Canadian MPs vote on controversial immigration bill


Toronto : The process of migrating to Canada is set for drastic changes with the House of Commons finally voting the controversial Bill C-50, which will now go to the Senate before it becomes a law.

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A drama of sorts was enacted by the main opposition Liberal party, which has cried itself hoarse in opposing immigration changes, when a large number of its MPs just abstained during the voting, enabling the minority Conservative party government to get the bill okayed by 120-90 votes Monday.

The ruling party had cleverly tucked immigration changes in the budget implementation bill, whose defeat would have led to a snap poll.

Since the Liberal party does not find itself election ready, it didn’t want to bring down the government on the immigration bill. However, it has promised to undo these changes once it comes to power.

When the bill gets the assent from the governor general, it will become effective retrospectively from Feb 2008.

Under the new law, the immigration minister gets sweeping powers to fast-track immigration in the skilled categories such as doctors and professionals. The changes may have impact on immigration from India, which was set to overtake China and become the number one source of immigrants for Canada this year.

However, this may not happen now as a large number of immigrants from India fall in the family reunification category which may take a back seat under the new law. Currently, it takes just a few months for an applicant to land in Canada in the family category, while it takes up to five to six years in other categories.

The immigration minister can also set limits on the number of immigrants to be allowed into Canada each year. Immigration can be denied even if an applicant meets all qualification for immigration and has been cleared by immigration officers.

Though the government said immigration changes were necessitated by the 900,000-plus backlog of application, its true motive seems to be political as immigrant communities have basically not voted for the Conservative party, except in a few pockets.

Since immigrants are concentrated in major urban areas where the party has never done well, it is eager to change equations in its favour in urban Canada.