Last Updated on June 17, 2010 by Steven Meurrens

Charlie Gillis has an interesting article Macleans Magazine today titled “Who Doesn’t Get Into Canada”. The article analyses a government report titled “Social and Economic Outcomes of Second Generation Youth” in the context of broader trends in Canadian immigration patterns.  

The government report makes many very blunt observations, including that:

  • Chinese and South Asians are the most likely to have university degrees or higher, and to be employed in high-skilled occupations; and
  • Second-generation youth of Caribbean and Latin American origin don’t fare as well. They tend to obtain lover levels of education than native-born Canadian kids and wind up in less skilled jobs.

Mr. Gillis uses this information to provide the first discussion (that I have seen) on the effects of Bill C-50. Passed in 2008, this Bill provided, amongst other things, the Minister of Immigration with the power to:

  • Limit the number of new applications;
  • Reject applications;
  • Decide the order in which new applications are processed;
  • Delay the processing of applications from specific missions abroad in order to speed those from others; and
  • Give priority to qualified skilled professionals applying under the economic class categories.

Mr. Gillis notes that the impact has appeared to have been increased wait times for family class applicants of South American or Caribbean descent that are disproportionately greater than the increase for those of Asian descent. He notes that:

The average wait time for someone wishing to bring a spouse into the country through Kingston, Jamaica has ballooned to 15 months, fully three times the processing time in 2006. A similar application lodged in New Delhi takes just six months.


Caribbean, Latin American and African candidates appear to have been hit hardest. Canadian-based parents who apply to the immigration post in Nairobi to bring over their children are told they must wait three years, nearly double the projected wait in 2006. In Guatemala, the delay is up 63 per cent during the same period, to 23 months, while wait times for Asian and Pacific countries have grown only marginally.

The article suggests that this reflects an increased importance in the value Citizenship and Immigration Canada places on individuals from certain regions.

Is this true?  Is family re-unification being stunted under the Conservative government?  Is there a racial preference given to Asians over other races?

I don’t think so.

While some embassies are painfully slow, there does not seem to be a huge racial discrepancy in the time it takes to re-unify families. I base this assertion on a series of tables provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada on its website, which I have summarized below.


Processing Times for Spouses / Partners

Region 80% of Applications Completed Within ___ Months
Africa and the Middle East 14
Asia and the Pacific 12
Europe 10
Americas 13

Processing Times for Dependent Children

Region 80% of Applications Completed Within ___ Months
Africa and the Middle East 24
Asia and the Pacific 10
Europe 9
Americas 11

Processing Times for Parents

Region 80% of Applications Completed Within ___ Months
Africa and the Middle East 22
Asia and the Pacific 25
Europe 23
Americas 22

What these tables show is that, with the exception of Africa and the Middle East for dependent children, wait times are generally consistent, deviating by only a couple months.

Furthermore, while the wait times in Africa are larger than other regions, the number of Africans being admitted as a percentage of immigrants is actually increasing. The following table was produced by the Government of Canada as part of an analysis of the 2006 census. It shows:

The most drastic change has been the huge decline in the percentage of European and Oceania immigration.

As well, whatever politicians may be saying, the statistics don’t support the notion that the number of family immigrants is decreasing.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the number of family applicants admitted to Canada from 2005-2009 are as follows:

Category 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Spouses and partners 45,445 45,300 44,908 44,201 43,887
Sons and daughters 3,232 3,191 3,338 3,255 3,025
Parents and grandparents 12,475 20,005 15,813 16,599 17,175
Others 2,209 2,016 2,179 1,519 1,100
Family class 63,361 70,512 66,238 65,574 65,187

During this period where the number of family immigrants increased, the number of economic immigrants, and certainly the number of refugees, actually decreased.

Despite what I consider to be errant conclusions, the article does make several observations that are extremely thought provoking. First, it provides strong evidence that there is a perception that family re-unification is decreasing.  The government needs to address this perception, as it could certainly affect whether people decide to immigrate to Canada. Second, while politicians emphasis economic immigration – which is shown in the article – less than one in four newcomers are finding work in the occupations they trained for, and immigrants in general are less likely to be employed than native-born Canadians.  This is hugely problematic, and certainly something that dissuades talented people from immigrating.