It could soon be more difficult for Canadians to travel to certain countries in the European Union as the Parliament is currently exploring visa reciprocation legislation.
The clause would require visitor visas for citizens from countries who require the same of their citizens. That could soon mean that Canadians travelling to Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic will need travel visas.
Canada has recently stirred up international controversy for introducing visa requirements for visitors travelling from the above nations, as well as those visiting from Mexico.
The European Parliament has already voted in favour of the new clause in a show of solidarity amoung European countries, which feel the Canadian requirements are not fair, as they do not apply to all member nations. However, there is still a long process to go through before the clause could be enacted.
Canadian officials, for their part, stand behind their regulations despite recent opposition. They argue that recent impositions of visas are justified and are part of a larger strategy to combat fraudulent asylum claims.
“[Canada is] committed to working towards visa-free travel for citizens of all EU member states and has made significant progress toward this goal,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs.
An estimated 38,000 Canadians travelled to Romania in 2011, with no visas required. Approximately 15,000 travelled to Bulgaria during that same period while figures for the Czech Republic are unavailable.
Educational experts in British Columbia argue that more focus should be placed on the potential of international students in enriching the social and economic development of the province in the coming years.
In a recent piece for the Vancouver Sun, executive director of the British Columbia Council for International Education (BCCIE) Randall Martin advocates for a “better understanding” of the important role played by international students in today’s global economy.
Martin argues that international education is a growing market, with an estimated four million students currently studying abroad. By 2020 that figure is expected to hit seven million. Such numbers naturally signify a large economic sector (estimated at $2.2 trillion) and international students bring in about $1.2 billion per year into B.C.’s GDP.
Beyond their direct contribution to the economy, international students also represent potential future skilled labour, if Canada can find a way to retain them in today’s global market.
“These are young, healthy and B.C.-trained professionals who can populate the vacuum left by B.C.’s aging demographic and declining birthrates,” argues Martin. “They have taken no one’s spot in the classroom and they will take no one’s job. To suggest as much is anecdotal mischief.”
While some in Canada lament the rapid growth of student exchange, other nations such as Australia continue strong recruitment efforts – efforts which are reflected in recent figures showing a 41 percent increase in international students between 2003 and 2007. During that same period Canada reported a six percent increase.
It is crucial now, more than ever, says Martin, for British Columbia and the rest of Canada to communicate the benefits of international students, not only in its recruitment efforts abroad, but also here at home to ensure that Canadians understand the potential of this resource.
Source: Vancouver Sun
In one of his first public appearances since becoming the new Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander echoed the concerns of his predecessor when he lamented against looming labour shortages.
During a recent trip to Vancouver Alexander stopped to speak at an event hosted by the National Bank of Canada. Many of the approximately 100 guests reportedly showed up specifically to ask the new Minister about his view on immigration issues.
Alexander welcomed the input and the chance to build communication between his department and stakeholders in one of Canada’s most popular cities for newcomers.
“The reality is, Canada will not have enough people to satisfy the economic demand here,” said Alexander, citing low birth rates and booming industry. “[Canada’s] need is to find immigrants who are ready and willing to integrate into local communities, and contribute immediately in those fields with existing current needs.”
Alexander called upon local businesses to communicate their needs to his department so they can accurately assess and cater to labour market needs.
He publicly renewed his government’s commitment to provincial nominee programs, which allow provinces to select and fast-track applications from immigrants’ whose skills are deemed to be in high demand. He also championed their commitment to economic immigration streams, which he says helps build and sustain a strong economy to benefit all Canadians.
Furthermore, Alexander noted the work that his predecessors have done to reduce waiting times and immigration backlogs, both of which serve to make Canada more competitive in the global market for talent.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
New statistics shows that Saskatchewan has set a new population record, thanks to a rise in immigration over the past two and a half years.
The data from Statistics Canada show that 24,922 immigrants arrived in the province over the past two and a half years, representing the largest period of growth in Saskatchewan’s history, according to Premier Brad Wall.
Wall pointed to recent efforts of his government to recruit and retain newcomers to the province, but credits the recent strength of the economy for providing long-term opportunities.
“[A]t the end of the day, you need an economy – these folks need to have a job to come to, graduates need to have a job to stay for, and government can’t take the credit for that,” said Wall. “Hopefully you stay out of the way of the growth, maybe you help set the right environment, but it’s really a credit to the fact that the world wants what we have right now; there’s some good fortune in that.”
A large amount of newcomers are coming to the province from The Philippines, which has spurred the government and resettlement agencies to cater services to their needs. For instance, Wall points to recent efforts by his government to streamline the immigration process specifically for applicants from that country.
Additionally, immigrant advocates in the largest cities, including Saskatoon, are working to ease the resettlement process for newcomers and help the community deal with its transition from a smaller sized city to a larger, multi-cultural metropolis.
A new report, commissioned by the City of Saskatoon and compiled by political science professor Joe Garcea, examines these issues and concludes that various stakeholders, including government, advocates and the public need to increase cooperative approaches. Garcea also stresses the need to involve other minority groups, including aboriginal governments.
Source: Saskatoon Star-Pheonix
Alberta’s booming job market has resulted in the province’s largest population growths since the 1980s.
The latest data from Statistics Canada shows that from July 2012 to July 2013, Alberta welcomed 52,551 international newcomers and 52,677 residents from other provinces within Canada, representing a 3.5 percent increase in population over the year prior.
“There’s not a lot of mystery in terms of the opportunities that are afforded in Alberta compared to where a lot of people are coming from,” said Alberta government economist Kate White. “The reason we get more now than we did in the [last decade’s] boom is that our relative performance is better. While we were booming in 2002-2009, so was the rest of Canada quite healthy — and the rest of the world.”
