Tories hate your grandparents…unless they are rich
Family class immigrants drop twenty percent under Conservative government and, as sponsorship rules change, family is privilege for the wealthy.
Family Reunification: The number of family-class immigrants dropped by 20 percent in the first five years of Conservative government. Most parents and grandparents can now only arrive on a temporary visitor Super Visa, which requires the purchase of private Canadian healthcare insurance. Many spouses have to come on a conditional sponsorship, and older children cannot be sponsored. The income threshold for all family sponsorships has increased, making family reunification a privilege for the wealthy.
The federal government has created a harder process and longer timelines to sponsor family members. Karen Talosig, for example, is a registered nurse from the Philippines who came to Canada in 2007 as a live-in caregiver. After qualifying for permanent residency, she submitted an application that included her daughter Jazmine. While waiting five years for a response, she worked 80 hours a week as a caregiver in four different jobs. In May 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada sent Karen a letter saying her daughter has been found “medically inadmissible” to join her in Canada because she is deaf.
The number of family-class immigrants dropped by 14,000, or 20 percent, between 2006 and 2011. According to Avvy Yao-Yao Go, Director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, “Thirty years ago, family-class immigrants made up the majority of all immigrants. Today, they account for less than 20 percent of the total intake.”
The Tories hate your grandparents
The federal government imposed a complete two-year moratorium on reunification with parents or grandparents from November 2011 to January 2014. Then in 2014, they instituted a quota of 5,000 applications (not acceptances) on the sponsorship of parents and grandparents. This quota was reached within one month and the application process was closed from February 2014 to January 2015, when it re-opened again for 5,000 applications. The government also imposed a 30 percent increase in income requirements over a longer period to qualify, and families are financially responsible for 20 years (up from ten years) if their parents or grandparents go on social assistance.
As an alternative to family sponsorship, the government is lauding its new “Super Visa” initiative, a temporary visa that allows a successful applicant to stay up to two years in Canada as a visitor. It also requires the pre-purchase of private Canadian health insurance, which can cost more than $5,000 and opens the door towards the privatization of healthcare. Approval rates for this Super Visa are substantially higher for applicants from the US and Europe than for those in many countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
All this makes family reunification a privilege for the wealthy and those from Western countries.
All this makes family reunification a privilege for the wealthy and those from Western countries, preventing thousands of low-income, racialized children from meeting their grandparents. It also furthers poverty for low-income immigrant families who are unable to afford childcare and typically rely on grandparents to assist with domestic labour.
Sponsorship of spouses and children
Recently an internal training guide, developed in 2007 for visa officers who determine spousal sponsorships, was leaked. According to the guide, red flags in a spousal sponsorship application were Chinese nationals marrying non-Chinese, small wedding receptions, an uneducated Canadian with a low-paying job or on welfare trying to sponsor a foreign spouse, a list of countries where fraud is apparently common, couples who are not depicted kissing on the lips in their wedding photos, and applicants deemed not compatible in age, physical appearance and values.
For example, Citizenship and Immigration Canada asked Maria Canella and Kurtis Lee Boulianne for more proof that their marriage is legitimate even after they filed 532 pages of emails, photos, cards, love letters and FaceTime logs as part of their spousal sponsorship application. According to the Toronto Star, the 532-page “proof of relationship” they filed included: six pages of wedding receipts, 18 pages of congratulatory wedding cards, 30 pages of wedding photos, 21 pages of plane tickets, 39 pages of emails, 29 pages of cards and love letters, 57 pages of Facebook history, 36 pages of Skype and FaceTime records and 137 pages of iMessage chat logs. And the request for more evidence didn’t just come once, but twice.
There are additional barriers to reunifying with partners or children:
- As of August 2014, children over the age of 18 can no longer come as a dependent family member. This means that children above the age of 18 must submit an application for permanent residency independent of their parents. Younger women are disproportionately impacted, as they are less likely to qualify for the income and educational threshold.
Conditional residency makes immigrant women more vulnerable, as their legal status is contingent on staying with abusive partners.
- Sponsored spouses, where the couple has been together for less than two years and have no children together, must now arrive on a two-year conditional probation residency. If during those two years the relationship ends, the sponsored spouse can lose their permanent residency status and be deported. Conditional residency makes immigrant women more vulnerable, as their legal status is contingent on staying with abusive partners.
- In-Canada applicants now have to wait 11 months — up from six months — to get past the first stage, which, if approved, will let the non-citizen spouse work in Canada and access health care. In the meantime, spouses are left with no full access to healthcare and with stresses from the inability to work.