Critics are calling upon the government to explain millions of dollars in unused funds that have been allocated to multiculturalism programs across the country.
Since 2007 approximately $5 million per year has been unused by the Department of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, with only about 60 percent of allocated funds for multiculturalism program grants being spent in 2010-2011.
The situation has critics concerned, arguing that the lack of money being spent in general, and the lack of federal government grants in particular, reflect a shift in priorities for the administration. Instead of giving money to more of the 567 eligible projects, the review board recommended only 39.
However, for its part the government says that the unspent funds reflect high expectations for proposals and a more responsible attitude toward spending.
“Only those projects that fulfil [sic] all of the rigorous program criteria are approved for funding,” said a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. “These criteria are in place to ensure that funded projects provide beneficial services that are in line with the program’s objectives, and provide good value for taxpayer money.”
However immigrant and cultural advocates argue that the program objectives seem to be tightening too much in recent years. Though significant funding is still pouring into re-settlement services, the importance of multiculturalism programs extends beyond the immigrant community. These programs help to determine how Canadians think about themselves and how they see and treat newcomers to this country.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
The government of Canada has announced new plans to conduct open consultations regarding immigration levels and targets.
The consultations, which will begin online this month through the website for the Department of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, are open to the public to express their views.
“Since 2006, the Government of Canada has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney upon announcing the consultations. “Given the importance of immigration to our economic growth and long-term prosperity, we are especially keen to hear the views of Canadians as we prepare for the years ahead.”
Additionally, Parliamentary Secretary Rick Dykstra will be travelling across Canada to conduct his own immigration consultations with stakeholders in the public and private sectors.
The government wants to know how Canadians feel about current immigration levels, as well as the proportion of immigrants arriving through the various streams, including skilled workers, family sponsorships and refugees. The questions, many of which invite reflection upon recent policy moves, illustrate the challenges faced by a government trying to balance labour needs with those of the public.
Online consultations will continue throughout the summer.
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada
The Canadian workforce is getting older and more diverse, according to the latest data released from the 2011 National Household Survey.
Over the past five decades the demographics of Canada’s labour force have changed drastically according to the work of the late economist and statistician Sylvia Ostry, whose census figures from 1961 show that men used to make up the vast majority of the workforce.
Additionally, the vast majority of those men worked in blue-collar professions such as manufacturing. Women were mostly employed in white-collar professions including teaching, nursing and clerical work.
Thirty years later, in 1981 the picture had already changed significantly. Over half of the women in Canada were working and two-thirds of all Canadians were working in the service industry. Furthermore, population growth had stalled at just one percent per year, down from three percent in 1951.
Today’s survey data shows that the trends noted in 1981 have continued – population growth has stalled while women now make up almost half of the workforce. In fact, women are now more educated than their male counterparts, particularly in terms of young men and women.
Though this may come as good news to many, experts have noted some troubling trends in the latest data, including the continued aging of the Canadian workforce as well as continued attraction to service-sector jobs at the cost of manufacturing industries.
This means that in the coming years it is likely that Canadian employers, particularly those located in the economically booming provinces out West, are increasingly going to have to look elsewhere, such as the immigration system, to fill their labour needs. This is already being done in places like Saskatchewan, which has welcomed record numbers of immigrants in recent years.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
As the country’s population becomes increasingly foreign-born, Canada’s top financial institutions are finding unique ways to attract and cater to immigrants.
Common issues faced by newcomers include adjusting to the complex tax system as well as the use of Canadian currency, which includes colloquialisms such as the reference to the dollar coin as a “loonie.” Banks are one of the premier sources of such information to immigrants.
This fact is reflected in the increasing tendency toward hiring multilingual employees who are able to serve clients in their mother tongue as well as stronger marketing efforts directed toward newcomer communities.
However, some immigrant advocates say that more could be done to ensure a smooth financial transition. For instance, banks could make it easier for new arrivals to open accounts before landing in Canada, either using phone or internet services.
One of the most critical areas in which immigrants are often unfamiliar is the Canadian credit system. In order to make larger purchases such as houses or cars it is necessary to have established a good credit rating in the country. This can be an even bigger challenge for new arrivals, many of whom may not have experience with credit in their native country. Most banks will require a co-signer in order to give loans to candidates with little or no Canadian credit history.
