Buried in the Harper government’s latest massive, omnibus budget bill is legislation that could restrict the ability of refugee claimants to access social assistance. The move follows the government’s decision to limit refugee claimants’ access to universal, public health care. That measure was struck down by Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish, who said it constitutes “cruel and unusual” treatment, puts lives at risk and “outrages Canadian standards of decency.”
The government is currently appealing that ruling. On social assistance, the government has essentially adopted as its own a private member’s bill introduced last month by Conservative backbencher Corneliu Chisu.
It is proposing to amend the legislation governing federal transfer payments to provinces for social programs. That legislation currently forbids provinces from imposing a minimum residency requirement before a refugee claimant can become eligible for social assistance. The budget implementation bill would lift the prohibition on minimum residency, which was intended to ensure a national standard for supporting refugee claimants in need.
The 458-page bill includes a host of measures unrelated to the budget, including broadening the scope of the national DNA bank, tightening rules for the temporary foreign workers program and creation of the long-promised Arctic research station.
A spokesman for Finance Minister Joe Oliver said it had always been the government’s intention to table the bill on Thursday, in hopes that it will be passed by the time Parliament takes its Christmas break. Although he did not take issue with the timing, New Democrat MP Craig Scott said the government uses omnibus bills precisely to avoid scrutiny of controversial provisions like the refugee social assistance cuts.
Scott called the social assistance and health care cuts “a one-two punch,” aimed at discouraging vulnerable, desperate people from finding their way to Canada and claiming refugee status, even though many claimants turn out to be genuine refugees.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander defended the notion of restricting refugees’ access to social assistance in essentially the same language the government used to justify limiting their access to health care.
“Canada has the most fair and generous immigration system in the world. However, Canadians have no tolerance for those who take unfair advantage of our generosity.” said Kevin Menard.
Menard added that allowing provinces to impose minimum residency requirements would build on the savings already racked up as a result of reforms to the refugee asylum system, which he pegged at $1.6 billion over five years. He stressed, however, that it’s up to each province to decide whether to impose minimum periods of residence to qualify for social assistance.
Deputy Liberal leader Ralph Goodale called the government’s latest move on refugees the product of a “nasty, vindictive and irresponsible” ideology.
The latest bill includes legislation to implement previously announced measures to tighten the Temporary Foreign Workers program and to reduce Employment Insurance premiums for small business owners.
Source: CBC News
A bill to broaden the powers of CSIS would, for the first time, explicitly authorize Canadian spy agents abroad to break the laws of a foreign country when investigating threats to the security of Canada. After a tense week that saw Parliament Hill attacked by a gunman, the Conservative government unveiled a promised new bill to boost spy surveillance powers and protection for secret agents. Even before it was introduced, top RCMP and CSIS officials began lobbying for even greater legal “tools.”
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney on Monday tabled Bill C-44, the so-called “Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act.” If passed into law, the bill would:
– Extend complete confidentiality to CSIS sources, informants or covert agents, creating a “class privilege” for their identity and forestalling most legal challenges to the use of their evidence in court.
– Explicitly confirm the legal authority of CSIS to conduct investigations within or outside Canada, something CSIS has claimed it has but which has been questioned in light of recent court rulings.
– Broaden explicit authorization for CSIS to seek and use Federal Court warrants to authorize investigative activities — including electronic intercepts and other covert surveillance activities — outside Canada “without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state.”
The Conservatives previously rejected the creation of a foreign intelligence agency, citing cost, bureaucracy, and arguing CSIS already has a legal mandate to operate on foreign soil to investigate security threats to Canada. This makes CSIS much more akin to the CIA.
“It’s an act of political courage,” said University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese. “What a federal court judge is now authorized to do is authorize a warrant, to engage in surveillance in a foreign country that presumably violates that foreign country’s privacy laws.”
In practice, the provision expressly allows CSIS to enlist the technical support of Canada’s top secret electronics eavesdropping agency, CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada) and its foreign counterparts in the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand in the “Five Eyes” alliance to spy on Canadians or foreigners abroad in pursuit of security threats to Canada.
