Fixing Canada’s Immigration, Family Reunification Systems

The Challenge Faced by the New Government, as Told by Canadian Immigration Lawyers

In the wake of a majority win for the federal Liberal Party of Canada, Canadian Immigration Lawyers hope that we will see the dawn of a new era for Canadian immigration legislation and policy. On Wednesday, November 4, Justin Trudeau, the new Prime Minister of Canada, appointed his cabinet, including John McCallum as the new Immigration Minister. The task will fall on McCallum to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, though this is not the only mission the Liberals have promised which Canadian immigration lawyers are eager to see completed. There is also the issue of improving the family reunification system, which will be no small feat.

The Family Reunification Issue

Immigrants, refugees, and other newcomers to Canada have had a difficult time reuniting with their family for the last several years. In fact, the processing time for an application to sponsor a family member was 31 months—more than two and a half years. The CCR (Canadian Council for Refugees) had urged Canada’s immigration officials during this time to alleviate the issue, citing the danger posed to family members stranded overseas. Oftentimes, children, spouses, and other family members were left behind in dangerous conditions, such as poverty, war, or persecution. The CCR also pointed out that these tremendous waiting periods flew in the face of Canada’s signature on the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which makes us bound by international law to ensure that children’s rights are being protected. A Canadian immigration lawyer would argue that swift reunion between children at risk overseas and their parents here in Canada falls under those terms.

The Liberal Plan

According to a post on the Liberal Party of Canada’s website during the election campaign, the Liberal government plans to give a serious boost to the family reunification system as part of a larger overhaul of the country’s “broken” immigration system. The proposed changes include:

  • Increasing sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents to 10,000/year
  • Raising maximum age of dependents from 19 to 22
  • Immediate permanent residency for spouses
  • Additional Express Entry points for siblings

These changes to Canada’s immigration system are intended to help keep families together when they make the choice to come to our country. The success of this promise remains to be seen, as there may be many unexpected roadblocks along the way. However, it is the hope of many families and the Canadian immigration lawyers who have fought to help them keep their families together that a bright new age for family reunification will soon begin.