‘People will die before they come to this land’

Ottawa clamps down on visas for elders trying to join immigrant families here

Charan Gill is executive director of the Surrey-based Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society.

A federal plan to sharply reduce the number of family reunification visas issued this year threatens to keep immigrants from being joined by aging parents and grandparents who may die overseas before they can come to Canada.

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said Immigration Canada targets he has obtained under Access to Information show Ottawa intends to grant just 11,200 visas for parents and grandparents to join family in Canada in 2011 – a 40 per cent drop from 16,200 issued last year.

With more than 140,000 applicants seeking such family reunification visas, Kurland said it implies wait times will more than double to 13 years, longer than many of the overseas elders may live.

Charan Gill, executive director of the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS), said many immigrant families in Surrey and across the Lower Mainland will be upset by the change.

“There’s no point in processing many of these applications any more,” he said. “People will die before they come to this land.”

Gill called it a serious reversal of Canada’s traditionally humanitarian policy of accommodating the reunification of families here.

“This policy is really anti-immigrant,” he said. “They’re segregating the families.”

Chinese applicants should not have as much difficulty – the targets show the number of elder visas earmarked for Beijing will more than double from 1,000 to 2,650 this year.

But for Indo-Canadians seeking to bring parents and grandparents home, it’s a different story.

New Delhi, the hub for all applications from India, gets 2,500 visas this year, down 45 per cent from 4,500 in 2010.

And the number of German visas is slashed from 80 to five, with similar steep reductions for Turkey and Romania.

Gill said the new direction doesn’t recognize the fact elders brought here to live with family often help with child care, saving expenses and enabling one spouse of a family to go back into the workforce.

Families will be hurt economically and culturally, he said, noting grandparents are key to helping instill heritage and cultural values in children.

Kurland believes the decision to clamp down on reunification visas is about money, specifically the potential cost to Canada of aging relatives who arrive here and soon become a financial burden on the medical system.

He proposes Ottawa consider a new option to address that problem.

Elder applicants could be assessed overseas and actuaries could estimate the amount of medical premiums required to cover 15 years worth of their anticipated medical costs in Canada.

Families could then choose to pay that as a lump sum – eliminating the health care cost to Canada from the equation – in order to have the parents come here without a wait, Kurland suggested.

In many cases, he said, members of the extended family from around the world could pool their finances to support the move.

While Gill fears the reduced allocation of elder visas is permanent, Kurland said it may be just a one-year reduction to enable government politicians to trumpet a subsequent “increase” back to normal levels in a possible 2012 election year.

Immigration Canada spokesperson Melanie Carkner denied higher health care costs are the reason for the lower 2011 visa targets.

“We’ve opted to put children and spouses first,” Carkner said, adding they, along with refugees, will have access to more visas this year.

She downplayed the importance of the targets, saying they can be adjusted throughout the year as necessary.

Just Posted

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by Chilliwack animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for both the shelter and municipal election

VIDEO: Education Minister talks SOGI 123 and the Chilliwack school board election

He said people are making ‘noise about side issues but student safety is important’

Chilliwack athletes win provincial titles at Cultus Lake Triathlon

Close to 700 athletes competed in several distances, with action starting at Cultus Lake Park.

Chilliwack Chiefs add defenceman Alexander Marrocco

Marrocco is the younger brother of PJ Marrocco, a forward from last spring’s RBC Cup champions.

Rally in the Valley in Chilliwack to talk stewardship

It’s an event to connect interested locals with groups making a difference with species at risk

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

B.C. cannabis producer Tilray hits at $20-billion high as stock price explodes

This is the first export of a cannabis product from a Canadian company to the U.S.

VIDEO: Vehicle explodes in Pitt Meadows

Man taken to hospital with burns to his face.

NDP tax increases adding up for B.C. residents: study

Carole James says Fraser Institute analysis ignores tax relief

‘Sesame Street’ wants to clarify: Bert and Ernie aren’t gay

The characters are best friends and have many human traits but “remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation”

Province announces 74 new French teaching spots at SFU, UBC

Needed to fill demand for increasingly popular French immersion programs in B.C.

B.C. Rural Party co-founder rebukes pro-NDP accusation

Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen disputes being NDP campaign supporter

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

Most Read