A drastic decrease in the proportion of immigrants seeking Canadian citizenship, from 79% in 2000 to 26% in 2008, is raising fears that new rules and fees are discouraging immigrants from becoming Canadian citizens.
Analysis of citizenship data has led to former Citizenship Director-General, Andrew Griffith, to warn about the implications of immigrants becoming disenchanted with citizenship rules applicable in Canada. The former Director-General has opined that the drastic fall in citizenship data is a result of the reforms introduced by the Conservative government, including the introduction of a new version of the citizenship test.
The expert is of the opinion that recent changes have made it tougher for immigrants to acquire citizenship, leading to a piquant situation where a large number of immigrants are unable to enjoy the political benefits of Canadian citizenship.
Analyzing data released by the government, Griffith has expressed concern over the significant decline in the ratio of permanent residents seeking Canadian citizenship. As compared to 79% amongst immigrants who arrived in 2000 and 44% amongst immigrants settling in Canada in 2007, only 26% of those who obtained Permanent Residence in 2008 chose to become citizens of the country.
Considering that the process of acquisition of citizenship takes around six years, the 2008 data is, according to Griffith, a clear indicator of the negative impact of the recent reforms introduced in Canada. While acknowledging the link between conversion rate and the duration of stay as permanent resident, Griffith pointed out that an 18% reduction in demand for Canadian citizenship between 2008 and 2007 was an alarming development.
Responding to the criticism, spokesperson of Citizenship and Immigration Canada said non-fulfillment of all the requirements to initiate the citizenship process may be the primary cause behind the variation in data. The spokesperson pointed out that Canada has always enjoyed a high rate of naturalization, at around 86%, as compared to other countries.
The biggest distinction between permanent residents and Canadian citizens is that the former cannot vote or hold a Canadian passport. Further, permanent residents face the risk of revocation of permit, which may result in their removal from the country. Further, citizens are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Griffith has been vocal in his criticism despite being associated with the government during the development and implementation of the reforms. Acknowledging the rationale behind the changes, Griffith emphasized on the importance of an inclusive instead of exclusion-oriented approach. While stating that citizenship should be restricted only to those who were serious about it, Griffith warned against creation of inadvertent barriers that may affect the relationship of some communities with Canadian society.
Over the past four years, Canada has introduced numerous reforms, including administering of a new citizenship test and an increase in passing scores from 60% to 75%. Applicants are now required to correctly answer 15 out of the 20 multiple choice questions in order to qualify for citizenship. The test is designed to assess immigrants’ knowledge about the history, culture, and values of Canadian society.
Commenting on the impact of the new test on immigrants of different communities, Griffith pointed out that immigrants from the Caribbean region have witnessed a 20% decline in their passing percentage. Immigrants from other communities from South Asia, South Africa, and East Africa witnessed a decline of more than 15%.
Responding to this criticism, the CIC spokesperson pointed out that applicants from all communities undergo the same test. Further, the spokesperson pointed out that an overall pass percentage of 85% is a clear indication that the test is neither too easy not to difficult for immigrants applying for citizenship.
Another obstacle, according to Griffith, is the significant hike in citizenship application fees. In the past, the decision to opt for citizenship was based on the education and income levels of the immigrants. Griffith pointed out that high fees have created an additional hurdle for immigrants on an unsound financial footing.
In 2013, the fee for processing citizenship applications was increased from $100 to 530 over two separate hikes in February and December. Further, immigrants who qualify are required to pay an additional $100 towards the Right of Citizenship fee.
Warning the government of further issues in engaging with immigrants and creating an attachment to the identity of Canada, Griffith pointed out that demand for citizenship has come down despite the fact that the most controversial changes to citizenship rules are yet to come into force.
New residence rules require applicants to be present in Canada for four out of six years as opposed to the earlier requirement of three out of four years. Further, age limit for exemption from language and citizenship tests has been raised from 55 years to 65 years. Both these changes will come into force from June 2015.
The former head sought a fair balance between maintaining a vigorous process for identifying future citizens without making the entire process seem like an unfair and unreasonable farce.
The B.C. government has abruptly ended its provincial immigration program for the next three months, saying new federal limits on temporary foreign workers have caused an unmanageable flood of applicants seeking entry to Canada through British Columbia.
