ARCHIVED – Online consultation

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Methodology

On March 23, 2012, CIC launched an online consultation with stakeholders and the general public. Participants were asked to read a background document prior to completing an online questionnaire, which was open from March 23 to May 25, 2012.

The questionnaire consisted of a mix of multiple choice and open-ended questions that allowed participants to provide further comment. Respondents were given the choice to respond as an individual or as a stakeholder/representative of an organization. All participants completed the same questionnaire, the only exception being the type of demographic information requested from individuals and representatives of an organization.

The findings summarized in this report reflect only the views of those who responded to the online consultation. These views cannot be projected to the overall Canadian population or CIC stakeholder community.

Respondents

The online consultation received a total of 6,444 completed responses – the most of any online consultation hosted by the Department. The majority of responses, 6,390 in total, were from participants that self-identified as members of the general public, 50 responses were received from stakeholders/individuals representing an organization, and 4 responses were gathered from those representing a provincial or territorial government.

Among the general public respondents, the majority indicated they lived in Canada (62% identified as Canadian citizens, 35% as permanent residents and 3% as temporary residents), and 4% indicated they lived outside of Canada. A significant portion of respondents indicated they were either planning to sponsor a parent or grandparent (39%), were currently in the process of sponsoring a parent or grandparent (27%), or had sponsored a parent or grandparent in the past (11%). A minority of participants (19%) indicated they did not plan to sponsor a parent or grandparent.

Among respondents who identified as representatives of stakeholder organizations, the majority classified the nature of their organization as community organizations (17 out of 50 or 34%), settlement/integration service providers (9 or 18%), and immigration consultants/lawyers (8 or 16%). Other organization types were business/sector associations (6 or 12%), professional associations (3 or 6%), and employer/employee associations, labour/union groups or education institutions/education associations (1 or 2% each).

The majority of stakeholder organizations operate within Canada (92%) – in multiple provinces or territories such as Ontario (54%), British Columbia (26%), or Alberta (24%).

Key Findings

Responses from stakeholders and the general public were comparable on many issues. Overall, responses from the public did not vary greatly based on differences in their status (i.e., those who identified as Canadian citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents, and those who indicated that they live outside of Canada).

The following summary of findings presents the overall results and comments from both the general public and those who self-identified as being representatives of stakeholder organization groups. Any notable differences or commonalities between stakeholders and the public or among subgroups of the public (i.e. individuals who identified as Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or temporary residents, as well as those who have sponsored, are in the process of sponsoring, or who intend to sponsor a parent or grandparent) are noted. Because of the small sample size of stakeholder organizations, subgroup responses (i.e., type of organization, location) are not reported.

Overview

  • In terms of managing the intake of applicants, respondents favoured a first-come first-served model (supported by 73% of the general public and 60% of stakeholders) over a lottery model (opposed by 81% of the general public and 62% of stakeholders).
  • The proposed initiative that garnered the most support from both the general population and stakeholders was the idea of emphasizing a sponsor’s commitment to Canada by requiring Canadian citizenship (favoured by 55% of the general public and 56% of stakeholders). Other proposed initiatives received more support from the general population than from stakeholders, including the suggestion of limiting sponsorship to principal applicants and their spouses (favoured by 54% of general public and 38% of stakeholders) and the idea that parents and grandparents must have the majority of their children living in Canada to be eligible for sponsorship (favoured by 50% of general public and 28% of stakeholders).
  • Opposition was expressed for a proposal to ease the economic impact of parents and grandparents by implementing a fee for applicants (70% of general public and 62% of stakeholder respondents disagreed) or their sponsors (62% of the public and 60% of stakeholders disagreed). In terms of limiting sponsorship to those who meet exceptional criteria or who require compassionate consideration, 51% of general public respondents and 42% of stakeholders disagreed.
  • Suggestions for easing the economic impact of parents and grandparent on Canada elicited mixed reactions within the general public and stakeholder groups:
    • Increasing the minimum income (MNI) threshold for sponsors: 51% of general public respondents and 44% of stakeholders agreed and 36% of general public respondents and 38% of stakeholders disagreed.
    • Increasing the length of time for which a sponsor must meet the MNI threshold: 45% of general public respondents and 36% of stakeholders agreed and 40% of general public respondents and 48% of stakeholders disagreed.
    • Increasing both the MNI threshold and the length of time: 44% of general public respondents and 36% of stakeholders agreed and 41% of general public respondents and 46% of stakeholders disagreed.
  • Mixed views were also expressed about extending the sponsorship undertaking from the current 10 years to the lifetime of the sponsored parent or grandparent (43% of general public respondents and 48% of stakeholders agreed and 45% each disagreed with this proposal).

