A landmark Nova Scotia networking program is helping newcomers find and connect with employers throughout the province.
The Connector program, which was the brainchild of Halifax’s economic development agency’s chief economist Fred Morley, has been in place for three years and is being credited with slowing the province’s brain drain that had recently seen thousands of immigrants and young people leaving in search of professional opportunities elsewhere.
“Finding a job isn’t about what you know,” Morley says regarding the purpose of the program. “It’s about who you know and recognizing that most people don’t find work because of ads in newspapers, but because they meet someone.”
The program started off with the hopes of finding 50 local employers who would volunteer to meet and have a coffee with new immigrants, answering some of their questions and providing names of other professionals whom the job seeker might contact. It has since expanded to approximately 360 professional volunteers.
So far, over 100 immigrants have credited the program with landing them jobs, and other cities have begun to emulate the Halifax model, including Montreal and Charlottetown. There is also talk of expanding the program so that recent Canadian and international graduates can have access to the employer volunteers as well.
“If you talk to people in person, they see you’re confident and positive and have a lot of energy and the passion to learn, that is very important,” says 24 year-old international graduate Doris Du from China, who credits the Connector program with helping her find work in her field.
Source: Globe and Mail
Immigrant advocates are concerned over the wide-reaching possible ramifications of the government’s recent changes to Canada’s immigration policies.
Many of the recent changes, announced this spring when the Conservative government released their budget, have been sparking controversy among immigrant advocates and economic experts across the country.
One likely fallout scenario being examined is the shift in source countries. In recent years South East Asiancountries have become a top source of newcomers to Canada, but the recent shifts that are placing more emphasis on language fluency will likely deter many of those candidates. Already, from the changes imposed in 2010 there has been a drop in applications from China, the Philippines and India.
On the surface, the added emphasis on language proficiency may seem like a better way to encourage immigrant employment, but studies have shown that children of immigrants from South East Asian countries tend to do better (in terms of education and economics) than second and third-generation children from Anglophone immigrants.
This is just one example cited in a recent piece by RatnaOmidvar for the Globe and Mail. Omidvar is president of the Maytree Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting poverty and inequality in Canada. She argues that many of the recent changes announced by the government will have far-reaching consequences and directly affect the fabric of Canadian society.
“By seeking to eliminate the backlog by expunging those waiting in the queue, we choose efficiency over fairness,” writes Omidvar. “By moving to ‘super visas’ and away from permanent residence for our immigrants’ parents and grandparents, we choose transience over inclusion. When employers select workers who will become future citizens with little guidance, we choose head-hunting over nation-building. When we raise the bar on language, we choose homogeneity over diversity.”
In a time when immigration is increasingly being trumpeted as one major solution to Canada’s impending labour crunch, it is more crucial than ever to examine not only the kind of image we are projecting on the international stage, but also the kind of society that this proudly multicultural nation wishes to be.
Source: Globe and Mail
The Conservative government is coming under fire for recent proposals to change the Temporary Foreign Worker program, particularly in regards to lowering the wage requirements.
As part of a slew of immigration reforms announced over the past several months, the Conservatives have included changes that will speed up the process of bringing foreign workers into the country and allow them to be paid less than the average Canadian wage for that job.
The proposals have been welcome for certain provinces such as Alberta, where employers are straining to find the workers needed to fill numerous positions, especially in the skilled trades which are facing massive labour shortages across the country.
However, critics are concerned over the repercussions of such a move in that they could cause an overall drop in wages. This would hurt the already ailing building sector, as low wages will attract less young people into the trade and deter qualified labor from relocating to better job markets.
“If demand for skilled workers rises, then wages should rise in order to allocate the existing skills to the place they’re needed most,” says B.C. economics professor David A. Green in a recent article for the Globe and Mail.
Green argues that the market, if left on its own, will work to solve the crisis, attracting more workers where they are needed, rather than forcing the end of major business projects. It would seem to go against a Conservative government to move in the opposite direction, but that is where such policies are headed.
