Immigration program that filled up in under 10 minutes in 2019 could be delayed until April
The majority of the population in Brampton and Mississauga is racialized. Both of the Peel Region cities feature large groups of visible minorities, with more immigrants than Canadian-born residents.
According to the 2016 census, 381,730 Mississaugans came to Canada as immigrants, compared to 320,750 born in the country. Similarly, data shows Brampton to have 308,790 immigrant residents, with 272,365 Bramptonians hailing from Canada originally.
These diverse populations are regularly lauded by politicians in the two cities and are seen by many as one of their key strengths. The two cities boast an internationally experienced workforce on an unprecedented scale, with knowledge and education present from across the globe alongside a unique collection of cultural events and authentic restaurants.
However, the diversity of Brampton and Mississauga means they are also particularly impacted by changes to immigration legislation. Most recently, people across Canada were left disappointed when the federal government announced it would not be accepting parent and grandparent reunification applications in January like the year previous, in turn postponing the process instead.
In a statement shared on its website, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said it was delaying applications to give it “sufficient time” to complete a new intake process. Offering few details, the statement said the process would be “postponed until Ministerial Instructions are issued.”
“This means that the opportunity to express interest in sponsoring a parent or grandparent will not take place on January 1, 2020,” the statement added after being posted on December 30, giving families just two days notice. “Further information about the expected launch date and 2020 intake process will be available in the new year.”
The family reunification grandparent and parent program, which the government revamped as recently as August 2018, has been widely criticized. The purpose of the program is to allow Canadian citizens and permanent residents to bring their family members into the country, meaning it is based on familial connections and neither economic logic nor professional qualifications.
In 2018, the federal government set a target of 310,000 newcomers to Canada, with increases towards an end goal of 340,000 by 2020. The last government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth suggested Canada needed 450,000 immigrants by 2021 to help the country deal with an ever-aging population, as five million baby boomers look to retire across the next decade and a half.
However, the government’s focus is on economic immigration as opposed to family-based arrivals. In 2020, the Liberal government hopes to welcome 195,800 economic class immigrants, 91,000 under the family reunification category and 53,200 refugees. Those numbers suggest that even another revamp of the family reunification system will not be enough to meet the demand across the country.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie told The Pointer she hoped the program would work better for those who need it in her city after the government’s review. “As the land of opportunity and one of the most diverse countries in the world, our city has been enriched and built by immigrants,” she said. “It’s important that those who are newly settled in our country have the opportunity to be reunited with their families.”
Last year, the newly reconfigured first-come, first-served online system shut down after just nine minutes accepting applications. The web-based portal opened on January 28 at midday Eastern Time, only to close almost immediately after, reaching its cap of 27,000 applications significantly faster than anticipated. At the time, the government confirmed that 100,000 people had attempted to access the online form.
In the year following the debacle, the issue received little public attention from the government. Leading up to the federal election, immigration was a relatively untouched topic by the Liberals. The party’s platform made just seven references to immigration across its 85 pages, focusing on skilled, economic migration and Canada’s agreements with the United States, rather than specific commitments to the family reunification system.
As a result, the postponement of the 2020 application — just two days before it was meant to open — was surprising. In a statement to The Pointer, a spokesperson for the IRCC said the government was taking the “time needed” to review the process, adding it would begin the intake of new applications “as early as possible in 2020.”
The Government of Canada department confirmed that April 1, 2020 is the latest ministerial instructions would be issued relating to the intake process, meaning the delay could be as long as four months.
With communities across Mississauga and Brampton reliant on the system, The Pointer approached the area’s 11 Liberal MPs for comment. Only Sonia Sidhu (Brampton South) and Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre) provided responses.
Clockwise from the top left - Kamal Khera (Brampton West), Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre), Sonia Sidhu (Brampton South) and Ruby Sahota (Brampton North)
“We understand the importance of the parents and grandparents program for reuniting families in Canada, which is why we are taking the time to make sure we get the application process right for 2020,” Sidhu told The Pointer via email. “The timing for intake has varied from year to year [and] […] the date of this process has no effect on those who have already submitted an application.”
Sangha said he “foresees improvement and efficiency” in the program, something which the IRCC is working towards. “Hopefully things will shape up to the satisfaction of new applicants soon,” he added.
The office for Ruby Sahota (Brampton North) responded to say she was under the weather and unable to comment, while Gagan Sikand’s team (Mississauga—Streetsville) said he was “unavailable” for comment. An aid working for Kamal Khera (Brampton West) said they were unable to provide a timeline for her response “as her schedule for this week is packed due to backlogs from the holiday season.”
The remaining six elected officials did not respond by the time of publication.
Gagan Sikand (Mississauga—Streetsville)
Of the 11 MPs representing Mississauga and Brampton, Khera was front and center in the push for a new system. In March 2016, she told parliament that “family reunification is vital to my constituents.” Her statement was heard by the party leadership and in August 2018 she was one of the MPs chosen to launch the new first-come, first-served online form.
At the launch, Khera spoke to a small group of residents in her riding as she announced changes to the family reunification system. “We need to reunite families to have a better and more robust system.” A year and a half ago, Khera told residents that the system would be “fairer and easier.” Since then, she has been notably silent on the topic.
It’s not yet clear what form the changes being considered in Ottawa will take. The messaging and belated announcement imply minor tweaks rather than a full-scale overhaul, even if both are possible. Since being launched, the family reunification program has changed from a physical first-come, first-served operation to a lottery and most recently, an online queue-based system. How it changes next is anyone’s guess and will have a profound impact on thousands of families in Brampton and Mississauga waiting anxiously to bring their loved ones here.
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