According to Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, no new applications will be accepted until July 2, giving her staff time to process a growing backlog while her ministry looks at what qualifications it will seek from those hoping to come to B.C. through the provincial nominee program (PNP). Some exceptions will be made in high-need categories such as health-care workers
Under the program, Ottawa allows the provinces limited control over immigration. This year, B.C. will grant permanent resident status to 5,500 immigrants to fill labour-market needs.
Applications to the provincial program increased after the federal government introduced tighter controls on its temporary foreign worker program. A year ago, B.C. could process a PNP application in 12 weeks; now the wait list is 13 months, and there are already more people in the queue than B.C. can admit this year.
Despite the provincial government warning that British Columbia faces a skills shortage with an anticipated construction boom in the north, many of the temporary foreign workers in B.C. are being hired for low-wage jobs in the hospitality industry. The federal government was forced to make changes after allegations surfaced last year that some employers, especially restaurants, were abusing the program.
Ottawa is phasing in limits on the number of temporary foreign workers that large- and medium-sized companies are permitted to hire and is promising more inspections of workplaces, bigger fines for companies that abuse the program and increased application fees for employers.
This is not the first time B.C. has frozen one of its immigration programs. In 2012, the province suspended a program after a suspicious surge in the number of business applicants for a category that promised a speedy visa in exchange for a $125,000 bond.
After spending much of last week hearing expert witnesses expound on the pros and cons of the government’s proposed new anti-terror laws, the House public safety committee began clause-by-clause review of the bill on Thursday.
The government has already signalled that it intends to have Conservative MPs propose three changes, the most significant of which is removing the word ‘lawful’ from the section exempting protests from the new measures. The New Democrats and Green Party have prepared their own motions, and Green Party Elizabeth May plans to bring forward 60 potential tweaks.
Meanwhile, Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien will discuss “terrorist financing in Canada and abroad” with Finance committee members, who will also hear from various lawyers, academics and, by video conference from Maryland, Anti-Money Laundering Association senior fellow Amit Kumar.
Elsewhere on the committee front:
- Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander takes questions on his bid to crack down on early and forced marriage, as well as polygamy amongst citizenship applicants, permanent residents and refugee claimants.
- Veterans members get briefed on « upcoming commemoration initiatives. »
- The Procedure and House Affairs committee goes behind closed doors to discuss their ongoing review of the MPs’ conflict of interest code.
Source: CBC News
According to the UNHCR annual asylum trends report, Canada has remained at the bottom of the world’s top-15 refugee receiving countries.
In 2014 866,000 new asylum claims were lodged worldwide, a 45 per cent increase from 2013 and the highest level since 1992.
Syrians were by far the largest group among those seeking asylum in 2014, with 150,000 claims, or one-fifth of the total. Iraqis came second, accounting for 68,700 applications, double the number in 2013. Both countries are at war with Islamic State group extremists.
Antonio Guterres UN High Commissioner for Refugees says, “In the 1990s, the Balkan wars created hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers. Many of them found refuge in industrialized countries. Today, the surge in armed conflicts around the world presents us with similar challenges. Our response has to be just as generous now as it was then — providing access to asylum, resettlement opportunities and other forms of protection for the people fleeing these terrible conflicts” said.
In 2014, Canada received 13,500 asylum claims, about one-third more than the year before. The increase of claims in Canada was attributed to the significant drop in 2013, after Ottawa overhauled the refugee determination system in a bid to deter fraud and discourage asylum seekers from coming here.
In recent years, Canada has continued to rank at the bottom of the world’s top 15 refugee receiving countries.
Top-15 refugee receiving countries
Rank in 2014 (in 2013)
1. Germany (1)
2. USA (2)
3. Turkey (5)
4. Sweden (4)
5. Italy (7)
6. France (3)
7. Hungary (9)
9. Austria (10)
10. Holland (11)
11. Switzerland (8)
12. Serbia (20)
13. Denmark (18)
14. Belgium (14)
15. Canada (16)
Less than half of immigrants to Canada this year will be selected through the new Express Entry system introduced by the Conservative government, which promised to match skilled, economic migrants with employers’ needs.
