Documents have been released showing that the Conservative government knew the temporary foreign worker program was causing pressure on youth employment almost a year before reforming the program. In an August 2013 briefing note for Employment Minister Jason Kenney, department officials warned that industries which commonly employ young Canadians are also among the employers hiring the most temporary foreign workers.
The document, prepared shortly after Kenney was appointed to the department reads, “Five of the top six industries that employ the most youth were also in the top half of (temporary foreign worker) program users.”
Critics of the temporary foreign worker program have raised concerns that employers were hiring lower-paid foreign workers, rather than Canadian workers. Kenney’s office says reforms made in June 2014, almost one year after the internal briefing, have specifically addressed the issue.
The industries listed as employing a large proportion of youth and foreign workers include accommodation and food service, construction, information and cultural industries, as well as the unspecified “other services.”
The internal documents were obtained by the Opposition New Democrats under access to information law. According to the NDP, the documents prove the governing Conservatives were aware of problems with the temporary foreign worker program, especially the issues related to youth employment , but took no action until media reports exposed abuse of the system.
Alexandra Fortier, Kenney’s director of communications disputed the opposition claims saying that the government’s June 2014 overhaul of the system directly addressed the issue of employers hiring lower-paid foreign workers over young Canadians.
The documents note that excluding young people from entry-level positions delays the development of the so-called “non-cognitive” skills people pick up on the job: self-management, teamwork, persistence and problem-solving, among others.
The national youth unemployment rate was 13.3 per cent in December, the same as a year ago and almost double the national unemployment rate of 6.6 per cent. In 2012 Canada fell near the average for youth unemployment among OECD countries, with 20.1 per cent for those aged 15 to 19, and 11 per cent for those aged 20 to 24. Certain groups faced higher unemployment rates, including aboriginal youth (20.9 per cent), recent immigrant youth (22.7 per cent) and youth with disabilities (23 per cent).
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Toronto and Montreal are two of the best places to live in the world. The information was revealed as part of a new report called The Safe Cities Index 2015, which also includes an “index of indexes” that averages out the scores of six Economist rankings, including the new one.
Toronto ranked only 8th and Montreal 14th in the new Safe Cities Index, making them the highest overall when combined with the magazine’s livability rankings, business environment rankings, cost of living index, democracy index and food security index.
Cities that ranked higher than Toronto in The Safe Cities Index include Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Sydney and Zurich.
Here are the top 10 best places to live, according to The Economist:
5. San Francisco
8. Washington, D.C.
Here are the bottom 10 best places to live, according to The Economist:
45. Mexico City
48. Ho Chi Minh City
According to Statistics Canada, the Canadian economy shed 11,300 net jobs in December instead of the 4,300 decline reported earlier in January. The updated jobs figures were part of the agency’s annual revisions to labor data.
Canada lost almost three times as many jobs in December as originally estimated, and job creation for the full year also fell short, suggesting Canada’s labor market is on a weaker footing than previously believed. December’s jobless rate was 6.7%, compared with the previously estimated 6.6%. Adjusted to U.S. concepts, the jobless rate was 5.7% last month, compared with 5.6% south of the border, Statistics Canada said.
Net job creation in Canada for 2014 totaled 121,300 positions, the lowest level since the country posted a net loss in jobs in 2009, at the height of the global recession. The tally for 2014 was roughly a third less than previously estimated.
Douglas Porter, chief economist of BMO Capital Markets, called some of the revisions fairly significant saying, “The overall impression is that the labor market was even more sluggish than what we were first led to believe. It definitely puts a more cautious hue on how the labor market is faring.”
Job gains in 2014 were driven by increases in full-time positions. Overall employment grew 0.7%, the same pace as the previous year, but less than half the 1.8% rate in 2012. The number of people who are actively looking for work as a share of the population dropped to 65.7% in December, the lowest since 2000. According to Statistics Canada this was likely because of the country’s aging population.
The agency revises employment figures once a year, usually in January. The latest revisions were more comprehensive, going back to 2001, because they incorporate data from the latest national census conducted in 2011.
Collapsing oil prices are expected to affect oil-rich Alberta particularly hard, which last year recorded the fastest employment growth rate of all the provinces, and the second-lowest jobless rate after Saskatchewan.
In recent months, several serious abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker program throughout Canada have come to light and now the government has imposed restrictions on the program, especially for restaurants. Many businesses have had to do without temporary foreign workers.
