November 16, 2009
Dear friends and colleagues interested in immigration and refugee issues,
The 2009 Citizenship and Immigration annual report was published recently. I am very disturbed by the decline of the target number of families that will be approved next year. With a lower target number, and overseas offices buried in paper, families will have to wait even longer to be reunited with their loved ones. There is also a dramatic drop in the number of refugees that will be accepted in Canada.
I started a campaign to establish a fair and free appeals process for people whose visitor visa application was rejected. I am also pushing for a transparent application process so we can understand the precise reasons for rejection and what is need in order for approval.
Through my questions in Parliament I have obtained the temporary resident visa approval rates from missions abroad. In 2008, while 84% of applicants from Europe were approved to visit Canada, only 43% from Chandigarh, 51% from Colombo, 61% from Nairobi, 75% from Hong Kong and 34% from Islamabad were approved. Every year, 200,000 visitors are prevented to coming to Canada, with just a form letter as an explanation.
Denying entry to people who simply wish to celebrate marriages or remember loved ones at funerals, with no reasonable explanation is cruel not only to them, but also to their friends and families.
With your support, I plan to introduce a private member’s bill in Parliament to implement a fair appeals process, similar to that of the UK and Australia. Please assist me in collecting examples of unfair denials by visiting the Facebook group Calling for Visitor Visa Fairness.
Also through Parliament, I have obtained information another unfair situation. The rejection rate for Canadian spouses sponsoring their husbands and wives from Hong Kong and southern China is 48%, and 20% of them have to wait for more than 13 months, many just to be told no. Imagine the hardship that is inflicted on the 2,000 couples who are prevented from starting their lives together.
I have encountered far too many families experiencing intolerable wait to be reunited with loved ones overseas. Under my urging, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is currently studying wait-times for sponsoring spouses, children, parents and grandparents. If you would like to send me your comments on your experience or suggestions on how the process can be sped up, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Two years ago, I did an extensive campaign on the issue of speedy recognition of foreign credentials. Of the seven recommendations I proposed, four have since been implemented, including establishing a one-stop shop (via overseas offices, the Internet and a toll-free line) where new and potential immigrants can access information on assessment criteria, education and licensing bodies, and recognition processes.
The Immigration Committee has been studying this issue and will be recommending additional action.
I am urging the government to expand mentorship, bridging and internship programs to assist new immigrants, and to work with provincial and territorial governments to establish an income support program that will assist new immigrants.
Canada’s continued failure to recognize the credentials of qualified, skilled and professional foreign-trained immigrants in the workforce is harming the economy and immigrants alike. This practice is limiting the contribution and earning potential of immigrants and contributing to unacceptable levels of poverty.
If you are interested in the Committee’s recommendations, let me know and I will forward the report to you as soon as it is tabled in the House of Commons.
Refugee Target for 2010
The newly released 2009 Annual Report on Citizenship and Immigration, lists the 2010 target for “Protected Persons in Canada and Dependents Abroad” as between 9,000 and 12,000. This is a drastic reduction from the 2006 range of 22,500 to 28,000.
This year, after accepting the smallest number of refugees in 10 years, Minister Jason Kenney is dramatically cutting the 2010 target by more than half.
Harper’s Conservatives will deny close to 17,000 refugees and their children a permanent home in Canada. Many of these refugees and their children who will be turned away, will face beatings, torture and even death. This government is working to ensure that Canada is no longer a land of hope and compassion.
By steeply dropping the targets, refusing to appoint new Refugee Board members for 2 years, cutting $4 million from the department’s budget and allowing for board appointments not based on merit, Harper’s Conservative government is deliberately creating a crisis in the refugee system. The crisis is in turn used as an excuse to bring in draconian measures to close the door to the most needy and vulnerable.
Refugee Appeals Division (RAD)
The Citizenship and Immigration Committee approved private members bill to implement a Refugee Appeals Division (RAD). The issue will be debated again in Parliament on November 19, 2009.
You probably remember the recent newspaper article featuring the story of a young Mexican woman who was deported to Mexico, only to be raped – which resulted in a pregnancy – and murdered (Mexican Woman Deported to her Death, Toronto Star, October 23, 2009).
It is imperative that the government implement the Refugee Appeals Division. Had there been an appeals division in the first place, the young Mexican woman and her unborn baby would be safe and sound in Canada today.
It is also critical that Canada not use a list of safe countries to determine the validity of a refugee claim. All countries can produce refugees. In order to have a fair and independent refugee determination process, all refugee claims must be evaluated in a similar manner, regardless of the claimant’s country of origin.
The Public Service Commission Audit of the Immigration and Refugee Board
While Jason Kenney is announcing reduced targets for refugees and their overseas dependents, the Public Service Commission published in the same month a scandalous report on how the Harper Conservatives are neglecting the refugee file.
The Public Service Commission audit found that more than half of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) appointments were not made based on merit or guiding values of fairness, transparency, access, and representativeness.
Approximately 61% or 33 out of 54 appointments were not made based on merit, or failed to follow guiding values or both.
Auditor General’s Report on Foreign Workers
Canada showed less compassion and closed the door on many refugees and at the same time dramatically increased the number of temporary foreign workers to 364,000 in 2008.
Our nation was built by boat loads of refugees from Ireland fleeing the potato famine, and many other waves of refugees and immigrants. Now under the Conservative government, refugees seeking shelter from war-torn countries, or fleeing violence and hunger, are called queue jumpers. Migrants are being used as economic units and then booted out. This twisted and mean-spirited approach is shameful.
In early November, the Auditor General of Canada’s report confirmed what I have long said about the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. The audit found that: current practices do not ensure the program is delivered efficiently and effectively, work permits could be issued for employers or jobs that do not exist, and visa offices are buried in paperwork without a quality assurance framework to ensure decisions are fair and consistent. Finally, the department has no process for systematic follow-up to ensure that employers are complying with the terms and conditions.
The human costs of these findings are that many foreign workers are left in a vulnerable position, unaware of their rights. Internal CIC reports dating back to 1994 raised serious concerns about the exploitation of live-in-caregivers, and still no serious action is being taken to fix the problems.
If workers are good enough to work here, they are good enough to stay in Canada permanently.
Some of you will remember last year, when the Minister of Immigration gave himself absolute power to determine what kind of people can be allowed into Canada, many of us predicted that such a system would not work. The Auditor General’s report confirmed our forecast. The report said that there was no well-defined strategy, no vision, and no plan, while the backlog of applicants continues.
Citizenship by Descent
I plan to trigger a debate in the House of Commons on the unfairness of the second-generation cut-off in the Citizenship Act. Last spring, I introduced a private member’s bill whose purpose is to revoke the second generation cut-off. In accordance with the Citizenship and Immigration Committee’s review of this issue last June I will suggest that foreign-born Canadians ought to have reside in Canada for a minimum of three years prior to the birth of their child, in order for their foreign-born child (second generation) to obtain Canadian citizenship.
Please keep in touch and visit me at www.oliviachow.ca regularly for my Parliamentary updates.
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