Under Express Entry, over 6,850 prospective immigrants have been invited to apply for permanent residency. However, Citizenship and Immigration Canada says a majority of immigrants will only be processed through the new system by 2017. The shift to the new economic immigration system was announced in 2012 and has been in place since Jan. 1.
In its 2015 immigration levels plan, the Citizenship and Immigration ministry pledged to accept 260,000 to 285,000 new permanent residents, about two-thirds of them economic migrants. To meet that target, the government needs to admit about 22,500 immigrants a month, about 10 times the number that are admitted through Express Entry at present. Most new immigrants this year will have to be selected through the old system, which was criticized because it was slow and operated on first-come, first-served basis.
“CIC is in a period of transition with recent implementation of Express Entry that will span approximately two years,” said Johanne Nadeau, a Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokeswoman.
CIC would not say whether it has annual targets or expectations for Express Entry admissions at this point. The number of new permanent residents coming through the program is expected to grow in 2016 to about half of all admissions. By 2017, most, if not all economic admissions should be through Express Entry, Ms. Nadeau said.
The government introduced Express Entry with much fanfare as a selection mechanism that would make economic immigration more responsive to the needs of employers and the labour market.
Under the new system, applicants in the economic streams enter a pool of candidates for initial assessment and are graded on factors such as age, education and work skills and given a score out of 1,200.
The strength of the new system was said to be fast, flexible and responsive to a changing labour market while aiming to cut processing times. Under the old system, every application had to be assessed in the order it was received, even as backlogs grew. Under Express Entry, only those with a strong chance of qualifying for permanent residency need further assessment.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
Current policies and target levels under the Economic Class and Family Class suggest that between 20,000 – 35,000 applicants will be invited to apply for permanent residence under Express Entry in 2015.
Paul Compton has done exactly what the federal government recommended to get his son recognized as a Canadian citizen, but his problems have yet to be solved. For the past five years the Ontario native has been corresponding with public servants, appealing to politicians and even relocated his family in a bid to rectify what he views as an unjust and precarious situation.
“They’ve been able to take away the rights of citizenship to my son,” Compton told The Canadian Press. “I will not allow the Canadian government to do this.”
The 45-year-old and his family have found themselves ensnared in a set of regulatory changes made to the Citizenship Act in 2009, which limits the ability to pass on Canadian citizenship to only the first generation of a family born abroad. The main problem lies in the fact that Compton was born in Scotland, where his parents were living while in university. He was brought to Canada when he was five months old and lived in the country until his early 30s.
A teacher by profession, Compton then got a job at an international school and moved to Lima, where he met his Peruvian wife. His first son was born in Peru and automatically became a Canadian citizen. His second son, however, was born just months after the new rules came into effect. The change meant that five-year-old Mateo is not a Canadian.
The new rules were part of legislation which solved the problems of thousands whose citizenship had been taken away by outdated legal provisions. At the same time, however, the government said they were protecting the value of Canadian statehood by ensuring citizenship couldn’t be passed on from generation to generation of those living outside Canada.
The changes made Compton feel like a second-class Canadian and he wasn’t aware of the new rules until he tried to apply for a Canadian passport for his son in 2010 and was denied. The situation has only worsened over time.
After trying to deal with the matter from Peru, Compton returned to Ontario with his family in February 2014. He and his older son entered the country as Canadians, but Mateo, for whom he had to obtain a Peruvian passport, and Compton’s wife came in on visitor visas. Once in the country, Compton applied for permanent residency for his son and his wife but after more than a year, the application is still being processed.
Compton is now asking that Mateo immediately be granted Canadian citizenship on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and is also asking that his wife’s application for permanent residency be expedited. His MP has even raised his case with the citizenship and immigration minister.
CIC claims to be giving the highest priority to “family class” permanent residency applications while children can also apply for citizenship as soon as they become permanent residents.
In addition to waiting for his wife and son’s permanent residency, Compton recently learned the provincial health care he secured for Mateo on a temporary basis had been rescinded, as it was issued in error. Ontario’s Ministry of Health notes that among the eligibility requirements for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, residents must be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or “among one of the newcomer to Canada groups who are eligible for OHIP.”