Some businesses that had used the TFWP now have their eye on a new system introduced by the federal government January 1: Express Entry. Express Entry will be used for four existing immigration streams: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class and the Provincial Nominee Program. Applicants will be able to fill out their information electronically. They’ll then be put into a pool with other applicants, and the government will be able to draw from the pool “at will” to choose which applications to process.
According to stakeholders, the program is “being touted as one of the ways to solve skills shortages and [as] the future of immigration.”
It’s a further refining of Canada’s point system, which gives applicants a higher score for work experience, education and language skills. One of the ways to get more Express Entry points is to have a job offer from a Canadian employer.
The employer must also get a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which shows the need for a foreign worker and that the employer has been unable to find qualified Canadians for the same position. Express Entry is still geared toward skilled professional and trades workers, which in recent years have been a focus of the Canadian government for permanent immigration.
Quebec’s Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil has announced that the province is preparing to re-examine its immigration policy, which has been in place for the past 25 years and is due for a major reform.
Weil has said that the system needs to change in the way it selects, welcomes and integrates immigrants in the labor market. Under discussion will be the existing relationship between newcomers and Quebec’s society, the selection process, importance of value systems, regionalization, French language requirements, preferred countries of origin, and recognizing foreign educational and training qualifications.
In the next few weeks there will be public consultation hearings where about 50 stakeholders will participate. The debate on these issues will eventually shape Quebec’s new immigration policy. Weil said she expected a wide-reaching debate and was “very open to everything that will be proposed.”
In addition, another consultation is expected to be held later this year to address two important aspects of immigration – the maximum number of immigrants to be permitted into Quebec every year, and the preferred countries of origin. At present, Quebec receives between 50,000 and 55,000 immigrants per year, mostly from African nations. Figures from 2009-2013 reveal that one of every five immigrants to Quebec belonged to Morocco or Algeria.
Quebec’s new model may be inspired by Ottawa, focusing more on the need to match skilled immigrants with jobs available. Ottawa changed its immigration process last year for attracting new immigrants by focusing mainly on filling jobs, and thereby requiring applicants to produce a “declaration of interest” in migrating to Canada along with proof of skills that matches employers’ requirements.
Weil has said that the search for suitable candidates will have to be “more competitive” than in the past. The consultations will include employers from different sectors in the province defining their workforce requirements and providing “profiles” of suitable workers. Moreover professional associations will be urged to recognize foreign educational qualifications.
Unemployment among immigrants in Quebec has been on the rise, a factor that will also play a role in the immigration reform. The year 2013 saw an unemployment rate of 11.6% for new immigrants in Quebec, about 4% higher than unemployment among the general population. The gap existed even though most of the newcomers were well educated, with statistics showing that 57% had at least 14 years of schooling.
Quebec’s new immigration policy and action plan will be produced following extensive consultations. Weil will be presenting a bill proposing to modernize the existing immigration law. Weil has claimed that the new bill would be “the last piece of this large reform”.
Language requirements is another topic that will need a re-examination by the provincial government, who will need to decide on the desired level of knowledge a candidate must have in the French language. Current statistics reveal that 43% of the immigrants arriving in Quebec do not know a word of French when they arrive. Weil believes that newcomers should have adequate knowledge of French required to work and integrate in Quebec’s society.
Following the launch of the Federal Express Entry Immigration system many Canadian provinces have announced their individual immigration routes that integrate with the federal program.
Starting January this year, Canada launched the Express Entry system as a new way of attracting skilled immigrants into the country. Interested applicants have been invited to create their online profiles, expressing their interest in migrating to Canada. A point-based system then ranks the applicants, after which the government sends the top scorers an invitation to apply.
The Express Entry system allows provinces to establish their individual selection criteria and procedures, clearing which permanent residency is granted to applicants by the Canadian government. The provincial immigration schemes have integrated with the federal application procedure so the application usually needs to be made at only one place, though there are exceptions. Applicants receiving a provincial nomination earn an extra 600 points which greatly increases their chance of receiving an invitation to apply for permanent residence.
The immigration route offered by Nova Scotia allows applicants to either apply directly through the provincial program or through the federal Express Entry system.
Nova Scotia will accept a total of 350 applications. Applicants are required to score a minimum of 67 points (out of 100) under their point-based scoring system in order to be eligible for application. Points are awarded under factors including language skills, age, education and work experience.
In addition, to qualify an applicant must have a minimum of one year work experience in one of the 29 occupations listed under the provincial program. Most occupations fall in the healthcare, finance, engineering and computer industries.
British Columbia’s Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) now has another new stream known as Express Entry British Columbia (EEBC), under which 1,350 additional applicants can be nominated by the province for permanent residence in Canada.
