Since the formal enshrinement of Canada’s immigration objectives in the Immigration Act of 1976, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been tasked with the responsibility of balancing the demands of the labour market and reuniting immigrant families. Policy changes in the 1990s suggest that neoliberal ideology, which promotes market economy principles, has become increasingly influential in the shaping of Canadian social policies and practices, and has had significant implications for immigration policy and admission trends (Arat-Koc, 1999). The prominence of neoliberal logic in immigration policy has resulted in the framing of immigrant value in terms of economic contributions. As a result, Family Class admissions have been the target of criticism, particularly sponsored parents and grandparents, who are absolved of meeting the point system criteria and are therefore perceived as having little ability to contribute to the economy (McLaren & Black, 2005). This paper explores the extent to which recent reforms to the parent and grandparent sponsorship program are a reflection of, and maintain, the prevailing neoliberal discourse that subordinates Family Class immigrants, especially parents and grandparents, conceiving of them as burdens to the state as opposed to contributing Economic Class entrants. This economic framework provides an incomplete picture of the contributions that sponsored parents and grandparents make to Canada. Furthermore, the insufficiency of empirical data supporting the claim that parents and grandparents are a potential burden on the state suggests that the recent reforms are an explicit expression of fear rather than fact (VanderPlaat, Ramos & Yoshida, 2011). This paper concludes with future research suggestions that lend themselves to redefining “contribution” to incorporate social, cultural, and indirect economic contributions, to provide a more nuanced conception of the value of sponsored parents and grandparents.
Editor’s Note This paper received the Best Term Paper Award for 2014-15 of the Master’s Program in Immigration and Settlement Studies, an annual award granted by the Faculty of Community Services. The award was delivered by Dean Usha George at the 10th Anniversary Gala of the ISS MA Program, May 1, 2015.
Franklin, D. 2015. The Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program Reforms: The Consequence of a Neoliberal Shift. RCIS Working Paper No. 5. Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement.