November 28, 2017 – Speaking to host Andrew Nichols, Canada Immigration Lawyer and Managing Partner of immigration.ca discusses how Ottawa is doing in the face of increased refugee claims from irregular border crossings following changes in US immigration policy.
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New policies jeopardize Canada’s future, damage international reputation
For decades, Canada developed a reputation as one of the most welcoming countries in the world. Since 2008, this is sadly no longer true. It is now much harder to get into Canada, to stay here permanently, and to become a citizen. This is due to a steady stream of changes by the federal government that affect virtually all aspects of our immigration and refugee policy.
Many of the changes came without public oversight, with the minister of citizenship and immigration acquiring the power to make significant changes by issuing “ministerial instructions,” thereby bypassing the democratic parliamentary process.
Despite immigration remaining fairly constant at approximately 255,000 immigrants per year over the past 10 years, more people in the economic class have been selected, fewer in the family class and far fewer refugees. With a current population of just under 36M, Canada should be admitting 288,000 newcomers annually, just to maintain its historical rate of immigration. But in the year ending July 1, 2015, Canada admitted only 239,800 immigrants during the 12-month period, down from 267,900 the previous year. The shortfall, close to 30,000 immigrants, places Canada’s per capita rate of immigration at .66 per cent, the lowest under the Harper government and far lower than the .8 per cent that was predominant prior to 2006.
This represents a huge loss in human capital benefit to our country. In January 2015, a new system was introduced called Express Entry for the management of economic immigrants. The mid-year report of the program indicates that 85 per cent of successful applicants were already living in Canada as temporary entrants. This confirms a move toward a “two-step” immigration system where individuals first come to Canada temporarily and then try to make the transition to permanent residence.
The number of individuals temporarily working in Canada more than doubled between 2005 and 2013. Yet many temporary workers, particularly those in lower skilled jobs, are ineligible to apply for permanent residence. The rest are competing with each other, international students, or individuals around the world for approximately 78,000 spaces available to applicants under Express Entry. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, there is a perception that Canada promotes an exploitive, revolving-door system that readily disposes its foreign workers.
For those who manage to become permanent residents whether in one step or two, changes to theCitizenship Act make it much harder for them to obtain Canadian citizenship. Fewer will succeed in becoming citizens, the true indicator of becoming part of this country. Applicants must also wait longer to qualify and cannot receive credit for time spent in Canada as students, or work permit holders. Older applicants face more difficult knowledge-based language tests. Those who obtain citizenship may be at risk of losing it due to policies in which dual citizens, including those born in Canada, can have their Canadian citizenship taken away with greater ease and minimal oversight.
In the family class, recent changes make it practically impossible for people in Canada to sponsor their parents or grandparents for permanent residence. Children over 18 are no longer considered to be dependents who can be sponsored or accompany their parents to Canada. Sponsored spouses now enter Canada on a conditional basis for their first two years.
Perhaps the harshest changes are those aimed at refugees and refugee claimants, and in particular, legal reforms that deny due process to vulnerable asylum seekers under a discriminatory two-tier system based on nationality. The modifications are currently being challenged in Federal Court. The Conservatives even tried to eliminate the basic health care services to which refugees are entitled. The Federal Court struck down the government’s cuts to refugee health care, describing them as “cruel and unusual” because they jeopardize refugees’ health and shock the conscience of Canadians.
Since mid-2013, Canada has settled less than 2,500 Syrian refugees. In January, the government announced the country would welcome 13,000 Syrian refugees over a three-year period. Yet there has been near silence until recently, when forced to respond to the ongoing international humanitarian crisis. In contrast, Germany plans to admit as many as 800,000 asylum seekers this year alone. Sweden, with a population almost four times smaller than Canada, took in more than 25,000 last year.
The Harper government’s pitiful refugee policies lay bare its punitive agenda against immigrants and refugees. In just under a decade, the federal government has jailed more than 10,000 migrants per year, including hundreds of children as young as age 16, without charge. Canada is one of only a few Western countries to have indefinite incarceration. Even permanent residents are now subject to arrest and detention, and could face deportation for even minor criminality such as driving while intoxicated traffic offences.
