Conservatives Have Damaged Our Immigration System


John McCallum

Conservatives Have Damaged Our Immigration System

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Throughout our history, Canada has welcomed newcomers with a smile. They were — and are — nation builders. Under the Conservatives, this smile has become a scowl and we have unfortunately witnessed a decade of decline in three major areas: family reunification, refugees, and citizenship applicants.

Wait times have ballooned during Mr. Harper’s time in office. Since 2007, family reunification processing times are up 70 percent for spouses and children and up a staggering 500 percent for parents and grandparents. Processing times took a particularly sharp jump after 2011, which was the same year this Conservative government imposed crippling budget cuts. Adding insult to injury, the Conservatives also reduced the age of dependents from 22 to 18.

This decade of Conservative failure in family reunification has unfairly taken a huge emotional and financial toll on affected families, and it has also damaged Canada’s international reputation as a country that openly welcomes newcomers.

On refugees, the Conservatives have shamelessly attacked basic health care services for the most vulnerable — only to have these actions rejected by the courts as « cruel and unusual. » Legal reforms have also denied due process to vulnerable refugee applicants.

Canada has traditionally been a beacon of hope for the oppressed of the world, accepting tens of thousands of refugees from countries such as Hungary, Vietnam and Uganda. Yet Mr. Harper and his Conservatives have inexplicably dragged their feet on admitting refugees from Syria. That is why the Liberal Party of Canada has called for the government to expand the target number of Syrian refugees to 25,000, so we can give more victims of war the opportunity to start a new life here in Canada.

The Conservative decade of failure extends to citizenship applicants too. In addition toquadrupling fees and doubling processing times, the Conservatives have unnecessarily erected new barriers for aspiring citizens. Now we are witnessing ever more difficult language testing imposed on older potential-Canadians, and a scrapping of the credit for time in Canada which was previously extended to international students.

In all of these areas, a combination of Conservative cynicism and budget cutbacks have abandoned those people who find themselves in the immigration system. A commitment to increase funding and a more welcoming attitude by the government would do wonders to improve Canada’s record on family reunification, refugees, and citizenship – and put an end to this Conservative decade of failure.

In the end, this is a question of fairness. Vulnerable people, who travel to Canada from abroad in search of opportunity, deserve a real and fair chance at success.

As Canadians, we must live up to our responsibilities to one another, and to Canada.