2012 was an exceptionally busy year in the Canadian immigration system. Building on last year’s “Top 10 Canadian Immigration Stories of 2011,” Z Sonia Worotynec, Gregory Johannson, Bonnie Mah and Marco Campana present a similar top 10 list for 2012. For each story, we’ve provided a brief introduction, some background and related links and resources.
This year’s overarching theme: while 2011 was the year of consultations, 2012 was a year of change. It brought an explosive number of changes and proposed changes to the ways that Canada selects and treats immigrants, refugees and citizens as well as how we talk about immigrants and refugees. Multiple announcements and re-announcements from the Minister’s office made it challenging to figure out what changes had been made, what had been proposed only, and when changes or proposed changes would take effect.
1. Selection of Economic Class Immigrants
2012 brought big changes to the way economic-class immigrants to Canada are selected. The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), often considered the backbone of Canada’s economic immigration, was the target of many of the proposed changes.
2. Refugee Reform
2012 witnessed the most significant reforms to refugee policy in Canada in at least a decade, encompassing legislative and policy changes. The most substantive reforms were passed in Bill C-31, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
3. Facilitating Temporary Residence and Two-Step Immigration
The trend towards temporary resident growth continued in 2012. In particular, a number of changes made it easier for employers to bring temporary foreign workers to Canada.
4. Conditional Permanent Residence
The government enacted a two-year period of conditional permanent residence on sponsored spouses. This could mark a precedent for a new, longer road to permanent status for future Canadians.
5. Focus on Security
The government took various steps in 2012 that can be seen as extending its “law and order” agenda to the immigration and refugee system.
6. Community Response to Immigration and Refugee Reform
Alongside political debate over Bill C-31 (and its predecessors), a more dynamic dialogue has taken place between community members, groups, the media and politicians. The increasing salience of this debate on both sides of the political spectrum is important for all Canadians.
7. Culture Clash?
The niqab has been a hot button political issue in Canada for some time. According to the CBC, the wearing of the niqab has “divided Canadians and even the Muslim-Canadian community, which debates whether the niqab has any religious significance under Islam.”
8. Public Discourse and Immigration
Immigration jumped to the fore of public discourse in 2012. It was a year when information and discourse about immigration was as exceptionally high as it was polarized.
9. Increased Selectivity in Who Becomes a Refugee
In public and political discourse, 2012 marked a departure from the concept of political neutrality in refugee claims. We saw significant politicization of refugeehood, and more common acceptance of the concept that the political realm should have a stake in who receives protection.
10. Citizenship Changes
2012 saw significant changes and proposed changes to Canadian citizenship.
For details on these top ten stories, visit the Maytree blog.