Canada has traditionally been a safe haven to oppressed minorities across the world, being home to thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Hungary and Uganda, among other countries. In 1979, Canada opened its doors to 50,000 Vietnamese boat people fleeing the Indochina refugee crisis. But this has all changed under successive governments including the Conservative government, under which refugee acceptance rates have declined by 30 per cent. It has been very reluctant to admit refugees from Syria. When pressed recently on the matter of excessively long approval and processing delays, the Prime Minister asserted that national security background checks take long and the safety of Canadians is first and foremost. If Germany and Sweden can successfully orchestrate a much larger refugee program with similar safety and security concerns to guard against infiltration by terror groups, surely Canada could do likewise. It just needs a more compassionate government.
Immigration has been an important part of government agenda. It remains essential in most OECD countries, but especially in Canada, in part to offset demographic developments including low fertility rates, an aging population, a growing elderly dependency ratio, a shrinking labour force and high out-migration rates. Immigration policy decisions affect how Canada is perceived in the world and will shape our nation for generations to come. It is important that the next party to ascend to power give priority to addressing these failures in order that we regain our tarnished reputation.
Colin Singer is immigration counsel for www.immigration.ca and managing partner of Global Recruiters Network of Montreal.
Immigration Minister Diane Finley argues that the Harper government is promoting its new immigration bill because of a commitment to reducing the backlog of some 900,000 applicants for Canadian permanent residence and reduce wait times.
She also claimed in a recent letter to FP (May 16, 2008) that Canada welcomed 429,000 “newcomers” last year, the highest number in history. This is incorrect. Newcomers, even in the government’s own literature, are comprised of only permanent resident visa holders. The number 429,649 includes approximately 195,000 temporary permit holders, including study visas and work visas.
Current immigration levels, moreover, are actually lower than they were in the early 1990s as a percent of population. Ms. Finley is the first to lump all three categories into one statistical measure. Why would she do this?
More important, the immigration backlog she refers to is grossly exaggerated and highly misunderstood. Here is why. The 900,000 backlog is largely derived from countries where the government intentionally allocates insufficient resources. Each year, the immigration department informally establishes quotas and staffs government offices so that its missions cannot process more visas than its established quota.
For example, the overall annual quota, expressed by the government as “target numbers” of visas, for the Buffalo, N.Y., office is about 24,500. The Buffalo mission currently has an inventory of approximately 45,000 applicants. On the other hand, the Canadian mission in New Delhi, India, has an annual quota of only 10,500 against a pending inventory of approximately 135,000 cases.
At missions in India, China, the Philippines, Pakistan and Syria, processing delays of 4 to 8 years exist. These are clearly the “under performing” missions. They are under performing because their resources are strategically allocated by Ottawa to ensure underperformance.
Aside from the underperforming missions, most visa offices process applications in about 18-24 months. Most applicants outside the underperforming offices do not complain of long processing delays. Applicants who are highly motivated can come to Canada sooner by making use of the Provincial Nominee Program and the federal Temporary Foreign Worker program if they are being sponsored by a Canadian employer.
Current immigration legislation also provides ample authority for the government to establish limits on the number of applications that may be processed or approved in a year, the number of visas that may be issued in a year, and the measures to be taken when that number is exceeded. There is therefore no valid reason to provide the minister with highly discretionary power to select immigrants.
Furthermore, the rule changes cannot possibly address the backlog of skilled workers because the new law will only take effect from February 28, 2008, onwards.
The system needs fixing. But Canadians should be concerned with the federal government’s claim that it aims to reduce the backlog. The credibility of this department is highly dubious.
In 2003, in the leading federal court decision of its time, the department’s most senior bureaucrat was admonished for misinforming Parliament on the effects of new legislation. The following year, a former immigration minister came under fire over her office’s decision to approve a Canadian permanent residence application ahead of the queue to a Romanian stripper who volunteered on her re-election campaign.
Last week, the majority (Liberal, Bloc and NDP) members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration proposed that implementation of the new immigration rules be delayed pending further study “with a view to finding a consensus on preferred alternative means on addressing identified challenges”.
Canadians should be asking: Why is this government trying so hard to convince us that it must pass such a controversial law without any meaningful study of its purposes and possible effects?
