2018: Feeling Good

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There is a lot to love about Canadian immigration these days. Our immigration minister is the right person for the job: a refugee, a lawyer and former immigration lawyer. There is a general perception that our programs are fair yet firm (just stay off the Canada subreddit). Express Entry is ticking along nicely. You can get through to a human at IRCC and sometimes a human will respond, even use an exclamation mark here and there (massive shout-out to “Lucy” at IRCC). Whoever is running the @IRCC Twitter account has a sense of humor, previously unseen (is that you, Lucy?). Here in Nova Scotia, we have new programs and a provincial immigration office that is fast, responsive and competent. We’ve also almost finished a balmy winter worthy of Weather Smugness at least when we talk to people in Alberta and Ontario. Everything is relative here in Canada.

On the surface, it’s sunshine and roses. But of course it’s not really. There are serious, prevailing, systemic problems. And I’m not only talking about the increasing inland refugee backlog, which is due to a lack of resources and decision-makers. There are other problems, all I think at least partly related to a collective myopic-optimism that has lulled us into thinking that everything is going just fine, thank you very much.

Parent/Grandparent sponsorship: in 2017, IRCC changed this process to a lottery. But the details were never sorted out, so ineligible people could throw their names into the lottery, and throw off everyone else’s chances of getting selected. A year later, IRCC promised to tighten up the process. But when the program reopened in January 2018, it became apparent that almost nothing had changed – one optional question was added to remind people they should be eligible. Sad, sad trombones.

Caregiver program closes: On February 5, 2018, IRCC announced that the 2014 caregiver “pathway to permanent residence” pilot expires in November 2019. Over the years, it has become harder for caregivers in Canada on work permits to qualify for PR and now there is no assurance that after November 2019 there will be an option to get PR. My humble suggestion is that the NOC for caregivers get listed under the Federal Skilled Trades class to facilitate permanent residence through Express Entry, and recognize that (a) caregiving is a skilled occupation; and (b) people who take care of children and the elderly in Canada should be valued the same as anyone else, and deserve a means to obtain permanent residence, the same as butchers and bakers and candlestick makers.

No more self-employed farmers: For as long as I have been practicing law (15 years), Canada has had a self-employed permanent residence program for artists, athletes and farmers. It’s not a particularly well-used program, but is helpful especially since many immigration programs don’t easily recognize self-employment as qualifying work experience (I’m looking at you, CEC and Atlantic Immigration Pilot). As of March 10, 2018, no more farmers can go through that program. Wait, what? Wait, why?

The new and improved family class: It’s amazing to me that in December 2016 when IRCC streamlined the family class, it increased the document checklist from 3 pages to 10 pages and required that applications be submitted on paper and then later linked online, which has proven to be a vexing problem. We joke about it around the office, but for people who are doing the applications themselves, it’s incredibly confusing. Love prevails, but it can be messy.

Refugee Resettlement is too slow and numbers are too low: We were on such a roll in 2015 but since then, the numbers have dwindled. Processing times are increasing, and spots for government assisted refugees are static. IRCC recently announced 1000 more female refugees would be resettled, which is great, but a lot more should be done to bump up the quotas, streamline the process and get rid of the backlog. The 2015 situation was not a blip, it’s the new normal. Canada needs to have ongoing infrastructure and contingency plans.

Today, someone asked if I thought they would be welcome in Canada. They qualify for permanent residence and are exactly the kind of newcomer Canada is trying to attract. But they were feeling insecure about immigrating, and that everything they had read seemed so impossibly positive, there must be a catch.   I told them I thought they would be welcome here, but starting a new life anywhere is tough, even when you plan properly and things go smoothly.

It is the first time I have ever been asked that question.

So, yes, despite everything, feeling pretty good.