The Evolution of Canadian Immigration Law

AuthorJamie Chai Yun Liew; Donald Galloway
Canadian im migration law in the early t wenty-f‌irst century has been
subject to frequent and seemingly frenz ied revision and reformulation
by the government of the day as it attempts to identif y the country’s
social, economic, and demographic needs and to respond to perceived
threats to its sovereign control over Canada’s borders. In a period of
about f‌ifteen years, we have witnes sed a series of substanti al changes
beginning in 2001 with the enactment of new legislation, the Im migra-
tion and Refugee Protection Act (IR PA),1 a statute which, according to the
Supreme Court of Canada, reveals a set of priorities that differ sig nif‌i-
cantly from those of its predeces sors.2 This statute has been modif‌ied
extensively by a series of three other Acts: the Balanced Refugee Reform
1 SC 2001, c 27 [IRPA].
2 In Medovarski v Canada (Ministe r of Citizenship and Immigration); Esteban v
Canada (Minister of Citizen ship and Immigration), 2005 SCC 51 at para 10 [Medo-
varski], the Chief Justice ma de the following point:
The objectives as ex pressed in the IR PA ind icate an intent to prioritize s ecu-
rity. This objective is g iven effect by preventing the ent ry of applicants with
crimin al records, by removing applic ants with such records from C anada,
and by emphasi zing the obligation of perm anent residents to behave law-
fully while i n Canada. This marks a c hange from the focus in the prede ces-
sor statute, which emph asized the successf ul integration of applicant s more
than secu rity . . . .
Act,3 the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act,4 and the Protecting
Canada’s Immigration System Act.5 These Acts have radically reshaped
the institutional framework established by the IRPA , facilitated the
removal of individuals deemed in admissible, and introduced severe
measures aimed at deterring individuals f rom seeking Canada’s protec-
tion. Numerous regulatory modif‌icat ions have also been made, many
of them seeking to shore up the system from the threat of possible
fraud and abuse.
In addition, the Citizenship Act6 has been modif‌ied in ways that
have redef‌ined the statu s and the processes of acquiring citize nship. We
have also witnessed an increased devolution of power to the provinces
and territories, most of which have developed their own programs to
attract needed workers and business im migrants to meet local needs.
We have seen an intensif‌ication of minister ial micromanagement, mani-
fested in the issuance of specif‌ic instructions on how to f‌ill gaps i n the
labour market; in seemingly endless tinkering with the rules governing
the entry of temporar y foreign workers, who are being admitted in un-
precedented numbers; and in the redef‌inition of the opportunities for
families to live together by setti ng quotas on the number of parents and
grandparents who can b e sponsored as permanent residents and by
establishing more temporar y possibilities for family cohabitation.
Both the scale and pace of this recent feverish hyperactivity are
somewhat overwhelming and tend to suggest t hat we have experienced
a revolutionary transformation. Nevertheless, they should not blind us
to the fact that the general shape of the law and of the mechanisms
created to administer it have evolved gradually and incrementally over
many years. One can identify recurring patterns in the development of
immigration law traceable to the ebb and f‌low of conf‌licting political
values. A full appreciation of our current situation can be gained only
through an understanding of the history and development of the polit-
ical and legal traditions t hat continue to inform and inf‌luence legisla-
tive and judicial decision mak ing. This chapter aims to place cur rent
law in a historical context — to prov ide a general overview of the path
followed by the law and to identify some of the dominant factors and
resilient beliefs th at have guided policy making as it has evolved.
3 SC 2010, c 8.
4 SC 2013, c 16.
5 SC 2012, c 17.
6 RSC 1985, c C-29.

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