Jason Kenney

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For the English cyclist, see Jason Kenny.
The Honourable
Jason Kenney
Jason Kenney 2014.jpg
Minister of National Defence
Assumed office
February 9, 2015
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Rob Nicholson
Minister of Employment and Social Development
In office
July 15, 2013 – February 9, 2015
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Diane Finley (as Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development)
Succeeded by Pierre Poilievre
Minister for Multiculturalism
Assumed office
August 6, 2013
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Position established
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
In office
October 30, 2008 – July 15, 2013
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Diane Finley
Succeeded by Chris Alexander
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Calgary Southeast
Assumed office
Preceded by Jan Brown
Personal details
Born (1968-05-30) May 30, 1968 (age 46)
Oakville, Canada
Political party Saskatchewan Liberal Party (Before 1997)
Reform Party (1997–2000)
Canadian Alliance (2000–2003)
Conservative (2003–present)
Alma mater University of San Francisco
Religion Roman Catholicism

Jason T. Kenney, PC, MP (born May 30, 1968) is Canada's Minister of National Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism. He has represented the riding of Calgary Southeast in the Canadian House of Commons since 1997.

Initially elected as a candidate of the Reform Party of Canada, Kenney was re-elected as a Canadian Alliance candidate in 2000, and has since been re-elected four times as the candidate of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Following the Conservative victory in the 2006 general election, Kenney was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for the Prime Minister of Canada. On January 4, 2007, he was sworn into the Privy Council as the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity. Kenney has held the post of Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism since October 30, 2008. On July 15, 2013 he became Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, and on February 9, 2015 he was named Minister of National Defence.

Early life and career[edit]

Kenney was born in Oakville, Ontario and raised in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. He is the grandson of famed jazz musician and big band leader Mart Kenney.[1]

He went to high school in Wilcox, Saskatchewan at the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, a private Catholic high school, known for its Notre Dame Hounds Hockey. He then studied philosophy at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit university in San Francisco, California. He left university to begin work for the Saskatchewan Liberal Party.[2] In 1988 he served as executive assistant to Ralph Goodale, who at the time was leader of the party. He also started working in the non-profit sector, where beginning in 1989, Kenney was hired as the first executive director of the Alberta Taxpayers Association, which advocated for fiscal responsibility. In 1990, Kenney was named president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Kenney at the All Candidates Forum at McKenzie Lake Community Centre in Calgary's Southeast, January 14, 2006

Kenney was first elected to the House of Commons in 1997 at the age of 29 as a member of the Reform Party of Canada. The Reform Party became the Canadian Alliance (2000–2003) and Kenney co-chaired the United Alternative Task Force. He served as the national co-chairman of Stockwell Day's campaign for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance and National Co-Chair of the Canadian Alliance 2000 election campaign. While on the Opposition benches in 1997-2005, Kenney served in a number of prominent roles in the Shadow Cabinet, including Deputy House Leader for the Official Opposition, critic for Canada-United States relations, critic for National Revenue, and critic for Finance.

Kenney supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq and suggested that the Chrétien government's refusal to support the war would damage Canada's relationship with the United States of America.[3]

Kenney is a member of Parliament's Canada-Tibet Committee, and has hosted the Dalai Lama.[4]

In January 2005, during a government trade mission in China, Kenney visited the family of recently deceased Zhao Ziyang, the deposed reformist critical of Maoist policies and supportive of free market reforms in China. Zhao, the former Premier of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party, was purged for sympathizing with pro-democracy protesters before they were crushed by the military at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Kenney, speaking in Jerusalem in December 2009 about Canadian government funding of human rights organizations, said "We have de-funded organizations, most recently, like KAIROS who are taking a leadership role in the boycott [of Israel]. We're receiving a lot of criticism for these decisions … but we believe we have done these things for the right reasons, and we stand by these decisions." He later added in a letter to the Toronto Star that "While I disagree with the nature of KAIROS's militant stance toward the Jewish homeland, that is not the reason their request for taxpayer funding was denied."[5]


On February 6, 2006, he was appointed to be Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper.

