Tom Mulcair: “Family reunification … [has] been completely shut down under Mr. Harper’s Conservatives.”
By: Jacob Schroeder on
Tom Mulcair, NDP Leader and candidate for Outremont, in the leaders debate on September 17, 2015
While changes to Canada’s family immigration stream may make it harder for certain family groups to immigrate to Canada, the stream has not completely shut down (in 2014, 66,659 people got permanent residence through the family stream). Nor have overall levels of family immigration significantly changed under the Harper government.FactsCan Score: False
Among the topics discussed during the second leaders debate on the economy was immigration. Tom Mulcair, the NDP leader, criticized the government’s record on intake of family member immigrants.
He said, “family reunification … [has] been completely shut down under Mr. Harper’s Conservatives.”
The family class is one of three main streams of Canada’s immigration system, along with economic immigrants and refugees. Included in the family class are various channels to bring spouses, parents, grandparents, children, and other relatives.
Has the family stream been shut down under the Conservatives?
In 2014, there were 66,659 permanent residents (the step before citizenship) who immigrated to Canada through the family class. That represents a 26 per cent share of Canada’s total immigration level for the year, a proportion that dipped and rose over the Conservatives’ decade in power but never fell below 20 per cent. Under Stephen Harper’s government, the highest share of family class immigrants was in 2013, reaching 32 per cent of the total level. The lowest point was in 2010, with family class at 21 per cent of the total.
Below are the annual totals for family class permanent residents, followed by the annual totals for all permanent residents, and the family class percentage share:
The levels weren’t always like this. In the early nineties, family members actually numbered higher than economic immigrants. But the balance shifted under the Liberals by the mid-nineties. John Ibbitson pointed out in a recent paper that on family class levels, “Conservative policy represents a continuation of Liberal policy.”
Mulcair did not respond to requests to clarify his statement. It could have been intended as an exaggeration to make the point that the federal government under Harper changed aspects of family immigration.
There are some changes that could act as a restriction on the ability of certain family groups to enter Canada. Some of these Harper-era changes include: A drop in the age of dependent children from 21 to 18 years; new criteria to sponsor parents and grandparents including a 30-per-cent increase in the minimum necessary income, and a longer sponsorship period required of families in Canada, raised from 10 to 20 years; and an annual cap of 5,000 parent and grandparent applications processed from 2014 to 2015.
But regardless of shifts that may negatively impact certain family groups, it is false to say the Conservatives have “completely shut down” family reunification.