However, Forcese argued that with increased spying powers robust oversight should follow. He and others objected that the Conservative government made no move to increase the ability of Parliament or any other review body to oversee the operations of CSIS or CSEC, or the RCMP’s national security operations.
The Conservative government has rejected calls for a parliamentary oversight committee of MPs, abolished the office of the Inspector General of CSIS, has failed to create any oversight body for the Canada Border Services Agency, left the watchdog agency of CSIS — known as the Security Intelligence Review Committee or SIRC — understaffed, underfunded, and has not permanently replaced its disgraced chairperson Arthur Porter.
Others worry the blanket anonymity for CSIS’s human sources will diminish an accused person’s ability to challenge evidence and test the credibility of the Crown’s case in a court of law, eliminating the possibility of cross-examination even by judges or special advocates.
Blaney, the lead minister responsible for CSIS and RCMP, told the Commons, the legislation will improve the ability of CSIS to work with other intelligence agencies to share information on Canadians going abroad or returning home.
“We will not overreact, but it is also time that we stop underreacting to the great threats against us,” said Blaney in the Commons.
Liberal MP Wayne Easter said Liberals are “open-minded” about the bill, and believe CSIS should have a way to protect its informants abroad. But he questioned the push for more powers when he said authorities have yet to use those already on the books, such as punishing those who have gone abroad to engage in terror acts.
Source: The Star
The number of low-skill temporary foreign workers entering Canada continued to grow in the first quarter of 2014 despite government efforts to reduce the impact of the controversial program.
Through the end of March, the number admitted was up by more than 6 per cent compared with the same period the year before, to 14,216, according to preliminary estimates from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The continued growth in this section of the program, after a suite of reforms in 2013, may have influenced the government’s decision to announce strict new rules four months ago, changes that have brought criticism from business groups concerned they’ll be unable to meet their labour needs.
Some low-skill temporary workers are employed in the hospitality and food-service sector, and their presence has proved contentious when they’ve been hired in areas of high unemployment or when they’ve replaced Canadians.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced in June that his department would no longer process applications from employers if the regional unemployment rate in their place of business exceeds 6 per cent.
The rise in low-skill workers entering in 2014 is part of a pattern of growth in recent years, as their numbers grew by 22 per cent between 2010 and 2013. The new measures announced by the government in June are intended to make it more difficult to import TFWs, but figures that might reflect the impact of those changes aren’t yet available.
This year’s increase in low-skill TFWs came despite a major government effort, announced in April, 2013, to clamp down on the TFW program and make it a last resort in cases of “acute skills shortages.”
The Conservative government took another run at reforming the program four months ago, announcing a much higher application fee, caps on the number of low-skilled workers a business can employ and stricter requirements on advertising the job and recruiting Canadians.
The jump in low-skill entrants to Canada comes at the same time that preliminary estimates show a decline in the total number of TFWs admitted from January to March. That decline, though, is the result of a significant drop in the number of highly skilled TFWs granted entry. The low-skill group, meanwhile, grew across all categories, for live-in-caregivers, seasonal agricultural workers, and the low-skill pilot program that includes restaurant and hotel workers among others. Many critics of the program have been careful to state they are not opposed to the movement of high-level employees in fields such as business and academia, but question why jobs that require little formal training are being given to workers from overseas.
Some aboriginal leaders have expressed frustration with the way employers, particularly in Western Canada, have turned to the TFW program rather than investing in the local work force. Despite the economic boom in Canada’s western provinces, many aboriginal communities continue to suffer unemployment rates much higher than the general population. One of the new rules introduced in June requires that employers demonstrate that they’ve reached out to aboriginals and other groups that are less represented in the work force before work permits are granted.
“Drilling down on the temporary foreign worker program, I don’t think it works for the majority of First Nations or aboriginal people,” said the Assembly of First Nations Alberta regional chief Cameron Alexis. “At the end of the day, we’re being left out.”
