A lot done, more to do
Canada Day took place last weekend. This year, it was an extra special occasion as the nation celebrated its 150th birthday. The current Liberal government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is approaching two years in office, and with a relatively new Minister of Immigration and a swathe of new approaches within the department, now is as good a time as any to reflect on how this government is faring on immigration.
First, a quick word on our new Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen. When he was promoted in January, some people may have thought Ahmed who? But I have heard Mr Hussen speak at a couple of events this year and been impressed, not only with his enthusiasm and energy for the file — which is clear for all to see — but more so with his deep and developing knowledge of immigration. He is either loving his new job, or a very good actor.
If we contrast Mr Hussen with his immediate predecessors, a difference emerges. John McCallum, who held the role for the first 14 months of the current government’s mandate, deserves immense credit for his role on the Syrian refugee resettlement effort, but never seemed to truly get to grips with the economic programs or family reunification. Perhaps it took time for the new government to settle in, and Mr Hussen’s quick-out-of-the-blocks approach may just be a case of ‘right place, right time.’
Chris Alexander, the last Conservative to hold the position, was initially a steady-as-she-goes sort of minister. But he tarnished his reputation with his endorsement of the ‘barbaric cultural practices’ tipline during the 2015 election campaign. “It’s why we lost,” lamented Alexander after losing not just his ministry, but also his seat.
Before Alexander came Jason Kenney, whose term as Immigration Minister lasted five years. Though not a “friend” of immigration lawyers, Kenney stamped his authority on the department and elevated it to what became perceived as a senior cabinet position.
Now it is up to Mr Hussen to make sure that immigration and settlement is not an afterthought around the cabinet table. So far, he is making good headway on this front.
Take the month of June alone as an example. It began with improvements to the Express Entry immigration selection system; candidates who have a sibling in Canada and candidates with French ability are now in line for additional points. While the Conservatives adopted a ‘give me what I can see now’ mentality, resulting in a mammoth points bounty for candidates with a job offer, the Liberals prefer a longer-term approach that takes into greater account human capital factors and newcomers’ interaction with society at large, rather than the labour market specifically.
A week after these Express Entry changes, Hussen’s team introduced the Global Talent Stream. Under this initiative, a two-week standard for processing of work permit applications for highly skilled talent comes into effect.
More recently, on June 19 the government finally passed Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act. Soon, immigrants will be able to fully join the Canadian family as new citizens more easily and quicker than before. Moreover, the government has removed its own right to revoke citizenship from naturalized dual citizens convicted of treason, spying, and terrorism offences. This previous provision amounted to two-tier citizenship, where one group of citizens (dual citizens) are treated differently to natural born citizens.
Meanwhile, the department continues to operate an efficient refugee resettlement program and reduce processing times across the board — two ongoing initiatives that should be lauded.
Overall, it has been a positive first half to the year. A lot done, more to do.