I sent a letter Tuesday (April 24, 2012) to the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Jason Kenney, asking him to reconsider the closing of the Kingston office of the CIC, which has been here for more than 50 years. I made the following points to Minister Kenney:
- Local CIC officers have encountered nearly every possible immigration or citizenship issue, and have always acted with professionalism, competence and sensitivity.
- The smooth processing of citizenship and immigration applications helps in our efforts to reap local economic benefits from the bright minds and new ideas that are developed at Kingston’s academic research institutions. Indeed, encouraging immigration to enhance the vitality and prosperity of our community is part of the City of Kingston’s strategic plan.
- My office in Kingston has heard from constituents who phone the CIC call centre and are put on hold for long periods, and then may or may not be given accurate and complete information.
- The department’s expectation that its website can replace its local staff is naïve. Many constituents do not have Internet access, or lack the necessary skills for online search and understanding of policy to locate the correct forms and complete applications online.
- CIC has co-operated with local municipal governments to encourage skilled worker immigrants to settle in smaller communities like Kingston and the Islands. The loss of direct federal services to immigrants weakens their incentives to locate in and remain in the smaller communities.
- Nationally, by closing 19 CIC offices, most in small communities, and laying off over 70 employees, the department is losing valuable expertise and thousands of hours of experience in immigration policy and procedure.
Kingston and the Islands and Canada need the skills, energy, and job creation that immigrants bring with them. Canadians want to make immigrants welcome and comfortable in their chosen country. I strongly encourage the Minister to continue to provide accessible local services and advice to these valuable newcomers to Canada.