Source: The Globe and Mail
The Federal Court of Canada has been asked to void Ottawa’s recent changes to the Citizenship Act and declare it unconstitutional to revoke the citizenship of Canadian-born and naturalized citizens.
A day after the terror-linked gun shooting in Ottawa, constitutional lawyers argued in court on Thursday that Parliament has no legislative power to remove citizenship from individuals involved in armed combat against Canada, treason, spying and terrorism – unless the citizenship was obtained by fraud.
Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, was granted Royal Assent . In addition to raising the pass mark for citizenship exam and language requirement, the law also enables the government to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens.
Constitutional lawyers said citizenship is fundamental to the constitutional order and the new revocation provision should have been made through a constitutional amendment with the support of seven provinces or 51 per cent of the population.
Calling Ottawa’s act “an indirect amendment to the Canadian constitutions,” Paul Slansky, who represented the constitutional rights centre, said the government only has the authority over “aliens and naturalization,” but does not have the power to strip the citizenship of Canadian-born people.
Government lawyers asked the court to dismiss the case because the revocation provision has yet to be enforced and any constitutional challenge should be dealt with when an affected individual brings a case forward.
Greg George, lawyer for the government, said the case is beyond the jurisprudence of the court and it should not “meddle” with the making of the law.
“The court has no business in getting into the legislative process of the government . . . until the ink is dry,” he said, adding that Canada’s Citizenship Act, since 1947, has always allowed the government to “denaturalize” someone engaged in combat against Canada or convicted of serious crimes, but no one ever challenged its constitutionality.
“Government passed legislation and it wasn’t challenged. It doesn’t mean it’s valid,” Slansky contended.
Justice Rennie reserved his decision.
Source: The Star
Jason Kenney, the immigration minister in 2011, had banned niqabs during swearing-in ceremonies. Before this ban, wearing a niqab on such occasions had been perfectly acceptable. According to his argument (which he gave in an interview in 2012), taking the citizenship oath is “a declaration of your membership in the community and you do that in front of your fellow citizens in public.”
Kenney recently tweeted his support for this policy when a woman took his government to court on the grounds that banning her right to wear a niqab violates her rights under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Kenney’s stance is complicated since it was him who had last year supported the rights of women to wear niqabs at work after a debate had ensued on whether women who are caregivers to children should be allowed to wear a veil.
Many Canadians had argued that people caring for other people’s children should not wear conspicuous religious clothing, especially something that covers their faces. However majority supported women’s decision. Kenny had at that time made the statement, “We believe that freedom of religion and conscience are universal values.”
Many Canadians like Kenney seem to believe that while it is ok for a woman in Canada to live and work while wearing a niqab, it is inappropriate to do so during a citizenship swearing-in ceremony. Their argument is that since Canada is a multicultural country that protects citizens’ religious freedoms, it is not too much to ask for Muslim women to set these freedoms aside for a occasion as important as taking an oath of citizenship. They say that Muslim women should respect Canada’s request with the same openness and spirit of accommodation with which Canada is willing to respect their religious freedoms.
However on the other side, the critics of the ban believe that a religious freedom is a religious freedom and not something that one practices only for the convenience of the wider society. The critics say that Canadian courts have recognized that it might be vital to ask Muslim women to remove their niqabs while testifying in criminal court cases if doing otherwise might jeopardize a fair trial. However, they point out, the oath ceremony of citizenship is hardly as critical to impose such a ban.
Source: Globe & Mail
There are now more than 60,000 people waiting for permanent residency under a program that employs foreign caregivers and nannies in Canada, according to reports.
About half of these people waiting for permanent residency are the children and spouses of the foreign caregivers already living in Canada.
The federal government is currently processing 17,500 of these applications for permanent residency, according to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
Foreign caregivers can apply for permanent residency in Canada after two years of working here, although the processing of these applications can take more than three years. Once they acquire residency, they are eligible to apply for residency of their spouses and children.
