April 8, 2020
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
OPEN LETTER RE: GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE IN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AS RELATED TO IMMIGRATION PROCESSES
I am writing to inquire about the implications for those applying for and in receipt of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), wage subsidy through the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), and other government financial assistance programs during the COVID-19 pandemic as they related to immigration processes. As you are aware, there are many immigration-related processes that are strictly tied to people’s ability to support themselves and/or that of their loved ones.
At the moment, we have an unprecedented pandemic and it is impacting people all across the country. Many businesses have had to substantially reduce their operation, some even had to close their doors due to COVID-19. Many workers had their hours of work substantially reduced if not outright reduced to zero.
The impact of this is far reaching for those engaged in the immigration process. For foreign nationals, your government’s CERB application “Questions and Answers” page states:
“To be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, you must reside in Canada and have a valid Social Insurance Number. Workers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents – including temporary foreign workers and international students – may be eligible to receive the Benefit if they meet the other eligibility requirements.”
However, the page is silent on the question of whether application for and receipt of the CERB will have any future impact on any immigration-related processes.
Part 1, Division 4 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) states the following about inadmissibility to Canada:
39 A foreign national is inadmissible for financial reasons if they are or will be unable or unwilling to support them self or any other person who is dependent on them, and have not satisfied an officer that adequate arrangements for care and support, other than those that involve social assistance, have been made.”
Similarly, receiving government assistance during these unprecedented times could also have devastating impacts on an individual’s eligibility to sponsor eligible family members for immigration to Canada or for those are already under sponsorship. Current sponsorship rules clearly state that those seeking to sponsor cannot be in receipt of government assistance other than disability assistance.
To further illustrate the point, many Canadians have had to wait for years to be able to make an application under the parents/grandparents stream to sponsor their loved ones to Canada. The current rule is that "the sponsor (and your co-signer, if applicable) must prove that you have enough income to support all the persons you’ll be financially responsible for, including yourself, once you become a sponsor. If you’re invited to apply, you’ll have to provide proof that you meet the income requirements for each of the 3 taxation years right before the date of your application.”
If an individual lost their income or had their income substantially reduced in these unprecedented times, it could mean that they would not be able to meet the income requirements. I hope you will agree this would be extremely unfair and people’s hope and dream of reuniting with their loved ones would be lost!
I have raised these questions in a variety of settings, the most recent of which was in a conference call with Minister Hussen and other government officials, to which no one was able to provide a firm reply.
I am therefore seeking assurances from you that:
- Applying for or receiving the CERB/CEWS benefits or other government assistance will have no negative impact or affect on an individual’s ability to proceed with their PR application;
- Those in receipt of the CERB/CEWS or other government assistance will not be deemed financially inadmissible if they are applying for PR under any other category except Protected Person;
- Applying for or receiving the CEWS/CERB benefit or other government assistance will not negatively impact an individual’s ability to sponsor an eligible family member for immigration to Canada;
- For those who are required to meet a certain income requirement in their immigration process, their loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic period would not negatively impact their application; and
- For Caregivers whose employer who may have lost their income and is unable to continue to pay the caregiver during this COVID-19 period, that the caregiver would not be penalized for this unfortunate situation; and, to ensure that caregivers are not further negatively impacted, that the time loss during this period would continue to count towards their 2-year work requirement.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and as time is of the essence for the individuals impacted, I look forward to your prompt reply.
Jenny Kwan, MP for Vancouver East
NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship
NDP Critic for Housing
NDP Deputy Critic for Health
Cc: Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland