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Canada may face snap poll on immigration changes

A proposed amendment to Canada's immigration policies has triggered the possibility of fresh elections in the country.

world Updated: Mar 24, 2008 09:57 IST

A proposed amendment to Canada's immigration policies has triggered the possibility of fresh elections in the country. Though China is the top source of immigration to Canada, India is likely to overtake it this year.

The amendment, which will give the government sweeping powers to regulate immigration, is included in the budget implementation bill. Parliament will vote on it early next month.

While all three opposition parties accuse the immigration minister of trying to assume draconian powers through the amendment, the minister says, "nothing could be further from the truth".

On the contrary, the minister - Diane Finley - says the amendment bill allow her government to clear the backlog of about 900,000 applications for immigration.

She told Canadian TV on Sunday the amendment was aimed at cleaning up the immigration mess left by the previous Liberal party government.

Finley said her Conservative party was ready to face a fresh election if the combined opposition defeats the amendment.

"We have to make it easier to get more people here faster. We have a backlog right now that the previous government ballooned from 50,000 to 800,000. It has since grown to 900,000," she said.

Since the proposed amendment gives her powers to block anyone's entry and decide how many immigrants from a particular country are allowed in each year, the minister tried to allay fears by saying that new measures will, in fact, speed up immigration of family members.

Currently, Canada gets about 250,000 immigrants each year, with family members accounting for about 30 per cent.

If the amendment is passed, new immigration measures will come into force from February-end.

The pro-immigrant Liberal party has not yet decided how it will vote on the amendment.

"We have not yet decided how we are going to vote," Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh told IANS.

But the New Democratic Party (NDP) has already introduced an amendment that seeks to remove proposed changes in immigration policies.

The issue is likely to heat up before parliament reopens March 31.

Major immigrant communities such as Indo-Canadians and Chinese Canadians, who traditionally support the Liberal party, will voice their concern about the new policy.

In fact, the Chinese Canadian National Council has already put pressure on the Liberal party to defeat the amendment even if it means fresh elections.

Council executive director Victor Wong said the million-strong Chinese community "would be very disappointed in the Liberals" if they didn't defeat the amendment.

Indo-Canadian bodies have not yet reacted to the proposed amendment.