“The bloated inventory with prolonged processing times is causing harm to children who are being separated from their parents working in Canada as a live-in caregiver,” says a noted immigration policy analyst.
The analyst also believes that there is another reason a reform is urgently needed. “An overwhelming majority of these cases are family members who are giving live-in caregiver jobs to other family members.”
Several reports from immigration officials have demonstrated that family members already in Canada are in turn hiring their relatives abroad as caregivers to bring them to Canada. The majority of such applications are for caregivers from the Philippines.
These reports suggest that the program is not serving Canadians who need live-in caregivers in the same way as it was planned, although it is beneficial for the Filipino families in Canada. According to Employment Minister Jason Kenney, the caregiver program had turned into “a family reunification program”.
However Kenney’s claim is disputed by Teresa Agustin, the chair of Migrante Canada, a national organization which represents Filipino immigrants. Agustin mentions that a national study published earlier this year showed that out of the 631 former and current live-in caregivers studied in the research, the vast majority were recruited to Canada through employment agencies.
In addition, only one in ten caregivers in Canada have been hired by relatives, according to the GATES survey, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
In countries like Holland and the US, there are agencies who are responsible for matching caregivers with families. Manuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association of Caregiver and Nanny Agencies Canada, believes that Canada should follow a similar system. “There are no private matches allowed and all placements go through regulated agencies who become semi-responsible for each match, including educating families and ensuring that caregivers are safe and treated fairly. The agencies must do an annual audit,” she says.
Certain internal emails have shown that way back in 2006-07, the government had to hire temporary staff to clear a large backlog of 9,000 applications or more in an initiative termed “the Clearinghouse project”.
Experts believe that the government could have avoided another backlog by putting a cap on the number of work permits issued every year to live-in caregivers.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is considering moving the caregiver program to Express Entry, which is a new immigration program aimed at skilled immigrants who are looking to work in Canada permanently.
The new Express Entry program will make available a limited number of jobs under any given occupation and permanent residency will be offered only to the “highest-ranking” applicants.
However on the down side, Express Entry is anything but transparent. There does not appear any indication the government will be able to effectively monitor or provide active oversight.
There are also reports that Alexander is considering the idea of making it optional for caregivers to live with their employers.
In April 2013, when Kenney was the immigration minister, the backlog of foreign caregivers stood at 45,000 with a five-year wait time. This did not include those caregivers who are in Canada but haven’t yet completed their compulsory two years before qualifying for permanent residency. Their numbers stood at 35,000.
The current backlog of 60,000 applications does not include those foreign caregivers in Canada who haven’t yet qualified to apply for permanent residency.
Source: CBC News
With the new ‘express entry’ skilled immigration system that Canada is set to launch from January 2015, applicants from India who have the right educational qualifications, skills and work experience may have to wait only months rather than years to move to Canada. For those in senior management positions, with experience in various fields and international exposure, immigration to Canada will very likely become a faster process, considering that it will be linked to the employment needs of the country.
This new immigration programme is moving away from “passive processing to active recruitment”. Canada’s immigration and citizenship minister Chris Alexander recently explained at conference in Regina, Canada, that rather than the present first-come, first-served basis, express entry was focused on the job market in Canada.
But from next year, as in the Australia and New Zealand skilled immigration categories where applicants are invited to apply based on certain selection criteria, express entry will also follow the ‘expression of interest’ model. Earlier, during a visit to Delhi, Alexander had described the new system as a game changer that would help some of the skilled successful applicants in the economic and business immigrant categories to get their papers processed in as little time as six months.
Under the express entry system, applicants will be able to submit an ‘expression of interest’ to the Canadian government; their resume and details will be entered into a database. Employers seeking foreign skilled workers will have access to such information on the database, allowing them to select suitable candidates. If a Canadian employer cannot find Canadians to do the job after a labour market impact assessment, they can go online to the Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) database of applicants and look for the likes of welders, project managers etc. in India or anywhere in the world and make a job offer. Those with job offers will get priority when it comes to invitation to apply for permanent residence in Canada. The express entry system will cover all of Canada’s existing skilled immigration programmes including skilled worker programme, skilled trades programme and the Canadian experience class.