In August 2006, Kenney compared Hezbollah with the Nazi Party of 1930s Germany. He also rebuked Prime Minister of Lebanon Fuad Saniora for having criticized Canada, saying he should be grateful for Canada's $25 million in reconstructive assistance aid given to Lebanon.[6]

Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity[edit]

On January 4, 2007, he was sworn in as the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, and as a Privy Councillor. In this capacity, Kenney has been the Harper government's representative to ethnic communities in Canada. Kenney makes frequent appearances at ethnic community events across the country, hosted by groups as diverse as Koreans, Ahmadiyya Muslims, Chinese, Jews, Assyrians, South Asians, and Poles. The Toronto Star has noted some of the more frequently visited groups in the GTA, which also include the Caribbean community, Persians, Filipinos, and Vietnamese.[7]

In early 2008 Kenney posted an announcement on his web site announcing that the Government of Canada recognizes the flag of the Republic of Vietnam as the symbol of the Vietnamese-Canadian community. He said "Our government recognises the flag as an important symbol of the Vietnamese-Canadian community's independence, strength, and belief in national unity,and attempts to disparage it are a deeply troubling attack on one of Canada's ethnic communities and on the principles of multiculturalism."[8] In May 2008 he made a speech at one of their rallies lending strong support to their program.[9]

As Immigration minister, Kenney has been largely credited with building bridges attracting ethnic communities to the Conservative Party, which was long dominated by the Liberal Party. In addition, he also handled the apology and financial compensation for the Chinese head tax and the official recognition of the Armenian and Ukrainian genocides. According to an observer, “He acts as a conductor to correct historical wrongs, It might not seem important to the majority of the population, but for the concerned communities, it’s huge.” [10][11] According to the The Globe and Mail, the Chinese-Canadian community nicknamed Kenney the "Smiling Buddha" in reference to his efforts to garner ethnic votes on the basis of what some perceive as commonly held conservative values.[12] Kenney justified his efforts to gain ethnic support by stating:

You observe how these new Canadians live their lives. They are the personification of Margaret Thatcher's aspirational class. They're all about a massive work ethic.[13]

In April 2009, Kenney officially launched Asian Heritage Month to "better understand the rich diversity the Asian Canadian community brings to Canada."[14][15] Kenney noted that:

There were 32 Liberal MPs from the GTA, and of the hundreds of ethnocultural events I attended in the past five years going from Scarborough to Mississauga, typically there were no Liberals there.... They treated the ethnic communities like passive vote banks owed to them through the supposed myth of Pierre Trudeau. They mailed it in.[16]

Along with Rona Ambrose, Minister for the Status of Women, Kenney was one of ten cabinet ministers who decided to vote in favour of a motion to study when life begins.[17]

Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism[edit]

In 2008, Jason Kenney became Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Cabinet shuffle of October 30, retaining responsibility for multiculturalism, which he had been given in 2007.

On June 26, 2010, Kenney announced changes to the Skilled Worker Immigration Program. In order for their applications to be processed, skilled worker applicants are now required to either have an offer of arranged employment, or be qualified in one of 29 eligible occupations (out of 520 occupations described in the National Occupational Classification (NOC), a standardized framework for organizing information about jobs into a coherent system). A cap of 20,000 applications per year for the skilled workers class was also introduced. As of July 1, 2011, a maximum of 10,000 Federal Skilled Worker applications will be considered for processing in the subsequent 12 months. Within the 10,000 cap, a maximum of 500 federal skilled worker applications per eligible occupation will be considered for processing each year.

Canada is going to recalibrate its immigration system, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is ready to reform the immigration point system and prepared to fix problems with the previous immigration system. Also, he claims Canada is about to move forward to be more efficient in accepting migrants who could make best contributions to the Canadian economy. The new system has reduced the number of accepting foreign skilled worker category, but interested in the foreign education credentials, for which it has the new Canadian Experience Class Program. The Canadian Experience Class Program is aiming to attract more international students who qualify as a graduate in the program; and there are two specific requirements to graduate.[18] Also, this new program has increased the focus on youth, job skills and most importantly fluent in English or French and at the same time, the immigration department has imposed a new language requirement for Federal skilled workers (FSW) program.[19] One of the new plans is to reduce the processing times and it shows a significant reduction in the wait time. There were cases that had waited for almost a decade to process, but the processing time has been shortened approximately a year period. “This guarantees no more backlogs” said by Vancouver immigration lawyer, Richard Kurland[20] However, Kenney decided to delete the backlog of 280,000 skilled worker applications and a lawsuit was held to go against this movement by those applicants, but the lawsuit failed.[21]

