Speaking notes for John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship at an Announcement about Changes to Spousal Sponsorship

Indus Community Services, Brampton, Ontario
December 7, 2016

As delivered

My goodness, thank you for those very kind words. It’s a pleasure for me to be back in Brampton. It’s true I’ve been here during the election campaign, also during our immigration consultations, but perhaps more importantly, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, here in Brampton announced our commitment to reduce the processing times for families and here, approximately one year later, I am back again to indicate that we are following through on that commitment.

So family reunification has always been a number one issue for our government. We have heard across the country from Victoria to St. John’s to here in Brampton that it’s important. And I think you can see from the children behind me, that it is important for them to be reunited with their parents. It is important for a husband and wife to be reunited without undue delay.

And when we came to office, the time that it took for immediate families to be reunited was two years, or more precisely, for those coming from outside Canada, it was 18 months and for those inside Canada, 26 months for 80 per cent of the cases. On average that is 24 months – two years. So I am very proud to announce that as of today, we will cut that processing time in half. Instead of 24 months, it will be twelve months.

I think this is an important step. For those little children behind me, they want to be with their parents. Their parents want to be with each other, and now as of today, the time required will be twelve months. I should emphasize that this is twelve months for everybody, whether you’re inside Canada or outside Canada, whether you’ve been waiting for a while or whether you apply tomorrow.

As was mentioned, we don’t like two tiers for Canadian citizens, neither do we like two tiers for processing times. We want everybody to be in the same boat, everybody is in the same boat – twelve months. But I should also say that it’s still first in, first out, so that if you’ve already been waiting a while, you’re likely to come out before twelve months. But the proposition, the guarantee, is that the time is now twelve months instead of 24.

And I will also tell you that we want to get it even lower. The Immigration Department is a big ship. You don’t turn it on a dime. It has taken us this amount of time to get it down to twelve months. We are hoping in coming months that we will be able to reduce it further. So this will be of direct benefit to the 64,000 spouses that we plan to admit to Canada in the coming year. But it will be of benefit to all Canadians, because I think that people are more productive citizens, they do better overall, when they are with their families than when they are isolated from their families. So I think this measure will be positive for the whole country.

Now you might ask me how it is we can achieve this, how are we getting this job done? Well, let me first tell you what we’re not doing. During the refugee period, I said many, many times it’s important to do it fast, but it’s even more important to do it well. And the same principle applies here. We are doing it faster, but we are not changing our mandatory security, criminality and medical screening. Those will remain intact, and our immigration officers will remain vigilant to detect and to impede fraudulent marriages.

So we are not changing our measures regarding criminality, security, health, and we are also remaining vigilant for fraudulent marriages. So how did we do it? Well really, there are three things that we have done. First, we injected $25-million in the last budget to hire more people to help with the processing. Second, we have a large number of people we are admitting as spouses compared with previous years, which means we can work on the inventory and reduce the processing time.

But the third reason is to me, in a way, the most exciting, and that is we are drawing on the resources of the department to improve the efficiency of the process. We learned from the Syrian refugee experience. You will recall we got that job done quickly, and the officials in my department learned to do things quicker without sacrificing quality. They would do certain steps concurrently, rather than one step at a time. And they would learn things, questions they no longer had to ask to make the whole thing quicker and more efficient. And similarly, that is what has happened in this case. We have had groups of up-and-coming young public servants, called tiger teams, who have worked for many, many hours going through all the processes to figure out how we could do it quicker and more efficiently. And the results of their labour are shown on this chart here.

So instead of having two application kits, one for people from overseas, one for in Canada, we will have one. Instead of having 180 pages of guide which you have to read through, we will have one guide at 75 pages, and we’re making the English and French simpler, because a lot of our new Canadians, their first language is not English or French. And so it is important that the language not be too complicated.

Instead of having 14 guides and checklists, we will have one checklist. Instead of having three relationship questionnaires and one evaluation form, we will have just one of those, and instead of medical exams or police certificates up front, they will be required later in the process. So all of those things taken together make it possible for us to go from processing times up to 26 months all the way down to processing times for twelve months.

So I think this organic involvement of civil servants is a good guarantee that these changes we’re announcing will last, will be permanent. Politicians come and go. Governments come and go. The departments are always there, and we have enlisted their enthusiasm, their involvement, in creating this new system. And so I think Canadians can be confident that these positive changes are here to stay. And so the new system for applying to be a spouse for family unification will be online. The much simpler system will be online December 15th, just a few days from today.

So there are other things we are doing. This announcement is only about the 24 months to twelve months, but I might just mention, in closing, that we are also acting to eliminate conditional permanent residence for spouses. It used to be and still is that when you’re a spouse coming into the country, you’re a conditional permanent resident for two years. We are changing that so that spouses will be permanent residents immediately upon entry. And we’re also changing the age of dependents from 18 back to 22.

Those changes have been decided. It’s taking a few more months through the regulatory process to make them the law of the land. But it will be coming soon. But the main point of today is none of that. The main point of today is to inform Canadians that we are making great progress on family reunification and we are cutting the time in half from two years to one year.

Thank you very much.

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