Refugees, Siblings, Spouses and Grandparents Jump to Head of Queue - New Canadian Media

Refugees, Siblings, Spouses and Grandparents Jump to Head of Queue

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given his Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship a list of top priorities to work on in the coming months.…

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given his Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship a list of top priorities to work on in the coming months.

While leading efforts to resettle 25,000 refugees in the coming months was number one on the list, John McCallum was also asked to work with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to repeal provisions in the Citizenship Act [Bill c 24] that gave government the right to strip citizenship from dual nationals.

These goals were set out in a mandate letter sent to McCallum along with similar ones to each of the 29 other cabinet ministers. The initiative is seen as part of the Prime Minister’s promise to provide open and transparent governance.

The letter to McCallum did not provide any details about the refugee resettlement efforts, stating: “Lead government-wide efforts to resettle 25,000 refugees from Syria in the coming months.” On Thursday, the minister had said he and the rest of the cabinet had a “very good discussion” on providing “quick and substantial help to some of the most distressed people on the planet.”

While the priorities draw heavily on the Liberal’s election platform commitments, McCallum was told that his overarching goal will be “to reopen Canada’s doors to welcome those who want to contribute to its success.”

Refugee health care

Another priority listed in the letter is full restoration of the Interim Federal Health Program that provides limited and temporary health benefits to refugees and refugee claimants.

McCallum had said that the Harper government’s 2012 decision to cut refugee health care was “economically foolish” and ended up costing more in the long run.

“It might have saved a few dollars for the federal government, but people who are really sick don’t just die in the streets. They go to the emergency (rooms) and hospitals, and the cost of that is greater than the cost of what they would have received alternatively,” McCallum told CTV.

McCallum had said that the Harper government’s 2012 decision to cut refugee health care was “economically foolish” and ended up costing more in the long run.

Family reunification

On the family reunification front, the mandate letter talks of bringing forward a proposal to double the number of entry applications for parents and grandparents of immigrants to 10,000 a year as part of the Annual Immigration Levels Plan for 2016.

It also spells out giving additional points under the Entry Express system for applicants who have Canadian siblings and increasing the maximum age for dependents to 22, from 19, to allow more immigrants to bring their children to Canada.

McCallum was asked to bring forward a proposal regarding permanent residency for new spouses entering Canada and develop a plan to reduce application processing times for sponsorship, citizenship and other visas.

He was also asked to establish an expert human rights panel to help him determine designated countries of origin (from where refugee applications will be discouraged), and provide a right to appeal refugee decisions for citizens from these countries.

Caregiver Program

Modifying the temporary foreign workers program to eliminate the $1,000 Labour Market Impact Assessment fee to hire caregivers was another priority on the list. McCallum was told to work with provinces and territories to develop a system of regulated companies to hire caregivers on behalf of families.

The Caregiver Program had come under fire by the previous government for its alleged misuse as a proxy family-reunification program.

McCallum was told that his overarching goal will be “to reopen Canada’s doors to welcome those who want to contribute to its success.”

But given Canada’s ageing population and the program’s appeal to both caregivers and families, Ratna Omidvar, the executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange, had in a column suggested that “rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” the government should retain the program and strengthen its integrity.

Omidvar said the government itself could become the first player in recruitment, assessing candidates to create a pool of qualified caregivers in the same way it was proposing to create a pool of job-ready skilled immigrants.

Other mandates for McCallum included him leading efforts to facilitate the temporary entry of low-risk travelers, including business visitors, and lifting the visa requirement for Mexico.

Also telegraphed were restoring the credit given to international students for half of the time that they spend in Canada and not requiring new citizens to sign a declaration that they intend to reside in Canada.

In his letter, the Prime Minister said the government’s agenda will be further articulated through Cabinet discussions and in the Speech from the Throne when Parliament opens.

Ranjit is a Toronto-based writer with interest in Canadian civic affairs, immigration, the environment and motoring. Maytree and Al Jazzera English alumnus.