Immigration Minister Kenney has claimed that the generosity of the immigration system was abused in many different ways and he is not to tolerate that. “I held down hall meetings across the country to hear from victims of marriage fraud. In addition to the heartbreak and pain that came from being lied to and deceived, these people were angry. They felt they had been used as a way to get to Canada. We are taking action because immigration to Canada should not be built upon deceit.” said Minister Kenney[22] The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act has been published to protect and fix Canada’s immigration system. Minister Kenney has focused on major issues such as fraud marriage, human smugglers, unfounded refugees, and the billion-dollar bill of health and social benefits claimed from them. It is estimated that the provinces are to save approximately $1.65 billion from their social assistance and education sector over 5 years with the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.[23] This would be a few dollars per Canadian per year in tax saved (population of Canada 34 million) Population of Canada by year. Also, a five-year sponsorship bar is published, which means sponsored spouses or partners are to wait five years from the day they received permanent residence status in Canada to sponsor a new spouse or partner. Furthermore, Minister Kenney claimed that these new measures are making an easier law enforcement and stiffer penalties to prosecute human smugglers and a message to human smugglers and they will not be able to abuse Canada’s generosity anymore.

There has been significant criticism of the institution of a Designated Country of Origin (DCO) list which attributes countries to being unlikely to persecute. Therefore refugee claimants coming from these countries (included are Hungary, Mexico, and Israel) will undergo a different refugee claimant process.[24] Furthermore, refugee claimants from countries on the DCO no longer receive emergency healthcare coverage.

Investigations into citizenship fraud[edit]

On July 19, 2011 Kenney announced government intends to revoke the citizenship of 1,800 people it believes obtained their status through fraudulent means. The decision to revoke Canadian citizenship is rare, and a large-scale proposed crackdown had no precedent. Fewer than 70 citizenships have been revoked since the 1946 Citizenship Act.[25]

An increasing in investigation into residence fraud continues to grow and almost 11,000 cases are to apply for citizenship or maintain permanent resident status. Recently, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has revoked up 3,100 citizens’ citizenship because they have cheated or lied to become a Canadian citizen. “Canadian citizenship is not for sale and we are taking action to strip citizenship and permanent residence status from people who do not play by rules,” said by Minister Kenney.[26] Also, CIC works inseparably with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian offices overseas to solve the fraud. “These efforts reinforce our government’s commitment to protecting the integrity of our immigration system,” said Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. It is believed that about 5,000 people who have Canadian permanent status are outside of Canada and implicated in residence fraud.[26] In many cases, a permanent resident pay thousands of dollar to an immigration representative to create deceit evidences and illusion of Canadian residence, so one can apply for Canadian citizenship later.

US soldiers seeking asylum[edit]

In January 2009, Kenney made public statements critical of U.S. soldiers seeking asylum in Canada who were facing punishment for their refusal to participate in the Iraq war. He said that unlike in the Vietnam era, the current asylum seekers are neither "draft dodgers" nor "resisters", but rather are "people who volunteer to serve in the armed forces of a democratic country and simply change their mind to desert. And that's fine, that's the decision they have made, but they are not refugees." He also said that he considered them to be "bogus refugee claimants".[27] These remarks have been seen by some supporters of the asylum seekers as being a form of interference in the asylum process.[28][29] He believes that Kimberley Rivera, an America soldier seeking refuge was not a legitimate refugee. "Military deserters from the United States are not genuine refugees under the internationally accepted meaning of the term," said Alexis Pavlich, the minister's press secretary.[30]

Admissibility decisions[edit]

As part of Kenney's Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, introduced in June 2012, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism would have the ability to deny entry to Canada based on "public police considerations. He was quoted in The Globe and Mail saying that present immigration laws do not allow someone to be kept out if they are seeking to promote violence. The previous year, both the official opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and Quebec's National Assembly had asked Kenney to exercise negative discretion but no such ability existed under Canadian law.[31] During debate in the House of Commons, the NDP criticized this component of the bill, arguing it gives too much power to the minister.[32]

