Principal's Perspective | 01-Oct-2019

Senator Victor Oh Visits UTS

Senator Victor Oh, a champion of children and the importance of education, visited UTS last month to determine how he can best support students. Senator Oh has made advocacy on both of those files the focus of his time in the Upper Chamber.

The Senator visited UTS last month at the invitation of Jim Fleck C.C. ’49 P ’72.

“We were honoured to receive Senator Oh,” said Rosemary Evans, UTS Principal. “His commitment to providing young people with the tools to succeed in their endeavors is inspiring. He was impressed by the high quality of education our students receive at UTS.”

A native of Singapore, Senator Oh knows the challenges immigrants to Canada face, from uprooting lives, dealing with differing levels of bureaucracies in two countries, to ensuring that all paperwork is correct and in order with nothing missing. Now, imagine doing so as a child.

Senator Oh, who immigrated to Canada in 1978, sponsored an amendment to Bill C6 in 2017 that would enable minors to apply for Canadian citizenship separately from their parents. Bill C6 became a reality in June of that year. The goal of the bill was to remove barriers to entry for those who had not yet reached the age of majority. Prior to its passing, underage Canadian residents not sponsored by their parents could be considered for citizenship only on compassionate grounds.

The reasoning for the amendment was that children who are applying for citizenship without their parents are often coming in as asylum seekers, who are separated or otherwise estranged from their parents. The amendment also allows for children who are Canadian residents to have their applications for citizenship considered separately from their parents, so that their adjudication would not be contingent on the decisions regarding the applications of their parents. Under the previous law, children would have to wait until reaching the age of 18 to reapply.

Senator Oh’s amendment to C6 recognized that many underage applicants are coming from war-torn nations where children could conceivably have lost one or both parents, either through death or accidental estrangement. Those applying would be eligible to live with extended family throughout the process.

In July 2017, Senator Oh sent a letter to Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, requesting the fee for minors applying be maintained at no more than $100 instead of the $530 that would have otherwise been charged, recognizing that minors often are of limited means. Minister Hussen granted the request.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, refugee claims filed for minors 17-years-old or younger have increased steadily in recent years. The number of youth asylum seekers jumped from 2,011 in 2015 to 3,400 in 2016, representing a 50 per cent increase. 

Senator Oh is the Vice-Chair of the Canada-China Legislative Association and of the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group in addition to a member of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, the Canadian Section of ParlAmericas and the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group. He has also held executive positions in a number of parliamentary friendship groups including Canada-Bulgaria, Canada-Indonesia, Canada-Malaysia, Canada-Nordic-Baltic, Canada-Peru and Canada-Singapore.

Senator Oh has represented Mississauga, Ontario since 2013. He was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.