In today’s global economy, immigration is vitally important to every nation looking to improve its competitive standing. The challenge is to ensure that the right programs are in place to attract the brightest and the best.
British Columbia expects more than a million new job openings between now and 2022, including 985,000 from economic activity already confirmed or planned in addition to another 100,000 jobs from the expected LNG activity. Over one third of those workers will be migrants, and 78 per cent of jobs will require a college degree or higher.
While this anticipated job growth presents a huge opportunity for Canada to attract and retain high skilled labour, it will likely be wasted thanks to the overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2014 and the significant restrictions of the new Express Entry system. These changes are already creating havoc and uncertainty for thousands of highly skilled workers and executives employed by some of Canada’s top employers seeking permanent residency.
While the federal government is promoting Canada to the world, aggressively negotiating free trade agreements, which include contemporary rules to facilitate greater mobility of workers, at the same time its invoking immigration reforms that make it ever more difficult for highly skilled workers admitted under these programs to remain in Canada.
The Express Entry system is intended to provide expedited permanent residency to highly skilled workers, but there are significant concerns emerging as program details become clearer.
One key concern is that before an employer can provide an applicant with a qualifying job offer, a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) must be secured, which requires the employer to post the position (for which they have already hired a foreign national under one of Canada’s free trade agreements) on the government’s job board and prove no Canadians are available to perform the work.
In many cases, these individuals have held the positions for several years, and so there are no negative consequences to the domestic labour market. The same goes for foreign graduate students looking to make a permanent life in Canada, the very people that create employment opportunities for Canadians.
These new requirements may lead to some multinational companies re-evaluating the viability of Canadian operations. This could lead to potential job losses as key positions are moved outside of Canada.
Thousands of international students that graduate from Canadian universities, hoping to make Canada their home will also be affected. In the absence of a provincial nomination or qualifying job offer there is no bridge to permanent residency for these individuals.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program needs to be immediately revised to provide a separate stream that is not wrapped in red tape to evaluate and process employer applications for high skill foreign workers.
High skilled workers with valid work permits who have been working in Canada for over a year, should be deemed to have a qualifying job offer for Express Entry, without the employer having to re-post the job.
International students with Canadian degrees in science, engineering, management studies etc. should be given a clear and rapid path to permanent residency. Work permits for students on postgraduate work should be extended to allow them to qualify under Express entry.
Today, Canada has companies successfully attracting or moving high skilled talent. We should be grateful when those individuals choose to make a permanent contribution to our economic success and therefore seriously question the merits of any new application processing system that puts up roadblocks and impedes our global competitiveness.
Changes to the Canadian Experience Class scheme have caused the lives of thousands of immigrants to be plunged into uncertainty, with some experts saying the Canadian government is guilty of making misleading statements and false promises, but with little to no chance of them being held to account.
Starting this year, all prospective immigrants have been pooled together under the Express Entry system, with immigration officials selecting candidates on the basis of what many say is an unbalanced points system. A person who would have previously qualified under the Canadian Experience Class, and consequently gained permanent residency in Canada, is now at the mercy of what is seen as a lottery system.
The Canadian Experience Class was introduced in order to give foreigners who had graduated or were working in Canada an opportunity to become permanent residents after gaining skilled work experience in Canada.
Over the years, the government laid out this path through which prospective immigrants were virtually guaranteed permanent residency. The criteria was clearly defined and promoted, and it covered education, work experience and language abilities. Having been enticed by the promise of the scheme, thousands of immigrants uprooted themselves from their homelands to come to Canada. They left their homes, jobs, and families behind, altered the course of their work and academic lives and planned their entire futures around the scheme – only to now be told that the rules of the game have changed, and the desired outcome is now not only not guaranteed, but also very unlikely.
With their permanent residency no longer assured as a consequence of these changes, thousands of immigrants have seen their lives derailed and are unexpectedly facing an uncertain future.