There are no provisions allowing OHIP to be granted on compassionate grounds or for any discretionary reason.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
While CIC claims to be giving the highest priority to Family Class applications, stakeholders can attest that delays have grown significantly under the Harper government. Additionally, refusal rates have increased by 20% for spousal sponsorship applications as currently policies question the “genuiness” of many marriages.
Internal government reports indicate that more than one-third of spousal immigration applications that Canada receives may involve sham marriages, posing a « threat to Canada’s immigration program ».
The 2013 report by Canada Border Services Agency’s enforcement and intelligence operations directorate suggests that applications that involve « marriages of convenience » are on the rise and are presumed to be linked to organized crime.
The report has identified 10-15 « high-risk » countries from where ‘bogus’ spouses are sponsored by Canadian permanent residents using the family-class section of the immigration system. These countries include China, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ghana, Vietnam, Nigeria, Haiti, Ethiopia, and Guyana, with India alone accounting for about 36% of fraudulent « spousal caseload ».
The report also warns about the adverse effects of India’s skewed sex-ratio due to the preference for male children and sex-selective abortions, with implications for Canada’s immigration system. According to the report, the phenomenon has caused gender disparity within Indo-Canadian communities, resulting in a shortage of Indian women of marriageable age.
« There will be more competition for men to find opposite-sex marriage partners leading to possible increased family pressure on Indo-Canadian females to marry Indian men from Canada or abroad, as the children who were born after the sonogram revolution come to be of marriageable age, » says the report titled « Marriages in India ».
Immigration experts say that the report definitely raises a legitimate concern over marriage fraud, but they believe the trend will decline in the future due to the government’s increased vigilance along with the immigration system’s preference for economic immigrants over family members. The experts also say that the link drawn between marriage fraud and the shortage of Indian women of marriageable age due to sex-selective abortion practices in India is « far-fetched ».
The report highlights the practices of honor killings and forced marriages in India, issues that have prompted the Harper government’s strong support for the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. The bill, which has been passed in the Senate and is currently under review by a House of Commons committee, proposes to make any foreign national or permanent resident practicing polygamy inadmissible into Canada and proposes other changes in law to discourage forced and/or child marriages.
« We wish we could say in the Canada of 2014 that these were no longer challenges for us domestically. But as we know from communities across the country and from the daily fact of violence against women, they remain challenges and we remain duty bound to act against them, » said Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in a statement issued in December last year.
Federal documents reveal that Canada refused about 14% of spousal applications from all countries between 2008 and 2011. The year 2012 saw an increased refusal rate of 17%.
A report released today confirms why Canada is a one of the most socially advanced countries in the world. The Social Progress Index ranks Canada 6th out of 133 countries an improvement from last year and the highest of any G7 nation – in the social progress index (http://www.socialprogressimperative.org/data/spi).
The social progress index was developed by a leading Harvard economics academic, Michael Porter. It has wide endorsement by economists as a complement to measure traditional measures of gross domestic product, while tracking 52 indicators such as crime levels to literacy rates and gender equality. These are used to reflect whether a country is meeting the essential needs of its citizens while assessing future opportunities for its society. The index can be used as a complement to GDP to measure economic growth and prosperity of a country. It offers concrete measures to understand and prioritize an actionable agenda to advance social and economic performance.
The index broad measures including basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing and opportunities for its people. It provides compelling evidence that Canada performs high in a number of indices while placing first in opportunity for its people. It receives high marks for political rights, freedom of assembly and tolerance for immigrants, women’s average years of schooling, and the number of universities, high-school enrolment and low rates of crime.
However Canada performs low in other measures including access to information, cell phone subscriptions (it ranks 101st place perhaps due to high costs and inflexible plans). Canada lags in obesity and suicide rates, habitat protection and water use.
Norway tops the list as the world’s most socially advance nation. Rounding out the top five are Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland and New Zealand. The United States placed well back at 16th place. The lowest-ranked country is Central African Republic.
The index shows that economic might does not always move in tandem with the overall health of a society. The analysis finds that some countries over perform in social progress relative to their GDP per capita (Costa Rica, New Zealand and Rwanda). Others like Saudi Arabia underperform. Two important measures – health and environmental sustainability do not necessarily increase as countries grow in wealth.
