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Then and Now: Canadian Immigration Policy under John McCallum and Ahmed Hussen

canada program | Immigration to Canada | IRCC | Canada-U.S. Relations |
February 27, 2017


In early January of this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Ahmed Hussen as Canada’s new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Hussen succeeded former Minister of Immigration John McCallum, who was appointed to oversee the position in November of 2015. During McCallum’s short-lived tenure as immigration minister, a number of immigration issues were tackled in his 443 days heading the administration. This blog will provide an overview of Canada’s immigration accomplishments and setbacks, as well as the international challenges Hussen will likely face as McCallum’s successor.


Canada immigration successes

Without a doubt, McCallum’s greatest accomplishment as Minister of Immigrations was overseeing the resettlement of nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees in more than 350 communities across Canada. Despite international events, such as Brexit challenging Europe’s equilibrium over immigration and rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S., McCallum’s feat is certainly one for the history books.

Under the direction of Trudeau’s liberal party, the difference before and after McCallum’s appointment to Immigration Minister is evident. Not only did McCallum advocate and reverse policies denying Muslim refugees from accessing healthcare, but openly promoted Canadian inclusiveness and encouraged citizens to welcome the newcomers.

In addition to McCallum’s work with refugee resettlement, the former Immigration Minister was responsible for the repeal of conditional permanent residency status provided to couples in new relationships. Prior to regulatory changes, spouses sponsored for immigration to Canada faced losing their Canadian permanent residency if the relationship ended in a two-year timeframe. For Canadian immigration advocates, many argued that revoking conditional residency would prevent family reunification, despite conditional residency conditions having no bearing on processes for immigration to Canada.

Canada immigration setbacks

In December 2016, the Canadian government announced changes to the Parent and Grandparent Program to improve the application process, increasing the number applications accepted from 5,000 to 10,000. The initiative behind the move was to promote family unification, a cornerstone of Canada’s immigration policy. However, the government failed to amend the number of applications actually processed. While the initiative appeared well-intended at face value, in practice the results were labeled insincere by immigration advocates. For the road ahead, Hussen will have to work towards the Government of Canada’s promise of ensuring family reunification for those seeking entrance to Canada, whether as a refugee, skilled worker, or through business immigration.

Another blow to Canada’s immigration system came in the form of Canadian permanent residency for foreign workers through economic immigration. In this category, eligible applicants are able to enter Canada through a number of programs designed to attract skilled foreign workers in exchange for Canadian permanent residency. These programs included Provincial Nominee Programs as well as the Quebec Skilled Worker Program, both processed through Canada’s Express Entry system. Although the Canadian government pushed for an increase in immigration to Canada across the board, the economic categories for immigration to Canada fell in favor of immigration programs for refugees. In the end, McCallum’s decision to reduce the status of skilled foreign workers eligible for immigration to Canada consequently closed the door for many.

Canada immigration: looking forward

Despite setbacks in Canada’s immigration system, there were a number of triumphs as well. McCallum’s resettlement of Syrian refugees will certainly earn him a name in Canadian history for humanitarian efforts, among other endeavors.

With the topic of immigration becoming more and more controversial around the world, Ahmed Hussen has a difficult road to travel in the months ahead. While Canada remains open to immigration of all nationalities or creed, the country’s southern neighbor remains staunchly at odds with Canada’s immigration policies. Following Donald Trump’s immigration ban, Hussen aligned with Canada’s humanitarian objections to the executive order. How Hussen will handle Donald Trump’s mounting anti-immigration objectives is a question only time can provide an answer to.

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