Experts argue that the changes to the CEC system can be seen as retroactive in their repercussions, which in any other sphere would result in a flood of lawsuits. However the immigration system doesn’t seem to be held to such standards, and as some recent court decisions have indicated, there is little hope for the CIC to be held legally accountable for the damage their decisions cause.
One case in point is the Austria vs. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) ruling, where 1,400 immigrants lost their case against Citizenship and Immigration Canada for terminating their permanent residence applications due to resource and staffing issues. The residency applications were filed before 2008 and had not been assessed by March 2012, with legislation passed in June 2012 declaring that CIC was henceforth not obliged to process those applications. Effectively, what Parliament had done was retroactively removed obligations CIC was duty bound to carry out. With such an inefficient, bureaucratic and legally dubious system in place, it is no wonder that so many people are getting increasingly disenchanted with the Canadian immigration system.
Experts have warned that Alberta, which accounts for 26% of the country’s employment growth, may face a shortage of up to 96,000 workers by 2023 due to the changes introduced in the Temporary Foreign Workers Program in June 2014.
Alberta’s unemployment rate stands at just 4.7% and it even has 100,000 workers from other provinces. With the new changes, the province stands to lose thousands of foreign-born prospective Canadians who have been working across various industries in the province. Alberta’s provincial minister of jobs, skills, training and labor, Ric McIver, has been advocating to increase the annual immigrant quota of the province, which reached its cap of 5,500 in November last year. Additionally, there is a backlog of 10,000 applications nominated by employers for permanent residency, leading to a pause on temporary workers being nominated by their employers.
Under the revised rules employers must cap their total foreign worker force at 10% of the company’s work force, with a $100,000 fine imposed on employers who fail to follow the new rules. This has shocked many of Alberta’s businesses that heavily relied on foreign workers and are now struggling to cope. About 15,000 foreign workers now face deportation despite abiding by the rules and having immaculate employment records. Most affected are low-skilled workers in the food service industry who would not stand much of a chance to qualify under the new federal Express Entry system.
The list of trades that will be severely affected by labor shortage in Alberta includes food service chefs along with crane operators and various engineering professionals. The fact that the food chefs will no longer be allowed to stay on may affect the food industry unduly hard.
It is estimated that the economic impact of the closing down of one restaurant business amounted to a loss of $336,000 to an Alberta rural community as a result of the loss of rent, sale of insurance, gas, and day-to-day amenities to the employees of the business. It is estimated that the total economic loss of denying immigration to 15,000 workers in Alberta may be up to $89 million.
Experts also warn that the new rules will impose a huge social-economic cost to Albertan economy, and both employers and workers are in dire need of a viable solution to the crisis they face. Even though the government has provided some reprieve in the form of a one-year bridging program for some temporary foreign workers, it is likely to only help professionals and not the lower skilled workers.
The Conservative government has brought about many changes to immigration policy since it came to power in 2006. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come on record that the government has been “systematically re-orienting immigration over the last several years to make it more focused on economic needs and focused on more long-term labor market needs”.
The year 2015 is expected to witness some major changes in immigration – be it the launch of new schemes or a change in immigrant profile based on developments overseas. Presented below are the top five immigration trends that Canada can expect to see in 2015:
1. The Express Entry program for skilled workers
Launched on January 1, the new Express Entry program provides permanent residency to highly skilled immigrants who are matched to the country’s skills shortages and qualify to meet the job requirements posted by various Canadian employers.
Chris Alexander, Canada’s Immigration Minister, has said that the Express Entry program was a top priority program for him this year.
All provinces except Quebec will be a part of the Express Entry program, where the government will match employers with most suitable high-skilled immigrants. Every two to three weeks, a draw will be held where the government will invite the highest-ranking candidates to apply for permanent residency. The application does not require any level of minimum points for qualification, however a permanent full-time job offer from a Canadian employer will significantly increase a candidate’s ranking.
Employers however will continue to have to prove that they have considered Canadians first before using the Express Entry system to hire foreigners.
Critics of the Express Entry system are concerned about the effectiveness of “job-matching” to be undertaken by the government and are also wary of how transparent and accountable the system will function.
