Of the more than 95,000 people who applied to bring a parent or grandparent to Canada, 10,000 individuals have now been randomly selected under the new family reunification lottery system that some are calling unfair.
The lottery system was introduced by the Liberal government as a way of alleviating sponsorship application backlogs under the old, first-come, first-serve system.
A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said Thursday that a total of 95,100 submissions were received in the first round of the lottery, which ended on Feb. 2.
The 10,000 randomly selected individuals now have 90 days to submit their full applications to sponsor a parent or a grandparent. Anyone who was not selected this year can enter the lottery again in 2018, Remi Lariviere said in an email to CTVNews.ca.
Many applicants have spoken out against the lottery system, saying that the important issue of family reunification shouldn’t depend on luck.
“I was more than unhappy when the system changed,” Kevork Tanielian, a Toronto-area man who is trying to bring his mother to Canada from Bulgaria, told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview Thursday.
Tanielian was notified by email that his application was not among those selected this year.
“It’s very discouraging to people who are hard workers to have this decided by a computer,” he said.
Tanielian said he started preparing the application to sponsor his mother before the lottery system was announced, so he had already spend considerable time collecting all the necessary paperwork and money to consult an immigration lawyer.
Under the old system, the government accepted for consideration the first 10,000 sponsorship applications that arrived at the Mississauga, Ont., immigration office as soon as it opened at the start of a new year. Critics of that system said it wasn’t fair to applicants who ended up paying hundreds of dollars for courier services to ensure that their application would be among the first to arrive.
Andrey Petrov is among those who spent months preparing a sponsorship application only to find out the rules had changed last December.
The Orangeville, Ont., resident was hoping to bring his mother to Canada from Moscow, but he did not secure a coveted spot in the feds’ lottery system.
“It really isn’t fair,” he told CTVNews.ca. “I just want the old system to be back. It rewarded the people who were serious enough about the process.”
Petrov said he and his wife, who are both immigrants and have a young child, have no family in Canada and were hoping to have at least one relative close by. For now, they have to settle for short visits from their parents.
A petition calling on the government to reconsider the lottery system has collected more than 670 signatures so far.
“This is the first year this new process will be in place so we will monitor results to see if adjustments are needed for next year,” IRRC spokesperson Lariviere said.
In a notice posted on its website, the government said the new lottery system will make the sponsorship application process “more fair and transparent.”
The government said the 10,000 accepted applications represent approximately 17,000 people since one sponsorship application can include more than one person. The notice also said the government has been making a “concerted effort” to reduce the application backlog, which sat at around 41,500 people by the end of 2016.
Tanielian said he sees the changes to the sponsorship process as a “band-aid solution” that could prevent many eligible families from ever reuniting in Canada.
But, he said he has faith in the Canadian government and hopes that immigration officials will eventually come to a better solution.