A recent study released by the CIC showed that new immigrants were apprehensive about the new system. The respondents in the study, conducted by research company Ipsos Reid, felt that the government should first ensure that those skilled immigrants already in Canada without jobs be given support in finding suitable employment. Immigration experts, meanwhile, are waiting for more details on the system once it is rolled out.
In India, the interest among skilled Indians in moving to Canada is very high with over 33,000 immigrating in 2013. Of the total number, 55% were in the economic and business categories and the rest in the family reunification category.
Source: Economic Times
Jason Kenney took to Twitter to defend directives forbidding Muslim women from wearing niqabs while taking the oath of citizenship.
“I believe people taking the public oath of citizenship should do so publicly, w/ their faces uncovered,” Mr. Kenney, who issued the directives as immigration minister and is now employment and social development minister. He asked his 35,700 Twitter followers if they agreed with his stance.
The tweet came amid an ongoing lawsuit over the ban against the federal government.
Zunera Ishaq, a Pakistani woman now living in Mississauga, Ont., is suing the Conservatives, arguing the ban violates her Charter rights by failing to accommodate her religious beliefs.
At the time, Mr. Kenney said the niqab represented a view of women that is unacceptable in Canada.
Lorne Waldman, a co-counsel for Ms. Ishaq, scoffed at Mr. Kenney’s public defence, pointing out that the Citizenship Act does not require people to be seen or heard taking the oath.
The government lawyer arguing the case said becoming a citizen is a privilege, not a right, and pointed out that Ishaq had removed her veil to get a driver’s licence. Negar Hashemi also said Ms. Ishaq declined an offer to take the oath at the front or the back of the citizenship court.
Ms. Ishaq, who was sponsored to come to Canada from Pakistan by her husband, put the brakes to her citizenship ceremony in January when she learned of the veil ban. Her lawsuit could result in the policy being scrapped.
The judge has reserved his decision.
A month after he announced the ban, Mr. Kenney said polling had shown eight out of 10 respondents agreed with it.
The Muslim Canadian Congress also honoured his “courageous decision,” saying niqabs and burkas are used as political tools by Islamists who seek to segregate Muslims into religious ghettos and cut them off from mainstream society.
Source: National Post
As an immigrant, moving to a new country is always a challenge. Whether you are moving to Canada or anywhere else, you will very likely be living away from your friends and family which in addition to having to adjust to differences of culture, weather, and language, can make it seem like a very daunting prospect. But leaving the familiar for the strange isn’t always such a mountain to climb. This is especially true if you are moving to Canada, which is an exceptionally immigrant-friendly country and where the majority of immigrants have overcome these challenges successfully and with relative ease. You can too, with these 10 tips that will help you settle in and feel right at home.
1. Know your city
Familiarize yourself thoroughly with the city you have chosen to live in as this will help you make informed decisions on important aspects of your life. Study your city map and find out which places in your city are safe, which places have the most jobs relevant to your expertise, and which areas are well-connected to the public transportation system. Canada has some of the best public transportation networks in the world so it would be wise to make good use of it. It will save you lots of time and money and make it much easier for you to get around, aiding your progress considerably.
2. Improve your English language and computer skills
Language and computer skills are vital in any line of employment these days, and it is no different in Canada. For most immigrants English is not the first language and while the best way to learn Canadian English is by conversing with Canadians, it is an absolute necessity to invest in English classes to improve your language literacy skills. Conversational English may be enough for you to get by but unless you have a recognised academic certification in English, you will find it difficult to find higher-level employment even if you are otherwise highly qualified. Similarly, learning basic computer skills is also important as most jobs require you to at least know enough to carry out basic administrative tasks.
