On behalf of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon.
The pandemic has dramatically changed the way governments carry out their businesses and has led to some positive outcomes in the context of immigration, including much faster processing times for certain types of applications, as well as fewer detentions and removals. However, COVID-19 has also exposed and exacerbated pre-existing inequities in the immigration system, which are felt most harshly by members of racialized communities and people with precarious immigration status. Despite numerous emergency measures being put in place by the federal government, many of these issues remain unaddressed. Here are a few examples.
Parent and grandparent sponsorship continues to be subject to an arbitrary quota. The MNI requirement continues to deny racialized Canadians, especially women, an opportunity for family reunification due to the racialization of poverty in Canada.
The vulnerability of migrant workers has been laid bare by this pandemic, yet governments have been slow to implement measures to protect them from further exploitation and harm.
Domestic violence incidents have skyrocketed, particularly among women who are trapped in abusive relationships due to their immigration status, many of whom are denied status under the pilot project specifically created for family violence victims.
The government continues to use immigration status as a gateway requirement to access federal benefits and refuses to extend Canada child benefits to children, including those born in Canada, based on their parents' immigration status.
There are delays in almost all immigration and refugee programs, with a concern that dependent children will age out and become ineligible to be sponsored later on.
Also, processing times around the world are still not equitable, especially for countries with a significant racialized population.
On the refugee side, the travel ban has meant a complete shutdown of our borders to asylum seekers. Also, disappointingly, the federal government has appealed the Federal Court decision declaring the Canada-U.S. safe third country agreement unconstitutional.
Finally, while the government has made a welcome announcement to address the political crisis in Hong Kong, the five-year open work permit is available only for those with a university degree, thereby excluding a vast majority of pro-democracy Hong Kong activists.
The government mantra of “build back better” must apply to everyone, regardless of their race, gender and immigration status.
As such, we recommend the following immediate measures, including: expedite the processing of all extension applications for temporary residents in Canada; develop a safe harbour program for more Hong Kong activists and others in countries embroiled in political turmoil right now; allow family class immigrants already granted visas to come to Canada without delay; lock in the age of dependent children as of March 1, 2020, in all applications; and, extend the deadline for restoration of temporary resident status from 90 days to at least June 30, 2021.
Then, in the medium and longer term, we ask you to: implement a regularization program for all people with precarious immigration status; rebalance the overall system by increasing family reunification with relaxing criteria that are fair and inclusive; eliminate the MNI requirement for parent and grandparent sponsorship and remove the quota; end immigration detention; repeal the Canada-U.S. safe third country agreement; eliminate immigration status as an eligibility criteria for current and future government benefits; mandate IRCC and CBSA to collect and publish disaggregated race-based data for all classes of immigration; and, finally, mandate IRCC and CBSA to take proactive actions to address structural racism within the system.
COVID-19 should serve as a wake-up call that the survival of humanity depends on all of us working together and caring for and supporting each other, especially those who are the most marginalized. We hope our government will do the right thing.
Thank you again for the opportunity to present today.