The Index confirms that GDP is “far from being the sole determinant of social progress” and that holistic measures are an important determinant on the advancement of a country.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
Indexes of this type continue to endorse Canada as a high destination for permanent residence or temporary immigration.
(Third successive draw with Comprehensive Ranking Score Under 600)
Canadian Immigration authorities invited 925 applicants for permanent residence with the lowest Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS) of 469. It was the third successive draw under the new Express Entry System where the lowest CRS score was less than 600 points.
It is expected that the majority of applicants to be issued (ITA’s) under Canada’s Express Entry Immigration system in 2015, will require a CRS score of less than 600 points, enabling applicants admission to Canada without a job offer or nomination under a provincial immigration program.
Find out whether you qualify to Canada by completing our free on-line evaluation. We will provide you with your evaluation results within 1-2 business days.
Immigration has always played a crucial role in Canada’s social vitality and economic prosperity. Since Confederation, Canada has welcomed immigrants into communities throughout the country and, in return, immigrants have helped foster growth and build a nation. However, improvements can still be made to our immigration system.
Social issues figure prominently in the immigration discourse of the day. The suggested abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program by some employers has not supported the notion that immigrants are here to supplement, and not supplant, Canadian workers.
Approximately 65 per cent of Canada’s annual net growth can be attributed to immigration. With a rapidly aging population, and one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, immigration certainly helps with Canada’s population growth and by 2035 is set to account for nearly all of it.
Due to its rigorous entry requirements for economic-class immigrants, Canada permits entry to some of the best and brightest immigrants the world has to offer. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, 34 per cent of immigrants hold university degrees compared with 24 per cent of the Canadian-born population. Conference Board research has shown that immigrants tend to be entrepreneurial, motivated, experienced, and enhance business and trade ties between Canada and international markets.
At a time when xenophobia is rising in some quarters of the globe, multiculturalism has been and remains one of Canada’s eminent institutions. In comparison to peer nations, Canada maintains a relatively generous immigration system. Each year, about 10 per cent of newcomers are granted permanent residence status on humanitarian grounds.
On the other hand, research shows that, on average, immigrants today do not make up the wage-gap with their Canadian-born counterparts. This is due to a combination of factors such as challenges in our settlement services, credential recognition issues, language limitations and discrimination.
Many employers and governments across Canada argue for a tailored approach to immigration that meets workforce and regional needs. In the absence of formal jurisdiction over immigration matters, municipalities and communities nationwide are seeking greater roles in attracting and integrating immigrants.
Identifying the best ways to attract immigrants who are able to integrate into the workforce and meet our labour market needs is another issue currently debated. While the new Express Entry system aims to address this matter, concerns are being voiced that it may unintentionally exclude some outstanding immigration candidates, such as international students, entrepreneurs, and other skilled workers already here on temporary visas.
Globally, other countries with demographic challenges similar to Canada’s are re-evaluating their existing policies to better attract skilled immigrants. Canada is already in competition for top-tier international talent with countries such as Australia, Germany, Japan, Sweden and the U.S., and this will only increase in the near future.
Immigration is crucial to Canada’s prosperity. Without immigrants, Canada faces labour shortages, a smaller tax base, and increased strain on our medical system and pension funds. Indeed, in the absence of high immigration levels, Canada’s population will shrink, our economy will suffer, and our standard of living will decline.
A multi-faceted approach to change that incorporates all three levels of government, employers, communities, immigrants, and other stakeholders, is needed to modernize our national immigration program and blaze a new trail.
The Conference Board of Canada’s new National Immigration Centre, a five-year research-intensive initiative, has been launched to develop a National Immigration Action Plan based on evidence and non-partisan analysis. From April 13–15, the Conference Board will host a major, three-day, Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa to explore the future of Canada’s immigration system.
Colin Singer Commentary:
Historically our per capita rate was .08%. But Canada’s per capita immigration rate has been declining under the current government. Canada will need to admit 285,000 new immigrants this year, which the government has recently proposed. But new policies call for participation of Canada’s employers to hire immigrants. This may prove to be overly ambitious and result in an under achievement of admission levels. Additional revisions to Canada’s immigration programs may be required.