Posted on April 18, 2005

Ottawa To Speed Immigration Process

CBC News, Apr. 17

OTTAWA—Citizenship and Immigration Minister Joe Volpe announced a new $72-million plan aimed at helping immigrants reunite with relatives and clear a giant backlog of applicants.

Part of the plan is designed to help those who want to sponsor their parents or grandparents, a process that immigration lawyers say can take between five and 10 years. Volpe said the new plan will should clear more than 100,000 applications off the book.

Key aspects of the immigration plan include:

  • A tripling in the number of parents and grandparents accepted over the next two years, bringing the total to 18,000 a year. Ottawa will invest $36 million a year for two years to cover the costs of processing and integrating parents and grandparents.
  • The waiving of English- and French-language tests for citizenship applicants aged 55 years of age and older, rather than 60 years of age.
  • A change to allow international students to work and gain Canadian experience while they’re being trained in this country. Upon graduation they will be able to work for one year if they stay in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, and for two years if they move to a smaller community.
  • Incentives to encourage new Canadians to settle outside major metropolitan centres like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
  • More money to clear a growing backlog of citizenship applications.

The changes do not need legislative approval and could take place immediately, giving the Liberals some campaign momentum with immigrant communities should their minority government fall this spring or summer.

Volpe announced the immigration plan in Brampton, Ont., on Monday morning, accompanied by members of Parliament from other Toronto-area ridings that are home to significant numbers of new Canadians.

Big backlogs causing hardship

Immigration lawyer Michael Greene says there should be a public debate over solving the backlogs in bringing family members to Canada, which are causing severe hardship for new immigrants.

“I do think that Canadian family values are there and that it’s a motherhood and apple pie issue—and in this case, literally a motherhood issue,” he said.

Harbinder Gill, who moved to Calgary from the Indian state of Punjab seven years ago, says the delay is taking a heavy toll on him.

“I drive stressed, I go to work stressed, I’m always stressed, I stay home stressed,” he said. “I’m always thinking about my mother and sisters.”

His father died after Gill arrived in Canada, but every day he waits for some news about whether he’ll be reunited with his aging mother and his sisters.

After five years of waiting, he is beginning to give up hope. If his family sponsorship application isn’t approved in the next year, the 35-year-old says he’ll move back to India.

“We find this across the country,” said Calgary Conservative MP Lee Richardson of the frustration and despair felt by immigrants wanting their families nearby. “Upwards of 70 per cent of case work in our MPs’ offices are immigration business.

“That’s nuts. There’s something wrong with the system.”