Earlier, in March 2009, the Canada Border Services Agency prevented British MP George Galloway from entering Canada, where he had planned to give a series of speeches against the war in Afghanistan.[33] The Immigration Minister's Office stated that the Canada Border Services Agency deemed Galloway as inadmissible to Canada due to national security concerns. Galloway had openly given what he called "financial support" to Hamas, classified as a terrorist group in Canada.[34][35]

Galloway pursued the matter in the Canadian court system, where it was revealed that Kenney's office had emailed the CBSA on the matter. The Federal Court found that Kenney's office had used "a flawed and overreaching interpretation of the standards under Canadian law for labeling someone as engaging in terrorism or being a member of a terrorist organization." The presiding judge also determined that the Canadian Border Services Agency had produced its assessment of Galloway on scant evidence after receiving instructions from Kenney's staff,[36] who attempted to bar Galloway because "they disagreed with his political views".[37]

The Globe and Mail later pointed out that while Kenney was quick to refuse Galloway entry into Canada, his department gave entry to controversial politician Geert Wilders, who has compared Islam to Nazism and campaigned to ban the Quran from the Netherlands.[38] Wilders spoke in Toronto and Ottawa, generating further controversy.[39]

Citizenship policy changes[edit]

A new law amending the Citizenship Act came into effect on April 17, 2009. One of the changes instituted by the Government of Canada is the "first generation limitation", considered a punitive measure by some against naturalized citizens who reside abroad for lengthy periods of time.[citation needed] Minister Kenney said the following in the House of Commons of Canada on June 10, 2010: "...That's why we must protect the values of Canadian citizenship and must take steps against those who would cheapen it.... We will strengthen the new limitation on the ability to acquire citizenship for the second generation born abroad."[40] The new rules would not confer a Canadian citizenship on children born outside of Canada to parents who were also born outside of Canada. Thus for children to obtain Canadian citizenship if born abroad, they would have to have one parent who was either born in Canada or naturalized in Canada.[41]

In 2010 Kenney introduced Discover Canada, a new citizenship guide for prospective citizens. The Canadian Press reported that Kenney blocked information about same-sex marriage from the Citizenship and Immigration study guide for immigrants applying for citizenship,[42] although a sentence was included in a 2011 revision.[43] The revised edition also added information about arts and culture, the War of 1812, and an admonition against importing 'violent, extreme or hateful prejudices' to Canada.[44]

Kenney has taken steps to restore full citizenship status to the 'Lost Canadians', Canadian nationals who had 'fallen through the cracks'.[45] Bill C-37 corrected the citizenship issues for 95% of "Lost Canadians" and special grants were to have been made to resolve the remaining 5%. Kenney says the Lost Canadians group should not be politicizing their plight but they should be making a "solid application and a strong case.[46] Kenney's predecessor, Diane Finley, had authorized a special grant of citizenship to Guy Valliere, although he died prior to receiving citizenship.

Refugee reform[edit]

On March 29, 2010, Kenney announced an overhaul of the Canadian refugee system. The reform package also committed to allowing the resettlement of 2,500 more refugees living in UN refugee camps and urban slums.[47] The plan also included expansion of the Government-Assisted Refugees Program to 500 places while a further 2,000 resettlement places were added to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.[47] In total, the new plan would lead to the resettlement of 14,500 UN-selected refugees from refugee camps and urban slums to Canada.[47]

"Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act", or Bill C-31, "An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other acts," was introduced on 16 February 2012 and received Royal Assent on 28 June 2012. It has been broadly criticized as it "gives Ministers broad, unfettered and unprecedented powers" among other new powers. It was sponsored by Kenney.

