Immigration Changes Pose Risk, Critics Say

Immigration changes pose risk, critics say

Richard Brennan
Mar 15, 2008 04:30 AM

OTTAWAThe Conservative government has introduced changes that would give sweeping powers to the federal immigration minister, which critics fear would slam the door on many would-be Canadians.

The Tories' budget implementation act, introduced yesterday, contains a small section that amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to ensure the “processing of applications and requests” is done in a way that “will best support the attainment of immigration goals” set by the government.

“Our government has two objectives. The first is to bring more newcomers here to fill the jobs and be reunited with their families. The second is to do it faster,” Immigration Minister Diane Finley told the Commons yesterday.

The Conservative first hinted at the pending changes in the Feb. 26 federal budget. According to the budget, the government wants to establish a “just-in-time” immigration system to “quickly process” skilled immigrants and allow them to make an “immediate contribution to the economy.”

Critics fear this kind of selection process will slam the door on people wanting to reunite with their families, or others who don't have a specific skill.

New Democrat MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) said she fears the government's intention is to bring in cheap temporary labour under the guise of boosting its immigration numbers.

Chow also complained that the government buried “huge” amendments inside a large budget bill.

“It gives the immigration minister the absolute power to determine the number of applications and she doesn't have to bring it to the House of Commons for debate or a vote.”

Chow said if the government wants to end the backlog in immigrant applications, it should hire more people to staff the visa offices overseas and “relax the point system so more immigrants can come in.”

With files from Bruce Campion-Smith