Minister, Make Mine a Double
If you visit the government of Canada’s website and search for current processing times under the Parent and Grandparent Program (PGP) for immigration to Canada, you are informed that they are working on applications received on or before November 4, 2011.
Fifty months is a long time. (In 2011, the iPhone had only just begun to outpace the BlackBerry in Canadian sales.) Moreover, the government is now only working on these applications. These are not closed files; mom and pop and grandmother and grandpa are still abroad, waiting on an answer.
And yet, 2016 is meant to be a year of change with respect to this family sponsorship program, which allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their parents and grandparents after satisfying some onerous eligibility criteria that includes a minimum income requirement.
The new Liberal government had generated a lot of buzz over recent weeks with respect to the PGP, with Prime Minister Trudeau issuing the following mandate to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, John McCallum: As part of the Annual Immigration Levels Plan for 2016, bring forward a proposal to double the number of entry applications for parents and grandparents of immigrants to 10,000 a year.
But so far there is no Immigration Level Plan for 2016, and when the PGP reopened this week potential applicants were faced with bold text on the government of Canada’s website that the number of applications remains at 5,000 — the same cap as under the Conservatives. In addition, during the election campaign the Liberals pledged to significantly increase the budget for family class immigration processing — but there has been no sign, at least publicly, of that extra funding having been allocated.
For anyone not familiar with this subject matter, the previous Canadian government, after a hiatus of two years, reopened the PGP in January, 2014. Given that the government is only now working on files received in November, 2011, it follows that not a single applicant who has submitted a file over the last two application cycles has had that file processed.
No doubt, given the fact that many of the sponsored persons are in their Autumn years, we face the rather grisly prospect of permanent resident status eventually being granted to many individuals who have already departed this life.
Minister McCallum has this week gone on record and stated that the government remains “committed to reuniting families and we intend to meet the commitment to double the intake of PGP sponsorship applications from 5,000 to 10,000 per year,” but there is no mention of when or how this may occur. There is also no mention of any efforts or means to decrease processing times.
Most Canadians agree that Canada faces a demographic challenge and that the strategic intake of skilled immigrants forms part of any solution to our aging population. We want the best and brightest from around the world to choose Canada as the place where they lay down roots and build their careers. However, we’re not alone in this desire. Canada, along with other developed countries such as the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, is in the international marketplace for the cream of the crop. All of the aforementioned countries allow for parental sponsorship in one form or another, and Canada will have to vastly improve the attractiveness of its family reunification programs to remain competitive.