In law, when the government exercises a discretionary authority legally delegated to it by Parliament, no one can question the rationale for its decision making. Who knows what thinking will influence policy makers in the future? I have no evidence for this, but such authority could give a party in power a valuable tool at the grass roots level. Party organizers could approach ethnic groups in Canada’s largest immigrant communities and hold out the promise that the federal immigration minister will be able to quickly bring their family and friends to Canada, ahead of others in the queue at the under performing missions.
Logic and reason dictates that further meaningful study must be conducted before an important legislative initiative of this magnitude takes hold–especially since the stated objectives will not be achieved through these reforms.
Colin R. Singer is immigration counsel for www.immigration.ca.
Source: National Post | May 21st, 2008
The Harper government has taken fire for its decision to deport thousands of undocumented workers, with critics especially accusing the federal government of disregard for the needs of the Toronto economy and pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment.
The critics would be better advised to aim their fire at the government of Ontario, where most of Canada’s illegal migrants reside. Immigration is a matter of joint responsibility and has been since Confederation, under the Constitution Act of 1867. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has it entirely within his government’s powers to keep in Ontario most of the workers who are now under threat of deportation.
Every province except Ontario has implemented its own provincial immigration program, in order to obtain immigration policies suited to each province’s particular needs. Yet Ontario, which receives more than half of Canada’s annual 150,000 economic immigrants, chiefly in the Greater Toronto Area, continues to give the federal government sole responsibility to set immigration policies of future Ontarians.
With Ontario refusing to take action in its own interests but happy to passively accept millions in annual federal transfer payments for immigration-related settlement infrastructure, and with the GTA having elected not a single Conservative MP, it is no wonder that Immigration Minister Monte Solberg has not jumped into action. There is no excuse for McGuinty’s failure, especially since Canada’s current undocumented worker problem is primarily an Ontario issue.
The way out of this morass is clear. Ontario’s Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration should immediately get on with the task of implementing a made-in-Ontario provincial nominee program. Indeed, the province of Ontario, following an agreement signed on Nov. 21, 2005, with the then-Federal minister of citizenship and immigration, Joe Volpe, pledged to develop its own immigration program, providing for the selection of newcomers to meet its own economic and labour market objectives. Under such a program, thousands of undocumented Toronto workers who otherwise do not qualify for permanent admission under the federal skilled worker program, along with many of other skilled trade’s workers that Ontario badly needs, would be able to qualify for permanent residence to Canada.
Here’s how provincial nominee programs typically work.
Qualified employers nominate a prospective worker under an expedited process which, once approved by the province, enables an application for permanent residence that completely bypasses the lengthy federal immigration selection process. In this way, applicants who have no prospect of qualifying under the federal model would be likely to receive timely approval under a provincial program. At the initial stages, qualified employer-sponsored applicants could receive temporary, renewable work permits, processed at missions outside Canada, or in certain cases, at ports of entry, while their applications for permanent admission are processed by the provincial authorities and thereafter by the federal authorities for medical and security screening. In many instances, applicants can conclude these formalities without ever having to actually return to their former place of habitual residence.
How large can an Ontario program be? This year, some 45,000 newcomers will be admitted under the Quebec program alone, which has been selecting its own immigrants since 1978. In Ontario, which receives a larger share of Canada’s immigrants, a provincial nominee program could well be larger.
The need for action in protecting the GTA economy is so clear that the previous Liberal government decided to create a “made for Toronto” construction trades labour market opinion exemption work program providing for one-year non-renewable work visas. The federal Liberal government, during its 2005 election campaign, also advocated an amnesty program for the estimated 200,000 illegal immigrants in Canada, predominantly living and working in the greater Toronto area. Many illegal immigrants are economic migrants who are currently employed in Southern Ontario’s booming construction, and related industries yet cannot qualify under current federal immigration selection models, which favour university-educated and language-proficient applicants.
The amnesty program is now dead but the need for the workers is not. Ontario should now solve its own immigration problems by introducing a long overdue provincial nominee program. Then, federal policy-makers along with their Ontario provincial counterparts can co-operatively identify processing and procedural solutions that offer legal status to these provincial nominees, without the need to implement a controversial amnesty program and without the need to deport a large and important group of undocumented skilled workers who are already employed and for whom economic integration is not in any doubt. This strategy will go a long way in addressing the critical skilled labour shortage requirements of industry in Ontario, which is the raison d’etre of good immigration policy.
