When Objectives Compete
Until quite recently, Canadian immigration law and Canadian immigration policy were in sync, when it came to keeping families together.
The law, as it is laid out in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) states that one of its objectives is “to see that families are reunited in Canada.” Likewise, government policy, as noted in manuals published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) instructs visa officers to avoid splitting or separating families at the time of selection.
With the above in mind, it came as a surprise that CIC announced, last month, it intended to narrow the definition of “dependent child”, beginning in January 2014.
Principal applicants in all categories of Canadian immigration can include dependent children in their applications. Right now, an applicant’s child would be considered dependent if he or she is under 22 years of age and not a spouse or common-law partner. A child who is 22 years of age or older may also be considered a dependent child if that person has depended on the financial support of the parent(s) and has been a full-time student continuously since before the age of 22.
Starting in 2014, regulatory amendments will restrict the definition of dependent child by reducing the age limit to under 19 and removing the exception for full-time students. In a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, the government indicated that the current definition of a dependent child for immigration purposes is out of step with its objective of selecting migrants who contribute best to Canada’s economic growth and sustainability. According to CIC’s logic, older children don’t settle in Canada as easily as younger children.
This reasoning may or may not be accurate. What is certain, however, is that some very worthy applicants will have to decide between immigrating to Canada and leaving a child or children behind. It appears to me that this decision runs counter to CIC’s stated objective of keeping families together.