Minister Targets Immigrants Again: More Punitive Changes to Sponsorship and Citizenship Process

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Editor – Revista Encuentro

The controversial Canadian Immigration has announced a further change to the immigration system that will require sponsored spouses to live with their sponsor for two years or risk losing their permanent resident status and face deportation.

“There are countless cases of marriage fraud across the country,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney in a news release today. “I have consulted widely with Canadians, and especially with victims of marriage fraud, who have told me clearly that we must take action to stop this abuse of our immigration system.”

Meanwhile, a group representing more than 80 organizations from across Canada who have opposed the introduction of conditional permanent residence, responded to the announcement with dismay.

The Canadian Council for Refugees President Loly Rico voiced concern that these changes “give power to the sponsor who may use the threat of deportation to manipulate their spouse. In situations of domestic abuse or violence, this measure will be a gift to an abuser”.  With these changes, a spouse who leaves their sponsor within two years of arrival in Canada for reasons of domestic abuse, could be stripped of permanent resident status and deported.

This is the latest in a string of changes to the immigration policies of Canada under the Harper Conservatives, particularly since they obtained a majority government.  Many civil society organizations have continually expressed concern about the purpose of these changes, which continue to make immigration into Canada inaccessible.  The most notable of these changes include:

  • Bill C-31, the so-called the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, gives the government the power to detain refugees including women and children with no judicial oversight granting the immigration minister numerous arbitrary powers such as being able to designate so-called “safe countries” which means refugees from those nations will stand little chance to obtain refugee status, will have no right to appeal and will also mean that those who have been granted refugee status from those countries in previous years could lose their permanent residency and be deported.  Moreover, this Bill eliminated most medical attention for refugee claimants, despite the unprecedented protests from doctors and care practitioners.
  • an additional requirement starting on November 1st which will require citizenship applicants to demonstrate knowledge of English by presenting certification from particular language courses for applicants.  These courses could imply significant costs for applicants.
  • The implementation of a new wage structure for foreign, temporary workers announced by Kenny and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley which decreased wages by 15 per cent less than the average wage for these workers.

Militant for the Latino social organization Barrio Nuevo, Luis Granados said “there is an obvious intention on the part of the Canadian government, to make coming and staying in this country difficult unless you are wealthy or unless you are willing to be exploited”.  Granados added that the Latin American community needs to organize, particularly with other working class communities and organizations, to confront these policies that “attack the rights of immigrants and workers, which are the rights of all humans.”

[Versión española]

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