Liberal MLA takes stand on immigration 'backlog' with legislature sit-in

Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux spent the night hunkered down in support of newcomers who feel they've been left in the dark or misled by Manitoba's immigration application system.

Delays, communication issues plague provincial immigration nominee program, Cindy Lamoureux says

Cindy Lamoureux, Manitoba Liberal MLA for Burrows, staged a sit-in at the legislature Wednesday calling on the province to do more for immigrants she says have been left in the dark in the resettlement application process. (Denis-Michel Thibeault/Radio-Canada)

Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux spent the night hunkered down in support of newcomers who feel they've been left in the dark or misled by Manitoba's immigration application system.

The representative for Burrows staged a 33-hour sit-in Wednesday and Thursday at the legislature to push for improvements in Manitoba's immigration nominee program, which she says is plagued by delays and communication issues.

"We're not being given responses," she said. "I have constituents who have been waiting months to hear from me and years to hear from the program, and frankly, having them put their lives on hold for three to four years to find out whether or not they're going to be accepted or rejected from the provincial nominee program, it's not fair."

Lamoureux said since she was elected in April 2016, she's heard from immigrants in her constituency who have been left in the dark over the status of their applications.

In some cases, newcomers have waited for years only to be rejected and given little support through the appeals process, she added.

​"Applicants and sponsors are being disrespected with the responses they are receiving," Lamoureux said.

"They're being rejected with absolutely no reason why, and then when they appeal for the rejection … it is unfair, it is stupid answers."​

Lamoureux said after several failed attempts to have her concerns over the provincial nominee program addressed by Ian Wishart, Manitoba's minister responsible for immigration, she decided to set up on the floor of the legislative building, where she spent the night with a team of supporters on Wednesday.

"It was a great sleep," she said. "We're going hard still."

Lamoureux said she wants to roll back the program to its pre-2008 days, when it ran "very smoothly" and immigrants didn't have to wait for more than 90 days for a ruling.

"Now … they're waiting three to four years. That would probably be my No. 1 priority. The backlog is unfair," she said.

Wishart said the province is working to resolve the backlog and hopes to have processing times down to six months or less sometime this spring.

"Our government is on track to eliminate by the end of March the [Manitoba provincial nominee program] application backlog that ballooned under the former government," Wishart said in a statement.

"Program improvements will ensure all applicants receive a higher standard of service, including better information sharing."

Lamoureux wants MLAs, immigrants and their sponsors to have better access to immigration services, including more open lines of communication with officials with the provincial nominee program.

She's optimistic a meeting she had with Wishart on Wednesday will lead to changes, but she didn't receive the formal agreement to review the provincial immigration nominee program she had hoped for.

"Conducting a sit-in was an absolute last resort for me, it is unfortunate that it took such a drastic call for action to receive the answers that my constituents have been fighting for and deserve," Lamoureux said in a written statement Thursday afternoon.

"I am looking forward to bringing the answers presented to me from the minister back to my constituents; I can rest well tonight knowing that I have done everything possible to represent their cases."