Detailed Findings

1. Managing the number of people who can apply

Applications managed on a first-come first-served basis

General public respondents were highly supportive of managing applications for parents and grandparents on a first-come first-served basis (73% agreed; 17% disagreed). Stakeholders reported slightly less support than the public (60% agreed; 24% disagreed).

Applications managed through a lottery

Overall, the majority of general public respondents were opposed to the concept of managing applications for parents and grandparents through a lottery system (10% agreed; 81% disagreed). This opposition was somewhat more muted among stakeholder organizations (24% agreed; 62% disagreed).

Within the general public, two sub-groups were more likely to be in favour of the idea of a lottery model: those who said they are not planning to sponsor a parent or grandparent (66% disagreed vs. 81%, overall), and those 55 years of age and older (ranging from 60% to 67% in disagreement).

The first-come first-served model was perceived as more fair and transparent, whereas the lottery approach was deemed unfair. Respondents also commented on prioritizing applications based on circumstances such as family care needs (i.e. parents/grandparents’ age, those who have lost their spouse, single parents), or special cases, such as those with the majority of children in Canada, or with only one child.  

2. A modernized parent and grandparent immigration program

a) Easing the economic impact of parents and grandparents

Extending the current 10 years sponsorship to lifetime

When asked whether the sponsorship undertaking should be extended from 10 years to the lifetime of the sponsored parent or grandparent, responses were fairly divided among both general public (43% agreed; 45% disagreed) and stakeholder respondents (48% agreed; 42% disagreed).

Those more likely to be in favour of extending the sponsorship undertaking included   respondents 65 or older (69% agreed; 22% disagreed) and those not planning to sponsor a parent or grandparent (56% agreed; 36% disagreed).

Requiring parents and grandparents to pay a fee

Members of the general public were generally opposed to requiring parents and grandparents to pay a fee for the purpose of offsetting anticipated costs to provincial and federal programs (21% agreed; 70% disagreed). Stakeholders reported similar, though slightly more positive views towards payment by the parent or grandparent (24% agreed; 62% disagreed).

For those with a stake in the proposal (they have sponsored, are currently sponsoring or plan to sponsor a parent or grandparent), a greater proportion was opposed to imposing a fee (14% agreed; 76% disagreed). However, among those not planning to sponsor, views were polarized (45% each agreed and disagreed). Respondents 55 years of age and older were more likely to favour this measure than were respondents under 55 (53%).

Requiring sponsors of parents/grandparents to pay a fee

Both general public and stakeholder respondents opposed the idea of sponsors of parents and grandparents paying a fee to offset anticipated costs to provincial and federal programs (27% of the public and 24% of stakeholders agreed with a fee, while 62% of the public and 59% of stakeholders disagreed).

It is interesting to note that respondents under the age of 45 followed the general trend of less favourable responses towards sponsors paying a fee, while older cohorts (55 years and older) were more likely to support the idea. Also more likely to agree were those not planning to sponsor a parent or grandparent (51% agreed and 40% disagreed).

Increasing minimum income threshold for sponsors

The general public showed more support than did stakeholders to increasing the minimum income threshold for sponsors (51% of general public and 44% of stakeholders agreed; 36% of public and 38% of stakeholders disagreed).

More favourable responses to the proposal were expressed by:  those who were currently sponsoring a parent or grandparent (59% agreed; 29% disagreed), those who don’t intend to sponsor a parent or grandparent (58% agreed; 32% disagreed), and those who had sponsored a parent or grandparent (57% agreed; 33% disagreed).  Results were almost equally split among those who plan to sponsor a parent or grandparent (42% agreed; 45% disagreed).

Respondents more likely to agree with a minimum income threshold were those who identified being over 55 years of age (67% agreed; 24% disagreed).

