It was with great frustration that I learned this week that the Canadian government plans to introduce reforms to the immigration system. This comes on the wake of two very big media events concerning immigration.
The first was when a container ship landed in Vancouver with over 2000 Sri Lankans hidden aboard, all claiming refugee status (in Canada a refugee claim grants the claimant the right to reside in the country while their case is reviewed, which can take between 3 and 5 years). As the RCMP filtered through the refugees, over 20 suspected Tamil Tiger terrorists were discovered.
The second big event, perhaps spurred on by an already hyped-up media, was the case of a young Canadian man who married a Phillipino girl and brought her back to Canada on a Permanent Residency visa (the only visa available for foreign spouses). Under the "family sponsorship class" of visa, the sponsor is financially responsible for the claimant for three years. Well, immediately upon arriving in Canada, the young man's wife promptly left him to join up with her Phillipino husband who lived in Toronto! The couple then immediately began defrauding the welfare and employment insurance systems, as well as taking out bad loans in the name of her Canadian husband. The banks and the government then sued the poor Canadian guy for over $2 million, as he was financially responsible for her!
These cases illustrate the worst that humans can do, but by no means represent the vast majority of immigrants to the nation. Like the US, Canada was founded on immigration and as the baby-boomers all stampede to retirement at the same time, it will be immigrants who stabilize the economy.
The proposed immigration reforms will include 3 year waiting periods for visa applicants of the family sponsorship class, heavily increased fees (already they hover over $1200 per application), and increased penalties on sponsors if the applicant defaults. In addition to this, the government announced plans to cut back the Ministry of Immigrations' budget!
This all bodes ill for me and my wife, as we are about to launch a family sponsorship class visa application!
The main issue here has nothing to do with immigration, and everything to do with politics. Right now in Canada's parliament the Conservative Party leads a minority government. This means that although they constitute the most seats of any one party and thus form a government, the three opposition parties (the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois) outnumber them. Under Canadian law if a government motion is struck down in Parliament, it is akin to a vote of no-confidence and a new election must be called.
With the Conservatives outnumbered and the opposition parties constantly threatening to vote down their bills, the Conservatives have been scrambling to curry favour with their conservative voting class. The recent immigration scandals in Vancouver and Toronto and the over-hyped media coverage that ensued have whipped the public up into an somewhat anti-immigrant fever, and the Tories (as the Conservatives are called) are hoping to cash in on that. Thus the sudden reform proposals. While polls show that the Conservatives may win a majority in any election, the opposition wouldn't dare topple them.
So here I sit in Russia with my Russian wife, hoping to hell that we get her visa application in before any changes are made (everything is confusing enough, and there is already a 3-14 month waiting period). So many documents need to be collected, translated and notarized. Money paid to various government agencies. 82 pages of forms filled out and couriered to Toronto.
If the Tories get their way to curry political favour, I will be stranded in Russia for 3 years, instead of having two tax-paying and home-owning citizens living in Canada. That's conservative logic for you.