Canada has long had an immigration system that worked — one that we could be proud of — but right now, no one can say that. Like so many government services these days, the immigration system simply isn’t working like it should.
Now we face an incredible backlog for legal immigration while people stream across the border illegally at will, something that’s relatively new in this country.
Unlike in the United States, immigration has never been a political hot potato thrown around between the two main parties.
There have been differences throughout the years, with Liberals tending to favour increases in family reunification, while the Conservatives have placed an emphasis on economic migration. Both main parties have supported high levels of newcomers to this country.
I was born in this country, but only three years after my parents immigrated. That process, according to my mother, took only a few months.
But now, it’s too often taking years for people simply to have their application processed under what are called “express” conditions.
Right now, there is a backlog of more than 2.4 million applications, an increase of more than a 250,000 from just a couple of months ago. That’s an untenable position for our system to be in and a hopeless one for those waiting for word on whether they can come to Canada.
According to the federal government’s website, it takes 42 months to process the application of someone coming in under the federal skilled trade program. That works out to three years and six months just to have your application processed.
Who would want to wait that long?
The Quebec business class program takes 63 months to process applications, while the provincial nominee program “express” track takes 21 months. On what planet is 21 months processing time considered express?
It takes almost two years to sponsor a spouse and just shy of three years to sponsor your parents.
Meanwhile, anyone willing to take a flight to JFK in New York City and then make their way to Roxham Road in Quebec can simply walk across the border and be welcomed to Canada. The number of people crossing at Roxham Road has far surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
After dropping from 1,500 to 2,000 per month to just a few dozen a month during the pandemic, the numbers are now about double. For example, the 3,449 people who crossed illegally this past May is double the previous high for that month in 2018.
We are now seeing higher numbers than ever before enter Canada illegally, while our legal immigration system can’t process people.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault has called for the Roxham Road crossing to be closed, saying his province’s social services are being strained by a lack of federal action. Legault has rightly pointed out that many of those crossing aren’t refugees, they are economic migrants.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in response that closing the crossing won’t stop people crossing illegally, and instead has now started to transfer people to Ottawa and Niagara Falls.
All of this undermines faith in and support for our immigration system as a whole. How can Canadians, or those hoping to become Canadians, have faith in a system that can’t process applicants following the rules but can constantly expand for those going around the rules?
Like passports, customs and airport screening, the immigration department is another example of the federal government not being able to get the basics right.
If the minister can’t fix this, maybe he should look for applicants in that backlog who can and step aside.