Carswell 20 Imm. & Cit., No. 9 . November 2009 . ISSN 0843-7564
On October 14, 2009 the Quebec Government implemented important modifications to the Selection Grid in Schedule A of the Regulation respecting the selection of foreign nationals, R.R.Q., 1981, c. M-23.1, r.2.
Immigration & Citizenship Bulletin – Carswell 24 Imm. & Cit., No. 8 . September 2013 . ISSN 0843-7564
The Province of Quebec has authority to admit 55,000 foreign nationals each year. Under Quebec provincial law, the majority of foreign nationals are selected under the Economic Class comprised of the skilled worker, investor, entrepreneur and self- employed.
Review Attorney Colin Singer’s award winning written commentaries published in major media and law journals:
- Provincial Programs Strategic Part of Canada’s Immigration Landscape | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | June 15, 2018)
- New Canada passport changes aim to protect children | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | May 28, 2018)
- Second-generation Canadian immigrants outearn their parents | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | March 29, 2018)
- Why wealthy Quebec immigrants settling in Vancouver and Toronto is a problem | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | February 28, 2018)
- Canada’s provincial business immigration programs turn to two-step process | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | January 10, 2018)
- Canada’s abusive detention policies could face UN council scrutiny | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | December 5, 2017)
- Wealthy Immigrants to Canada Turning to Work Visas Under Ottawa’s Owner Operator Policies | (Published by Immigration & Citizenship Bulletin | November 2017)
- If left unchecked, Quebec’s niqab ban risks redefining Canada as we know it | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | November 9, 2017)
- Ottawa announces its groundbreaking multi-year immigration plan | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | November 3, 2017)
- Sober second thought needed on proposal to raise immigration levels to 450,000 | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | October 12, 2017)
- Ottawa under fire to rein in immigration consultants | Colin Singer (Published by The Lawyers Daily | July 18, 2017)
- Feds Should Reboot Cash-for- Residence Immigration Program, Page 12 (Published by The Hill Times Publishing | May 11, 2016)
- Want to move to Canada? Here’s what you need to know (Published by CNN | Mar 18, 2016)
- Hitting the Immigration wall (Published by Lawyers Weekly | October 23, 2015)
- Canada losing lucrative Immigrant Investors (Published by Financial Post | February 9, 2015)
- Canada Raises Immigration Levels Under New Express Entry System (Published by Mondaq | February 9, 2015)
- Canada Immigration Lawyer Says Harper Should Follow Obama’s Example on Illegal Immigration (Published by Yahoo | November 21, 2014)
- Understanding Quebec’s Economic Immigration Stream (Published by Immigration & Citizenship Bulletin | September, 2013)
- Canada can’t afford New Immigration Plan (Published by Financial Post | April 17, 2012)
- Quebec Immigration Rules: Skilled Workers Update (Published by Immigration & Citizenship Bulletin | November, 2009)
- Immigration Quotas Cause the Backlog (Published by National Post | May 21, 2008)
- The New Immigration Law: A dangerous piece of work (Published by National Post | APRIL 4, 2006)
Review Conferences given by Attorney Colin R Singer
- Canadian Immigration Summit 2016: Creating Tomorrow’s Immigration System
- Canada Losing Wealthy Immigrant Investors – April 5, 2016
- Canadian Institute – January 2007
- Canadian Institute – April 2007
- Tackling Illegal Border Crossings (Published by CBC | November 23, 2017)
Speaking to host Andrew Nichols, Canada Immigration Lawyer and Managing Partner of immigration.ca discusses how Ottawa is preparing for a possible increase in refugee claims from irregular border crossings following planned changes in US immigration policy.
- Top Immigration Lawyer Singer Says Mexican Asylum Claims to Rise (Published by Daily Beast | Mar 26, 2017)
Speaking to the Daily Beast, immigration lawyer Singer raises concerns that refugee claims from Mexico will return to previous levels after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lifted the requirement against official advice in December 2016.
