“Chain Migration” and the Importance of Language

The most recent controversy stemming from the Twitter account of the-president-who-shall-not-be-named related to “chain migration”. This refers to immigrants who seek to gain points or favour with the destination country based on their personal connections to people residing or connected to that country. The idea is that the citizens or residents are creating a “chain” to help bring members of their personal networks to the country and thereby circumvent or undermine the application process. In Canada, we would call this “family reunification” and it is explicitly stated as one of the Objectives within immigration law.

Subsection 3(1)(d) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) states that one of the Objectives of Canadian immigration law is “to see that families are reunited in Canada”. This is an underlying aspect of Canadian law and it is often cited at Federal Court. This objective can also be found in the points calculation for Provincial Nominee Program applications where foreign nationals are awarded significant benefit for having friends, family members or relatives in the province. In fact, the Manitoba program, the MPNP program, was relaunched in 2015 in order to highlight personal connections to the province. The province dramatically increased the amount of points awarded to foreign nationals in Manitoba and abroad because they recognize that unifying family members in a positive.

In my view, “chain migration” and “family reunification” stem from the same principle. This is the principle that connecting people are at the heart of immigration. It seems that our neighbours, or perhaps only the leader of our neighbours, does not see this principle as a benefit to his country. In his words, “CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!”

Along similar lines, the language used for refugee claimants in Canada is also distinct. In general, we follow the language from international law and we describe the refugee claimants who are walking across the border as entering by “irregular” means; whereas, our southern neighbours regularly describe the same behaviour as “illegal”. I will say that I often correct or explain the difference to reporters. Language matters.

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