Ottawa’s visa cutback for relatives called ‘harsh’

Posted by admin on Feb 18th, 2011

By Carol Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press, Feb. 18 2011

A recent federal decision to cut back on the number of visas for parents and grandparents coming to Canada is “harsh” and something people should be warned about before they immigrate, critics say. New figures show the federal government is looking to reduce overall immigration in 2012 by as much as five per cent, and those feeling the effects will be parents and grandparents seeking to join their children in Canada.

“I’m not happy about the news,” said Winnipegger Florence Okwudili. “It’s really, really sad.” When her dad died in 2004 in Nigeria, she invited her mom to come to Canada so she wouldn’t have to spend her first Christmas without him alone.

Her mom’s visa application wasn’t approved until 2010.

“Now it’s going to be even more difficult to invite your family,” Okwudili said.

The estimated number of visas for grandparents and parents of Canadian residents has dropped to 11,200, compared with 16,800 last year.

It’s something immigrants should be told before they immigrate to Canada, said the head of a Winnipeg agency that helps foreign-trained professionals get their credentials recognized so they can put their skills to work here.

“When we’re bringing people in, do we tell them, ‘You can’t bring in your families’?” asked Monika Feist, chief executive officer of Skills Success Centre. “‘If you’re coming, don’t expect to bring your parents — ever’?”

Feist said it’s important information people need to hear.

“Do we tell immigrants that when we’re out recruiting them? I would like to know,” said Feist.

Okwudili, who immigrated decades ago, said starting over in a new country is overwhelming.

“I think there’s a lot of things new immigrants don’t realize when they come over here,” she said. “He or she is hoping to move here for a better life and have a better future for their kids, they’re willing to do anything. They don’t know until they finally get here when, day by day, the reality is revealed,” she said.

“I’m happy to be in Canada, but at the same time I’d like to have my family visit me once in a while. It’s not that easy,” said the former Nigerian.

“When my daughter was wedded, they refused my mom and brother (visas), so we decided to go to Nigeria for the wedding,” she said.

“If an African family is having a wedding, it’s very important that an elder from both families is present. In Africa, it’s not just between a man and wife but between these two families.”

Feist said she’s seen cases where an only child has had a hard time getting their parents to Canada for a visit. Officials assume the parents won’t go home — unless they’re an only child from a developed country like England, she said.

Okwudili said immigrants from Africa seem to have the hardest time getting relatives to visit because of the financial requirements.

“I’m used to seeing Indian families and Filipino and Chinese people coming for weddings. It’s only (when) Africans have a wedding here that it’s so difficult for parents abroad to come,” she said.

Chopping the number of visitors visas for parents and grandparents will only make it worse, said Okwudili.

“I think that’s harsh.”

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