Amendments to IRPA

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has released a statement about amendments the federal government tabled yesterday to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. From their news release:

“On March 14, 2008, the Government of Canada introduced legislative amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to modernize the immigration system, to ensure that families are reunited faster and skilled workers arrive sooner.

“One of the challenges facing our immigration system today is the large number of people waiting in the queue. This is especially a problem in the skilled worker category which makes up most of the backlog.

“Under the proposed measures, Citizenship and Immigration Canada would have greater flexibility in processing new applications, especially from skilled workers.

“The legislation is intended to provide greater flexibility in addressing a range of labour market needs. It will not apply to refugees and does not affect our objectives related to family reunification.

“Ultimately, this will result in reduced wait times and improved service. It will also help manage the growth of the backlog of applications.

“Once passed, the new measures will apply to applications received on or after February 27, 2008.

“Those who applied prior to February 27, 2008, will not be subject to the new measures and will be dealt with fairly under the existing rules”.

What do these amendments mean for children and families? In the FAQ, it says that “the new rules will “allow us to get the people we need” and “allow the Department to select among the new applications and choose those that best meet Canada’s labour market needs”. The FAQs assure Canadians that “The Department will maintain its commitment to the broad objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act—supporting Canada’s economy and competitiveness, family reunification and protecting those in need. The legislative amendments are intended to respond to Canada’s labour market needs. It will not apply to refugees and is not intended to affect our objectives related to family reunification”.

The FAQ says the federal government will keep Canadian informed about the amendments through postings to the CIC website and the Canada Gazette.

Here’s the official transcripts from the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. Edited Hansard, Number 067. Friday, March 14, 2008

Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government is so desperate to close the door on immigrants that it will ignore the painful mistakes of previous Conservative governments that tried to do the very same thing. Diefenbaker tried to shut out immigrants by capping the system only to abandon his plan a month later because his policies were short-sighted and misguided.

Why does the minister insist on closing Canada’s doors to the newcomers we desperately need to fuel our labour and population growth even though history shows this is absolutely the wrong approach?

Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is absolutely wrong. In fact, last year this Conservative government welcomed more immigrants to Canada than has been done in almost 100 years.

Not only are we doing more, we are doing it better. In the family reunification class we have made that a priority and now cases are getting processed 20% to 40% faster than they did under the previous government. We are making great strides in cleaning up the Liberals’ immigration mess.

Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.): Some progress, Mr. Speaker. The backlog has increased by 100,000 in 26 months. I would ask the minister to get to work and not by closing the doors on immigrants.

[Translation] Let us be clear. The Conservatives say that Canada has received 429,000 newcomers, but that number has been falsely inflated by temporary workers and students. Why is the government trying to distract people from its plan to significantly reduce the number of newcomers by fudging the numbers and tooting its own horn about its pathetic record on immigration?

Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC): Mr. Speaker, our government has two objectives. The first is to bring more newcomers here to fill jobs and be reunited with their families. The second is to do it faster.

Let us contrast that with the Liberals’ record on immigration. They ballooned the backlog from 50,000 to 800,000. They took processing times from three to six months to three to six years. They voted against reducing the head tax that they brought in. They voted against launching the foreign credentials referral office. We are fixing the Liberals’ immigration mess.

Economic class favoured over family reunification?

Is the federal government changing immigration policy to favour the economic class of immigrants over family reunification? That’s what the liberal party is charging.

Due to what’s been reported as a backlog of some 900,000 applicants, immigration minister Diane Finley may soon introduce an amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to limit the number of immigrants. Critics believe it will also change the focus of the type of immigrants Canada will attract and process.

Liberal immigration critic and MP for Vaughan, Maurizio Bevilacqua is quoted in the Thursday, March 13/08 National Post: “The Conservatives are shutting the door on immigration because they fail to understand its importance to our labour markets and our nation-building. The lack of resources devoted to this issue shows they are not serious about immigration”.

Evidence? The story quotes a speech Minister Finley made last November in India, indicating that Canada seeks to attract “the best and the brightest”. But, only last week, the London Free Press reported on a story (A Family Again) about a Somali mother who was reunited with her children after 9 years. A Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson is quoted as saying: “This is fulfilling one of our (goals) — family reunification.”

Let’s follow this one closely and keep an eye on what’s happening in Ottawa.

Federal budget, 2008

The National Post is reporting that today’s federal budget has “something for everyone”, including this – for immigrants:

“$22-million over two years to modernize and speed up the immigration system. Plans include: ‘changes will be made to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to improve the immigration process. It is not fair for prospective immigrants to wait for years before being considered, and it is not desirable to wait that long for the immigrants the country needs’.”

Meanwhile, The Globe and Mail is running an op-ed by Perrin Beatty, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Claire Morris, Association of Universities and Colleges Canada and on what kinds of immigrants Canada needs:

“Streamlining our immigration process to make Canada a more attractive option for skilled immigrants will be important. However, Canada cannot count on maintaining current levels of immigration of advanced degree-holders to meet future labour market needs. In an increasingly knowledge-based world, competition for highly-educated immigrants is growing in developed nations and emerging economies alike.

Consequently, more needs to be done to attract the best and the brightest international graduate students who remain critical to fuelling the country’s pipeline of highly qualified personnel”.

Immigrant children? Not in the op-ed. Not in the budget. To access the budget documents, visit the budget.gc.ca website.

Immigrant children in Canadian history

As a grad student on placement at the Toronto-based Centre of Excellence for Research in Immigration Studies (CERIS) in 2005, I compiled a bibliography of holdings in the CERIS library about immigrant and refugee children and youth.

I’d like to start compiling an annotated bibliography of books and other resources about the history of immigration and immigration policy in Canada that either focus on or include sections on/about children.

Kelly, N. & Trebilcock, M. (1998). The making of the mosaic: A history of Canadian immigration policy is one.

Kenneth Bagnell’s The Little immigrants: the orphans who came to Canada (1980 & 2001) is a classic. It tells the story of the home children.

Another account of the home children is Marj Kohli‘s 2003 The Golden bridge: Young immigrants to Canada (1833-1939).

I am currently reading Valerie Knowles’ updated 1992 Strangers at our gates: Canadian immigration and immigration policy, 1540-2006, which has a short section on the home children and guest children.

Please share any books with/out annotations – or other resources – that address or include children in the history of immigration and immigration policy in Canada. I’ll maintain a page for this for us in our “pages” section, see right-hand side of the blog.

Federal pre-Budget online consultation

The Federal government has launched an online consultation, seeking feedback for their upcoming budget. Questions are asked in five categories: 1. How Canada should address an increasingly aging population. 2. Economic policy. 3. Resources and re-directing resources. 4. How to keep Canada competitive internationally, and 5. “What tax and other measures should the Government take to ensure that Canada keeps its best and brightest, attracts highly skilled immigrants, encourages as many people as possible to enter the workforce, and rewards Canadians for their hard work, while respecting the Government’s fiscal goals?”.

Here’s our chance to respond and raise issues! Please visit and participate in the online pre-budget consultation.

Deadline is February 11, 2008.