Applicants interested in settling down in British Columbia will have to apply under both federal Express Entry as well as the provincial program EEBC. To qualify under Express Entry, the candidate must be eligible under one the following immigration streams: the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), or the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
After clearing the Express Entry eligibility criteria, the candidate can apply under EEBC under one of the following streams: International Postgraduates, International Graduates, and Skilled Workers.
Candidates holding a Masters degree or a doctorate in the sciences (received within past two years) from one of the eligible programs at a British Columbia post-secondary institution can apply using the Individual Post Graduate stream. Whereas the International graduates stream is for those who have graduated from a Canadian college or university in the past two years.
Finally, the Skilled Worker stream allows candidates to submit an application who have work experience in a skilled occupation along with post-secondary education or training. Applications under this stream are only received from those candidates who have a permanent and full-time permanent employment offer in a skilled occupation from an employer in British Columbia. Applicants with a job offer from employers in occupations requiring compulsory licensing or certification must prove that they meet the provincial requirements for their specific occupation.
Interested candidates who currently do not have a job offer can also submit an application under EEBC provided they have completed their education in the province.
Applicants are especially encouraged from health care professionals, with there being an increasing demand for nurses, specialists, physicians, and allied health professionals like physiotherapists, clinical pharmacists, diagnostic medical sonographers, medical laboratory technologists, occupational therapists, and medical radiation technologists in British Columbia.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The provincial program of Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to accept applications from candidates with an existing job offer in the province. The application process will be integrated with the Express Entry, and more details about the provincial program will be announced shortly.
The two streams offered by Newfoundland and Labrador are: Skilled Workers and International Graduate. To make an application using the Skilled Worker category, the candidate should hold an offer of employment from an employer in Newfoundland and Labrador. Candidates already holding jobs or offers of employment that offer adequate compensation in salary and benefits as required by the provincial employment standards can also apply under this category.
Candidates can also apply under the International Graduates stream if they have completed at least half of their total education in Canadian schools and have a graduate degree from a qualifying publicly-funded university or college in Canada.
Interested applicants must first submit their application under one of the three federal immigration programs, and thereafter an application to the provincial program can be made. A nomination from the province will add 600 points to the candidate’s score, greatly increasing the chances for an invitation to apply.
Saskatchewan’s provincial program is accepting up to 775 applications from candidates who do not have an existing offer of employment. As with other provincial programs, interested candidates must first register through the Express Entry application system under one of the three federal immigration programs.
The provincial program of Saskatchewan requires candidates to earn at least 60 points in their point-based assessment where applicants are scored on work experience, education and training, age, language skills, and connections in the province’s labor market. If an applicant is nominated by the province, s/he earns a bonus 600 points, leading to an invitation to apply.
Hong Kong’s recent announcement of special one-year work visas for foreign-born children of permanent residents could potentially accelerate the reverse migration of Vancouver’s Hong Kong-born population, which has already gone down by 14 per cent between 1996 and 2011, falling from 86,215 to 73,770 over that period. Considering that 20,500 people came to Vancouver from Hong Kong in that period, the departure rate is actually higher than the figures indicate.
And with arrivals from Hong Kong now at their lowest level compared to the last few years, with just 383 immigrants arriving in British Columbia from Hong Kong in 2013, the numbers living in Vancouver could get significantly lower yet.
According to Daniel Hiebert, professor at UBC, Hong Kong’s latest visa scheme is not unique. “There are many places that have these kinds of plans now. It’s becoming more common for countries to work through their diaspora populations as a source of newcomers, particularly countries facing demographic issues (such as a low birth rate),” he says.
One such example is Japan, which has tried to attract second or third generation ethnic Japanese living abroad, especially those living in Latin America. However the scheme has not been entirely successful, mainly because the returning migrants found it difficult to adjust in Japanese society, resulting in many returning back to where they came from.
A similar reason may prevent Canadian-born children of Hong Kong migrants returning. Cultural and language factors, as well a preference for Vancouver’s relaxed and outdoor lifestyle may win out over Hong Kong’s compact, fast-paced lifestyle.
Another factor to consider is the cost of housing in Hong Kong, which happens to be the only city in the world which is less affordable than Vancouver.
However, according to Hiebert, most Canadian-born children of Hong Kong immigrants are on the lookout for opportunities available to them, both in Vancouver and in Hong Kong. “Typically, that group of people still has family networks in Hong Kong. Uncles, aunts, second-cousins, whatever. So they have got places to crash for a while, they can look around and survey the scene,” he said.
