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Controversial immigration regulations called `absolutely unfair'

Controversial immigration regulations called `absolutely unfair'

Old Jan 29th 2002, 6:39 am
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Saeed Vahid
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MPs plan to revolt over entry proposals Controversial immigration regulations called
`absolutely unfair' Allan Thompson OTTAWA BUREAU

OTTAWA - A full-fledged backbench revolt awaits Citizenship and Immigration Minister
Denis Coderre when he appears before the House of Commons immigration committee today
to testify about his department's controversial new regulations.

The committee chair, Liberal MP Joe Fontana, said yesterday the proposed rules are
wrong and do not reflect pledges the immigration department gave during months of
detailed testimony last year before a new immigration law was passed.

"You're darn right I'm looking for changes. You'd better believe it," Fontana (London
North Centre) said yesterday.

"I don't think (the proposed regulations) reflect the spirit of the legislation.
Some provisions, including the retroactivity provisions, are absolutely unworkable
and unfair.

"My job as a parliamentarian is to do the best I possibly can for the House of
Commons and the people and that means sometimes telling the government or the
minister they're wrong," he said.

Under the proposed regulations, an overhaul of the point system for independent
immigration will be applied retroactively, possibly disqualifying tens of thousands
of applicants who would have made it under the old system, critics charge.

Critics also contend the threshold for independent immigrants has been set so
high in the new point grid that many of the skilled workers Canada needs won't
make the grade.

Fontana said he wants to see major amendments to the package of regulatory changes
unveiled by the immigration department just before Christmas.

The regulations put the meat on the bones of the new immigration law and are
scheduled to come into force June 28.

Fontana is echoed by a host of backbench Liberal MPs who gave the new immigration
minister an earful at yesterday's Liberal caucus meeting.

The MPs are part of the chorus of criticism directed at the regulatory changes. The
Canadian Bar Association and a number of the country's top immigration lawyers have
attacked the regulations as a betrayal of Canada's longstanding immigration policies.

Fontana said the new point system puts too much emphasis on language skills and
education and could screen out many skilled workers with other qualifications.

The issue was raised yesterday at the meetings of Toronto and Ontario Liberal MPs
before being raised again in the national caucus meeting, MPs said.

Scarborough Centre MP John Cannis said it is not just about rolling back the
retroactivity provisions. He said many MPs want revisions to the new immigration
criteria as well because they are seen as too harsh.

"Are we saying that a tool and die maker who graduates from a two-year program at
community college and is needed here in Canada, are we saying `no, we don't want
you because you don't have a Master's degree?' I don't think that's the message
that we want out.

"No legislation is ever written in stone," Cannis added.

"I'm confident we're going to come to a conclusion that's the Liberal way and the
real Canadian way of building this country."

Coderre has given no clear indication so far where he stands on the issue, except to
say he has an open mind and intends to consult colleagues and experts.

That, in effect, amounts to a ministerial review of a set of proposals that had
already been put forward by his predecessor as government policy.

Even former immigration minister Elinor Caplan was apparently prepared to roll
back at least part of the regulations package by offering to refund the $500
processing fee for applicants who feel their immigration applications will suffer
under the new law.

But Caplan was moved to the customs and revenue portfolio and replaced by Coderre
when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien shuffled his cabinet earlier this month.

"We've talked to the minister, he's got an open mind, he's listening right now, I
guess you call that consulting," said Eglinton-Lawrence MP Joe Volpe.

"I hear it in our communities," said Cambridge MP Janko Peric.

"There are Canadians who came to this country, like myself, without university
degrees and they built empires, they built huge companies employing a lot of people.
Those are the real builders of our country."
 

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