Most newcomers are headed to Alberta’s two largest cities – Edmonton and Calgary, which have expanded resettlement services in recent years to accommodate the influx of new arrivals.
“We’re in the land of opportunity,” said Calgary’s chief development officer for Immigrant Services, Cindy DeVogue. “The term ‘Cashberta’ is out there and people see Calgary as being the place to come to get a job.”
Alberta has long been experiencing massive economic growth and, until recently, has had to grapple with extreme labour shortages. Business experts are relieved that finally labour market growth appears to be catching up. However, employers in the province still credit the approximately 70,000 workers that have arrived through the controversial temporary foreign worker program.
Labour organizations have critiqued the temporary foreign worker program for taking jobs away from Canadians, but the figures in Alberta seem to suggest that employers are hiring whoever comes to the province – foreign or domestic. The shift in population has also effected the distribution of political powers across the country.
Alberta accepted 34,119 international arrivals in the first six months of this year and is on track to surpass last year’s total. Policy makers are now focusing on building infrastructure to sustain the growth in the coming years.
Source: Calgary Herald
Despite vast employment opportunities, workers are not relocating to Alberta on a permanent basis, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.
The latest statistics show that workers are increasingly headed to Alberta where job vacancy rates are particularly high, but only one in every four of those workers seems intent on staying there.
Three of four workers who moved to Alberta between 2004 and 2009 continued to file tax returns in a different province, which some experts say is indicative of their intent not to remain in the province permanently.
“It is likely that factors such as family ties, social networks, organizational arrangements (e.g. daycare, school enrolment), home ownership and quality of life were important factors [in keeping ties to home provinces],” wrote Christine Laporte, Yuqian Lu and Grant Schellenberg in their study for Statistics Canada.
Most of the workers arriving in Alberta at that time were young males, under the age of 35, working in the construction sector. They most often came from British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the Eastern Maritime Provinces.
The highest number of interprovincial workers appeared in 2008, when 133,000 workers came to Alberta from other provinces, making up approximately 6.2 percent of the total workforce.
For years Alberta has been plagued with labour shortages, particularly in the construction and energy sectors, which have most driven the province’s economic growth.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
The federal government has announced plans to close immigration files that have been stalled due to applicants’ failure to attend required tests or interviews.
The so-called “dormant” applications are said to be clogging up the system with an estimated 12,000 inactive files expected to be closed in the coming weeks.
A department spokesperson says that over the past three years approximately 54,000 applicants have not attended their scheduled citizenship tests. Additionally, the government will look at closing files submitted after April 17, 2009 if they still have not received proof of residency after two notices.
The government does acknowledge that sometimes applicants are forced to miss a scheduled interview or test under extenuating circumstances and are willing to address those concerns. However, applicants who have proven to consistently miss crucial deadlines and procedures will be treated differently from others who have been shown to “take Canadian citizenship seriously.”
“Those who take their citizenship seriously will not have to wait in line behind those that don’t bother showing up to their citizenship test, interview, or who don’t respond to a residence questionnaire,” said a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
Average processing times are currently at 25 months for regular files and 35 months for more complex applications. The application backlog was at 349,249 at the end of 2012. The government hopes this new policy on dormant applications will help to further streamline the process.
Source: Ottawa Citizen
Employers and worker advocates in Saskatchewan continue to battle over the role of the temporary foreign worker program in the province.
For several years now Saskatchewan has undergone massive economic growth but its workforce has not kept pace with the growth, leaving employers scrambling to find the labour they need.
For many employers, the temporary foreign worker program has become the best solution to deal with their labour needs. However, the program has been plagued with controversy over a variety of issues ranging from driving down wages to worker exploitation to companies becoming too reliant upon foreign workers at the cost of employment to Canadians.
This month major leaders on both sides of the debate expressed their frustration at the current state of affairs after Saskatchewan Federation of Labour leader Larry Hubich publicly critiqued the program for its emphasis on short-term solutions to solve long-term challenges.
On the other hand, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall argues that the program does address long-term needs, particularly through the Provincial Nominee Program wherein employers can nominate temporary workers for fast-track immigration.
“[A]lmost 60 per cent of temporary foreign workers become part of the immigrant nominee program and become residents,” said Wall, acknowledging that there is room for improvement but that it is up to the federal government to help cooperate. “We’d like to see that number improve. We’d like to see the number of nominees we’re getting from the federal government increase.”
The program faced increased scrutiny after an investigation revealed that over the past five years hundreds of employers in Saskatchewan have requested temporary foreign workers.
Source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Federal government officials hinted last week that they are willing to fight Quebec’s controversial new charter in court if necessary.
Earlier this month, amid much controversy, the Quebec government announced intentions to implement a values charter that would ban public service workers from wearing any type of religious garment or symbol.
“We are very concerned by any proposal that would limit the ability of Canadians to participate in our society, and that would affect the practice of their faith,” said former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney when asked about the charter. “We are very concerned about any proposal that would discriminate unfairly against people based on their religion, based their deepest convictions.”
Human rights groups and immigrant advocates, both within Quebec and outside of the province, have expressed similar sentiments. However, recent polls show that most Quebeckers do, in fact, support the new charter.
Though the provincial government may have the support of its people, the Conservative government at the federal level has, in recent years, bolstered their power by increasingly appealing to the newcomer vote. If successfully implemented in Quebec, the federal government may have no choice but to take action against the charter.
The issue of religious accommodation has become more and more heated in recent years, with controversy erupting over, for instance, the place of turbans, hijabs and niqabs in Canadian society.
Though Quebec has often found itself in the midst of these cultural debates, the federal government has too been criticized for some policies, including an incident involving the 2009 citizenship guide, warning newcomers against “barbaric” practices such as genital mutilation and honor killings.
Source: Ottawa Citizen