There is no doubt that our current government has been busy since November 4th and, as an immigration lawyer, the change in rhetoric (and action!) has been like a zephyr warming up the winter blues. I still have clients mention to me that they saw the Prime Minister at the airport greetings refugees. (In photos, not live. He did not grace the Winnipeg airport with his presence.) Well done, PMJT! And now Minister John McCallum announced that they will be looking to change the loan repayment rules for refugees so that they are fair. Another move in the right direction.
The above actions should not be trivialized and there are certainly positive changes to come. At some point, however, Minister McCallum and the government need to turn its collective mind to legislative immigration reform. There are many sections of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), its Regulations and the Citizenship Act that simply need to be amended or repealed. Here is a list of low-hanging fruit:
- Amend or repeal the changes to the Citizenship Act (Bill C-24) which created “second-class” citizens and, in my view, is antithetical to what it means to be Canadian. Mitch Goldberg rightly pointed out that the provisions put every Canadian Jew at risk.
- Reversing the change in age of a “dependent child” in section 2 of IRPA. Previously, the definition took into account the reality that students in full-time studies over the age of 19 remain dependent upon their parents.
- Amend or repeal the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act which has, in too many cases, transferred the burden of assessing whether a Permanent Resident should be allowed to stay in Canada (often with his/her family) from a tribunal that could hear testimony and properly assess the circumstances to a CBSA Officer who mostly concerned with enforcement.
- Amend or repeal the 1 year ban on filing Humanitarian & Compassionate (H&C) applications for failed refugee claimants. It has become very clear that there are significant cases where individuals may fail to meet the oft-high bar of satisfying a Member they are refugees (per sections 96 or 97 of IRPA) but, at the same time, there is significant hardship to merit a successful H&C application.
- Make the Open Spousal Work Permit permanent. After its first year, it was clearly a huge success. Many couples in Canada from benefited from the program and, in a small way, the Canadian economy has benefited. Instead of extending the “pilot program” into a second year, just make it permanent.
The list is short, with broad public support, so it seems fitting to call it “low hanging fruit”. I believe Minister McCallum was on the Standing Committee that considered Bill C-24 so he is well-acquainted with the issues on that point. In addition, the above changes would mean significant immigration reform that would have a positive impact on many individuals, including Canadian citizens (who are often unaware of immigration law), Permanent Residents of Canada and other people. Minister McCallum can pick this fruit, win some advocates and muster up momentum to tackle some of the more thorny issues (off the top of my head: LMIA, EE, s.34(1)(f), DCOs, s.117(9)(d), etc.). I will leave my comments on these for future posts.