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Fixing Canada’s broken immigration and refugee system

With overwhelming backlogs of applications for immigration into Canada--600,000 in the skilled worker class, and a total of 900,000--isn't it time we overhauled the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act?

Joseph C. Ben-Ami - April 2, 2008

I’ve often said that the single greatest problem facing politicians and policy-makers in Canada today is the general, and in my view cataclysmic, degradation in the quality of thought that goes into the positions they take on issues.

Take the recent brouhaha over the government’s proposed changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for example.

Right now, immigration applications in both the family reunification class and the skilled worker class must be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. The government wants to change this rule with respect to the skilled worker class so that the applications of those who possess skills in short supply in Canada can be processed first, regardless of their place in that queue.

Taken on its own merit, this is a reasonable proposal that deserves the support of Parliament. After all, the whole point of having a skilled worker class is to facilitate the immigration of individuals who possess skills that our labour market needs. It makes no sense to say that we can’t prioritize the processing of applicants under this classification who meet these needs.

Consider that, at present there is a backlog of around 600,000 applications in the skilled worker class waiting to be processed. If Canada is in desperate need of trained nurses, shouldn’t the Minister be able to say to the department: "Process the applications of trained nurses first, regardless of their place in line." Surely, no sensible person will argue that this is wrong.

But sensible people seem to be in short supply themselves in Ottawa. To hear opposition politicians describe it, the proposal is part of a sinister plot on the part of the government to ban future immigration to Canada.

Some in the media have joined in the silliness as well, reinforcing NDP-Liberal conspiracy theories by accusing the government of “hiding” their proposals in the budget implementation bill, C-50 in an attempt to “sneak” them through Parliament.

It reminds me of a line from the movie, Forrest Gump, when Tom Hanks (who plays Gump) relates something a relative of his used to say: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

More articles by Joseph C. Ben-Ami