Canada’s Federal Court has upheld the government’s recent decision to return hundreds of thousands of unprocessed immigration applications along with their application fees.
Last spring the Conservative government announced their decision to return approximately 280,000 applications that had been sitting unprocessed – some for up to eight years. They argued that the move would eliminate the application backlog that has caused waiting times to balloon in recent years.
However, a group of approximately 1400 rejected applicants challenged the move in court, arguing that it violates their rights under both the Bill of Rights and the Charter.
“The applicants have waited in the queue for many years only to find the entrance door closed. They see the termination of their hope for a new life in Canada to be an unfair, arbitrary and unnecessary measure,” said Justice Donald Rennie regarding the ruling. “However, section 87.4 (of the budget bill) is valid legislation, compliant with the rule of law, the Bill of Rights and the Charter.”
Despite this decision, the court did leave room for appeal by raising three questions regarding the constitutionality of the law.
“[I]t’s not an easy task to try to convince a judge to strike down legislation,” said a lawyer for the would-be applicants. “What’s more difficult for me is to tell all these clients who retained me … because, you know, these are people who basically followed all the rules and acted perfectly legally and in compliance with what the government of Canada told them.”
The current processing times for skilled worker applications stands at about a year. By 2015 the government projects to have that down to six months.
This month the Canadian government launched its new immigrant investor program, which will require potential applicants to find investor backing before entering the country.
One major attracting point of the new Start-Up Visa Program is that once approved for the visa, the applicant gains permanent residency status immediately – regardless of whether or not their business venture succeeds. This point is unique among countries offering such types of immigration programs.
Officials in the United States in particular are expressing their desire to implement a similar investor program south of the border.
“The general idea of taking someone who wants to come to your country and hire Americans or Canadians, it’s such an obvious good idea for the economy,” said Jeremy Robbins a U.S.-based business advocate and policy advisor. “In America, if someone wants to come to start a company, we say there is no visa for them so they can go elsewhere.”
In a recent interview with Bloomberg Business week Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said that the program would initially offer 2,750 visas with plans to expand the program next year. Investor applicants will also have to meet language proficiency requirements as well as have one year of post-secondary education.
Sources: Financial Post
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has vowed closer scrutiny of Canada’s temporary foreign worker program in light of a recent scandal over outsourcing bank jobs.
Last week the Royal Bank of Canada came under fire when employees alleged that their IT jobs were being outsourced to foreign workers in order to save on wages. Though RBC was quick to backtrack and vowed to provide employment opportunities for all affected Canadian workers.
However, the outrage has renewed public debate over the workings of Canada’s temporary foreign worker program and the Harper government, which had already given approval to RBC to hire foreign workers.
“I think it is important for Canadians and all businesses to understand that the purpose of this program is to provide […] temporary help in cases where there are absolute and acute labour shortage. It does not have broader purposes than that,” said Minister Harper while speaking in Calgary this week.
A spokesperson for the Minister of Labour echoed those sentiments in a statement released this week, saying that it is important for employers to understand the purpose of the temporary foreign worker program.
“Employers cannot pay temporary foreign workers less than a Canadian would earn in the same job,” said spokesperson Alyson Queen. “It is a requirement of the program that employers will only be able to pay temporary foreign workers 15% less than the average prevailing wage if there are Canadians being paid 15% less. Therefore, no Canadians will be undercut.”
The temporary foreign worker program has been a hot topic for debate in recent years – particularly as high unemployment rates remain steady and more and more instances of exploitation come to the fore.
Source: National Post
Though Canada has always been a competitive destination for skilled immigrants, there are several strategies that could be implemented to maintain that edge in an increasingly global community, says Toronto Immigrant worker Margaret Eaton.
Eaton, who works with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), argues that all community stakeholders – including the Canadian government, public, employers and immigrants – need to get involved to ensure that immigrant skills are being used to their full potential. She argues that newcomers do have the skills that employers are looking for and that it is more a matter of bringing the two together effectively.
She points to initiatives run by her own group, including programs designed to help employers overcome the hurdles of hiring foreign-born talent and learning to recognize credentials.
Many companies have already stepped up to the plate and begun implementing strategies to attract and retain new talent. Financial company Deloitte, for instance, provides mentoring services where immigrants are paired with employees. On average, mentoring programs like this can raise a newcomer’s annual salary by over $20,000.
There are also many different culturally-based business groups across the country, such as the Chinese Professionals Association of Canada, which provide services and support for new arrivals and visible minorities.
Immigrants will want to go to a country where their skills will be put to use, says Eaton. The more that policymakers work together with immigrants and employers, and the more the public supports these efforts, the more attractive Canada will be to skilled workers.
Source: Financial Post
A new report confirms what many policymakers have been advocating for years – the more immigrants a province has, the more the economy is able to grow.
The report, titled The Influence of Immigrants on Trade Diversification in Saskatchewan, was released this month by the Conference Board of Canada. It looked specifically at the correlations between immigrant levels and trade, finding that for every one percent increase in immigration levels there is a $30 million increase in imports and $41 million increase in exports.
“This research demonstrates that increasing ethnic diversity through immigration can promote trade diversification,” said Conference Board researcher Michelle Parkouda. “As Saskatchewan continues to welcome increasing numbers of immigrants from around the world, this will have the potential to stimulate additional opportunities for trade outside of North America.”
Parkouda says that the increase in trade is independent of other factors, such as wealth, distance or language. It appears that newcomers bring with them strong ties to their home country that can truly benefit the economy of their destination.
In recent years Saskatchewan has undergone a vast transformation with a booming economy resulting in record immigration levels. In 2011 the province welcomed approximately 9,000 new immigrants.
