Parents and grandparents sponsorship program in need of major overhaul

Immigration Matters

Sukhram Ramkissoon

Parents and grandparents sponsorship program in need of major overhaul

Readers of my column may have heard the recent CBC news report that the Canadian  government is facing an angry backlash and legal action by some Canadians trying to bring their parents or grandparents into the country.

Unfortunately, the Parents and Grandparents (PGP) sponsorship program has been facing problems for several years and the recent news comes as no surprise to me.

Some of my clients who attempted to sponsor their parents under the existing  program were unsuccessful and are now applying under humanitarian  and compassionate (H&C) grounds.

Readers may recall that last year the Canadian government had announced that it was scrapping a family reunification lottery and returning to a first-come, first serve immigration policy as it sought to  double the number of parents and grandparents  admitted to the country.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen  had said  that Canada will accept up to 20,000 applications for the sponsorship of parents and grandparents this year. This is four times the number of applications accepted when the program reopened in 2014 and  the cap was set at 5000 applications.

This decision to increase the number of applications that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will accept for processing is a result of continually high demand in the PGP Program, Minister Hussen had noted.

He had also announced that as a result of listening to stakeholders and closely examining the PGP Program, the government is making further changes to the application intake process that will streamline access to the program and improve client experience.

But according to the CBC report, legal actions were launched in Toronto and Vancouver after a new online application process went live on January 28  last — a process that left tens of thousands of people frustrated and furious because they couldn’t access the form or fill it out fast enough.

The report said that the online form which opened at noon ET on Jan. 28, closed less than nine minutes later.

The CBC also reported that outraged applicants are considering their next steps after learning the government made a secret settlement with more than 70 litigants and granted them ” coveted spots” to apply to sponsor their family members.

One man who has been trying to sponsor his mother from Albania for three years, was among those whose application was unsuccessful.

The CBC report said that  he’s  also considering legal action — not to “undo” the spots the 70 or so litigants received from the settlement, but to challenge what he called “conflicting and contradictory messaging and rationale” from the government.

He has written to his local MP,  Liberal Omar Alghabra, expressing concern about the settlement — noting the irony in the fact that the changes to the application process were designed to ensure people weren’t disadvantaged because of their geographic location, or because they couldn’t afford courier fees.

“It seems to me that what our government has done with this settlement is just state that being able to pay a few hundred dollars for a lawsuit can actually get you a spot in the program,” he wrote. “This is very frustrating to hear, especially with all the intended secrecy and justification behind it.”

Another applicant who has been  trying unsuccessfully for seven years  to sponsor his parents who are in India,  is  also considering legal action.

He said this year’s application process came down to how fast someone could type.

He described the process as unfair and the government’s move to settle with some applicants as “outrageous.”

“In a way, they invalidated their own January process, because if they’re reaching a deal with someone that means they admitted there was a flaw to it,” he was quoted as saying.

Several of my clients have expressed a similar view.

Clearly, the  PGP sponsorship program is greatly in need of a major overhaul.

And the sooner it’s done the better.

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