The Good and the Bad: A well-rounded look at Jason Kenney’s years as Canadian Immigration Minister

In his years as Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney became implicated in the lives of ethnic communities across Canada and influenced big changes to Canadian immigration policy. Kenney’s long role at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) spanned from October 30th, 2008 to July 15th, 2013. Negative criticism predominated reviews of Canada’s immigration policy during Kenney’s half-decade term at CIC, something that should not come as a surprise considering that negative news is good news for journalists and translates into juicy and ultimately more readable content. FWCanada seeks to mediate this bias by addressing both the negative changes to immigration in Canada over the past 5 years while at the same time acknowledging some of the former Minister’s very positive reforms.

During Kenney’s time with the CIC, 1.2 million permanent residents were admitted to Canada, 115,000 refugees resettled in Canada, and 700,000 newcomers were granted Canadian citizenship.

The Good

New programs have been introduced during Kenney’s time as Canada’s Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Minister, including the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa program and the Start-Up Visa for entrepreneurs.

The Super Visa is a multiple-entry visa that allows parents and grandparents of landed immigrants in Canada to remain in the country for a maximum of two years at a time over a span of 10 years. The popular program was introduced in 2011 and has since issued 20,000 Super Visas, effectively re-connecting Canadian permanent residents and Canadian citizens with their loved ones. Changes have been made to the Canada Super Visa to ensure that landed immigrants are able to cover their parents’ and grandparents’ healthcare costs to make sure Canadian taxpayers do not feel this burden.

The Start-Up Visa is another program that was recently introduced to Canadian immigration policy and promoted heavily in Silicon Valley. The program is the first of its kind, geared toward entrepreneurs looking to start businesses in Canada rather than in the U.S., as many of these individuals are having trouble receiving green cards. By welcoming more entrepreneurial applicants more businesses will be created in Canada and will eventually stimulate more jobs for Canadians.

Jason Kenney has also been very strong with respect to personally connecting and meeting with ethnic communities in Canada. During his 5 years as the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Kenney has been a constant presence in cultural events across Canada and celebrating the country’s ethnic diversity. As he has much experience with engaging immigrant communities, Kenney will continue to hold onto part of the multiculturalism file in his new role as Minister of Employment and Social Development. Tim Uppal, now the Minister of State for Multiculturalism will be reporting to Kenney instead of the new Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

The Bad

Kenney’s approach to refugee health cuts and decreasing the age of dependent children have been two major issues to come under fire during his time as the Minister at CIC.

Government-sponsored refugees will be receiving basic provincial health care like all other Canadian tax payers. However, privately-sponsored refugees are no longer scheduled to receive these benefits. When refugees land in Canada, there is a transitional period between their arrival and when they can receive health care to verify that they are legitimate refugees and not intending to exploit the system. Unfortunately during this time many people are denied even emergency health care for a matter of months. This is an unacceptable measure that is insensitive to the needs of several refugees to Canada, particularly for vulnerable persons such as rape victims and pregnant refugee women. The Government makes allocations for individuals whose health may affect other Canadians, but should also adjust this policy to be more attentive to the emergent needs of at-risk refugees.

The CIC has also decided to lower the age of ‘dependent children’ under the family immigration category from 22 to 19, meaning that parents who are immigrating to Canada may have to leave their older children behind or their older children will have to submit separate immigration applications. This law will be bringing the system closer to that of Great Britain where the age of a dependent child is currently 18. CIC reasons that younger landed immigrants have an easier time integrating themselves into Canada economically, culturally, linguistically, and educationally.   Critics of the program censure the fact that this policy disproportionally disservices affected refugees and live-in caregivers, as both immigrant groups must typically wait longer for the Canadian permanent resident status necessary to become sponsors. Overall, this proposed change has created quite uproar in the Canadian immigration twitter community. The new minister of Citizenship and Immigration would be cautioned to research the topic further before proceeding.

The Need for Balance

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFW) has also received much criticism claiming that businesses are using the program to drive down wages or eliminate Canadian jobs altogether. However, the TFW program was initially conceived with the goal of providing swift relief to labour gaps in areas with economic booms. Some small businesses in cities such as Calgary were having trouble finding people to occupy lower-skilled jobs. These were jobs that Canadians were not interested in but were also very attractive to foreign workers. As Canada is such a large country, it understandably has several territorially-specific needs that are impossible to address through cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all policies. There can be high unemployment in one province and relatively low unemployment in other provinces. Further, inter-provincial immigration has remained quite low, therefore leaving individuals in some provinces jobless and businesses in other provinces starving for labour. A short-term solution to assisting these businesses and allowing them to continue to thrive was the TFW program. It has also become a path for foreign workers in Alberta to follow in order to apply for permanent residence and remain in Canada.

The Conservative’s immigration policy has the goal of using immigration to boost Canada’s economy and ensure Canada’s future prosperity. For this reason, immigration has been fine-tuned towards attracting skilled workers and away from family sponsorship programs. For example as provinces like Saskatchewan request an increase in their immigration quotas, the government allots them new spaces, with the condition that they restructure—or, rather, decrease—the number of their family-sponsored immigrants. Skilled immigrants and business immigrants are very important to Canada’s economy; they fill labour gaps and create businesses and jobs for Canadians. At the same time it is important to realize that bringing a newcomer’s family to Canada is also beneficial for the Canadian economy. If a person has been separated from their family for an extended period of time, for example from a wife and child, there is a high chance that they will suffer from depression due to loneliness and separation. In a paper by the Department of Economics at Warwick University titled “Happiness and Productivity”, evidence produced through experiments and control groups has shown that increased happiness levels result in higher rates of productivity. By continued promotion of family sponsorship programs newcomers will not be sending their hard earned money from Canada back to their families in their home country, they will be happier, more productive and their family will be living, spending and injecting stimulation into Canada’s economy. Overall, there needs to be a proper balance between immigration programs like the Canada Federal Skilled Worker program and the Canada Family Sponsorship Program.

About the Authour 
Sarah Mae Dalgleish is a content writer and marketing intern at FWCanada Immigration Law Firm in Montreal, Canada. Presently, she is studying International Business, French and Spanish at McGill University.

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