2. Foreign caregiver program
The foreign caregiver program has undergone several major revisions imposed by the government. According to the new rules, it is now optional for the caregivers to live with their employers. The government has also put a cap on the number of people who will be given caregiver work visas in two new categories.
The changes have mostly been welcomed by the concerned communities, however groups representing Filipino caregivers have expressed disappointment over the new rule wherein caregivers are not given permanent residency when they arrive and have to rather wait for two years in order to qualify for permanent residency.
Currently, there are 60,000 pending applications under the caregiver program. The government aims to clear about 47,500 applications from the current backlog by end of 2015.
3. Changes in the Citizenship Act
Starting this year, the government has increased the application fee for Canadian citizenship to $530 per adult applicant. The increased fee is estimated to generate an additional revenue of $60 million for the government in 2015.
In addition to the fee hike, the government has also promised to significantly improve the processing time for citizenship applications.
Several changes were made to the Citizenship Act in 2014, some of which came under fire from the Canadian Bar Association. The year 2015 is likely to see some of these controversial changes to the Act come into effect.
A controversial provision allows the government to revoke citizenship of dual citizens or permanent residents in case they have been found to have taken up arms with groups engaged in armed conflict against Canada or if they are convicted of terrorism, treason, or spying offences. Around 93 “high risk” individuals are already being monitored, according to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Finally, the government now also holds the right to deny Canadian citizenship to anyone who has pending domestic or foreign criminal charges filed against them.
4. Refugee immigration from Syria
The current crisis in Syria has led to a large number of refugees seeking asylum all around the world. Canada officially committed to take in 1,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014 but the government has been criticized by immigration groups for failing to keep that promise.
However the Canadian Immigration Ministry refuted this accusation, with Kevin Ménard, spokesman for the immigration minister Chris Alexander, stating, “We have approved more than 1,200 refugees under the 1,300 commitment, and 1,063 are already here in Canada. The rest will travel in the coming weeks. We continue to work expeditiously to fulfil this commitment and will have more to say about this in the coming weeks.”
The United Nations has urged Canada to take in an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next two years. The plea follows United Nations’ global call to help with the resettlement of about 100,000 Syrian refugees who are fleeing from the escalating violence in their country.
5. Health care for refugees
Following a court order that called the federal changes to refugee healthcare funding “unconstitutional”, the Canadian government has restored health-care coverage to refugees, temporarily. The Federal Court had said that the funding cuts in the program were “cruel and unusual”.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander reacted to the court order, saying, “We are doing this because the court has ordered us to do it. We respect that decision, while not agreeing with it.” According to Alexander, the cost of restoring the health-care coverage for refugees will cost the government $4 million, whereas it will benefit fewer than 1,000 refugees.
However the government has been taken to court by three groups – the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, and Justice for Children and Youth – who are accusing it of failing to comply with the court order. The motion will be heard by the Federal Court on January 27.
The Government’s proposed citizenship bill is ringing alarm bells for the Canadian Bar Association, which feels that some of the more controversial measures included in the bill could be unconstitutional, thereby contradicting the government’s own evaluation of the bill.
In February, the Government had proposed some drastic changes to the Citizenship Act by introducing Bill C-24. However, three contentious measures have earned it the ire of the Canadian Bar Association, which submitted a 30-page response to the House’s citizenship and immigration committee recently.
While the bar association welcomed some of the new measures proposed in Bill C-24 (such as granting citizenship to “lost Canadians”), the three parts that it wants the Government to amend or scrap altogether concern:
- The new eligibility requirements for becoming a citizen
- The requirement that wants prospective citizens to show an intent of residing in Canada and,
- Expansion of the grounds for the revocation of citizenship
Under the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act, the Government would have the authority to strip dual nationals of their Canadian citizenship, if the individuals were “members of an armed force or an organized armed group engaged in armed conflict with Canada”. In addition, the Government could also revoke the citizenship of those individuals, who have been “convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, or spying offences, depending on the sentence received”.
