Delays and fees equal discrimination, law prof alleges in complaint

MontrealGazette.com – life
April 2, 2011.    By Catherine Solyom, The Gazette

The federal government is laying out a welcome mat for investors and skilled workers, but it’s slamming the door shut on parents and grandparents, says a law professor at the University of Ottawa, who has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission for discrimination based on age and family status.

Amir Attaran, who applied in 2009 to sponsor his parents to immigrate from the United States, says the long delays that face landed immigrants trying to sponsor their parents or grandparents allow the government to keep them out of the country, but still pocket $1,000 in fees.

At issue are the different delays faced by sponsors and the medical exam requirements faced by sponsorees.

It takes only 37 days for Citizenship and Immigration Canada to assess an applicant wishing to sponsor a spouse or child, but 42 months to assess someone wanting to bring over a parent or grandparent, a delay that has more than doubled over the past decade.

(According to the Immigration Department’s current estimates it takes an additional 11 to 47 months to process the permanent residence application, depending on where the parent or grandparent is applying from, Haiti now being the fastest and Argentina the slowest.)

And while all applicants for permanent residence must undergo a medical exam to ensure they will not place a heavy burden on the health-care system, since 2002 only spouses or children can undergo “upfront” medical exams when they apply, to speed up the application process.

Parents and grandparents must have their medical exam at the end of the process – five or seven or 10 years after they first applied.

Attaran’s parents are in their 70s and in good health. But eight years from now?

“It’s a trick not to let them in,” says Attaran, who says he has asked for a ruling from the Commission that will remedy the situation for all immigrants, not just himself. “It means your parents or grandparents are unlikely to be admitted while they are alive and yet they have paid for their permanent resident visa at the beginning. The government is really getting interest free loans from immigrants.”

Asked to comment on the complaint before the Human Rights Commission, Kelli Fraser, a spokesperson for CIC, replied via email:

“The Commission has not yet decided whether the matter will proceed to tribunal stage. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on this matter at this time.”

But in correspondence with the Commission, deputy minister for Immigration Neil Yeates argued among other things that such “broad policy issues” are outside the jurisdiction of the Commission.

“The Government of Canada decides how many immigrants and what type of immigrants, should be permitted to come to Canada each year. This decision is based on consideration of short and long term needs. The economy, social fabric of Canada and demographics of population are just a few examples of the broad considerations that come into play when the Cabinet approves Canada’s Immigration Plan.”

In short, says immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, “there is one immigration pie, and one knife held by one minister. The minister decides how to slice Canada’s immigration pie.”

To deal with the huge backlog of applicants – there are currently 147,769 parents and grandparents waiting to fill 11,200 spots – “you either increase the size of the pie slice going to parents, and reduce the slice going to millionaires or skilled workers, or you increase the total size of the pie.”

Attaran, who has a PhD from Oxford and a law degree from University of British, says he came back to Canada after teaching at Harvard University because he fell in love with the country and has more academic freedom here. He is just the kind of immigrant Canada is competing for.

Had he known .

“I always understood that if I wanted to, I would be able to bring my parents here and I’m very upset to see that while true in the past, this government has destroyed the system, all the while telling people ‘it’s because we like you.’

“I love Canada but am I going to give up my parents to stay here? I don’t think so.”

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