It’s fairer and smarter than the new lottery process.
MISSISSAUGA, ONT.—For the Canadian government to reach its annual quota of visas for parents and grandparents (PGP), which in 2017 was 10,000, prospective sponsors are required to file basic information about themselves during the first 30 days of the year on an online “interest to sponsor” form.
From these, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) randomly selects those to be invited to submit completed sponsorship applications within 90 days.
The random selection “lottery process” has caused considerable concern across the country, as evident from the 1,863 signatories to a petition tabled by Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara in the House of Commons in May.
In its supplementary report to the House Immigration Committee’s March report on family reunification, the New Democratic Party also expressed concern that “The notion that whether or not you get to be reunited with family is based on [luck] of the draw is a deeply troubling one. No other immigration stream is based on luck.”
The petition presented by Mr. Tabbara called upon the immigration minister to repeal the current procedure until a more comprehensive plan can be formulated. “[The] lottery system mocks a very serious family issue of reunification,” it said.
In his response tabled in June, the minister simply repeated that “the random selection process levels the playing field so that all interested Canadian citizens and permanent residents have an equal chance of being selected to have their application to sponsor their parents or grandparents accepted for processing.”
The government fails to recognize that the “equal chance of being selected” makes the procedure unfair, as it fails to take into account the differing circumstances of prospective immigrants.
Equally important, the lottery system fails to meet the family-reunification goals to which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alluded during the last election campaign: “Making it easier for families to be together here in Canada makes more than just economic sense. When Canadians have added supports like family involvement in child care, it helps productivity and drives economic growth and it brings in skilled workers we need so badly.”
These objectives can’t be met through an open lottery system. They must take into account differences in relevant capabilities of the sponsored family members and the needs of their sponsors.
For instance, grandparents who have no grandchildren needing child care would not have the same impact on the Canadian economy as those who can contribute to child care of grandchildren that may enable the non-working parent to re-enter the labour force. Giving them an equal chance of being selected is neither fair for the family nor is it in the best interests of Canada.
To fix this drawback, Canada could base the parents and grandparents selection on a points system similar to the one the country pioneered in the mid-1960s for selecting applicants eligible for applying as economic migrants.
Those wishing to apply as economic migrants are given points according to characteristics such as education, age, and language proficiency. Those planning to apply are advised not to if their total score falls below a certain minimum.
Similarly, for the parent/grandparent program, prospective applicants can be given points for relevant individual and family circumstances. In March, the Immigration Committee’s report on family reunification documented the positive and negative impacts of PGP immigration. This assessment could serve as the basis for a points system.
Here are some main characteristics of the sponsored to be taken into account, and the rationale for including them:
- Age (as a general indicator of active status);
- Proportion of offspring in Canada (will entry really contribute to family reunification?);
- Number of grandchildren under six years old in Canada (possibilities of contributing to child care);
- Proficiency in official language (extent of risk of isolation in Canada);
- Assets and pension transferable to Canada (likelihood of financial independence).
The government should consider setting up a multi-disciplinary expert panel to devise a comprehensive points system. A minimum score should be specified and prospective applicants advised not to apply if their score falls below it. This would reduce the application load.
The highest scoring 10,000 above the specified minimum should then be invited to submit completed applications.
An added advantage would be that if in any year some applicants are not approved for entry, the next highest scorers could be immediately invited to submit applications to fill the gap. This would avoid the long process of those in the waiting list being put through another round of lottery, as was done this year.
Ghazy Mujahid, a former United Nations population policy adviser, serves on the board of the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens’ Organizations, and is an affiliate of the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement and a research associate with York University’s Centre for Asian Research. The Hill Times