Davinder Dhaliwal voted Liberal in the federal election hoping promised changes to immigration policy will bring his brother to Canada.
SECOND IN A SERIES: In Surrey, 40 per cent of residents are immigrants. With this series, we look at the challenges they face as they struggle to build a new life here.
NEWTON — When Davinder Singh Dhaliwal voted Liberal in the 2015 Canadian election, he did so with hope.
Hope that the Liberals would form a majority government that would then follow through on promised changes to immigration policy.
Hope that his eldest brother, Narinder, could finally join him and the rest of the family in Canada.
“It’s hard not having him here,” he said the day after the federal election that saw a red Liberal wave wash over the country.
Davinder, an electrical contractor in Newton, said life isn’t the same without his brother, and he’d love for him to be able to see his children regularly.
“It’s a different culture in India. We stick together. We call everyday. He calls and asks my family how they’re doing. It’s very hard.”
His fight to get his brother here permanently is why Davinder chose to support Surrey-Newton Liberal candidate Sukh Dhaliwal’s campaign, who beat incumbent NDP Jinny Sims in the federal election.
The Liberal win could result in a wildly different approach to immigration policy if the party sticks to their promises.
Their plan aims to make it simpler and faster for immigrants to settle in Canada in an effort to reunite more families, according to their platform.
That could mean a lot to many people in Surrey, where immigrants are expected to make up 50 per cent of the population within five years.
An immigrant himself, Davinder came to Canada in 2005 after an arranged marriage to his wife Amandeep back home in India.
She sponsored him and he then sponsored his mother and his younger brother, Sarbjit. But getting his older brother Narinder residency has proved difficult.
Narinder was denied a visa the first time he applied, Davinder explained, but was granted one in 2007.
After returning home to India, Narinder hasn’t been successful in his bid to return and permanently settle in Canada.
“Maybe they don’t believe in him to come. He’s been denied two times,” said Davinder. “Somehow if he can come and stay with us that would be wonderful.
“I hope they can bring him here. I want the family together.”
WILL THE LIBERALS FOLLOW THROUGH?
Josh Labove, an SFU election expert with a focus on immigration, isn’t entirely confident the Liberals will follow through with their promises.
“The (Stephen) Harper administration, particularly under Jason Kenney as minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, was very divisive but also worked by linking immigration to security issues and terrorism more broadly. That’s a false and very troublesome connection, and one that I think voters have, in recent months and finally (Monday) night, begun to reject. Whether or not when the Liberals get to Ottawa they undo a lot of the policy on the books remains to be seen,” said Labove.
“But the way that the government interfaces with those looking to come to Canada and those who are already here and seeking citizenship, I think that will change…. These second class citizenship policies we’ve seen cooked up are likely to be first on the chopping block. I think Bill C-24 (Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act) probably stands to go quicker than C-51 (Anti-terrorism Act). That will probably be a more drawn out discussion.”
Labove noted the Conservatives rolled out a lot of economic-based immigration schemes and a general decline to humanitarian migration.
“But that began with a Liberal government,” he noted.
“A lot of the securitization of the border began with (former prime ministers Jean) Chretien and (Paul) Martin…. The Liberal brand is still very much tied to some of the policies of post-911 politics…. It does bear repeating that Mr. Trudeau looks to the history of his party. They are not without their own faults and challenges in how they handled the immigration file.
“The Canadian Border Services Agency and this idea that the border is a public safety instrument began on day one of Paul Martin.”
Labove said the niqab issue, though small, said a lot to Canadians about the ideologies of the Conservative party.
“It only affected two people in actuality but it just didn’t seem very Canadian at its base…. While the niqab ran far away from immigration, it was an immigration story both at its cultural base as well as at a vague policy base.
“It was a stand-in for divisive immigration policies, which just felt ugly.”
Going forward, he said the mood is certainly different in Ottawa but stressed mood isn’t everything.
“Mood isn’t going to bring thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada tomorrow nor is it going to change our completely lopsided immigration scheme,” he said. “But it does change the course and direction of what has been nine years of moving immigration in one direction and doing so in a very divisive and politicized way.
“Step one is a new breath of fresh air in Ottawa and we will all wait optimistically to see what happens.”
But he warned Canada should be “cautious about how liberal this Liberal government will be.
“(Trudeau) started by choosing candidates who knew their riding well.
“That is my caution to people who say this is a wildly Liberal turn of events… If you’re courting Dianne Watts, well, let’s just take this one step at a time.”
LIBERAL IMMIGRATION POLICY PROMISES ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
The Liberal party has committed to immediately doubling the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents entering Canada to 10,000 a year. The party also says it will nearly double the budget for processing family class sponsorship, meant to reduce wait times, currently averaging about four years.
They promise to axe the two-year waiting period and immediately grant permanent residence for spouses entering Canada, and promise to restore the maximum age for dependents to 22 from 19.
Trudeau has committed to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees through immediate government sponsorship, more than the Conservative commitment of 10,000. The party promises to “invest $250 million including $100 million this fiscal year, to increase refugee processing, as well as sponsorship and settlement services capacity in Canada.”
The Liberal platform says the party will restore the Interim Federal Health Program that provides limited and temporary health benefits to refugees and refugee claimants; establish an expert human rights panel to determine designated countries of origin and provide a right to appeal refugee decisions for citizens from these countries; and promises to appoint individuals with appropriate subject-matter expertise to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.