An open letter to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino

Immigration Matters

Sukhram Ramkissoon

An open letter to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino

Dear Mr. Minister,

First of all, let me congratulate you on your appointment as  Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. It comes as no surprise that your appointment has been greeted with elation in your riding of Eglinton-Lawrence with its  large  immigrant community.

It is with great interest that I note  that you were first elected as  MP for Eglinton-Lawrence in 2015 and that you are a passionate advocate for your community. During your first term in office, you championed local investments in public transit and affordable housing and supported youth-driven programs aimed at creating more employment opportunities and safe spaces.

I also note your outstanding track record of community activism. You sat on numerous boards, volunteering at John Wanless Public School, COSTI Immigrant Services, Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee, North Toronto Soccer Club, and Heart & Stroke Canada.

Undoubtedly, your work as a community activist will stand you in good stead  as Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship. 

I am sure that you are aware that your predecessor, Minister Ahmed Hussen, implemented a number of short-term programs which  met with tremendous approval in Canada’s immigrant communities.

However, there is one program  to which I would like to draw your attention – the Temporary Public Policy issued last July to provide permanent residence to out-of-status construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area.

Unfortunately, this project does not include all construction workers, irrespective of their status.  It is hoped that you will review this policy and make the necessary amendments so that all illegals who are constructions workers may benefit from this project.

Mr. Minister, please allow me  to share with you a view of the Immigration Department and the Minister’s role in that department.

I have been an active practitioner in the field of immigration for over 40 years and I  am left with the impression that Ministers of Immigration are too far removed from the day-to-day decision-making that affects the lives and fortunes of so many people.

Forgive me, Mr. Minister, but unfortunately I am left with the sad feeling that many decisions are made in the name of the Minister of Immigration which are devoid of humanity.  In fact, I have often wondered if the Ministers really knew what was being done in their names.

Mr. Minister, it is important for you to ask the bureaucrats who surround you a lot of pertinent questions.  Don’t be too quick to go along with their advice.  As a former federal prosecutor, you should familiarize yourself with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its Regulations, including the Policy guidelines. Ask yourself whether these policies  are fair before making decisions on  various matters.

Please don’t be over-awed by all the bureaucratic claptrap, all the legalistic jargon, which obscures rather than clarifies situations in which the Immigration Department finds itself. 

Closely examine the high  rejection rate of Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) applications. In some cases, persons  have been  in Canada for over ten years, well established, and have family ties and the rejection of their applications is causing pain and hardship to loved ones.  The present policy is not only inhumane but splitting families, contrary to what is enshrined in the Act.

Consider recent Federal Court decisions dealing with  H&C cases and review and implement some of the rulings made by these learned judges.   Show up at the airports from time to time and meet some of the arriving visitors and immigrants.  Listen to their stories.You may learn something which you probably will never know if you are constantly  surrounded by bureaucrats.

Never forget that you are an elected official and that you have to keep in touch with “the people,” many of them immigrants themselves, who will ultimately decide whether you remain in office.

Of course, we all realize that the job of Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizen is not an easy one but those who are fortunate enough to be appointed to the position must understand that they have a big opportunity to make positive changes in people’s lives.

Let it be said, Mr. Minister, that during your tenure, you made changes for the better.

SUKHRAM RAMKISSOON is a member of ICCRC and specializes in Immigration Matters at No. 3089 Bathurst Street, Suite 219A, Toronto, Ontario.  Phone 416-789-5756.