On October 19, 2015, Canadian citizens residing in Canada have the right to vote in the federal election. Immigration and refugee law has become a major issue in the campaign. The number of refugee that Canada will accept, especially from Syria, is a story that has captivated journalists. The issue of whether the niqab can be worn during citizenship ceremonies has been another controversial subject. But that is not all. How many parents and grandparents we allow to be sponsored, and the length of time it takes to process family class applications is another hot topic. Finally, the issue of whether or not non-resident Canadian citizens can vote in the election has also been in the news.
Never before have immigration issues taken up so much of the election. This means how you vote will affect immigration law in Canada in the months and years to come.
The following is a summary of how the major political parties stand on immigration law:
- The Liberal Party has promised to undo several changes introduced by the Conservatives. One change is to put the age of dependency back to under 22 years of age, from under 19, so that young adults can still come to Canada with their parents.
- They also plan to remove the conditional residency measure, which requires a sponsored spouse to reside with their sponsor for two years after becoming a permanent resident or their permanent residency can be revoked. Though some procedural safeguards exist, advocates are concerned that a spouse may remain in an abusive relationship for fear of being deported.
- The Liberals say they would permit 10,000 parent/grandparent permanent residency applications per year, rather than the current 5,000.
- They have promised to reduce wait times for processing family class applications by providing more funding.
For more information on the Liberals, visit their website: http://www.liberal.ca/
- Are committed to removing Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorist offences, even if born in Canada. Already this law is being appealed in the courts.
- Will continue giving Supervisas for parents and grandparents, instead of increasing the number allowed to apply for permanent residency.
- Have promised to introduce legislation banning the niqab at citizenship ceremonies, after the Federal Court of Appeal struck down a government policy on the issue. The Conservatives have appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, but their request to have the ban upheld pending the appeal was rejected.
For more information on the Conservatives, visit their website: http://www.conservative.ca/
The NPD has announced changes they would make that would affect family sponsorships:
- They would remove the current 5,000 annual cap on parent and grandparent sponsorships.
- Would move to a fully electronic application system.
- Reduce wait times family sponsorships by hiring more immigration officers (65 million additional funding promised).
- Process applications for dependent children within 6 months (the same processing time currently given to Express Entry applicants).
- They have also promised they would allow caregivers to become permanent residents upon arrival in Canada.
For more information on the New Democrats, visit their website: http://www.ndp.ca
- The Green party promises to repeal the current law that permits the Minister of Citizenship to revoke citizenship from individuals convicted of certain crimes.
- They will re-focus Canada’s immigration policy on long-term immigration instead of the short-term focus on Temporary Foreign Worker Programs.
- Have committed to amending citizenship laws so over a million people residing in Canada will have their citizenship confirmed.
- Will revoke the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act that deprives Canadians with US connections of full rights to privacy.
For more information on the Green Party, visit their website: http://www.greenparty.ca
On refugees, here is how the parties stand:
- Commit to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by September 2016 and 3,000 Iraqis this year. Since the beginning of the crisis, Canada has resettled 2,500 refugees from Syria.
- Match individual Canadian donations to the Syria Emergency Relief Fund up to 100 million.
Liberals have promised to:
- Accept 25,000 refugees from Syria by 2015 through immediate, direct sponsorship by the Government of Canada.
- Work with private sponsors to bring in additional refugees.
- Provide an immediate 100 million new contribution to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to support relief activities in Syria and the surrounding area.
The New Democratic Party has committed to:
- Restore the Interim Federal Health Program that provides limited and temporary health benefits to refugees.
- Accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year, in addition to another 36,000 over the next four years.
The Green Party would:
- Extract and transport 25,000 Syrian refugees this year and 40,000 over the next 5 years.
- Lead a national discussion to define an ‘environmental refugee’ (i.e. those fleeing natural disasters), and to include environmental refugees as a refugee category in Canada.
How will your vote affect immigration law in Canada? It won’t, at all, if you are like the 38.9 % of Canadian voters who didn’t exercise that right to vote in the last federal election. So please, take the time to vote. There are millions of people in the world who would love to have the same opportunity.
For information on how to vote, visit Elections Canada.