Immigration levels will stay at around 250,000 newcomers a year, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says ahead of unveiling 2012 Immigration Action Plan.
“In our immigration plan for 2012 you'll see our intention to maintain high levels of immigration to Canada,” Minister Kenney said speaking to reporters after addressing a national citizenship and volunteerism luncheon hosted by the Institute of Canadian Citizenship. “It has the highest per capita of immigration in the develop world.”
He however conceded that there will not any increase in the numbers. “I don't think we can increase it very much because the economy is a little unstable. We don't want to bring immigrants to Canada who [will subsequently] face unemployment. On the other hand, we do need immigrants to fill jobs in the economy now. So I suspect that our overall level of immigration stay about the same — over a quarter of a million a year.”
He also said a new law to curb immigration through fraudulent marriages will be brought into effect next year. The new regulation will impose a two-year period of conditional residency on foreign sponsored spouses and a five-year moratorium on their ability to sponsor someone. “If you come in as a sponsored spouse and become a permanent resident and then divorce your Canadian husband or wife, you will not be able to turn around and sponsor someone from overseas,” Kenney said. “This is what every other immigrant receiving country — Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the U.S. do, and the only question is why we didn't do it a while ago?”
According to Minister Kenney, the new regulation is warranted by what he calls is a revolving door of marriage fraud. “Someone comes in, sometimes they pay a Canadian to sponsor them as a spouse, they immediately get a divorced and then the person who got landed, marries someone overseas, and sponsors them in, and they get paid ... we are going to stop the revolving door through a five-year moratorium on the ability of the foreign sponsored spouses to bring someone else through the program.”
Last year, the ministry conducted consultations on the issue. Minister Kenney said a majority of participants recommended a period of conditional residency for sponsored foreign spouses. “In fact most people who participated told us that the conditional period should be five years, instead of just two years.”
Minister Kenney maintained that many Canadians have been victimized by foreign spouses who used them as a tool to come to Canada and have immediately left the marriage or abused the spouse. “The most effective tool is to stop fraudulent marriages from being approved in the first place because they are so hard to deal with once the person is admitted into Canada. We will continue to be very vigilant. It's difficult ... we want to let the legitimate married couples in but keep the fake ones out and that's what our officers are trained to do.”
CIC receives from China and India a large number of spousal sponsorship applications through fake marriages. Anti-fraud experts working for the Canadian government called migration integrity officers are trained to identify such fraudulent applications. Recently, a large number of applications from China's Guangzhou province were rejected. “Canadians were being paid up to $60,000 by criminal organizations, to sponsor Chinese citizens they had never met and we started interviewing these applicants and we found out they knew nothing about the spouse and they had no consistent story or proof of relationship.”
However, it is common in India and other South Asian countries marriages are arranged by families and a couple may not know all the details about each other soon after the marriage. When responding to a question from the Canadian Immigrant on how immigration applications from such marriages are handled by the officers, Minister Kenney said: “We believe that arranged marriages are legitimate, if they are for the purpose of marriage and not for the purpose of immigration. And our officers are specifically trained to make that assessment.
“So we know that in many cultures and religions it's conventional to have an arranged marriage, and our officers approve bona fide arranged marriages all the time. But if it looks like the marriage was not arranged for family, for the purpose of living together, then we will reject the application. So the test is whether the marriage is legitimate or whether it is just done for immigration purposes.”
He however conceded that it's impossible for the officers to make the right decision all the time. “But the people who have been rejected can always appeal to the IRB [Immigration and Refugee Board].
In response to a follow-up question on the cultural awareness of the officers, who are typically Canada based, he said, “They are working with a lot of locally engaged staff in India and elsewhere who can give them information on the cultural context and the religious obligation and we give specialized training in that. We try to sensitize our officers to the local cultural circumstances. In Pakistan for example, there are a lot of Sharia marriages not registered in the civil courts so in different countries, we train our people sensitive to the local circumstances.”http://canadianimmigrant.ca/immigrate/immigrant-intake-will-remain-at-250000-says-minister-kenney/