- Moving to Canada Googling spikes as Trump gains support (Published by BNN | Mar 7, 2016)
Colin Singer, Canadian immigration lawyer and managing partner at immigration.ca discusses a
rising interest through web searches in how to move to Canada, as the U.S. primaries ramp up.
- Program designed to woo wealthy immigrant investors a “charade” (Published by BNN | Feb 17, 2015)
Colin Singer, Canadian immigration lawyer and managing partner of immigration.ca discusses why Ottawa’s Immigrant Investor Venture Capital (IIVC) Pilot Program for ultra high net work immigrants wishing to immigrate to Canada, is not competitive on the international stage and will not attract attention.
The Government of Canada will increase immigration levels significantly in 2015. Citizenship and Immigration Canada aims to welcome as many as 285,000 new permanent residents this year. This represents a significant increase in levels from previous years.
Canada’s increased immigration levels, coincides with the implementation of a new Express Entry immigration system which processes immigrants to Canada under Economic Class programs.
Applicants seeking permanent residence, who meet minimum criteria, are required to submit an online expression of interest profile to the Express Entry Pool. Candidates without an approved job offer or provincial nomination must also submit an employment profile to the Canada Job Bank.
Candidates in the pool will be available for consideration to employers who cannot access Canadians, and to provincial governments for nomination under Provincial Nominee Programs PNP’s.
The profiles of candidates in the pool are ranked under a Comprehensive Ranking System according to their age, education, language, experience, and other factors. The maximum score is 1200. Applicants with an approved job offer from a Canadian employer (positive Labour Market Impact Assessment) or candidates nominated by a province receive an additional 600 points. The highest ranked candidates will be considered by the Federal government for an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence. The government aims to process applications in six months.
The government plans to conduct periodic draws throughout the year. An applicant can remain in the pool for up to one year. An applicant who does not receive an ITA during this period will be removed from the pool and will need to re-submit a new profile. Thus an applicant’s ranking in the pool will vary for each draw as new profiles enter and others are removed.
Immigration falls under a shared jurisdiction between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Provincial Nomination Programs are widely viewed as an alternative option for many foreign nationals to gain Canadian permanent residency. Every province has implemented its own provincial nomination program, each with its own criteria, in order to promote immigration policies best suited to a province’s particular needs. The Province of Quebec promotes its own immigration programs under special status.
The role of the provinces will become significant under the Express Entry system. In addition to the existing Provincial Nomination Programs available through Canadian provinces and territories, currently British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have launched express entry immigration programs that complement the Federal Express Entry Immigration system. A sponsor employer is not required for some of these programs.
To be selected under a provincial express entry immigration program, prospective applicants must meet the minimum criteria for one of the three federal programs available under the Express Entry system (the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trade Program and the Canadian Experience Class). They must also complete a Federal Express Entry assessment profile.
From the Federal Express Entry pool, a participating province can select between 350 to 1,500 applicants for nomination to their province each year, depending on agreements with the federal government. Other provinces are expected to launch Express Entry programs in 2015.
An audio version of this article is available at https://soundcloud.com/immigrationca/canada-immigration-express-entry
Colin R. Singer is immigration counsel for www.immigration.ca and Managing Partner of Global Recruiters of Montreal. He is one of Canada’s foremost senior corporate immigration attorneys. Colin is internationally recognized as an experienced and recommended authority on Canadian immigration and foreign recruitment. In addition to being a licensed human resources professional, he is a licensed Canadian lawyer in good standing with the Quebec Law Society during the past 25 years and is authorized by the Canadian government in all immigration matters.
Pulished: February 9, 2015
Former Harper Government’s Business Immigration Program is a Charade
The previous Conservative government’s Immigrant Investor Venture Capital (IIVC) Pilot Program aims to raise $120-million from 60 eligible ultra-high net worth investors. The funds are intended to be invested in Canada-based startups with high growth potential. Ironically, the new program unofficially confirms Canada’s definitive retreat from the global residence-through-investment industry, which it created in 1986 with the Quebec government.
Under the program, approved applicants with a personal net worth of $10 million must invest at least $2 million into a government-approved venture capital fund for a minimum period of 15 years, with no guarantee for return of capital.
