MPs speak out over lack of immigration support
Only one half-time employee left on Island
Charlottetown MP Sean Casey, and other members of parliament, are speaking out over Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the lack of support for immigrants on the Island.
In June, the CIC immigration offices in Charlottetown, Saint John and Moncton closed. After the federal budget was delivered the Citizenship and Immigration Office in Charlottetown was left one half-time employee who does not work directly with the public.
In a press release posted on Casey's website Thursday he said he has seen an increase in the number of people looking for help over the past three months.
"I recently spoke with the other MP offices and they are experiencing the same thing," he stated.
Many of the immigration files were transferred to the Halifax office, which remains open, and the Moncton office, which is closed to the public but is still accepting files until October.
Counter services for clients are no longer being provided at many locations and appointments are now required for meetings at many of the immigration offices that have remained opened.
"It’s unfortunate, we have worked really hard to get immigrants to move to Canada and now we are saying, ‘You’re on your own,’" Casey's press release read, "Our offices can help but we are not immigration experts."
Malpeque MP Wayne Easter was also quoted in the release.
"Canadian permanent residents and those working here temporarily need guidance and assistance, yet they have nowhere to turn," stated Easter.
Alternatively, clients can call the CIC 1-800 number.
"We have lots coming in to see how to get their brother or mother to come for a visit because CIC isn’t there to help. Sure they say, 'Call the 1-800 number,' but you can be on there all day without getting anyone," he said.
For many new residents, navigating a website in a new language or attempting to talk to someone on the phone can be a daunting task.
"Many of the clients cannot grasp English or French when first arriving, so reading a hard to navigate website or talking to someone at the other end of the phone just isn’t practical," remarked Lawrence MacAulay, MP for Cardigan, in the release.
"If we need more immigrants to settle in Canada for our future, we are sending the wrong message."
But Julie Lafortune, a spokeswoman for CIC, said face-to-face communication is no longer necessary in many cases.
"With more and more services being provided electronically, fewer applicants will find it necessary to invest their time and money in a visit to a regional office," she said in an email to CBC News.
"They will be able to conduct most routine business with CIC quickly and easily online."
Lafortune also said the federal government has nearly tripled settlement funding outside Quebec since 2005.
According to Statistics Canada, 95 per cent of the Island's population growth in the last few years has been due to immigration.