Family reunification – we’re for it

  • November 08, 2016

Cost vs. Value is one of the principal tensions that plays out in Canada’s immigration policy – fears that family-class immigrants will be a burden on the economy without adding to it tend to trump any consideration of the value these immigrants will bring.

“The economic, social and cultural benefits of family reunification have been underestimated, particularly when the analysis of these benefits includes multiple generations,” the Immigration Law Section says in a submission it prepared for the House Committee on Citizenship and Immigration’s study of family reunification. Section Chair Vance Langford appeared before the committee in late October. (Vance Langford also spoke briefly with

The Section supports the principle of family reunification as an objective of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and has several ideas for improving an obstacle-ridden process which can stretch well beyond reasonable limits of time and patience.

One overarching barrier to the acceptance of family-class immigrants is the perception that parents and grandparents will place unwonted pressure on the Canadian social safety net, a perception for which there is little supporting evidence.

“Recent studies indicate that the net positive impact of the non-economic contributions of parents and grandparents on the economy, including child care, assistance with family business activities, emotional support, cultural education, volunteerism, maintenance of social cohesion and housekeeping – in addition to the financial resources they may contribute – is often overlooked,” the Section says.

Restrictive quotas are another obstacle, as they can result in processing times running into years, which creates emotional hardships for families and reduces Canada’s attractiveness as an immigration destination point. For example, the current processing time for adopted children from Haiti is currently 41 months, the Section notes.

“During this time, children may be separated from their adoptive parents for extended periods, or the parents may be forced to abandon Canada to live with their child overseas, which may make the ineligible to sponsor the child’s application.”

Raising the annual number of immigrants to 360,000 – just one per cent of the current Canadian population – would promote family reunification without affecting the numbers of humanitarian or economic-class immigrants, the Section says.

The Super Visa Program is useful for allowing the temporary entry of parents and grandparents but shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to the Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program, the Section says. “While the Super Visa Program has alleviated some pressures on Canadian families … there have been concomitant intake pauses, as well as unreasonable inventories and processing times through the Parents and Grandparents Sponsorship Program,” the Section writes. The current inventory of applications for that program is approaching 80,000, with processing times running anywhere from three to five years in some cases. Among the Section’s recommendations is that the government reduce inventories and bring processing times down to a maximum of two years.

Obstacles to immigration of spouses and partners can include “inconsistent and unexplained refusal of applications for temporary resident visas,” “unreasonable and inconsistent” assessments of things like cohabitation or genuine conjugal relationships, intent to return to Canada, and lack of a right to appeal negative decisions on applications made within Canada for permanent residence.

“The net effect of these obstacles is that spouses can be separated for years, with significant detriment to their relationships, as well as to their ability to establish themselves and contribute to Canada in meaningful ways.”

The Section believes that many of these obstacles can be overcome by means as simple as officer training, increased consistency in decision-making and access to appeals.

It also recommends that subsection 117(9)(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, dealing with misrepresentation, be repealed.  The provision is overbroad, the Section says – a family could be separated permanently over an innocent mistake, such as confusion over the term “common law.”

Other recommendations in the submission with regard to sponsorship:

  • Greater flexibility and accommodation in the sponsorship of adopted children, including improved coordination with provincial authorities
  • A review of the circumstances in which humanitarian and compassionate considerations may warrant the approval of applications for dependent or adopted children, siblings and other relatives
  • Consider lowering the age threshold for sponsorship
  • The financial threshold for sponsorship should reflect the actual local cost of living
  • For parents and grandparents, the applicant’s ability to support him or herself in Canada, financial assets and non-economic contributions should be considered
  • A processing time standard of one year from the date an application is complete, to be applied consistently across all visa offices.
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