China has become one of the province’s strongest trading partners and will be the subject of the upcoming Saskatchewan Forum where investment and trade issues can be discussed in detail.
Source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s next target for reform appears to be the citizenship application process.
Kenney says that he aims to get processing times down to 12 months. Currently some applicants have been waiting up to four years for processing and there are now almost twice as many applications in queue as there was in 2007.
The latest federal budget allocates $44 million dollars to the citizenship program, money which is intended to help speed up the processing of files. Additionally, the government has hinted at intentions to raise the cost of the application fee. This will allow them to bring in more resources and staff to process files more quickly.
There are approximately 350,000 applications in line for processing at the moment. Minister Kenney has indicated that his department will be looking at possible changes to the citizenship application process in the coming months.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
The Canadian government has released a new immigrant guide that is more than twice the length of its predecessor.
The new Welcome to Canada guide, which is full of color photos and personal testimonies, is intended to help new immigrants prepare for their citizenship tests. It contains information on Canadian history, culture and laws.
The new version, however, is unique in that it is the first to contain information on marriage fraud and human smuggling – two issues that have been a top priority for the Conservative administration recently.
“It is a crime to marry Canadian citizens or permanent residents only to gain entry into Canada,” says the new guide. “Canadian citizens or permanent residents found to be part of a marriage of convenience for immigration purposes may be charged with a crime.”
Marriage is a major theme in the new guide, which also informs new arrivals that same-sex marriage is legal in Canada while noting that having more than one spouse at a time is not legal. Also appearing for the first time is information on Canada’s status as a constitutional monarchy and a section on the military.
The citizenship guide was first introduced by the Conservative government in 2007 and is published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. It can be obtained by newcomers to Canada through settlement service providers as well as online through the government’s website.
Source: National Post
The Canadian government has released its list of the 24 occupations that will now be eligible for immigration under the Federal Skilled Worker program.
The eagerly anticipated list contains several occupations that were on the previous list – including physiotherapists and medical radiation technologists. However, the majority of the old occupations are no longer on the list, including dentists, doctors and nurses.
Occupations that are appearing for the first time on the list and thus will be able to apply as of May 4 include a variety of engineering positions as well as land surveyors and computer programmers. The skilled worker program had been under a moratorium since spring of last year.
The announcement also included new information on application quotas as well as information regarding acceptable credential assessment organizations. The overall cap for new skilled worker applications will be 5,000 and only 300 in each occupational category.
“As a result of the actions taken by the Government to deal with the massive backlogs and unacceptably long wait times, FSW applications will be processed in approximately one year,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney upon announcing the changes. “We will not be able to remain competitive and attract the skilled immigrants we need if we allow backlogs and wait times to grow again. That’s why we are capping application intake and focusing on specific occupations that are experiencing labour shortages in Canada. This will also help us transition nicely into the just-in-time immigration system of the future.”
A full list of eligible occupations as well as details surrounding the language and education requirements can be found at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada
This week the Canadian government announced new regulations for the temporary foreign worker program, but already the changes are being criticized by business groups as a “step in the wrong direction.”
The changes follow on the heels of a recent controversy when news spread that one of Canada’s largest banks was training foreign workers to replace Canadian employees. The public debate sparked renewed criticism over the temporary foreign worker program’s susceptibility to abuse.
One of the major changes to the program is that employers will no longer be allowed to pay up to 15 percent less to foreign workers than they would, on average, to a Canadian. They are also removing the option to fast-track approval times. Both of these initiatives were introduced by the same government last year, but were operating as “pilot projects” said Minister Kenney upon announcing the changes.
The program has long been a subject of controversy as employers claim it fills a huge need in the labor market while unions and worker advocates argue that it is relied upon all too often. Naturally, there are dissenting opinions about the new rules announced this week.
“In Alberta, in the mid-2000s, we had restaurants that were shutting down because they couldn’t get labour,” said Gary Whyte of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. “If they tighten up some of the rules so people feel more comfortable, so be it. Because we need that (temporary foreign worker) program to stay.”
While employers feel the crunch, worker advocates argue that if companies are having trouble finding Canadians to fill their needs, perhaps they need to look at their wages and conditions of employment first.
“The whole program should be abolished, because it’s a train wreck,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “The Harper government has blinked, but they haven’t backed down. It’s important for Canadians to understand that the basic foundations of the temporary foreign worker program remain in place. It’s still a program that will drive down wages and displace Canadians.”
The new rules will require employers to pay a fee in hiring foreign workers and will also grant the government more power to revoke permits in cases of abuse or exploitation.
Source: Calgary Herald
New statistics show that over the past five years the province of Saskatchewan has undergone a vast shift in terms of its linguistic landscape thanks to an influx of immigrants from all over the world.
Data from the 2011 census demonstrate that since 2006, there are 16 new languages thriving in the prairie province, including languages from the Philippines, China and Africa. Experts cite increased immigration levels as the cause of the change, as more newcomers are arriving to fill job vacancies in the booming province.
“Prior to 2006, we had maybe 500 immigrants coming to Saskatoon a year,” said community development manager Lynne Lacroix. “Now we are currently receiving on average 4,000 to 5,000 immigrants per year.”
The city of Saskatoon has shifted its settlement services to address the needs of newcomers who, through the Newcomer Information Center, can take language classes for free.
Immigrant advocates also recognize the increasing trend for newcomers to remain mostly centered in ethnic and linguistic communities and not learning the new language. To address this concern policymakers have begun translating city documents into more than a dozen languages. The local police service has also recently launched a translation initiative to help law enforcement officers communicate with newcomers who may not be fluent in English. Currently, officers have access to 50 languages through volunteer translators in the city.
Source: Saskatoon Star-Pheonix