There has been significant controversy around changes to the social assistance program for refugee claimants (Interim Federal Health).[48] Physicians and allied health professionals have opposed these cuts through national protests in all major cities in Canada.[49] Physicians opposing the cuts to refugee health care include Vincent Lam who stated that Canada is a country known for its tolerance and diversity, but we [healthcare professionals] are "dismayed and ashamed at the cuts for healthcare for refugees" [50]

Afghan interpreters who served alongside Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan and who applied for Canadian visas on the basis of facing threats from insurgents were denied visas. Kenney backed this decision.[51]

Kenney promised that Canada would resettle more refugees from 2011-2012 than in previous years. Instead, there was a 26% drop in refugee resettlement in Canada during that period, hitting a 30-year low. Loly Rico, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, criticized Kenny for not following through on his promise.[52]

Marriage fraud[edit]

Responding to feedback in townhalls and public consultations, Kenney took steps in 2012 to fight against marriage fraud. Many cases had arisen in which Canadians had been taken advantage of by would-be spouses simply to facilitate their entry into Canada. These Canadian victims' trust in their supposed husband or wife was violated for fraudulent immigration purposes. Once status was acquired in Canada the prospective spouse would leave the Canadian spouse who had sponsored him in, revealing their marriage to have been a lie. Kenney instituted a five year bar or prohibition on spousal sponsorship for those who had already sponsored a spouse into Canada.

Kenney also implemented a conditional permanent residency status to ensure that a spouse or partner had to live as husband and wife for a minimum of two years with their Canadian sponsor-spouse, or else they would have their status revoked. The anti-fraud measures were designed to protect Canadian victims as well as crack down on those who collaborated with fraudulent sponsored spouses for monetary gain.

Sun News citizenship ceremony[edit]

During the fall of 2011 Jason Kenney's office had department of immigration officials organize a citizenship ceremony for Sun News Network. Later it became known that some of the participants were ministerial staff reaffirming citizenship, rather than new Canadian citizens. Jason Kenney's office and Sun News Media initially claimed to have no knowledge of this incident and blamed well-meaning civil servants. Internal correspondence revealed through access to information laws later revealed that both Sun News and Jason Kenney's staff in fact made the decision to proceed with ministerial staff in the ceremony.[53][54][55]

Role in Conservative Party campaigns[edit]

Kenney was widely recognized for his central role in the Conservative Party's successful 2011 election campaign, targeting ethnic minority voters, and the Conservative parliamentary majority that resulted.[56] He has acknowledged publicly that his ongoing strategy of promoting conservative values and policies in government so as to capture the support of ethnic communities has been in the works since years prior to Stephen Harper first winning government in 2006.[57] Kenney has also suggested that Stephen Harper was one of the first people he consulted with on the ethnic outreach strategy when the latter was still an opposition Canadian Alliance MP.[58]

Kenney's ethnic outreach strategy was also evident when in early 2011, a letter using government stationery was sent to Conservative riding associations seeking assistance in raising $200,000 funding for an ad campaign aimed at bolstering support among ethnic communities in ridings that the Conservatives are targeting in the next election.[59] News of this broke when a copy was believed to have been mistakenly sent to the office of opposition MP Linda Duncan instead of that of fellow Conservative MP John Duncan (no relation). This led to criticism over the letter's labelling of certain groups and ridings as 'ethnic' or 'very ethnic'.[60] Kenney publicly apologized for the mailing error, citing a staffer's inexperience as the explanation.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Kenney has been named one of Canada's "100 Leaders of the Future" by Maclean's magazine; "one of Canada's leading conservative activists" by the Globe and Mail; and "one of 21 Canadians to watch in the 21st century" by the Financial Post magazine.

On May 13, 2009, Maclean's magazine, in association with the Dominion Institute, L'actualité and presenting sponsor Enbridge presented Kenney with the award for "Best Overall MP".[61]

Maclean's magazine named Kenney the "hardest working" MP of 2011, citing overwhelming support from all political parties who recognized Kenney's constant "20-hour work days" and "permanent 5 o'clock shadow."[62]


  1. ^ Hansard, House of Commons, Canada, 36th Parliament, 1st Session (1998-03-17). "http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=2332780&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=36&Ses=1#LINK87". 
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  61. ^ "Calgary's Jason Kenney named Canada's best overall MP in Ottawa". 2010-01-06. 
  62. ^ "Parliamentarians of the Year Awards: Hardest Working - Jason Kenney". 2011-11-21. 

External links[edit]

28th Ministry – Cabinet of Stephen Harper
Cabinet Posts (3)
Predecessor Office Successor
Diane Finley Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Chris Alexander
Diane Finley Minister of Employment and Social Development
Pierre Poilievre
Rob Nicholson Minister of National Defence