Quebec is Being Pressured to Increase its Capacity for Family Reunification by MP Marc Miller

Canada Spousal Immigration Surged In 2023
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Just a few weeks after his inauguration as the head of Immigration department of Canada, Honorable MP Marc Miller engaged in discussions regarding the Quebec government’s stringent family re-unification policy.

In his inaugural press briefing as Immigration Minister, as relayed by Global News, Miller conveyed that “Quebec controls a good chunk of its immigration policy, particularly on the family reunification envelope, which is capped at about 10,000 right now.”

“There’s a backlog of 30,000 families that want to come here and support their kids, and…Quebec says we need to cut it off.”

Quebec’s increased efforts at gaining autonomy from federal oversight in the field of immigration have become the norm under Premier Francois Legault, and economic immigration and family re-unification are two areas within that realm that the province in question has a strong say over.

Quebec, however, wants to further strengthen its ability to autonomously direct policy within its provincial boundaries.

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This is re-emphasised by Political Scientist Daniel Beland’s judgements on the matter, which posit that Quebec wants to acquire even stronger control over family re-unification.

“There is a clear disagreement between Ottawa and Quebec City,” assessed Beland to Global News. “I don’t expect Ottawa to cave on that really, in terms of powers to Quebec over immigration, but I think some fine tuning is certainly possible.”

Quebec’s tight immigration policy is reflected in the first immigration plans proposed by Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Frechette – the Plan d’immigration du Québec 2023 – in December of last year.

Under its target ranges, the province aimed for 49,500 to 52,500 new permanent residents – a simple maintenance of last year’s immigration targets, and a clear deviation from business groups’ proposal to increase immigration levels for dealing with Quebec’s labour shortages.

The federal government’s immigration levels plan meanwhile targeted 465,000 newcomers to Canada for 2023, which allotted 102,300 newcomers to Quebec; the province, however, still chose to bring in just about half its available number.

Not only did Legault insist on holding the line on immigration to Quebec in his last provincial election, this plan also ensured that most Quebec immigrants are Francophone – a further restriction on the number of incoming immigrants to Quebec.

Quebec’s policy on this matter lies in stark contrast with that of the Canadian federal government, especially under Miller’s new leadership.

Miller has emphasised – in a Bloomberg News interview – that he does not “see a world in which” immigration is lowered, as the “need is too great.”

Instead, he has asserted that Canada will maintain or increase its record-high immigration targets because its ageing workforce is creating massive labour shortages.

“Whether we revise them upwards or not is something that I have to look at. But certainly, I don’t think we’re in any position of wanting to lower them by any stretch of the imagination.”

Family re-unification thus becomes an especially important topic of discussion between Miller and Legault, the former of whom wants to have “mature conversations with provinces and territories” on how Canada welcomes newcomers.

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The former Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, joined by the Honorable Hedy Fry, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre, had announced new measures to strengthen family re-unification in Canada earlier this year, including:

  • faster temporary resident visa (TRV) processing times for spousal applicants
  • new and dedicated processing tools for spousal TRV applicants
  • a new open work permit for spousal and family class applicants
  • open work permit extensions for open work permit holders expiring between August 1 and the end of 2023

Fraser had also announced faster temporary resident visa (TRV) processing and more considerate application measures for families to be together while waiting on their permanent residence finalization.

Furthermore, Canada had made open work permits available for spousal applicants and their dependent children who reside with their sponsor in Canada and have temporary resident status.

Spouses, partners and dependents are able to apply for and receive and open work permit as soon as they submit a complete permanent residence application under the spouse of common-law partner in Canada class (SPCLC) or other family class programs.

In relation to reunification, Fraser had finally announced that spousal applicants, along with other open work permit holders, whose open work permits expire between August 1 and the end of 2023, will be able to extend their work permits for an additional 18 months.

“Family reunification lies at the heart of building vibrant and inclusive communities. In Vancouver, we know that when families are united, they become stable, put down roots and begin to build a future. Our city thrives,” the Honorable Hedy Fry had said about these changes.

“This unwavering commitment to bringing loved ones together fuels our collective spirit and enriches the tapestry of our diverse neighbourhoods.”

According to Global News, Quebec’s immigration ministry communicated the issuance of a request for a preliminary meeting with Miller in the hopes of promptly discussion priority issues.

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