Thanks to an influx of newcomers in recent years, however, most Canadian banks are now familiar with the unique needs of immigrants and are able to provide the necessary resources and information. Additionally, Citizenship and Immigration Canada provides financial information and resources through their website.
Source: Toronto Star
Canada’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration has announced that would-be citizens will now have two chances to pass their citizenship exam.
The test, which is one of the final steps in becoming a Canadian citizen, has undergone many changes in recent years, including an increased emphasis placed on testing newcomers’ knowledge of Canadian culture.
Currently applicants who fail the test must appear before a judge which can take upwards of 29 months. The new rule will be applied retroactively, meaning that all those who are now waiting to see a judge will be able to re-write the exam. For those needing to re-sit in the future, they will be able to try again within four to eight weeks. If they do not pass the second time around, they will have to appear before a judge.
Newcomers are eligible to apply for citizenship after residing in Canada for three years as a permanent resident. Once they gain citizenship they are able to carry Canadian passports and vote.
The government hopes that this move will help shorten the current processing times for citizenship applications which stand at approximately 23 months.
Source: Regina Leader-Post
On average immigrants are more educated upon arrival in Canada than their Canadian-born counterparts, according to the latest data released from last year’s National Household Survey.
The survey, which replaced the mandatory census used to obtain demographic data in previous years, found that although immigrants make up only about a quarter of the population, they hold approximately one-third of university degrees in the country.
However, despite this statistic, immigrants are generally under-employed in the Canadian workforce and often have to settle for low-skilled work outside their field of expertise. Language difficulties and credential recognition have long been touted as the main culprits of such underemployment and recently the government has increased efforts to address these challenges.
One such recent effort was a retooling of the Skilled Worker Immigration system, which awards points to applicants based on attributes such as age, experience and education. This spring the program re-opened with a shift in emphasis away from experience and toward language and youth. Additionally applicants are awarded points for having a pre-arranged job offer in Canada.
Immigrants tend to hold degrees in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, math and computer science. In fact, they make up about half of the STEM degree holders in Canada.
Source: National Post
The Canadian government is planning to introduce new regulations that will allow unannounced inspections of companies using temporary foreign workers.
Employers would be signing off on the random inspections when they apply for permits to hire foreign workers. The departments of Citizenship and Immigration and Human Resources, which together run the temporary foreign worker program, will send inspectors to visit employers. The inspections are intended to prevent worker abuses and to ensure that employers are hiring the workers to do the jobs they claim in their applications as well as to ensure that the correct wages are being paid.
In recent years the temporary foreign worker program has come under fire for worker abuse, spurring reviews of the program and several new regulations. Such regulation changes include wage increases and opening up permits so that employees are not tied to the companies which brought them into the country.
“These reforms strengthen compliance and oversight to ensure that the program is being used as intended,” said a spokesperson for the Human Resources Department. “Inspections will be conducted when necessary at businesses using temporary foreign workers.”
Inspectors will be granted access to request documents and copies of documents as well as interview employees and employers at their discretion.
Canada has been named the top country in the group of G-7 countries for starting a business, according to the World Bank. The open immigration policy, strong economy and high quality of life are among the reasons for the top ranking.
This announcement comes as good news to the Conservative government who has increasingly been under scrutiny for wide-ranging and controversial immigration policy changes in recent years.
One of the more lauded changes is the Start-Up visa program intended to lure entrepreneurs from around the globe in an increasingly competitive market. The launch of this new class of immigration is likely to strengthen Canada’s reputation as a top destination for innovators, as it is one of the few of its kind to offer the incentive of immediate permanent residency to those who qualify.
“Spend at least a year in Canada before you start a business because if you’re going to replicate the business you did back home without seeing if there’s a demand for it, you’ll lose everything you brought,” says Naeem Noorani, himself a successful immigrant entrepreneur who sat in on the Immigration Department round tables for the new Start-Up Visa program.
Noorani also advises newcomers to find local mentorship programs in their new communities, saying that the hands-on experience and networking are invaluable to investors who may not be very familiar with Canada banking and tax rules.
Additionally, being able to communicate in one of Canada’s two official languages is paramount and new arrivals are encouraged to explore their local options in terms of language classes.
Source: Ottawa Citizen