Source: Globe and Mail
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has retracted a controversial measure that was part of his proposed refugee reforms. The rule would have allowed refugee claimants arriving by boat to be detained up to one year without any case review.
The amendment proposed last week by Minister Kenney would allow claimants to see a judge within 14 days of arrival, and then again after 6 months. Critics are applauding the move, saying that detaining refugee claimants for such long periods will not only hurt Canada’s international reputation, but was also not necessary.
Though the recent arrival of two large boats filled with Tamil migrants of the coast of Vancouver was highly publicized, and likely inspired some of the reforms, experts say that most refugee claimants do not arrive via boat. Before the Tamil migrant incident, it had been nearly a decade since a similar major incident occurred.
However, there are still many problems with the refugee system that the government hopes to address through reforms. Minister Kenney argues that too many false claimants arrive and then “game” the system for years while their case goes through appeals.
Other reforms that are being proposed include fast-tracking claims from countries that have previously been classified as “safe” and continued requirement of visitor visas from traditional source countries.
The refugee claim rate has actually declined from 2008 to 2011 by almost 10,000 cases, and most claims are now from citizens of European countries like Hungary and Poland.
Source: Globe and Mail
A new translation guide is helping health care professionals communicate with immigrants and thus break down one of the biggest challenges facing newcomers in Canada today.
The guide, a computerized translation tool that provides phonetic translations of common medical symptoms and terms, allows Ontario doctors to communicate with patients in 15 of the most common languages in the province.
“In the emergency department, if somebody comes in with a serious problem and there’s nobody there that speaks that language, you immediately have a barrier to the information exchange that’s critical to finding out what’s wrong,” says Dr. Joel Ray, who is based out of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto where he developed the tool.
Dr. Ray argues that as Canada’s population ages and becomes more reliant upon immigrants to fill the workforce (who are themselves aging as well), the country needs to be at the forefront of new medical technologies and techniques, not only in terms of language.
Doctors also need to adjust their methods of diagnosis and classification depending on the origins and specific needs of their patients, says Dr. Ray. Some immigrants are more susceptible to certain diseases, such as diabetes. Education will help doctors to learn what to look for in which patients, while this tool will help them learn how to ask the necessary questions in a way that will allow them to be understood.
Source: Globe and Mail
The cost of immigration is catching up to the economic benefits in Canada, according to a recent report from the Globe and Mail.
Though Canadian governments have long championed the positive economic effects of immigration, the costs are beginning to create an imbalance as wage discrepancies and employment barriers increasingly block skilled newcomers from obtaining work in their fields.
“The benefits have clearly declined over time […] because people are not earning to the extent that their equivalent criteria or credentials should allow them,” says University of Toronto economics professor Peter Duncan, whose recent co-authored study found that if the government maintains its current selection criteria, but increases by 100,000 the amount of immigrants entering the country, the per capita GDP will actually decrease.
However, if the selection system were to place more emphasis on economic streams of immigration, the entry wages for newcomers would actually increase. Furthermore, higher immigrant ratios produce more innovation and attract other talent from around the world.
However, there remain many barriers to immigrant success in Canada, including underemployment and low wages. The government must address these issues if it hopes to remain competitive in today’s global market.
Source: Globe and Mail
Canada’s Immigration Minister says that his government is looking to increase immigration levels, but wants to make sure that those immigrants will be able to work and contribute to Canadian growth effectively.
In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney admitted that he and his department are facing considerable pressure from employers and provinces across the country to raise immigration levels.
Those levels have been steady at 250,000 for about the past two decades, and therefore raising them significantly would be a huge policy initiative on his government’s part. However, Kenney says that the major priority is to address the underemployment and underperformance of immigrants who are already in Canada.
“Immigrants have double-digit unemployment and have seen incomes on the decline for three decades,” said Minister Kenney. “Once our [recently announced series of] reforms are implemented we will, I am sure, see higher levels of employment and income for immigrants, which means faster and more successful integration. I think a very strong case can be made then for higher levels.”