Increasing the length of time for which a sponsor must meet the minimum income threshold

When asked whether the length of time for which a sponsor must meet the minimum income threshold should be increased, responses were almost evenly split among general public respondents (45% agreed; 40% disagreed), while stakeholders were slightly more likely to oppose the idea (36% agreed; 48% disagreed).

Among general public respondents, those planning to sponsor a parent or grandparent expressed greater opposition to the proposal (34% agreed; 50% disagreed). Comparatively, over half of respondents in other subgroups were inclined to support the proposal – including those who have sponsored (52% agreed; 34% disagreed); are currently sponsoring (53% agreed; 33% disagreed); or are not planning to sponsor (56% agreed; 33% disagreed).

Canadian citizens showed more favourable responses to the proposal (52% agreed; 35% disagreed) than temporary residents (27% agreed; 52% disagreed) and permanent residents (37% agreed; 49% disagreed).

Increasing both minimum income and length of time to meet minimum income threshold

Respondents were also asked if increases should be made to both the minimum income threshold and the length of time during which a sponsor must meet that threshold. The general public provided mixed support (44% agreed; 41% disagreed), while stakeholders expressed slightly higher levels of disagreement (36% agreed; 46% disagreed).

Sub-groups of the general public more favourable to the idea of increasing both minimum income and time include: those who have sponsored (51% agreed; 37% disagreed), those who are currently sponsoring (51% agreed; 33% disagreed), as well as those not planning to sponsor a parent or grandparent (55% agreed; 33% disagreed). Those who are planning to sponsor a parent or grandparent are less likely to support such a proposal (32% agreed; 51% disagreed).

Canadian citizens had more favourable responses to the proposal (51% agreed; 36% disagreed) than temporary residents (26% agreed; 52% disagreed) or permanent residents (34% agreed; 49% disagreed).

Overall comments related to easing the economic impact of parents and grandparents

Specific comments provided by participants with regards to easing the economic impact of parents and grandparents most frequently related to the concept of the minimum income threshold (MNI)/Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) for sponsors, with many favouring an increase of these levels. Participants who opposed increasing the MNI/LICO levels felt that these were already too high.

With regards to proposals to have sponsors or parents and grandparents pay increased fees, respondents commented that fees discriminate against those with lower incomes, thus contributing to a system that favours higher income populations. Others, who stated that a fee would be an unfair barrier, proposed to either reduce or eliminate the fee. Some others felt that sponsors already contribute to the economy through assets as well as various taxes (property, education etc.). They also emphasized that the positive contributions from parents and grandparents – indirectly through child care or family support and directly in terms of their economic contribution through direct assets or monetary contribution – outweigh the costs to Canada’s social system.

Other respondents felt that options to ease the economic impact of parents and grandparents could include limiting or stopping Old Age Security or social benefit programs; linking access to Canada’s public income security system to the social and economic status of individuals; introducing other support or funding measures; or fast-tracking or prioritizing high income levels.

Some expressed concerns of a humanitarian nature, suggesting that family care needs should determine the prioritization of cases or the exemption of extra costs. However, many indicated that sponsors must hold the sole responsibility of parents and grandparents if they are in need or are unable to support themselves.

b) Redefining the eligibility of family members who accompany parents and grandparents

Limiting sponsorship to principal applicants and their spouses

Respondents from the general public expressed more support for a proposal that would limit sponsorship to principal applicants and their spouses (54% agreed; 34% disagreed) than did stakeholders (38% agreed; 54% disagreed).

Majority of children living permanently in Canada

Half of the general public respondents supported a “balance-of-family” proposal requiring that parents and grandparents only be eligible for sponsorship if the majority of their children already live permanently in Canada (50% agreed; 40% disagreed). Stakeholders showed much less support for such a proposal (28% agreed; 54% disagreed).

In terms of sponsorship status, two respondent groups tended to show higher levels of support toward the proposal – those who currently sponsor (53% agreed; 37% disagreed), and those not planning to sponsor (55% agreed; 36% disagreed). Views were more evenly divided among those who had sponsored (48% agreed; 42% disagreed) and individuals who plan to sponsor (47% agree; 43% disagree).

Younger respondents (24 years old or less) tended to oppose the proposal (39% agreed; 50% disagreed), whereas those 45 and older supported the approach (with agreement ranging from 54% for those under 54 to 71% for those 65 and older).

In terms of redefining the eligibility of family members who accompany parents and grandparents, the issue most frequently commented on by participants was the prioritization of cases based on family care needs.

