exception, rather than a rule, and thus goes against the commitments and objectives defined in IRPA.

 

Summary: 

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is holding online consultations until May 25th to review and redesign the sponsorship system for parents and grandparents.
The CCR encourages people to respond to the questionnaire, and have prepared a backgrounder for you to take into account when responding.

Canada’s Treatment of Non-citizen Children

Summary: 

Canada has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, thereby promising to respect the basic rights of children. But the rights of children who are not Canadian citizens are not always respected. Find out how Canada can do better. 8 pages, January 2012.

Year in Review 2011

Summary: 

In keeping with Canada's history of welcoming, respecting and enabling newcomers to thrive, the CCR's Year in Review looks at the progress Canada has made in 2011 and reflects on where we failed to advance.

DNA Tests: A barrier to speedy family reunification

Summary: 

Demands for DNA testing are causing significant hardships for some families, especially those who cannot afford the test or who have already been waiting years to be reunited. Most troubling of all is the impact on children, kept separated from their parents. The report makes recommendations to the Canadian government to review current practices relating to DNA testing and their impacts on affected families and to adopt clear guidelines designed to ensure that DNA testing is only used as a last resort. 8 pages, 2011.

Nairobi: Are we being fair? one page overview

Summary: 

Canada’s visa office in Nairobi has some of the slowest processing times of all Canadian visa offices. The delays at Nairobi leave vulnerable refugees, as well as children of refugees, in dangerous situations for years. 1 page, 2011.

Proposed “Conditional Permanent Residence” for sponsored spouses: CCR comments

Summary: 

CCR comments on the notice published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in the Canada Gazette, Part I, Vol. 145, No. 13, March 26, 2011

Statement on Proposed “Conditional Permanent Residence” for sponsored spouses

We the undersigned oppose the proposal to introduce a “conditional” permanent residence period of two years or more for sponsored spouses and partners who have been in a relationship of two years or less with their sponsors. The proposed change, published in the Canada Gazette, 26 March 2011, states that if the sponsored spouse/partner does not remain in a bona fide relationship with their sponsor during the conditional period, their permanent residence could be revoked.

We believe that introducing “conditional permanent residence” would represent a major step backwards in Canadian immigration policy, would increase inequalities in relationships between spouses, and would put women in particular at heightened risk of violence.

These are some of the main concerns associated with the proposal:

  • Making permanent residency for the sponsored partner conditional puts all the power into the hands of the sponsor, who can use the precarity of the partner’s status as a tool for manipulation – at any time, the sponsor can declare the spouse fraudulent. This can be a constant threat and source of fear for the sponsored person, who faces the risk of being deported.
  • This power imbalance affects all sponsored partners, regardless of the “genuineness” of relationship, and reinforces unequal gendered power dynamics.
  • Making permanent residency conditional on staying in the marriage for two years traps women in abusive relationships for fear of losing their status.
  • Children will also be hurt, for example when they remain with their parent in an abusive home, or if they face being separated from one parent if the sponsored parent is removed from Canada.
  • The suggestion that some cases would be “targeted for fraud” raises fears of possible racial, national or ethnic stereotyping and discrimination, and of malicious denunciations.

According to the notice, a process would be developed to allow sponsored spouses in abusive situations to come forward without facing enforcement action. This is not a solution. Given that many sponsored immigrants, especially women, have little knowledge of their rights, it is not realistic to suggest that they would come forward to the immigration authorities to report an abusive relationship.  It is also unfair to place the burden of proof of abuse on the abused woman.

The notice mentions that similar policies are already in place in the UK, Australia and the U.S. Experts in those countries have reported that conditional status creates the problems mentioned above, putting women at risk and giving increased power to abusive sponsors.

Given the lack of evidence that “marriage fraud” is a widespread problem, it is unfortunate that the government is exploring this proposal, which would create another barrier to family reunification. We urge Citizenship and Immigration Canada to turn its attention instead to reducing the existing barriers to family reunification, including the unacceptably long processing delays in too many regions of the world.

We are also concerned that characterizing relationship breakdown as marriage fraud adds to the increasingly negative portrayal by the government of newcomers, and thus increases xenophobic tendencies within society.

Statement signed by:

Canadian Council for Refugees
Agence Ometz
Aids Committee of Guelph and Wellington County
Alliance pour l'accueil et l'intégration des immigrants-es (ALAC)
Amnesty International Canada - English-speaking section
Assaulted Women's and Children's Counselor/Advocate Program at George Brown College
Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick (AHSNB)
Assistance aux femmes de Montréal
Battered Women's Support Services
Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC)
Canadian Migration Institute (CMI)
Carrefour d'aide aux nouveaux arrivants (CANA)
Carrefour de liaison et d'aide multi-éthnique
Carrefour de ressources en interculturel (CRIC)
Centre d'Action SIDA Montréal (Femmes) (CASM)
Centre de Femmes du Témiscamingue
Centre de femmes Entre Ailes Ste-Julie
Centre de femmes l’Autonomie en soiE
Centre de femmes l'Éclaircie (La Prairie)
Centre de femmes l'Érige
Centre de femmes l'Essentielle
Centre de femmes Marie-Dupuis
Centre de ressources éducatives et communautaires pour adultes CRÉCA
Centre des femmes de la Basse-Ville
Centre des femmes de Verdun
Centre des femmes d'ici et d'ailleurs
Centre des femmes italiennes de Montréal
Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC)
Comité d'accueil international des Bois-Francs (CAIBF)
Comité d'action contre la traite humaine interne et internationale (CATHII)
Committee to Aid Refugees
Community Legal Services of Niagara South
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (English sub-region)
Dixon Transition Society
Downtown Legal Services
FCJ Refugee Centre (Toronto)
Federation CJA Social Advocacy Committee
Fédération des femmes du Québec
Femmes du monde à Côte-des-Neiges
Global Alliance for Traffic in Women - Canada (GAATW-Canada)
Howe Sound Women's Centre, Squamish, BC
Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba Inc. (IRCOM Inc.)
Immigrant Settlement & Integration Services (ISIS)
Immigrant Women Services Ottawa
La Collective des femmes de Nicolet et région
La Maison d'hébergement pour femmes francophones
La Maison Flora Tristan
La Marie Debout, Centre d'éducation des femmes
Le Centre Au Cœur des femmes
LEGIT: Canadian Immigration for Same-Sex Partners
Ligue des droits et libertés
Maison d’hébergement la Volte Face, Victoriaville
Maison de Lina, Lina’s Home
Maison des femmes des Bois-Francs
Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council Inc.
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children (METRAC)
Mississauga Community Legal Services
Montreal City Mission
Movement Against Rape and Incest
National Indo-Canadians Council
New Starts for Women
Northwood Neighbourhood Services
OCASI: Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women
Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS)
Project Genesis
Project Refuge Maison Haidar
Quaker Committee for Refugees
Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale
Regroupement Québécois des Centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (RQ-Calacs)
Réseau d'action pour l'égalité des femmes immigrées et racisées (RAFIQ)
SACHA, the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area)
Service d’aide aux Néo-Canadiens
Sistering “A Woman Drop-in”
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO)
South Asian Women's Community Centre (SAWCC)
Springtide Resources, Inc.
Surrey Women’s Centre
Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI)
Table des groupes de femmes de Montréal
The Cridge Centre for the Family
Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter
West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
YWCA Canada
YWCA Toronto

Manifesto on Family Reunification

Summary: 

A statement that promotes an immigration and refugee system that respects basic rights by favouring the speedy reunification of families in Canada. 2006.

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