Colour of Poverty Campaign
April 13, 2011/Toronto - Community groups concerned with racialized communities, and immigrant and refugee communities expressed disappointment at the discussion of immigration issues during the televised leaders debate held yesterday.
“Families are important to all Canadians, regardless of where they were born and the delays in family reunification are a serious concern for us all. I did not hear any real discussion of these concerns during yesterday's debate” said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. “Family reunification is one of the pillars of our immigration system. We want to know what the leaders will do to reduce the delays and make the process fair and equitable for all Canadians who wish to reunite with family members”, she added.
“Canadians of Asian background in particular have been expressing concerns about the shrinking quota for family class sponsorship for parents and grandparents and the long delay in the processing of these applications,” said Avvy Go, Clinic Director of Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. “We want the leaders to address how they plan to reduce the delay in family reunification and to make permanent immigration, not temporary workers, a priority for Canada,” she said.
The community groups, which have come together through shared work in the Colour of Poverty Campaign, also expressed deep disappointment with the language of ‘very ethnic vote' used by candidates and media in their coverage of the federal election.
“This language is very divisive and does little to unite Canadians around the issues that concern us. I am deeply disappointed at the lack of discussion and lack of coverage on important issues like immigration or the economy, issues that affect all ethno-racial communities in Canada. Our communities deserve to be treated as more than just a vote and their issues deserve serious consideration by those running for public office”, said Shalini Konanur, Executive Director of South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.
The Colour of Poverty Campaign asks the political parties to respond to concerns regarding family reunification:
Families are important to all Canadians, regardless of where they were born. And regardless of their background, all Canadians consider parents and grandparents an important part of their family. Just before the election, the Canadian Government proposed to cut by 40% the number of parents and grandparents we are allowed to successfully sponsor (from 16,200 permanent resident visas last year to 11,200 visas in 2011). In 2003, parents and grandparents represented 8.8% of all immigration. In 2010 they represented 5.4% and this will drop even further in 2011.
Historically Canada's immigration laws and policies have not treated all immigrants equally. Examples of unequal immigration policies include the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act which discriminated against immigrants from China, and the Continuous Passage Act of 1908 to deter immigration from India. Differential treatment continues under Canada's immigration law today. Applications from some parts of the world (e.g. Europe) are processed relatively quickly while applicants from countries in Asia, Africa, Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean find that it takes many years to reunite with parents and grandparents. In responding to these concerns, the federal government recently said that they will approve a higher quota of applications at some visa posts, but not in others which also have massive delays.
What will your party to do reduce the family reunification delay that disproportionately affect Canadians with a racialized background, and make the process accessible and equitable?
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For more information contact:
Avvy Go, Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic: 416.971.9676
Amy Casipullai, OCASI: 416.524.4950 (cell)