The Right to Sponsor
Equality is a fundamental Canadian value. Whether you are a fifth-generation Canadian or you have just received your Canadian citizenship this morning, you are entitled to exactly the same set of rights and responsibilities. Or at least that’s the way it’s meant to be.
Family reunification is a stated goal of Canadian immigration policy. Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents may sponsor their parents, grandparents, spouses or children to come to Canada as Canadian Permanent Residents. According to Canadian law this right to bring your family to Canada cannot be denied to any Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident as long as they are residing in Canada and meet sponsorship requirements.
In practice however we can see that this right is not being provided equally to all Canadians. Once an application to sponsor parents or grandparents is approved by the central processing office in Mississauga, Ontario, there is a reasonable expectation that the process will be finalized within a similar time frame no matter where the family member is coming from. A quick look at processing times for parent/grandparent sponsorship applications shows that this expectation is not being satisfied. For the more fortunate applicants, the average application processing time through the Canadian immigration visa office in London is about 7 months; through Cairo it would be 11 months; through the Ankara office in 12 months. At the other end of this spectrum it takes 31 months, on average, to process cases through the Paris or Manila visa offices, 34 months through the New Delhi or Singapore visa offices.
There are a number of reasons why certain Canadian visa offices take longer than others to process applications. Higher volume of applications, not enough staff available, other administrative challenges all can contribute to slowing down processing times. The fact of the matter is, however, that no matter what the explanation is, these drastic differences are unacceptable. For other categories of immigration, Canada’s government may place its resources where it deems appropriate; since the applicants are not yet Canadians, they do not have a right to immigrate. For sponsorship of family members however, it is existing Canadians and Permanent Residents whose equality rights are being violated.
When you have differences of two full years in processing times between different visa offices, what it amounts to is discrimination based on the location of a Canadian’s parents. Even worse, when parents or grandparents are elderly, long delays can mean that they will no longer pass required medical exams, meaning that in such cases, the right to sponsor is being denied altogether.
One reason that immigrants choose to come to Canada is because they can count on having their rights respected and being treated equally no matter who they are or where they come from. In many ways Canada leads the world in this regard. The Canadian government needs to allocate the necessary resources to make sure that the right to sponsor is respected equally for all Canadians, no matter where their family is.