The current Citizenship Act only authorises the Government to revoke naturalised Canadians of their citizenship, if the individuals obtained their citizenship via fraudulent means. In addition, such individuals would have the right to attend a full hearing before a judge of the Federal Court.
However, according to provisions made in Bill C-24, the Government could eliminate the right to a hearing in most cases, but not in all the cases. For instance, the immigration minister has the authority to make a decision without needing to conduct a formal hearing.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander appeared before the citizenship and immigration committee and informed the MPs that all the proposals listed in Bill C-24 are constitutionally sound. However, this had no effect on the bar association, which urged the Government to modify Bill C-24 by considering their 20 recommendations that included:
- Deleting the requirement that prospective citizens would need to declare their intent to reside in Canada if granted citizenship
- Amending the rigorous residency requirements needed for becoming a citizen
- Removing the requirement that applicants would need to be present for 183 days during four of the six years before applying for citizenship
- Scrapping the requirement that applicants would need to submit their tax returns for four of the six years before applying for citizenship and,
- Removing the requirement that applicants would need to provide knowledge tests in one of the two official languages
Source: CBC News
More critics are expressing concern over the government’s proposed reforms to citizenship laws, saying it creates a two-tiered system.
Young educated newcomers are some of the most sought-after immigrants not only in Canada, but also throughout the global marketplace. However, some critics say that the new regulations could alienate this highly desirable population by lengthening the residency process and creating more second-tiered citizens in the country.
“We have formed ties, socialized, worked and paid taxes in Canada,” argues Alex Linkov, a 35 year-old design engineer from Isreal who applied for immigration under the Canadian Experience Class. “At workplaces, hiring priorities are given to citizens. Without voting rights, you can’t change things in your community and you become an underclass.”
Linkov has already received over 3,200 signatures on his online petition opposing the new citizenship reforms. Others like him, who come to Canada on a temporary work visa, will no longer be able to count that time as part of their required residency, which is itself being lengthened in a move the government says will “deepen attachment” to Canada.
In recent years, however, immigration policies have encouraged applicants to come to Canada first and then obtain their permanent residency status before obtaining citizenship. The Canadian Experience Class of immigration, as well as Provincial Nominee Programs and the Post-Graduate Work Program have all been designed with this system in mind. Additionally, the rising numbers of temporary foreign workers have been publicly justified by both employers and government as one way to attract the labour that Canada will need long-term.
Critics say that the new changes will not only discourage newcomers, but are also affecting Canada’s trustworthiness and international reputation. Increasing their time as “underclass” makes immigrants feel less protected and secure in choosing Canada.
Source: Torstar News Service
Critics are expressing concern over the Canadian government’s quiet cancellation of the Immigrant Investor Program last month.
Though most recent news coverage has been focused on the sweeping citizenship changes tabled by the government, critics as well as jilted potential immigrants are speaking out against the move to scrap the Investor program, which had allowed entrepreneurs to immigrate to Canada on the grounds of starting and investing in a business upon arrival.
Despite much reform and controversy in recent years, critics are concerned about the government scrapping such an innovative program at such a crucial time. Upon its inception approximately three decades ago, it was the first program of its kind and has since been mirrored in over 20 countries, according to former Immigration Minister Sergio Marchi.
Marchi worked under Prime Minister Jean Chretien to help further develop the program first established under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and says that scrapping it at this time is a wasted opportunity.
“If the government had concerns, then it should have consulted extensively, in an effort to address these problem areas, and seek out better ideas and practices,” argues Marchi in a recent piece for the Globe and Mail. “But there was no meaningful dialogue. The government failed to recognize that in developing sound public policy, how you do it is as important as what you do.”
That “how” could come back to haunt this government very soon, as many of the now-rejected applicants are banding together with the aim of taking legal action. Approximately 65,000 applicants were left hanging when the government announced it was axing the program. A similar case arose in Canada’s courts recently when the government wiped out the skilled worker applicant backlog, returning hundreds of thousands of unprocessed files to people who no longer qualified under new regulations.
Source: Globe and Mail