Immigration nightmares

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Concerned Regina citizens attended a meeting to discuss pressing immigration issues

Kristen McEwen
News Writer

The national and provincial immigration and refugee system could never be described as flawless, but for its recipients, the system could be a lot better.

On Sept. 19, approximately 25 concerned members of the Regina community crowded into a small room on the second floor office of Briarpatch Magazine to discuss ways to bring attention to issues many immigrants and refugees are facing in Regina and Saskatchewan.

Originally organized on Facebook, two concerned citizens, Michelle Stewart and Rebecca Granovsky-Larson, set up the time and place to facilitate the meeting, providing an open forum for people to discuss and tackle issues affecting immigrants and refugees.

According to Stewart, the group came together because “a couple different issues came to the forefront at the same time.”

The issues discussed at the group’s first meeting included the Saskatchewan Immigration Nomination Program (SINP), refugee health care cuts, and Victoria Sharon Ordu and Ihuoma Favour Amadi, two University of Regina International students from Nigeria currently taking sanctuary in a church to avoid deportation.

Under the old SINP policy, immigrants already in Saskatchewan were able to nominate more than one family member. The changes to the policy now state that only one nomination per household will be supported until the applicant has been in the labour force in Saskatchewan for six months. The new family category policy also “allows Saskatchewan residents to recommend their highly skilled relatives for nomination for permanent residency" if they are qualified workers under category A or category B under the National Occupation Classification index.

In other words, the relative considered for nomination must have a National Occupation Classification of skill level A – a university degree from a bachelor’s to doctorate – or level B – two to three years of post-secondary education at a college or institute of technology; two to five years of apprenticeship training, three to four years of high school and two years on the job training in specific jobs. The nominees with skill level B would also include individuals with occupations such as police officers, fire fighters and nurses.

Cuts to refugee health care were another major issue discussed at the meeting. Until refugees are covered under provincial health care, they rely on the interim federal health program. On June 30, the benefits refugees receive under this program were reduced. Medications for diabetes, heart conditions, and other emergencies are not covered for refugees under the new program. According to one of the individuals at the meeting who asked not to be named, under the new law, pregnancy and child birth were not considered emergencies, forcing refugee mothers to pay for prenatal care, pregnancy, and delivery services.


“[The government is] pushing the boundaries so far. I don’t know what it would actually take to get a huge public reaction, but hopefully this will galvanize people in Saskatchewan and we’ll get some organizing. There has been some, but hopefully there will be some more.” – Rebecca Granovsky-Larson


The meeting provided an opportunity for members of organizations, representatives of the University, and students to discuss these issues, and start strategizing ways that students and community members could work together to raise awareness and lobby for change. 

“These are all long term campaigns,” Stewart said. “So we have to figure out a broad base coalition.”

According to Granovsky-Larsen and Stewart, the group will be holding meetings every Wednesday. For meeting times and locations, visit the groups Facebook page at “URGENT – Regina Organizing Meeting to Halt Impending Deportations.”

To start gaining momentum, the group has started circulating petitions around the city, and online to raise attention to the issue of the two Nigerian students facing deportation. The aim of the petition is to show support and solidarity with Ordu and Amadi, urging the government to let the women stay in Regina and finish their education. A copy of the petition is available at the front desk of the Students' Union, while a virtual copy can be found on the group’s Facebook page. The deadline to gather signatures has been set to Oct. 1.

For those planning to attend the meetings in the future, the group will also be collecting donations of food, warm clothes and blankets, which will be delivered to Ordu and Amadi at the church.

“There’s always been problems with our refugee and immigration system, but I’m very concerned about the … trend of how they target specific immigration groups,” Granovsky-Larsen said. “[The government is] pushing the boundaries so far. I don’t know what it would actually take to get a huge public reaction, but hopefully this will galvanize people in Saskatchewan and we’ll get some organizing. There has been some, but hopefully there will be some more."

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