Speaking notes for Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Speech

At a Press Conference on the Caregivers Program

Toronto, Ontario
December 3, 2017

As delivered

Thank you, Marco, very much for that kind introduction. I just want to also acknowledge the presence of my federal colleagues here, the Honourable Salma Zahid, Member of Parliament for Scarborough Centre, yes, for Scarborough Centre, and Rob Oliphant, my colleague, as well as Jenny Kwan, who's my Opposition Critic and Member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party.

I also want to take an opportunity to thank all of you for joining us here today, especially the caregivers who are in the room today, for the services that they provide to Canadian families and to our communities. Thank you very much.

I want to start by talking about a story that I read recently about a woman named Jocelyne. Jocelyne was separated from her three children who are in the Philippines for more than 10 years. And as a father of three young boys, I miss my children very much, when I'm away from them from a week or two due to my work in Ottawa. I can't imagine being separated from them for 13 years.

Last month, her application was finally approved and she became a permanent resident of Canada and, hopefully soon, a Canadian citizen. But unfortunately, we have heard many, many stories just like this one. And too many families have been apart for too long. For this heart-wrenching story and many others, we are truly sorry and we hope to do much, much better.

We understand how difficult it is for caregivers and that some continue to be separated from their families while they wait for their processing of their permanent resident applications. Indeed, we have listened, and will continue to listen, to the concerns of caregivers across the country about these unreasonable delays. And we absolutely sympathize with your situation.

It wasn't long ago when I had the opportunity of having a town hall meeting with Marco Mendicino, Michael Levitt and Salma and Ally Assassi about this very same issue. And we heard from caregivers from various parts of this city and the province about the issues that they were going through and the unreasonable delays that they were dealing with. Again, I want to thank all the caregivers for the hard work and dedication, the help that you provide to care for our loved ones. You help support families and you're part of our growing economy. The contributions that you make to our communities are indeed very, very significant and cannot be overstated. So thank you once again.

Our government is committed to supporting caregivers, as well as the parents and families with caregiving needs. Under the old Live-in Caregiver Program, caregivers were offered a direct path to permanent residency and were required to live in their employer's home. In response to concerns raised about potential abuse, this program was closed to new applicants in November 2014. At the same time, the government created two new caregiver programs, the Caring for Children Class and the Caring for People with High Medical Needs Class.

Both of these programs offer pathways to permanent residency for caregivers with fast processing times and without the requirement that caregivers live in the home of their employer. We continue to encourage all caregivers, and their family members who are interested and eligible, to apply for permanent residency in Canada and to do so through one of these two programs because they're much faster.

While we process these new applications in record speed, we also continue to process the applications for caregivers who are in the old program. We've been working, therefore, very diligently to reduce the backlog of these older applications.

What we inherited in this program was extremely long processing times and large backlogs. Today, therefore, it is important for our government to provide an update on this program and reaffirm our commitment to faster family reunification for the people in the backlog.

As of October 2017, we reduced the backlog in the former Live-in Caregiver Program to about 23,000. This is a significant progress, because in May 2014, the backlog reached a high of 62,000, so we've reduced it to 23,000 people. We accomplished this by implementing efficiencies such as dedicating additional resources specifically to reduce this backlog. And I'm happy to report that we are now on track to reach 5,000 more applications and making final decisions than originally planned for 2017.

We have also added a new communications protocol where we contact caregivers and their family members to help ensure that their applications are complete. This allows us to process applications even faster. Also, as you know, in our new multi-year immigration levels plan, we will also continue to admit high numbers of permanent residents under the old Live-In Caregiver Program until all the remaining cases are closed. Under the levels planned, we plan to admit as many as 20,000 caregivers as permanent residents, which would double the average admissions of about 10,000 between 2005 and 2014. So we're doubling the numbers of intake so that we can reduce and eliminate the backlog in the old Caregivers program.

Over the past few months, I've visited various visa offices, most recently in Beijing and Manila and, there, I had the opportunity to see firsthand our visa officers and our permanent resident officers put in place these efficiencies and other practices into action, to speed up the processing times and better serve our clients.

While we have made good progress at reducing the backlog, we recognize that we must do more to reunite caregivers and their families even more quickly. So under our government's plan, we will largely eliminate this backlog within a year. This means that caregivers will be able to reunite with their families even faster. Therefore, I'm happy to tell you all today that we will finalize 80 percent of all the cases in the caregiver inventory by the end of 2018.

Under our government's plan, we will also commit to finalizing 80 percent of all new and complete applications submitted on or after October 1, 2017, within a year. The government has heard caregivers' concerns and, while many live-in caregiver applicants have faced long delays in family separation, they can rest assured that they will soon receive a decision on their application.

With this plan, those who have diligently provided care and compassion for Canadians and waited patiently for their applications to be processed, may finally reach their goal of joining Canadian society as permanent residents and eventually, hopefully, as Canadian citizens. While the government is committed to supporting caregivers, we also wish to provide better support to the parents and families who need them.

That is why, as part of Budget 2017, we will maintain our commitment to eliminate the $1,000 labour market impact assessment fee for most Canadian families who need a caregiver. As proposed in Budget 2017, this fee would be eliminated for all families in need of a caregiver or a person with high medical needs. This fee will also be eliminated for families who need a caregiver for children with a household income of less than $150,000. Further developments are expected on these two measures very soon.

With these announcements, caregivers may be able to reunite with their families much sooner and most Canadian families who need a caregiver will be able to get them here more easily, without the burden of additional costs.

As I mentioned earlier, the importance of caregivers' contributions to our Canadian society and our country can never be overstated. It takes a very special person to look after our young and our elderly. As a result of caregivers' contributions, the elderly are able to stay in the comfort of their homes, something that we all support. Caregivers are also helping to raise our next generation of children by helping to take care of our children while their parents go to work or school. Through all of their hard work, caregivers help to support hardworking Canadian families and our economy. This provides immeasurable benefits to our society and, ultimately, to all Canadians. All caregivers, therefore, deserve a very big thank you from all of us. Thank you from all of us for your dedication, your commitment and, most importantly, your compassion that you show every single day to all of us.

Thank you. We know that reuniting with your loved ones can profoundly affect and change your lives. Our government, therefore, is committed and focused on family reunification, first and foremost. We're therefore committed to reducing the application processing times for the new applications and eliminating the backlogs for the old cases. By doing all of that, we're doing one thing and one thing that is most important, which is bringing families together sooner.

Thank you very much.


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