Applicants must demonstrate their net worth threshold was obtained from lawful, profit-making management, business or investment activities providing capital or equity gains. Inheritances or assets from principle residential real estate are excluded.
Additional requirements include mandatory language testing and proof of completed Canadian post-secondary education of at least one year, or proof of a foreign educational equivalent. Education assessment can be exempted for applicants with a personal net worth of more than $50 million.
Applicants are charged a modest processing fee of $1,050. Selected applicants must also submit a comprehensive due diligence report prepared by a designated service provider to ensure the source of wealth is generated from lawful business or investment activities. The fund is managed by BDC Capital, the investment arm of the Federal Business Development Bank of Canada and by government selected fund managers.
Canada’s Foreign Investment Conundrum: Reviving the Immigrant Investor’s Program
Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) Among World’s Most Popular (Audio)
Canada Losing Wealthy Immigrant Investors (Audio)
This IIVC program is a charade. The previous Conservative government had a dubious history in the immigrant investor industry. In February 2014, after a two-year pause on new applications, it terminated the previous Immigrant Investor Program geared to entry-level millionaires, cancelling more than 15,000 unprocessed applications mostly from Chinese nationals. Many had been waiting up to six years to invest $800,000 per applicant.
To meet IIVC requirements, the delays to complete mandatory language testing, education equivalence assessment as well as to secure the comprehensive financial documentation will take far longer than the short solicitation window.
By imposing mandatory language testing, the only immigrant investor program in the world to do so, Canada is not even be a consideration for the vast majority of the world’s ultra high net worth individuals who reside in China, accounting for 80 per cent of the market. This factor alone renders IIVC a non-player in the residence by investment industry, which it has dominated for almost 30 years.
U.S. EB-5 the Industry Leader
The leading countries offering ultra-high net worth permanent residence programs include the U.S., U.K., Malta and Australia. Each offers far more attractive terms and conditions that include much shorter investment terms, substantially lower net worth criteria, open ended subscription periods and no language proficiency requirements. The U.S., which became the default leader in the industry once Canada terminated its highly popular program in 2014, offers its EB-5 conditional residence visa which requires an investment of US$1 million or US$500,000 in an approved Regional Center and no minimum net worth requirement.
The immigrant investor industry has proven to be a highly lucrative business bringing billions of dollars to governments including Canada for infrastructure investment. Canada had a stronghold on the mid-level investor market largely dominated by China and the Middle East. The province of Quebec continues to successfully promote its own immigrant investor program with a threshold of $800,000. Each applicant must pay a processing fee of $10,000. These fees alone will fund the Quebec government’s entire annual immigration program.
Previous Federal Program
The previous federal Immigrant Investor program, a five-year interest-free passive investment, was established in response to the demand for investment capital by Canadian businesses. During the 1990s Canada received a much greater benefit from the investment capital attributed to higher interest rate environments.
However, even at the current low rates, Canada would remain the most popular destination for the mid-level immigrant investor market, allowing for tremendous revenue potential to governments and the private sector.
Time For a New Federal Investor Program
Under a revised passive immigrant investor program at $2 million, with suitable legislation and a centralized processing centre, Canada could easily subscribe and efficiently process 1,000 applications each year and charge a subscription fee of $25,000 per applicant. Aside from the obvious massive direct monetary benefits are the indirect economic “consumption” benefits that objective studies have assessed at $700,000 per family during a five-year term, which the government dismisses. Most importantly, the children of immigrant investors will, in many instances, provide invaluable links to the international business community, which is an immeasurable benefit from effective immigration policy.
There are currently more than 25 global residence and citizenship based investment programs. The industry will experience significant growth in the years ahead. Perhaps there are other reasons why this government chooses to close Canada’s doors to a largely Asian and Middle Eastern immigrant investor clientele. In the current rapidly changing economic environment, Canada’s business community should demand an immediate, objective reconsideration.
Statistics confirm that Canada’s current net labour market growth is predominantly dependent on immigration. It appears almost certain that by 2030 Canada will be entirely reliant on immigration for population growth.
However, the latest policy pronouncements of Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, suggests new obstacles blocking Canada’s future economic successes are in the works. Despite some notable improvements in the system under Mr. Kenney, the most recent initiatives are guaranteed to permanently harm our country’s international reputation. Here is why.