“Don’t forget that very large numbers of the Hong Kong diaspora in Vancouver travel back and forth regularly, you’ve got non-stop flights that are quite affordable, even on a student budget…and if you have relatives you can stay with, then life is quite easy, to make that jump over there. Either way, people will very quickly decide whether the pace of Hong Kong and the economy of Hong Kong appeals to them.”
Hiebert believes that even if Hong Kong’s scheme is initially successful in getting their diaspora population to go back, the long-term success of the scheme is far from assured. “Maybe the plan works as intended. But with a highly fluid population you’ve got to worry about retention as well as attraction…these kind of policies are never massive, crashing successes.”
Canada ranks as the world’s eleventh biggest economy, and is above the US and most European nations in terms of the economic freedoms afforded to its residents. Canada’s strong services in the manufacturing and energy sectors have propelled it up the global economic ladder, with its logging and oil industries making it one of the few developed countries that are net exporters of energy.
One contributing factor in Canada’s status as an economic powerhouse and member of the G7 is arguably its pioneering and successful immigration and integration policies. And these policies are a reflection of its attitude towards immigration.
Support for immigration in Canada has been consistently high over the past 15 to 20 years, with public support for immigration in 2010 being at its highest since 1957, according to research published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). The study shows that the majority of Canadians (58%) support high levels of immigration, a figure that has held steady over time and which has been relatively unaffected by economic recessions, the threat of terrorism and negative media coverage of specific immigrant groups.
Support is especially strong among educated Canadians and is consistent in rural and urban regions, irrespective of the levels of concentration of immigrants among the population.
This widespread support of immigration in Canada can be accounted for by two widely held beliefs on immigration. One is the belief that immigration is important to Canada’s economic growth, and the other is the high value placed on Canadian multiculturalism.
Despite being the second-largest country in the world in land mass, Canada’s population is less than 3% of China’s, while being larger in size. And with a population growth rate of 1.2%, Canada has long recognized the need to supplement its local workforce and aging population with the worlds’ best and brightest.
To that end, Canada’s integration programs have been tailored to attract economic immigrants by making the transition to living in Canada as smooth and successful as possible. While most other countries leave migrants to overcome the issues they face in settling in on their own, Canada has set up a significant formal support system for immigrants.
The Canada Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) assists with the settling in and integrating into the Canadian workforce by providing free orientation to all economic immigrants and their families prior to their arrival in Canada. It provides useful information and online support through partners in Canada, and has offices in India, the Philippines, China and the UK.
The CIIP puts immigrants in touch with Focal Point Partners (FPPs) that act as the first point of contact for CIIP clients. These organizations are key immigrant-serving agencies and colleges set up in each province, and act as hubs, making onward referrals to other education institutions or organizations that serve immigrants depending on their individual needs.
For example, the Community Airport Newcomers Network (C.A.N.N.) facilitates the pre-settlement of all immigrants arriving in Canada at the Vancouver International Airport by offering individualized reception, orientation, information, and referrals to other organizations. The service is offered by a team who speak over 20 languages. A C.A.N.N. officer meets with each newcomer and provides orientation and information based on their unique settlement needs and anticipated challenges. Advice given covers medical insurance, education for adults and children, employment, accreditation, business, etc.
Other such initiatives include the Business Immigrant Integration Support and Active Engagement Integration Project. Advice and assistance is readily available to new immigrants starting their work life, with help provided in getting their credentials assessed, and advice given on professional regulation classes and exams prior to commencing work. Immigrants are also given guidance on Canadian banking, housing, social/national insurance and medical services, among other day-to-day things.
One major initiative for new immigrants is the foreign credential recognition loan project, which offers low-interest loans of up to $15,000 to foreign trained skilled immigrants to help them obtain employment in certain regulated professions in Canada. The loan covers tuition, exam fees, travel expenses, qualification assessments, books and course materials, professional association fees, and living allowance during the period of study, and has flexible repayment terms.
The government also has an online immigration information portal which lists the services from a variety of government and non-government departments, with similar provincial online portals available as well.
While most developed countries view economic migrants as second-class citizens who are a threat to their economy and security, Canada has long realized the true worth of economic immigrants for their economic and cultural value, and has developed a remarkable model that invests in immigrants and values their contribution to society.
And with the new Express Entry system, and a simplified and streamlined process that reduces economic migrant visa processing time from two years to six months, Canada is looking to consolidate its position at the forefront of global economic development. The latest immigration schemes have been developed to attract and bring in the most skilled and talented individuals from all over the world in order for them to contribute to the continued economic growth and social development of Canada.
