Time to rethink family relationships

June 1st, 2016

They say it takes a village to raise a child. In certain cases, it seems the government is taking this idiom a bit too literally.

A recent article, titled ‘DNA Testing for Family Reunification in Canada: Points to Consider’ and published in the Journal of International Migration and Integration, points out that, in family reunification cases, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly CIC) has adopted a policy of suggesting DNA testing only as a last resort in cases where no documentary evidence has been submitted or where the evidence provided is deemed unsatisfactory.

The article, co-written by a host of experienced and knowledgeable people, notes that the use of DNA testing in immigration should be closely scrutinized given the psychosocial impacts involved, the potential risk of genetic discrimination, and the growing number of judicial recourses observed.

Since the introduction of the Immigration and Refugees Protection Act (IRPA) in 2001, the concept of “biological child” was formally introduced. This restricted family reunification to biologically linked children and set aside potential psychosocial ties that “family” members might have. The requirement was at variance with provincial laws that recognize filiation based on non-biological parenthood.

A typically Canadian problem, then. The feds and the provinces had laws that didn’t add up with each other.

As is pointed out in the article, this element of the IRPA was at odds to some well-known international conventions to which Canada was (and remains) signatory, including the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In theory, DNA testing for Canadian immigration purposes ought to be a last resort and should not be applied on a discriminatory basis, either by race, class, religion or otherwise. In reality, however, this may not always be the case. In certain cases, the full range of applicants’ bona fides were not sought before a DNA test was administered. That is to say the test was applied, but not as a last resort.

The extensive research also reveals certain other trends, including more frequent requests and use of DNA testing in cases involving applicants from certain countries.

Indeed, it was found that IRCC has actually sent different program information guides to applicants from different countries. In particular, some African applicants may have been informed that DNA testing may shorten the time to verify the family relationship. If this is the case, this (mis)information may have mislead applicants into thinking that they will have a faster processing when in fact, according to the available evidence, they may experience considerable delays.

Given how different societies around the world consider and define the word ‘family’, is it not time to rethink how the government considers the word? Canada, after all, touts itself as a mosaic. In addition, let us hope that any discriminatory practices — with regard to when, how, and why DNA testing is applied — are left behind.

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4 Responses to “Time to rethink family relationships”

  • On June 2nd, 2016, William H. Finkelberg, attorney said ...

    I look forward to reading your observations on curèrent nattera of Canadian Immigration issues.

  • On June 2nd, 2016, Anonymous said ...

    DNA testing should not be discriminatory but one has to be realistic. In Africa extended families are a fact and it is not uncommon to have brothers and sisters from different mothers or fathers, extending over a long period of time. There are proven cases of a women married to an Europan are using the “regroupement familial” to bring their younger siblings as their children when they are not. Such practice could be the case in other parts of the world. The only way to make the DNA procedure not discriminatory is to make it compulsory for all candidates applying for an immigration visa for their children. Bogus or modified birth certificates are too easy to obtain. It would still leave open regulations for adopted children, legally or de facto, but declared as such and properly documented.

  • On June 29th, 2016, Anonymous Sam said ...

    Well, from my own point of view, it seems taking DNA test should not be compel among various applicants. Firstly this have brought about breaking marriages or family whereby the result is misinterpret, for example a father in abroad asked his wife to undergo DNA test as a result of this the outcome of it contradict what his expected this will definitely break marriages. Secondly if two brothers have different genotype and it’s shows that they are not from same father this can cause mistrust among them, this have happened in my area Nigeria. Lastly changing of result mistakenly this happens often in the case of HIV, which can also occur during DNA test. Therefore DNA test should not be compulsory at last stage of applicants migration form. Thanks and God Bliss

  • On July 1st, 2016, Regina said ...

    In some countries a whole village is considered to be “a family”. Do you suggest the whole village should be included in the application?

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