Federal web site sows confusion over family reunification

Annual cap on applications is half of Liberal commitment

OTTAWA – The Liberal government says it remains committed to doubling to 10,000 the number of applications it will process each year for family reunification of parents and grandparents.

However, the government’s Citizenship and Immigration website says applications are now being accepted for 2016 — and cautions in bold text that the number of applications is capped at 5,000.

Justin Trudeau promised during the election campaign that a Liberal government would double the cap as part of a package of immigration reforms.

The annual limit on family reunification applications for aging parents and grandparents was brought in by the former Conservative government, which called the program an abuse of generosity.

The Liberal government did not explain why the 5,000-application cap remains flagged on the website, but in an emailed statement, Immigration Minister John McCallum said he still plans to double the cap.

He said he will consult his cabinet colleagues on the change early in the new year.

“We are committed to reuniting families and we intend to meet the commitment to double the intake of PGP sponsorship applications from 5,000 to 10,000 per year,” the statement said.

The measure to double the application cap is also listed among the “key commitments for action in first 100 days” cited in the prime minister’s briefing books, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

Nonetheless, Conservatives jumped on Citizenship and Immigration’s web page notification Monday as evidence of “yet another unachievable Liberal campaign promise.”

Calgary MP Michelle Rempel posted on Facebook: “Keeping a realistic goal of 5,000 applications a year was part of our Conservative government’s initiative to be prudent managers of government. It was totally irresponsible of Trudeau to promise more than his government is able to deliver.”

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan suggested.

“I was concerned when the government announced on their web site last November that they had begun accepting new applications without stating the number of applications that they would accept,” Kwan said in a news release.

“Today’s announcement confirms that they are breaking their promise.”

Any changes to immigration levels will be announced when the government delivers its annual immigration report. The report was supposed to be tabled by Nov. 1, but the House of Commons was not yet sitting after the Oct. 19 election that brought Trudeau’s Liberals to power.

The annual report must be tabled within 30 days of Parliament’s return.

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