Additionally, I am concerned that the Minister seems to be satisfied with the processing of family reunification applications. The backlog for outbound family reunification applications are significantly delayed, including the reunification of children of asylum seekers. For these refugee families, the current wait times in processing now reach upwards of two to three years for dependents of refugee, far from any processing service standards.
NDP Immigration Critic Jenny Kwan’s response to minister announcement
I was encouraged, today, to see by Minister Fraser’s announcement that he is finally taking seriously the dire situation of IRCC processing delays. Countless people have been sounding the alarm bell as their lives are put on hold. They have shared heartbreak personal stories about the additional stresses and pressures they face and the toll it is taking on their mental health as they try to cope with these significant delays.
There is no question that new staffing resources are needed to address the chaos that has proliferated in every immigration stream and I hope that what the Minister has announced is sufficient to address the extensive backlogs.
The Minister did not address the issue of backlogs related to levels numbers in this announcement today. In addition to new staffing resources, the Minister must also address the impact of the backlogs as they relate to immigration levels. As the November 24 Memo exposed, the announcement of the Temporary Residence to Permanent Residence Stream and measures needed to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has drastically affected the Express Entry Stream with long term implications. It clearly shows that by shifting the immigrations levels from one stream to accommodate new measures is not only deficient, but short-sighted. Immigration should not be treated as a zero-sum game. This practice of robbing Peter to pay Paul only passes the buck and creates bigger problems down the road.
It should be clear to the Minister that when new measures—such as the TR2PR stream of Afghan refugee measures—are announced, additional immigration levels must be added to accommodate those new measures.
Additionally, I am concerned that the Minister seems to be satisfied with the processing of family reunification applications. The backlog for outbound family reunification applications are significantly delayed, including the reunification of children of asylum seekers. For these refugee families, the current wait times in processing now reach upwards of two to three years for dependents of refugee, far from any processing service standards. I urge the Minister to heed the calls of the Canadian Council for Refugees to resume normal processing of asylum requests, as well as to put in place measures to respect the UN Convention on the Rights of Child which calls for timely reunification of children with their families within a maximum of six months.
For families seeking to reunite with their loved ones with outbound spousal sponsorships, too many families are continuing to suffer as they are separated from their loved ones. Countless families have shared their devastating story of separation and it's not uncommon for them to be separated for 2 or more years, far from the 12 month processing service standards the Minister cites.
I would also like to point out that there are other immigration streams such as the pilot program for caregiver where no service standards have been set and the only information on the government's website is "...no average processing time available." These families have already endured prolonged and painful separations from their loved ones. The Minister must also address the backlog and processing delays in their streams and not forget or neglect their need to have their applications processed in a timely fashion.
On the issue of digital updates, the call for the government bring our immigration system into the 21st century has been longstanding. I called for the capability to obtain digital updates on immigration applications when I was first elected to office in 2015, and I am glad that it is finally been acted on. I only hope that when the system is operational, the information provided to applicants is meaningful and transparent. I also hope that when applications are refused, the reasons for the rejection are given beyond the routine response - that IRCC does not believe you will return home at the end of your visit.
Finally, until the backlogs are addressed, the Minister must ensure that MP offices are able to do their work. The limiting of inquiries to IRCC to no more than five cases must end. MP offices across the political spectrum are dealing with an unprecedented number of case files due to the very backlogs at the heart of the Minister’s announcement and limiting their ability to serve their constituents in unacceptable. I hope the Minister will promptly lift such restrictions.