While some suggested prioritizing parents’ sponsorship, others felt that siblings should also be included in the sponsorship to attract a younger demographic that could contribute to Canada’s economy in the future. Some suggested separating sponsorship applications for siblings and dependents (age not defined).

While some agreed with the balance of family test (a requirement that parents and grandparents have at least half, or the majority, of their children living permanently in Canada before they could be sponsored), others expressed disagreement, indicating that the choice of family reunification should be left to the family. Others commented that societal values of defining family structure should not be compromised and that social values of equality should be upheld. Those who disagreed with the balance of family test said that this requirement could be subject to unfair assessment (i.e. unfair to large families, to families with an even number of children, or in cases where children are spread across multiple countries).

Limiting sponsorship to Canadian citizens

Limiting sponsorship of parents and grandparents to those who had obtained Canadian citizenship was seen favourably by slightly more than half of respondents (55% of general public and 56% of stakeholders agreed and 35% of general public and 32% of stakeholders disagreed).

Those who plan to sponsor a parent or grandparent in the future had polarized views (46% agreed; 43% disagreed), whereas other subgroups, including those who have sponsored (62%), are currently sponsoring (61%) or are not planning to sponsor a parent or grandparent (62%) were generally supportive of the proposal.

The majority of those who identified as Canadian citizens were supportive of the proposal (71% agreed; 21% disagreed). Lower levels of support were expressed by those who identified as permanent residents (30% agreed; 57% disagreed) or temporary residents (29% agreed; 57% disagreed).

Respondents 25 to 34 years of age had polarized views (44% agreed; 45% disagreed), whereas those 35 and over tended to support the proposal (ranging from 63% to 80% in agreement from younger to older).

Some said citizenship should be a mandatory requirement for sponsors. Others suggested that a combination of citizenship and a minimum period of time during which the sponsor has resided in Canada would be appropriate.

Those opposed to the proposal felt that obtaining citizenship does not necessarily demonstrate a commitment to the country, indicating that there are other ways to verify commitment (for example, through assessment of taxation records). Some noted that this proposal does not reflect Canada’s social values, or said the requirement would be too onerous.

Participants also mentioned the inability of some permanent residents to apply as Canadian citizens, recommending minimum residency length or a permanent residency requirement for sponsors. Many stated that permanent residents should be permitted to sponsor parents and grandparents, noting that they have shown their commitment to Canada by settling in Canada and raising families in the country.

c) Focusing on special needs or exceptional cases

Limiting sponsorship to those meeting exceptional criteria and requiring compassionate consideration

A little over half of general public respondents were opposed to the idea that sponsorship of parents and grandparents be limited to those who meet exceptional criteria and who require compassionate consideration (29% agreed; 51% disagreed). Stakeholders showed slightly more support for this idea (38% agreed; 42% disagreed).

Younger respondents (aged 18-24) were more likely to oppose the proposal (24% agreed; 63% disagreed). No other subgroup differences emerged.

Some respondents agreed with case prioritization – stating that, for example, special considerations should be made for circumstances such as widowed or single parents, single-child families, or based on family care needs in general. However, they went on to say that access to the program should not be limited to only those with special needs or exceptional cases.

Some of those opposed voiced concerns related to human rights and equality, noting that everyone has the right to reunite with family or to be treated equally. Those respondents also felt that reuniting families is ultimately good for Canada, stating that families as a whole can make a greater contribution to the country.

Finally, some participants expressed concern about possible fraudulent activities that might surface if this proposal were to be implemented. They felt that exceptional or compassionate cases could be too subjective, could become a burden to Canada, or could create a backlog or delays or complications with the program.

Additional comments

Participants were asked if they had any other additional comments related to the consultation. Respondents reiterated many of the same comments they had provided throughout the survey.

Feedback focused largely on the importance of family reunification and its positive effects on family structure and families’ success as a whole. Also mentioned was the importance of prioritizing cases where family care is required for parents and grandparents, or in cases of special needs.

Other comments pertained to the process itself. These included suggestions to improve the application process, appeals to ensure the implementation to any changes to the program not affect applications already submitted or underway, and the use and increased flexibility of visitor visas to ease the burden on the system. Some participants also commented on the need for monitoring for fraudulent activity within the entire process.

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