The US President Barack Obama announced historic immigration reforms last week, which allow millions of illegal immigrants in the country (about 4.7 million) to avoid deportation and take steps to obtain citizenship.
As per the new reforms, any person who has been living in the US for five years or is a parent of a citizen or permanent US resident can now apply for citizenship and avoid getting deported.
While the reforms have generated criticism from the Republicans, immigration activists feel these changes are not enough. The issue of illegal immigration is a matter of concern in Canada as well, although it is debatable whether reforms similar to those announced by the US would be beneficial here.
Colin Singer, a Canada immigration lawyer from Montreal, views the US reforms as a positive step and says that the Harper government should follow Obama’s example by implementing similar reforms. According to Singer, there are 200,000 undocumented immigrants in Canada, with the majority of them resident in Greater Toronto. “I believe that an amnesty program could be introduced under a joint agreement between Ottawa and each of the provinces as they all have immigration agreements with Ottawa,” says Singer.
According to the 2009 House of Commons Immigration Committee Report, there are significant differences between the Canadian and American illegal immigrant populations. While most of the undocumented immigrants in the US have illegally entered through its southern border, most of the immigrants in Canada entered the country legally, whether as a tourist or on a temporary worker’s visa.
The report states, “Different people react differently to being without status in the country. Some seek to take advantage of Canada’s refugee and social system by filing false refugee claims or fraudulently seeking social benefits. Periodically the media reports stories of people here illegally who repeatedly commit crimes and yet avoid deportation. Less often do we hear the stories of the untold thousands who find jobs under the table and quietly toil for years, often at jobs Canadians refuse, while they raise their children and integrate into Canadian society.”
The report highlights that these invisible immigrants and their families are subject to more abuse than temporary foreign workers and they quietly tolerate substandard working conditions for fear of being deported.
Singer believes that illegal immigrants who are currently employed in Canada could be given temporary work permits by the Canadian government. Those who remain in good standing could apply for permanent residence after a period of 12 to 24 months.
Almost a quarter of Canada’s illegal immigrants could make use of such a scheme and bring in significant tax revenue, Singer adds. “This could represent some $150 million in direct annual taxes and ER contributions in the first year alone. Plus, these individuals would eventually be able to sponsor their immediate family members and this would further increase income taxes, ER payroll taxes and HST consumption tax expenditures far beyond the income tax revenues.”
Canada has offered amnesty to illegal immigrants before but there has never been anything significantly successful. Such programs have often met with criticism that they encourage foreigners to evade rules and hence encourages illegal immigration.
Singer however does not agree with this argument. “The last amnesty in Canada I believe was in the 1980s. So a ‘clean up’ once every 30 years or so will in my opinion, not serve to increase illegal immigration. We have enough safeguards and visa restrictions under the current government that will ensure the status quo for quite some time,” he argues.
According to a report by the Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS), McMaster University and the Globalization and Autonomy Project, Canada launched eight ‘regularization’ programs between 1964 and 2004. The report states, “However, nothing was implemented and non‐status people in Canada currently have almost no opportunity to regularize their immigration status. Today, the only official option for non‐status immigrants to get status is through a Humanitarian & Compassionate application. With an estimated 5 per cent success rate, however, this process is obviously far from adequate.”
Source: Yahoo News
A new survey reveals that more than half of Canada’s adult workforce is unwilling to relocate for pursuing employment opportunities, which also throws light on why many Canadian companies have to hire temporary foreign workers because of the shortage of local skills.
The survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid for the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC), checked with more than 2,000 Canadian workers whether they would be willing to move to a job that either operated from elsewhere within their current provinces or from other parts of the country. Experts consider the CERC survey to be accurate to within 2.5 percentage points.
Only 10 percent of the Canadians surveyed expressed their willingness to move, while a third expressed their reservations about the movement, even though they mentioned that with the right levels of persuasion and incentives, they would be willing to relocate for the job.
Reviewing the results of the survey, the head of the Canadian Employee Relocation Council, Stephen Cryne, said that the findings were disturbing. The Council said that the observations from the survey emphasised some of the challenges that businesses, which are looking to attract highly skilled labour, continue to face.
Respondents, who were willing to move to another part of the country for a job, wanted a top incentive of a 20 percent pay hike, in addition to the employer bearing all the expenses related to the relocation.
More than half of the respondents also mentioned that the government could play a vital role in making the relocation more attractive by permitting employers to provide a tax-free housing allowance for up to six months. This would not only help the relocating employees avoid unnecessary accommodation worries that come with a relocation for a new job, it would also enable the employees to settle themselves in the new location.
