Hello, good afternoon, and thank you.
My name is Rupaleem Bhuyan. I'm a researcher and professor in social work at the University of Toronto. I'm here today as the lead researcher on the Migrant Mothers Project, but also as a social work educator and a recent immigrant to Canada.
Since 2011, the Migrant Mothers Project has conducted research on access to social and health services for immigrants who have a temporary or precarious status. We work with a network of service providers, legal advocates, immigrants who are directly impacted by our research, as well as policy-makers.
Today I want to focus my remarks on research that we have been conducting with sponsored spouses and their partners, as well as people working in Canada's caregiver program.
The right to be with family is foundational to Canadian ideals and equality. Although family reunification has been a central component of Canadian immigration for decades, the right to be reunited with family has been significantly eroded for recent immigrants, especially the hundreds of thousands who enter Canada as migrant workers.
Canada currently extends differential rights to people based on their purported skill level and the kind of work they do, in ways that are antithetical to Canada's commitment to equality and fairness. I ask you as members of Parliament to consider—and you probably have been doing so throughout this study—the long-term impacts on a society that deems some people worthy to live with and raise their children, while a growing number of people do not deserve to do so.
A key concern we would like to raise today stems from the long processing times and bureaucratic hurdles that people are faced with when sponsoring their relatives or applying for permanent residence as migrant workers in Canada.
I'm appearing here today with Ma Lean Garente, who will be sharing, from her own experience, her family's struggle with the caregiver program due to long processing times after her mother was eligible for applying for permanent residence as a caregiver.
In a letter dated May 2 this year, advocates working with Ma Lean from Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office submitted a brief to Minister McCallum that estimated that 38,000 caregivers and their families are currently waiting to be reunited in Canada. The IRCC website reported recently an average of 51 months of processing time for permanent resident applications for caregivers. Imagine waiting for a month or two months or more than four years for an application to be processed while you are separated from your children and your spouse.
It is my understanding that the minister has committed to prioritizing live-in caregiver applications that were submitted in 2010 and 2011. While we believe this is an important first step, it's also crucial that the applications received before 2010 be addressed in a timely manner. We recently learned in our research that some caregivers who applied in 2015 have already received permanent residence, whereas those who applied earlier, in 2009 and 2010, are having to wait up to five to six years. This disparity, we believe, needs to be addressed, certainly with more resources provided for application processing.
We also join many advocates who urge the committee to reconsider some of the basic terms of the caregiver program. Many advocates in this program call for permanent residence upon arrival and urge that they be able to bring their family with them when they move to Canada. We also believe that many caregivers working in Canada should have their applications expedited to reduce the wait times, so that they may be reunited with their family members.
I also have remarks that we'd like to present today regarding conditional permanent residence, which is a different area of our research. Just last Friday the IRCC posted their draft regulations to repeal conditional permanent residence, which was a period imposed on sponsored spouses and their partners, newly sponsored spouses having to reside in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor for two years before the condition would be removed.
Since 2014, our project has been collaborating with partners in Alberta and Ontario to examine the impacts of conditional permanent residence. We understand that on average 25% to 35% of newly sponsored spouses have been receiving this condition. We also have been identifying concerns related to domestic violence in cases in which sponsored spouses are afraid to or worry about leaving their spouse or seeking safety because of its potentially jeopardizing their immigration status.
We applaud this proposal to repeal conditional PR. We also encourage the committee to consider some of the unprecedented support this new policy measure has introduced. At the time of creating conditional permanent residence, immigration also created an exception for victims of abuse and neglect. Although the process for applying for this exception had some bumps in the road, we've learned through our research that it has improved. IRCC reported that 436 requests were received from applicants who were requesting an exception to their condition on their status due to abuse or neglect, and more than 75% were approved and were submitted by women.
For us, this was an important role that the Canadian immigration policy is playing to support sponsored immigrants who may be abused by their sponsor. Though conditional PR will be repealed, we hope, we believe this is an opportunity for the committee to consider how other immigrants who are being abused by their sponsor could be supported by the Canadian government. We believe it's possible to extend an exception program for those who were sponsored as parents, grandparents, children or sponsored spouses waiting in Canada for their application to be processed, a time that takes up to two years. Immigrants who are in these relationships may be experiencing abuse from their sponsor in ways that jeopardize their safety, and we encourage the committee to consider using—