Parliament Video: Jenny in the House: Reunite families, status now for caregivers, honour expired CoPR, & treat workers & students fairly

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on global travel and migration.

Canada’s immigration system came to a grinding halt. Families awaiting reunification, as well as workers, students, caregivers and refugees alike are all deeply impacted. My office continues to hear from an increasing number of frustrated PR applicants who have been in limbo for months, with their applications marked as “complete”, but still processing and awaiting finalization.

These applications have far exceeded the expected processing time. To make matters worse, many of their supporting documents, such as medical documents, have expired as a direct result of the delays.

Similarly, prospective Canadians who have gone through the full process of having their PR application approved are prevented from coming to Canada because their previously approved certificates of permanent residence are also expiring, and they find themselves without a home in their country of origin and unable to make a new one in Canada.

The deputy minister of immigration advised committee members that the department is undertaking a process of individually reaching out to each person whose CoPR has expired and asking if they are still interested in coming to Canada, before taking next steps to renew their CoPR. She herself indicated that this is “labour-intensive.”

Instead of re-processing applications that have already gone through all the steps of being approved for PR, I am calling on the government to automatically renew and honour CoPRs that have expired. I am further urging the government to take the unprecedented step to automatically renew or extend the deadline for other documents that may have expired over the course of the pandemic.

As well, the travel restrictions for CoPRs issued after March 18, 2020, need to be removed so that people can get on with coming to Canada and putting down roots. This would not only reduce the frustrations and uncertainty experienced by the applicants, it would also decrease the demand on IRCC, allowing for IRCC resources to be better used on other application streams struggling with processing delays.

Other immigration streams such as migrant students and workers are also being punished through no fault of their own. As their work or student permits expire, many find themselves out of status. For workers with an employer-specific work permit, they are particularly hard hit. Immigration status precarity makes workers more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Many caregivers, for example, due to COVID, are now required to work and live in their employer’s home. This isolation elevates the risks of abuse experienced by the caregivers.

I have talked to caregivers who were infected with COVID by their employer without their employer informing them that they were COVID-positive. One caregiver was even fired after she got COVID from her employer. Some have lost their jobs because their employers were also impacted by the loss of income.

This interrupted time in the caregivers’ employment also penalizes caregivers in their eligibility to meet the two-year work requirement in order to apply for PR and to reunite with their families. With the delays, they risk having their children age out, which means they cannot be part of the PR application.

Action needs to be taken to honour the work of caregivers. They all deserve landed status now.

On processing delays for caregivers, it is startling to learn that caregiver PR applications went from nearly 2,000 in January alone down to only a scant total of six since March. It means that thousands of applications are sitting in the mailrooms gathering dust.

There also is a tenfold increase, from 38 days in February 2020 to 344 days in January 2021, for caregivers to just get an acknowledgement of receipt for their PR application. This further reinforces the fact that processing caregiver applications is not a priority for the government.

This needs to be dealt with. I would note that when the interim program closed, there was a stark reduction in caregiver applications. The barriers for caregivers to meet the eligibility criteria are significant, and it is time for change.

We need to step up and do better."

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