Canada formally launched its Immigrant Investor Venture Capital pilot program, accepting applications from wealthy investors who are interested in moving to Canada. It has been announced that up to 500 applications will be accepted, however only up to 60 investor visas will be issued to successful applicants.
Applications will begin being accepted from January 28 through February 11, 2015 or earlier if the quota of 500 applications is reached beforehand the government has announced.
Canada Immigration Minister Chris Alexander claims the program is designed to attract foreign investors who can provide a significant boost to the economy of Canada. The pilot program is also expected to create several jobs. “This will create employment … it’s a pilot program and we are testing it to see how it will go,” according to Costas Menegakis, secretary to the immigration minister.
The limit of 60 visas has caused disappointment among several investors who had been waiting for the revamped program to launch after its predecessor had been scrapped last year for having become a fraud-infested “cash for citizenship” scheme. However the government has said that this limit can be modified later on depending on the success of the program. “The original 60 is to be able to evaluate if the new pilot program is achieving its goals and to ensure that it is also working in the best interest of Canada’s economy. It could be expanded after the review of this first step,” said a government source.
Under the new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital program, an applicant with a minimum net worth of $10 million must make a non-guaranteed investment of at least $2 million over a period of 15 years. The investment will be invested into a fund managed by BDC Capital, and will be used to “invest in innovative Canadian startups with high growth potential.” The investors will receive periodic proceeds from their investment.
Potential investors who can prove that their net worth is at least $50 million through “legally obtained” sources can secure an exemption from one of the four requirements under the investor program including language testing and education equivalency.
Critics of the program have said that such investor visas are unfair to hardworking caregivers who have to wait for years to obtain permanent residency in Canada. “I can’t help but think about the women who come into my office who went through the live-in caregiver program and they were promised to get landed status and bring their children over to Canada and they are still waiting … it just doesn’t cut it,” says Andrew Cash, NDP critic for multiculturalism.
The previous investor immigration program had been deemed unsuccessful leading to its termination last year. “Research indicated that immigrant investors under the previous program were less likely than other immigrants to stay in Canada over the medium to long term. Also, they contributed relatively little to the Canadian economy, earning very little income and paying very little tax,” said a government statement.
Under the scrapped program, applicants were required to invest $800,000 as a repayable loan into Canada’s economy. The program had been described by critics as a “cash for citizenship” scheme and was reportedly being abused with a large number of fraudulent cases. In 2012, the program was cancelled due to oversubscription which led to a large backlog of many thousands of unprocessed applications.
Recently, processing times for the in-country spousal sponsorship program have tripled, leading to Canadians caught up in the backlog to demand an audit of the troubled program. Thousands of Canadians are now having to wait more than two years to acquire permanent resident status for their foreign spouses already living in Canada. That means living in limbo for the foreign partner, not being allowed to take a job or access health care coverage.
According to a national online group called Canada Inland Spousal Sponsorship Petitioners, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) must immediately establish “service delivery standards,” as recommended by the Office of the Auditor General in a scathing report in 2010.
Canadians have the option to sponsor a foreign wife or husband either from abroad or within Canada with many preferring to do it from Canada, so as to avoid being apart during the processing.
A spousal sponsorship is a two-stage process: the sponsor has to be assessed and approved before the foreign spouse can be screened for medical clearance, background checks and other verification. Currently, inland applicants must wait 17 months for stage one, and eight months longer for stage two.
Although Ottawa launched a pilot program before Christmas to issue work permits to some of these foreign spouses still in the queue for stage one, the lobbying group complains its members are treated worse than foreign workers and international students, whose spouses can get their work permits and health coverage a lot faster.
It is not known how many couples are caught up in the inland sponsorship backlog, but over 8,000 new in-Canada applications are processed each year.
The wait time began increasing rapidly in February 2014 when CIC moved processing of the inland spousal cases from its centre in Vegreville, Alta., to Mississauga. It became worse after August, when officials introduced a new application form and decided to mail back some of the applications to applicants even if they had been submitted before the form change. The Conservative government has blamed the previous Liberal government for creating the backlog.
“As foreigners, it is not your place in society to protest, but we all have reasonable expectations from this government. The government owes us an answer why it takes 25 months to render a decision on our applications,” said Irish citizen Ronan McDermott, who met his Canadian wife, Alicia Renkas, from Calgary, while he was working in the oil sands on a work-holiday visa.
Over 540 couples have signed the inland sponsorship group’s online petition. The group hopes to submit the petition to the Office of Auditor General on Monday.