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Summary: White Paper on Immigration Revision

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The Minister’s “White Paper” proposes the general direction for the revision of Canada’s immigration legislation, following the consultative reviews of the Legislative Review Advisory Group report. This white paper is intended as the prelude to further review, and subsequent draft legislation.

A summary of the White Paper follows:

1. OBJECTIVES OF THE WHITE PAPER

The White Paper:

Proposes to establish 10 broad directions (discussed below) for future policies/ legislation based on the principles of: (a) Accountability and Transparency; (b) Supporting Family Reunification; (c) Upholding Canada’s Humanitarian Tradition; (d) Balancing Privileges and Responsibilities; (e) Enriching Canada’s Human Resources; (f) Promoting Public Safety; (g) Fairness, Effectiveness, Integrity.

2. A CLEARER, SIMPLER, MORE COHERENT ACT

The White Paper:

Proposes that the new Act would have two distinct sections: one for the immigration program and the other for the refugee protection program.

Proposes that immigration/refugee protection POLICY directions be clearly set out in understandable language, specifying: (a) Objectives of respective programs; (b) Components of respective programs; (c) Principles and policies regarding entry into, and acquiring legal status in Canada; (d) Principles for determining inadmissibility and offences in Canada.

3. STRENGTHENING PARTNERSHIPS

The White Paper:

Proposes to regularize and widen consultation with provinces/territories/municipalities, establish more structured dialogue, and engage the public on key issues.

4. STRENGTHENING FAMILY REUNIFICATION

The White Paper:

Proposes to formally recognize same sex and common-law couples.

Proposes to raise the age of dependent children from 19 to 22, and to continue to allow sponsorship of children over 22 who are full-time students and financially dependent as well as children over 22 who are dependent because they suffer from a disability.

Proposes to formally allow spouses and dependent children in Canada (who have legal status) to apply inland (currently, they are required to apply from abroad, although many routinely land from within Canada under the humanitarian and compassionate application process). At the same time, spouses and dependent children without legal status, under a removal order or inadmissible for criminal/security reasons would be obliged to apply abroad.

Proposes a reduction in the length of sponsorship for spouses and children, but also proposes establishing more effective compliance measures.

Proposes to streamline adoption applications.

5. MODERNIZING SKILLED WORKER/BUSINESS SELECTION SYSTEM

The White Paper:

Skilled Workers: Proposes to shift from current occupation-based selection model, to selecting skilled workers with sound and transferable skill sets: emphasize education and experience, while retaining language, age, job offers and personal suitability as selection factors. In assessing “Personal Suitability,” proposes that flexibility, adaptability, motivation and knowledge of Canada be emphasized.

Business Immigrants: Proposes to add a more explicit requirement for “significant business experience,” as well as education and language skills. Proposes that applicants be required to establish the origins of their funds.

Proposes language testing for expedited processing (implies interview waivers for business applicants who successfully pass optional language tests).

Proposes eliminating the family business program.

6. FACILITATING ENTRY OF SKILLED WORKERS/STUDENTS

The White Paper:

Current system takes too long, as applicants are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Proposes to implement more projects similar to the current Software Development Workers Pilot Project and the Spousal Pilot Project.

Proposes introducing more efficient and streamlined process.

Proposes that Government will respect industry request to streamline the application for workers in particular sectors, in exchange for employers committing to human resource development in those sectors.

Proposes to make efficient, consistent and transparent processing of students a high priority.

8. STRENGTHENING REFUGEE PROTECTION

The White Paper:

Proposes: (a) Shifting balance towards protection rather than ability to settle successfully; (b) New procedures for speedy reunion of families; (c) Working closely with NGO’s in pre-screening and resettling refugees; (d) Ensuring entry of urgent protection cases; (e) Centralizing powers in the Immigration and Refugee Board; (f) Streamlining process.

9. MAINTAINING SAFETY OF CANADIAN SOCIETY

The White Paper:

Proposes: (a) Enhancing interdiction through expanding network of control officers; (b) Increasing integrity of system by better defining who is not admissible, better addressing problem of improperly documented arrivals, enhance capacity to remove people, providing additional consequences for contravention of the Act; (c) Creating new classes of inadmissible people: members of a government against which Canada has approved sanctions pursuant to a resolution of the UN (or a similar NGO), people smugglers, people who make false declarations on their applications for permanent residence; (d) Addressing problem of improperly documented arrivals through: increased disembarkation checks at airports, improving security features of visa/travel documents, removing current restrictions on prosecuting people who aid and abet illegal migration, working with other countries to develop data on illegal migration; (e) Enhancing removal capacity by: carrying out removal orders ASAP, transferring removal power from Refugee Board to visa officers in uncontested/straightforward criminal cases, authorizing Refugee Board to continue hearings even where the person concerned is absent (where proper notice has been given); (f) Imposing additional sanctions such as: seizure/forfeiture of assets of people smugglers, stiffer penalties for inadmissible people who repeatedly return to Canada without authorization, new offence for people who alter or counterfeit any immigration document, new offence for representatives who assist applicants obtain admission through fraud/misrepresentation (increasing maximum prison term and fine), increasing penalty for fraud/misrepresentation; (g) Negotiating agreements with other states for sharing of information on security issues; (h) Changing current provisions which require transportation companies to provide detention for people ordered removed: government would provide the facilities in exchange for payment from transportation companies; (i) Consulting with federal/provincial health officials to improve medical surveillance process, including tracking and enforcement.

10. IMPROVING EFFECTIVENESS OF APPEAL SYSTEM

The White Paper:

Proposes: (a) Retaining the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigrant and Refugee Board for appeals against removal orders and refusals of immigrant applications by a sponsored dependent; (b) Eliminating review by Immigration Appeal Division for removal orders for serious criminals (judicial review by Federal Court would still be available) or less serious criminals who commit a subsequent offence; (c) Introducing requirement for leave to appeal visa decisions in the Federal Court; (d) Eliminating review by Immigration Appeal Division for sponsorship applications that have been refused on financial grounds (and introducing a new measure to allow sponsors to reapply once their finances improve without having to incur the full cost of a new application).

11. REFOCUSING DISCRETIONARY POWERS

The White Paper:

Proposes: (a) Defining (in the Regulations) situations where humanitarian/compassionate situations have become the norm (e.g.: spouses of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who represent 11,000 of 15,000 people landed in 1997 for humanitarian/compassionate grounds); (b) Limiting access to humanitarian/compassionate decision making process to period immediately following a negative decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board; (c) Denying access to humanitarian/compassionate applications to: war criminals/crimes against humanity, people who are a danger to national security, members of criminal organizations, members of governments who engage in systemic or gross violations of human rights, people convicted of serious crimes; (d) Reserving Minister’s Permit for actual personal decisions by the Minister and using other mechanisms where discretionary authority is delegated; (e) Transferring from Governor in Council to the Minister the authority to grant landing to a person who has held a Minister’s Permit for 5 years; (f) Widening the range of inadmissible people to whom discretionary entry could be granted.

12. CONCLUSION

Although the White Paper recognizes that Canada’s immigration policy has been important in shaping the country, and that immigration will continue to be important for Canada’s place globally, there are certain issues which may be concerning. There is little mention of the other legislative issues which are currently being implemented in relation to Canada’s immigration policies, such as the amendment of the Citizenship Act, and revision of the Immigrant Investor program.

There is also no mention on the position which will be adopted regarding immigration consultants, the live-in-caregiver program, and the Self Employed category.

Concern has also been raised in the placement of the discretionary authority in the immigration process, and the room for flexibility in the application process.

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