Canadian Citizenship, Family Reunification, and The Process of Becoming A Canadian

August 28, 2016

Canadian Citizenship

Came across this great piece in the Herald News about Brendy Jones, originally from West Africa, who recently became a Canadian citizen at the iconic Pier 21 in Halifax. The 34-year-old mother and nursing home attendant moved to the country to reunite with her husband after they married in 2007. Jones’s husband moved to Canada in 2005 with his son, parents and siblings to flee the war in Sierra Leone. On a visit back home he met his future wife which started the whole process leading up to her becoming a Canadian citizen. He said he was happy she was able to move to start a family, as opposed to why he had to leave because he said the country was calmer than when he left.

After their marriage, Jones began the citizenship process with the federal government, but dealt with a few unexpected roadblocks. The process required her to go through a significant amount of paperwork, as well as two interviews, prior to being accepted, however, because she was very close to giving birth she was told to reapply after her daughter was born. Jones re-applied after the baby was born and finally moved to the country with her seven-month-old daughter.

Citizenship judge Ann Janega weighed in on the process.

“I think the big thing is it’s a decision that they’ve made after agonizing over what they could be doing or should be doing . . . You know they have many choices. They can be in other countries and I think from my study of the subject, Canada is right up there in terms of the decision that people make to come and stay.”

In June, Prime Minister Trudeau allocated $25 million in budget 2016 to support faster processing times for those under family sponsorship – an acknowledgement of families that need to be reunited. Applications would still receive necessary screening for health, safety and security risks and the authenticity of relationships, but the government increased the number of spaces allowed by 14,000. This brought up the number of spaces for spouses, partners and dependent children to 62,000. It’s a step in the right direction, and represents a trend in government to review the system and look for efficiencies.

As per the Toronto Star, since the beginning of the summer, Immigration Minister John McCallum and his parliamentary secretary, Arif Virani, have held multiple roundtable meetings across the country with settlement services organizations, businesses, and community groups to get their thoughts. Canada’s naturalization rate has been declining, from the peak of 93.3 per cent for immigrants who came before 1971, to just 36.7 per cent among those who arrived between 2006 and 2007.

Debbie Douglas, of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, said Canada’s immigration program should be guided by the principle of nation-building.

“Family reunification numbers have been cut back over the last several years. Between 2005 and 2014, except 2013, family reunification has been less than 30 per cent of overall immigration numbers,” said Douglas.

The best way to support newcomers is to support family reunification through faster processing. We couldn’t agree more.

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