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Feds defend immigration change, Chinese gripe

Feds defend immigration change, Chinese gripeChinese Investor applicant Du Jun, center, talks about his faith next to other investors during a press conference in Beijing, China Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Chinese millionaires on Tuesday made a plea to the Canadian government to ditch its plans to end its backlogged investor immigrant program and eliminate thousands of applications from Chinese nationals. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

OTTAWA - The Conservative government is defending recent changes to federal immigration initiatives after a group of Chinese millionaires issued a public rebuke on Tuesday.

At a news conference in Beijing, Canada was urged not to ditch the immigration applications of thousands of Chinese nationals as the Tory government ends a backlogged investor program.

The federal budget last month announced the termination of the federal immigrant investor and entrepreneur programs, and eliminated a large and enduring backlog of applications.

The move affects more than 65,000 applicants, most of them Chinese. Some had applied to come to Canada as long as five years ago.

Program applicants were required to have a net worth of $1.6 million and to invest $400,000, or $800,000 if they applied after 2010. The money was to be returned after about five years, without interest.

The Tories say they're attempting to pave the way for new pilot programs that will better meet Canada's labour market and economic needs, insisting the terminated initiatives provided scant economic benefit to Canada. Indeed, the government says, immigrant investors pay fewer taxes and are less likely to stay in Canada over the long term.

In a statement, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander defended the government's overhaul.

"We will not waste taxpayers' dollars on programs that do not meet their objectives, are vulnerable to abuse, or do not promote Canadian interests," Alexander said.

"While we recognize that some investors have settled in Canada and have made valuable contributions, we believe that we can do better."

Remi Lariviere, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration, added that there are other pathways to permanent residence, including the federal skilled worker and federal skilled trades programs.

"We understand that IIP applicants affected by these measures will be disappointed," he said, adding that Ottawa will return the full amount of fees paid by the Chinese immigration hopefuls. "We feel this is the fair and just thing to do."

During the Beijing news conference, 10 investor applicants said they were losing their faith in Canada as a "trustworthy country" with an alluring legal, environment and welfare system.

They said they're discussing legal options with Canadian lawyers and determining whether they can claim compensation for the years they've spent waiting for the green light to come to Canada.

"Applying to Canada is the worst decision I have made in my life," Shanghai-based Duan Wuhong told the news conference. "Before I thought it was the best."

Prior to the rule changes, Wuhong said, Canada's "trusted" government was the major factor in her choice of Canada.

Another Chinese national, Yu Qingxin, said he's already bought a house in Vancouver for nearly $2 million in order to emigrate to Canada. The most impressive thing about Canada, Yu told the news conference, is its "sense of morality."

Immigration consultant Larry Wang said that Canadian government's policy was "unjustified" and the investor applicants want Canada to "correct its mistake."

"They are not refugees. They can have a very good life in China. They just want to have a better life in Canada," said Wang, a Beijing-born Canadian.

He said Canada should not disqualify the Chinese nationals who have already applied.

— With files from Associated Press

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