Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/10/2011 (3416 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
More than one million are waiting overseas, documents filed, to come as immigrants to Canada, Ottawa has disclosed -- this against an annual admissions target of 250,000. Every immigration category has its own queue.
Groups who sponsor refugees into Canada have an extra challenge. The Harper government has placed an embargo on submission of new sponsorships for 2012 (and perhaps longer) that will restrict the national new-case target to only 1,350 refugees next year. Winnipeg's Hospitality House Refugee Ministry alone filed sponsorships for that many in the first eight months of this year.
There are 90 groups across Canada with agreements with Ottawa empowering them to sponsor refugees here. Most are regional organizations of the mainline churches. Four of the biggest sponsors are in Winnipeg -- Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, the Anglican Diocese of Rupert's Land, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Winnipeg and the Mennonite Central Committee. Hospitality House, probably the most active sponsor in Canada right now, sponsors through both the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics.
Winnipeg alone accounts for half of all new private refugee sponsorships being started by sponsoring groups across Canada. This is not only a reflection of activity among sponsors here, but also reflects the provincial government's aggressive immigration policy and the City of Winnipeg's own population-building strategy. The city insures most of these sponsorships against default. It has been doing so for the past eight years. Winnipeg is the only city in Canada with such a strategy and is a principal reason for the city's dominance of the national refugee sponsoring field.
This is the second blow to hit the province's immigration plans. The first was the federal restriction of Manitoba's provincial nominee program that has been the main driver of the large immigrant numbers that have been coming here in recent years. Among Canada's smaller provinces, Manitoba has been by far the most successful in its immigration strategy while still maintaining one of the lowest unemployment rates of any province for some time.
The news for refugee sponsors is not all bad. The Harper government is continuing to land privately sponsored refugees in the 5,000 to 6,000 range every year, almost double the number landed during the previous Liberal era.
The problem being addressed by the latest cut to new sponsorships is the huge inventory of cases that has built up overseas (about 25,000 refugees in January this year), leading to long wait times.
Refugee sponsors have been introducing new sponsorships into the system at a rate of about 8,000 refugees a year, sometimes more, and creating a backlog in Canada's overseas posts that has led to this latest restriction on new cases. The government wants to reduce the inventory and the wait times, which can be seen as a reasonable move.
As the 90 Canadian refugee sponsors face a future where they will, for a time at least, only be able to sponsor a yearly average of 15 refugees each, some are wondering how they can sustain interest and support among their backers for so limited an activity. They fear that for some, the government's edict may be a fatal blow.
A far more serious consequence is faced by Canadians from a refugee background themselves, who will now be deprived of an avenue for bringing in their relatives. An estimated 95 per cent of all new refugee sponsorships come from relatives making sponsorship requests of Canada's sponsoring groups.
The demand for extended-family reunification by the refugee sponsoring mechanism is huge. No other practical route is available under Canadian immigration law.
Hospitality House estimates that it has turned down the sponsorship of 3,500 refugees requested by Winnipeggers in only the past eight months because it lacks the capacity to do more than an anticipated 1,750 this year.
The larger issue for Canadians is how many immigrants can Canada absorb each year and how far can the immigration envelope be pushed. In 1913, Canada admitted 400,000 immigrants when the population was less than one-quarter of what it is now. But then we were in a nation-building mode. Now the policy goal would appear to be nation maintenance.
Tom Denton is an executive director of Hospitality House Refugee Ministry.