The minister also expressed concern over the divide in public opinion on the issue of immigration. While employers and provinces seem to strongly support increased immigration, most of the general public is not in favour. He and his government are conscious of avoiding immigrant backlash, as has been demonstrated in some European countries.
In addressing the challenges facing those who have already immigrated to Canada, the government seems to be trying to bridge the gap between a public wary of taking on too many newcomers in slow economic times, while also satisfying growing labour crunches that are increasingly faced daily by employers and provincial governments across the country.
Source: Globe and Mail
Canada is losing ground in the international competition to attract talent, according to warnings from economic and policy experts who say that some drastic changes are in order.
“International competition is starting to heat up for the best immigrants, the Frank Stronachs, the people who will drive the economy,” says McMaster University economist Arthur Sweetman.
Australia has begun fast-tracking many immigrant applications while both India and China have announced new visa and tax incentives aimed at retaining skilled workers and possibly even luring back some previous emigrants and/or their descendants.
Though a recent Gallup poll finds that Canada still remains among the top three destination choices, behind the U.S. and the U.K., respectively, it has fallen behind in recent years due to many factors, including the nearly decade-long waiting times. The situation will not be helped by the recent decision to return all applications that had been in queue since before 2008.
A new system is needed, argues the Globe and Mail in a recent editorial after speaking with economists and immigration lawyers. A system that focuses more on skills and training, faster processing times, and incorporating more flexibility to answer to what both employers and migrants are looking for today.
The attitude of Canadians also needs work. Immigrants who do manage to put up with long waiting times end up often in a place where their credentials are discredited and racial and cultural discrimination are rampant barriers to job access.
The most skilled and educated workers on the planet are in demand elsewhere and the market is turning to favor them. Canada must also adjust if it has any hope of attracting the workers that will be (and already are) so desperately needed.
Source: Globe and Mail
The province of Saskatchewan has announced several changes to their Provincial Nominee Program in hopes of convincing the federal government to raise their annual quotas.
The Provincial Nominee Programs allow the provinces to have some jurisdiction in immigration matters, selecting certain pre-approved applicants for fast-track immigration at the federal level.
Among the changes, which will go into effect immediately, are limitations to the amount of family members that can apply at one time (only immediate family members, no extended family) as well as a new requirement that all nominees have a job offer before entering the province.
The provincial government is also looking to provide employers and applicants with more protection and is therefore compiling a list of “approved consultants and recruiters.” Further consultations regarding possible legislation are also one of the province’s priorities.
Immigrant advocates are expressing mixed feelings about the changes, saying that although there may be tough adjustments for families, the steps being taken to protect workers are a good move.
“For the most part, employers are ethical, but a few aren’t and we need to be very careful and watch out for them and make sure that newcomers are receiving the information they need around labour legislation and their own protection,” said Darcy Dietrich, an immigrant services worker in Regina. “I think it actively has to be provided to them, it can’t be a piece of paper that’s just given to them.”
The province of Saskatchewan is hoping that the changes will improve the integrity and the efficiency of their PNP, and inspire the federal government to increase from 4,000 to 6,000 the allotted number of nominees per year.
Source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
The Canadian government has announced changes regarding language assessment for new citizens.
Formerly, new citizens of Canada were able to prove their language skills through taking the Discover Canada citizenship knowledge test, which would also assess their understanding of Canadian culture and history.
The new rules will require that immigrants also provide evidence of their language skills in the form of a standardized test, a diploma from either an English or a French school, or successful completion of government language classes.
The government argues that the new rules will allow for a more standardized and objective assessment of immigrants’ language skills, whereas the prior tests only examined reading comprehension skills, and were very subjectively judged.
However, critics are expressing concern over the $110-million price tag, skeptical that the changes will be worth the cost in the end.
The changes will likely go into effect as of fall, 2012. Skilled workers will likely not be affected, as they have to prove their language skills as part of their application for permanent residency. Sponsored immigrants and refugees will be most affected.
Source: National Post