Where the New Democratic Party Stands on Immigration

On October 19, 2015, Canada will have a federal election. There are three political parties that may form government. One of them is the New Democratic Party.

The New Democratic Party has made the following election promises regarding immigration:

  • Remove the cap on parent and grandparent sponsorships imposed by the Conservatives.
  • Reduce wait times by increasing resources to reduce the huge backlogs in processing applications.
  • Put greater priority on family reunification, especially the reunion of children with their parents.
  • Fully restore the Interim Federal Health Care Program for refugees, as ordered by the Federal Court.
  • Reverse the what the NDP calls discriminatory changes to refugee determination and ensure that every refugee claimant receives a fair and unbiased hearing.
  • Make the visitor visa system more transparent and accountable, including by creating an appeal process.
  • Create an ombudsperson for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to investigate complaints and monitor human rights.
  • In consultation with communities, provinces and territories, introduce a comprehensive action plan to foster immigration to Francophone minority communities across the country.
  • Resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of this year.
  • Welcome 9,000 Syrian refugees per year starting in 2016.
  • Create a Syrian Refugee Coordinator to expedite and coordinate the efforts of the government, and eliminate barriers to speedy resettlement.
  • Mandate an independent review of the Temporary Foreign Worker (“TFW“) program to make a determination on whether the program is meeting its goals and to put an end to any and all abuses of the program as part of the reforms. These changes will ensure that all TFWs, current and future, will have the ability to access a path to citizenship.
  • And finally, although it is not in their platform, the NDP have consistently stressed that they would revoke portions of Bill C-24 that revoke citizenship for dual nationals convicted of certain offences.

<a href="http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2454378/2015-ndp-platform-en.pdf">https://www.liberal.ca/files/2015/09/A-new-plan-for-Canadian-immigration-and-economic-opportunity.pdf</a>


As I previously wrote in Policy Options, the NDP while in opposition has previously made promises that are completely unfeasible, such as the Once in a Lifetime Act, described in more detail below.  This would have allowed Canadians a one-time opportunity to sponsor any relative who is not a member of the family class to come to Canada.  Unless processing times were massive, it would have either had to have had an application cap or resulted in Canada’s population soaring.

The Once in a Lifetime Act is gone.

The result is a platform that is incredibly similar to the Liberals, with a few key differences.  Unlike the Liberals who will increase the cap on Parents & Grandparents from 5,000 to 10,000, the NDP will have no cap at all.  As well, if I am reading the NDP platform correctly, it seems like they will do away with the designated country of origin system.

For those interested, I have below reproduced what I wrote in 2011 so that you can see how the NDP has evolved.

On May 2nd 2011, Canada will have a federal election. There are four political parties that will likely win seats in Canada’s Parliament. One of them is the New Democratic Party.

The New Democratic Party has made the following election promises regarding immigration:

  • Accelerate and streamline the recognition of foreign credentials, overseas degrees and previous employment experience in conjunction with provinces and licensing authorities;
  • Increase resources to reduce the huge and unacceptable backlogs in processing immigration applications, with an emphasis on speeding up family reunification;
  • Implement the Once in a Lifetime Act to allow Canadians a one-time opportunity to sponsor a relative who is not a member of the family class to come to Canada;
  • Fast-track family class sponsorship from disaster areas;
  • Reinstate federal funding for the settlement of new Canadians in Ontario that was recently cut;
  • Ensure that tough laws against crooked immigration consultants are enforced; and
  • Develop credible, accountable procedures and appeal processes for visitors seeking visas to enter Canada for important family events.


The NDP immigration platform clearly emphasizes families.  Almost every promise is geared towards facilitating temporary and permanent reunification with families.  Without knowing the specifics it is difficult to know what a “credible appeal process” for visitors seeking visas to enter Canada for family events is.  However, all in all it is clear that the NDP would overhaul Canada’s immigration system to put an emphasis on families.

However, is it good for Canada to put so much emphasis on family reunification?  Unless there is a huge increase in the number of immigrants that Canada admits, with a corresponding huge increase in federal funding for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the only way to achieve these policies would be to drastically slash the number of economic immigrants and refugees admitted.  Unlike the family class, the economic class currently requires that potential immigrants be employable, and in some cases that they be proficient in one of Canada’s official languages.

Take the NDP’s proposed Once in a Lifetime Act for example.  Section 117(h) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations currently permits an individual who does not have any relatives in Canada to sponsor an overseas relative even if they are not a member of the Family Class.  Several Provincial Nominee Programs also allow individuals to sponsor relatives that are not members of the family class provided that they be employable.

Are these not sufficient programs to balance the need for family reunification while contributing to Canada’s economy?

Allowing every Canadian to sponsor an overseas relative regardless of whether that individual already has relatives in Canada, and regardless of whether that person is employable, would dramatically and rapidly increase Canada’s population.  Indeed, if every Canadian could sponsor a relative, wouldn’t Canada’s population double if every Canadian utilized the program?

Surprisingly, there has been no mention of changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democrats, has been a very vocal critic of this program, and it is surprising that he has not put forward his alternative.

3 thoughts on “Where the New Democratic Party Stands on Immigration

  1. The intent of the “Once in a Lifetime” bill is not addressed in s117(h). The original intent of Once in a Lifetime is to allow families IN CANADA to sponsor their LONE family member remaining back home (overseas), member who cannot be included in the original application because the he / she does not meet family class eligibilty, such as age and dependency. Applicants must still meet admissibility requirements.

  2. Phyllis, what you have just described raises interesting questions about who is included and excluded from the family class.

    It is not, however, how the NDP Platform describes the purpose of the Once in a Lifetime Act.

  3. Do we have determined how many people we can sustain in Canada? I am thinking about food security, sustainability and the impact on the environment. There is also the matter of jobs and impact felt when their is high unemployment and high immigration which helps corporations but does nothing for the working class.
    I think once we have an understanding of our capacity as a nation then I would feel more comfortable sharing our lands with newcomers.
    However, when I see that the level of child poverty in my province of British Columbia is not going down and that First Nations people are suffering is it fair to keep admitting new people. I don’t want to see families separated but at some point there has to be a maximum number.
    If the transportation systems that deliver our food supplies were impacted by an oil shortage or some other event…would we be able to feed all our people?
    Thanks for your consideration of this comment and look forward to learning more about our Parties policies.

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