First, he claims to be repairing the current dysfunctional immigration system, including clearing up the most controversial problem, namely the existing backlog of 300,000 applicants under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. The Minister’s stated goal is to implement a new system that, by 2018, would feature a “made in Canada” international database of pre-screened, employment credentialled candidates suitable to apply for admission to Canada. Since 2008, the department’s policy objective has been to shift from admitting applicants to Canada without a sponsoring employer and toward an employer-driven immigration program. The direction was right. But now the government is backpedalling on its promises. The plan, announced in the recent federal budget, is to vaporize the existing backlog of skilled worker applicants by refusing the majority of applications filed prior to February 2008.
Forcing applicants to wait close to 10 years and then implementing retroactive legislation refusing the pending backlog of applicants is the greatest sham in the history of Canadian immigration policy. Close to 300,000 applicants who were all promised that their credentials would be evaluated under previous criteria will now be refused. It will occur even though the Federal Court blocked a similar attempt in 2003, when department officials were found to be misleading the standing committee on citizenship and immigration in its attempt to pass legislation that would retroactively wipe out a much smaller inventory.
This initiative severely contrasts with the image of an immigration department that vigorously pursues efforts to warn the public against dealing with crooked immigration consultants. Canadians should be demanding answers to the following questions: Who is regulating the Harper government? How could the Immigration department claim with credibility that it can build a new skilled worker program with promises to attract the best and brightest to fuel our labour market growth? The government’s history is to blatantly repudiate similar promises.
Another issue is the government’s plan for a new system modelled on the programs of Australia and New Zealand, two countries which are not comparable to Canada. New Zealand has a population equal to British Columbia and Australia has a constitutional framework and demographics that are inapplicable to Canada.
Australia has immigration levels on par with Canada and a similar points-based immigration system. It also imposes a restrictive English-language requirement and a pre-screening of employment credentials. The new skilled-worker program in Canada will likely feature both these elements. But a study by University of Waterloo professor Mikal Skuterud and his Australian co-author, Andrew Clarke, concludes that immigrants to Australia enjoy higher earnings than Canada because there has been a clear shift in source country distribution in Australia toward English-speaking countries.
Australia has a national credential recognition program. But in Canada professional credential recognition is an exclusive provincial jurisdiction. In New Zealand, the government implemented a national job bank of potential foreign workers where employers can cherry pick the best pre-screened candidates. Embracing an international recruitment model used by a marginal low-population player such as New Zealand makes no sense for Canada‹unless Mr. Kenney intends to become the world’s largest international recruiter of human capital.
Since Confederation, immigration in Canada has been a matter of joint responsibility between the federal government and the provinces. Every province and the Yukon Territory has implemented its own immigration programs, in order to promote immigration policies best suited to a province’s particular needs. Mr. Kenney would be well advised to direct department policies toward Canada’s short-term immigration programs and delegate the bulk of its long-term immigration intake and employment credential-related pre-screening programs entirely to the provinces. They, in turn, can implement binding contractual promises and a myriad of financial incentives to ensure settlement. There is ample precedent that such measures succeed in this area.
As Canada enters a period of economic expansion, Canadian employers are now dependent, more than ever, on the influx of foreign workers in many industries to develop a knowledge-based economy and to maintain their international competitive edge. Immigration is essential in most OECD countries, but especially in Canada, in part to offset demographic developments, including low fertility rates, an aging population, a growing elderly dependency ratio, a shrinking labour force and high out-migration rates.
Developing nations that were once primarily sources of skilled labour for Canada are now experiencing a boom in their own right that is beginning to increase their attractiveness for highly educated migrants.
The current federal immigration system needs fixing. But refusing the current backlog of skilled-worker applicants, the largest in Canada’s history, reneging on the most basic previous contractual promises, and adopting policies largely based on a patchwork of measures from other much less relevant models, is ethically dubious, short sighted and will likely create a program that once again replicates the defects prevalent under previous ministers. Only this time, it will cement our reputation as an unreliable, untrustworthy player in the global migration industry, which neither Canadian employers, nor the provinces, can afford.