I have provided Stephanie with some data and research, but in the interest of time, I'm only going to share my reflections with you today.
I think it's important for us to ask what our preoccupation with and predisposition towards the point system of immigration is doing to what immigration is really about, which is building healthy communities. The Canadian index of well-being is rooted in Canadian values. It begins with a belief that our cornerstone value is the principle of shared destiny, that society is best shaped through collective action and that there's a limit to how much can be achieved by individuals acting alone or, I will add, even being alone.
If immigrants and therefore immigration are actually going to be successful, it has to be successful within the community development concept. This brings us to my first point about the relationship between values and policy.
Family reunification has become a mode of migration that the system is clearly very skeptical about, hence the policing, regulation and securitization of it. However, if our Canadian values were reflected and entrenched in policy and in the way that policy is enforced, the question of reunification would be central to it. We would want to build wholesome, healthy communities. We would want immigrants to be in healthy relationships.
Research shows that people who come here through family class migration do better because they don't have to deal with the same level of integration challenges. Sadly, we have commodified the support, for example through ESL and job search support, etc., but we continue to scrutinize the family reunification process. We must remember that we are dealing with human beings for whom having relationships and a sense of belonging begins with family.
My first point is that we need to centre this notion that family reunification is the most important mode of migration.
My second point is about the self-fulfilling prophecy of cynicism. Immigration policy has been criticized as being skeptical of applicants from certain regions. However, I argue that the way the program is being run appears to operate more from a place of cynicism. Some of the biases and microaggressions that have been found to penetrate within the department among the people who are doing this work will naturally be reflected in their assumptions and predisposition towards people who they think want to cheat the system.
For example, when looking at an applicant from rural Botswana, where relationships and marriages are done quite differently, we not only use a Canadian standard to evaluate the genuineness of that marriage, we use an ethnocentric, biased and discriminative viewpoint and expect to find liars and cheaters because of the racial stereotypes associated with that region.
If you run a policy with the assumption that the preponderance of those going through the processes are cheating, that means you are either biased, you are finding what you are expecting to find or the outcome of that process of unification is flawed.
The primary purpose of the policy should be to reunify people, not to find cheaters. However, the number of resources that are put into trying to prove that these relationships are not real is disproportionate. If something is happening on the margins, we can't have entire regions subjected to the same standard. It is rare that someone coming from the U.S. or Europe is subjected to the same requirements of proof. Rejection rates from these countries are also very low. Is that because the marriages are genuine or because the applicants aren't expected to be liars, so they are not asked to provide further proof or scrutinized?
Confirmation bias can lead to finding something you are looking for. The problem would then be the policy, the biases of the people running the policy and the choices they are making in those moments of discretion.
How do we ensure applications are being treated fairly?
Firstly, we need to invest time and energy into identifying the problem. We need to obtain data to show the percentage of reunification cases that are subject to extraordinary demands over time and where these cases predominate. A standardized and normalized demand without any data or policy to support the extra measures taken for some regions should not be sustained as the norm.
The research also has to be carried out by racialized researchers. I'll explain more about that later. We also need to ask ourselves what the value is of asking the perpetuator about the persistence of a phenomenon. If we want to know if immigration officers are microaggressing people, we shouldn't be asking the immigration officers. The methodology needs to centre the voice and experience of the victims.
I'm going to skip some stuff and move on to my last point to consider.
Looking at the complaints from inside the department, we see there are people within these spaces raising alarm bells about the potentially racist culture and environment of these spaces, which points us to diversity, equity and inclusion. We need to diversify the pool of officers, so there's more cultural translation in the department.
The other thing is anti-racism training. Training should not be delivered with the expectation that it will eradicate racism. I can tell you, it likely won't eradicate racism. What it will do is provide an accountability system so that we can hold people to account.
There's also good and bad training. Online module training is bad training. In-person training is good training.