Half of the respondents also said that the government must permit employers to provide employees with non-taxable, interest-free loans of up to $100,000, so that the relocating employees could purchase a home in the new location.
A 2013 report from Statistics Canada and Haver Analytics shows that the percentage of Canadians moving between provinces has declined steadily over the years since 1977, from 1.5 percent in 1977 to under one percent in 2012.
While the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has recommended that Canada reduce barriers to geographical and occupational mobility, Council head Cryne felt that the government needed to promote the benefits of labour mobility in Canada more vocally.
Source: The Canadian Press
The Canadian Government plans to launch a new immigration system that would offer express entry to qualified immigrants for filling open jobs for which there are no available Canadian workers in 2015.
Named Express Entry – formerly referred to as Expression of Interest – this program would provide swifter entry into Canada, wherein the government and employers would select immigrants based on the skills and attributes that Canada needs. Canada’s new immigration system would come into force from January 01, 2015. Under this system, prospective immigrants would apply to express their interest in coming to Canada by answering a series of questions about their professional skills, their education, languages spoken etc.
The system would then match the skills of the prospective immigrants with the labour requirements identified by the provinces, the territories and employers. On finding a suitable match, the immigration authorities would offer Express Entry to a prospective immigrant who has applied via the:
• Federal Skilled Workers Program
• Federal Skilled Trades Program
• Canadian Experience Class Program or,
• Business Class Program
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that Canadian employers would be able to bring workers into Canada through the Express Entry system, with the long-term objective of making them stay behind in Canada. In a press conference, he said, “You can bring your labour market opinion, your job offer, to the Express Entry system and ensure that the person you need comes to Canada as an immigrant, not as a temporary foreign worker. Not as someone who is here with an uncertain future and likely to go back, but as a full immigrant to Canada”.
Alexander said that prospective immigrants who apply via the Provincial Nominee Program could also benefit under this system as long as the concerned province and territory brought their program under the federal one. Immigration authorities would extend invitations to Express Entry candidates for applying for permanent residence if they have a valid job offer or a provincial or territorial nomination.
Other features of the Express Entry program include the fact that Canada would be able to select the best candidates, who would be able to achieve success in Canada, rather than just the next person in the queue. Immigration authorities would also have access to an improved Job Bank for matching Canadian employers with the most suitable Express Entry Candidates.
The Government plans to invest $14 million over two years and $4.7 million thereafter, to ensure that Express Entry is a success.
Source: CBC News
The Employment Minister Jason Kenney suspended Canada’s Fast food sector from the Temporary Worker Program in the wake of program abuse allegations by several McDonald’s outlets and a pizza restaurant in Saskatchewan. This also means that any pending applications from the food services sector will remain in limbo.
While there has been widespread criticism from all quarters over the Temporary Foreign Worker Program – based on anecdotal evidence, statistical proof and national perception, the latest incidents of program abuse forced the indefatigable minister to step in and take some remedial action.
Kenney has faced a tough few weeks battling revelations about small businesses, which continually displace Canadian workers with temporary foreign workers willing to work regardless of the hours, holidays or the conditions. Ironically, the Conservatives have championed the cause of these small businesses that continue to flout the rules.
While incidents of program abuse have yielded sufficient anecdotal evidence that have shaped public perception about the Program, studies by academic institutes have queered the pitch further by providing statistical evidence that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has raised unemployment levels.
The non-partisan CD Howe Institute established that the Program raised unemployment levels in Alberta and British Columbia – two Conservative strongholds. Similarly, Dominique M Gross of Simon Fraser University analysed the period from 2007 to 2010, when the Conservative Government eased the requirements and expedited the process of hiring temporary workers in two provinces because of a reported labour shortage in western Canada.
She found that there was little evidence of shortages in several of the fast-tracked low-skilled occupations. In addition, she also found that the influx of foreign workers contributed to an increase of a cumulative 3.9 percentage points to the unemployment rates. This led her to conclude that placing a cap on the number of temporary foreign workers entering the country annually could help buck the trend.
The Program, which had merits on paper, is clearing without adequate safeguards to prevent employers from abusing it. Thus, even as employers fill jobs with foreign workers, they continue to deny Canadians jobs in their region or even the right to migrate to jobs that they want. Similarly, Canadian employers also find themselves undercut by competitors using temporary foreign workers.
This situation would continue to be the norm unless Kenney can revamp the abused Program and provide proper safeguards to protect the rights of all Canadians – employers and workers.
Source: The Toronto Star