3. Use government programs for newcomers
The Canadian Government runs a number of programs to help immigrants settle in the country, and while it can be time-consuming and requires quite a bit of paperwork to register for them, it is worth the effort. These programs are specifically designed for newcomers, and entitle you to numerous benefits and privileges. For example, you can participate in English language classes fully funded by the Canadian government to improve your language skills. Or you could qualify for a federal program that grants loans of up to $45,000 to immigrants who want to start their own business. You could also use the Federal Internship Program to obtain quick work experience – details of which is posted on Service Canada’s website (http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/). Another useful source of information is the Canadian Benefits website (http://www.canadabenefits.gc.ca/), which lists various programs available to all Canadian residents.
4. Invest in education
It is quite possible that several Canadian employers may not recognize your international education credentials. If that happens, invest in upgrading your education. Take up the necessary college or university courses to bring your qualifications to the level required by employers. These courses may require a couple of years to complete in addition to the investment on fees, and the challenge of juggling all other responsibilities, but the rewards are certainly going to make up for all the effort. Canada is the land of opportunity, and people who actively update their education find jobs in their areas of interest sooner rather than later, so it definitely pays to invest in education.
5. Build your network and make quality contacts
Developing a quality network is vital for everyone, and especially so for immigrants. You can build your network by attending events, talking to people at your workplace, or even to strangers while standing in a queue. Building quality contacts now could help you in the future, so don’t shy away. It is also important to be in touch with fellow immigrants. They share the immigrant experience, understand what you’re going through and in turn will help you understand the challenges faced by people in your situation which can be useful in helping you settle down in Canada faster.
6. Relocate to another place if needed
Most immigrants entering Canada land up in the big cities like Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, and as a result the job market here tends to be very competitive. If you struggle to find a job and make yourself financially stable in these big cities, you should consider moving to smaller towns like Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba. Most immigrants stay away from these towns because of the mistaken impression they have of the cold and remote nature of these places, so the job market isn’t as competitive and there are plenty of work opportunities. Working in these smaller towns may be a bit more challenging, but it is a good way of gaining some Canadian work experience while earning decent money. And if you do prefer city-life, you could always move back to your city of preference once you have the required work experience and financial stability to do so.
7. Obtain the necessary Canadian work experience without being picky with jobs
There is no shortcut to success in life, even in Canada. Even if you have high education credentials, there are chances that these will not be recognized by Canadian employers and you will not get the job you have your heart set on. You will have to start at the bottom and work your way up. So take what’s on offer without being picky with jobs. It is important to get some work experience in Canada as soon you can, so take up any job – work in a factory or a fast food chain, even if you just make the minimum wage. It is worth the effort because in the process you are getting Canadian work experience and some income to invest in your education that will help you get the job that you want.
8. Curb your expenses and build up your credit
Most immigrants new in a foreign land have limited financial resources, so it makes sense to spend money wisely for the first few years. Do not splurge on outings every weekend just because everyone else is doing it. Instead save money and invest in real estate or education, something which will bear rewards later on. It is also important to build a good credit with your bank or financial institution, as a good credit rating will help you secure bank loans when you want to buy a house or a car in the future.
9. Look for a reliable family doctor
The healthcare system in Canada works a lot differently from what most immigrants are used to in their countries of origin. The Canadian government funds and controls the healthcare system, which means that doctors in Canada focus on avoiding liabilities by prioritising prescribed guidelines over the treatment of patients. As a result, getting a doctor’s appointment may take weeks and this may make things worse for you health-wise. Since health problems will only delay your career goals, it is therefore important to choose an appropriate family doctor who can care for you and your family’s medical needs.
10. Visit the famous tourist attractions in your city
Finally, living in Canada should not just be about struggling to make a living. Canada is a country of great natural beauty, and hundreds of thousands of tourists from all around the world visit Canada every year just to see its sights. So make sure that you take time out to see them. If in Toronto you could visit the Royal Ontario Museum, CN Tower, and the Niagara falls. Similarly check out the Jasper Lake and Banff if you are living in Alberta. Whatever the case, do make time to explore and appreciate your new home.