Administrative errors by Citizenship and Immigration Canada are causing major problems for prospective immigrants to Canada. The problems have come to light following a recent internal review that found a “high error rate” in application processing.
Many cases take place where candidates are receiving visas with an expiry date that had already passed. Sampan Singh, who studies at Winnipeg’s Red River College, received a new visa with the same expiry date as his old one, as a result of which he was unable to attend college while waiting for the problem to be corrected.
“I’d be breaking the law without a student visa,” he said. “My family paid $11,000 for my tuition. I’m missing this term and won’t be graduating on time.” Singh’s case had to be covered by the media before immigration officials acted to correct the problem.
In another instance, immigration officials issued a rejection letter to Jamaican national Camillio Senior that was dated earlier than the letter of acknowledgment of his immigration application.
For Chinese national De Wei Gao, Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s bureaucratic issues have put him on a track for deportation. Immigration officials claimed he failed to reply to letters requesting supporting documentation for his application, but both Gao and his lawyer insist they never received any such letters.
These are just a few of the growing number of cases in which prospective immigrants have fallen victim to the errors of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, leading some of them to gather to protest in front of Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s constituency office in Ajax.
Applicants say their stories are backed up by the findings of a recent internal government review that found such errors are all too common in Canadian government missions. That review concluded that there was a high error rate in immigrants’ application processing.
The government’s internal reviews explain a lot. It is unacceptable that applicants have to bear the consequences for someone else’s mistakes. These errors are causing a lot of misery for a lot of people. These clerical errors can be easily remedied, but the system is so inflexible.
The processing centre that deals with temporary residence applications in Vegreville was among the immigration operation centres that came under the scrutiny of the government’s internal quality review. Out of the 996 applications processed there between Nov. 1 and Dec. 6, 2013, officials found human errors in 617 request letters sent to applicants. In most of those cases, staff had either failed to use correct form letters, or failed to mention the issue of missing documents, or had given applicants inaccurate processing timelines.
But despite these findings, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has rejected calls for an overhaul, insisting that the system is basically sound.
CIC claims to be focused on making the application processes and correspondence with clients simpler and clearer. “We have moved to a system of ensuring perfected applications are handed in at the beginning of the process. With this practice, we have been able to identify missing or invalid information earlier.”
However the evidence shows a different story.
New provisions now allow the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke Canadian citizenship. The new Act received Royal Assent in June last year and included provisions to revoke Canadian citizenship from those dual citizens who are convicted of high treason, terrorism, and/or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.
Under the new provisions, the citizenship of dual citizens can also be revoked if they serve in another country’s armed forces or are found to be a part of an organized non-state entity involved in an armed conflict with Canada.
The federal government considers the revocation of citizenship to be an important tool for the protection of the value of Canadian citizenship and the safeguarding of the integrity of the citizenship program. With these changes, the government is aiming to protect the safety and security of Canada’s citizens, and ensure that criminals and those who take up arms against Canada will not benefit from Canadian citizenship.
The new revocation process
The new revocation process requires most revocation cases to be resolved by the Citizenship and Immigration Minister or a delegate. Cases falling under this category include those involving residence fraud, high treason, identity fraud, concealing criminal charges or convictions, convictions for terrorism, treason or spying offences, depending on the sentence received.
Complicated revocation cases involving crimes against humanity and war crimes, or fraud cases involving national security, or human or international rights violations and organized crime, will be handled by the Federal Court. The Federal Court, in such cases, will have authority for determining inadmissibility and ultimately, the revocation of citizenship. A removal order can also be issued in cases of serious criminality.
The Federal Court also has authority for deciding cases involving revocation of citizenship for those serving in another country’s armed forces or for being a part of an organized non-state entity involved in an armed conflict with Canada.
Legislative changes supporting revocation
To support the new revocation provisions, certain legislative changes have also been brought into force:
- Impact of revocation: A ten-year bar or permanent ban from re-acquiring Canadian citizenship depending on the circumstances. Those whose citizenship is revoked for fraud would be barred from obtaining citizenship for ten years, an increase from the previous bar of five years. Individuals whose citizenship is being revoked under the new provisions will be permanently barred from regaining Canadian citizenship.
- Renunciation: Individuals facing revocation cannot apply for renunciation of citizenship.
- Misrepresentation: Individuals who directly or indirectly withhold or misrepresent material circumstances relating to a relevant matter which can cause an error in the administration of this Act will be barred from citizenship. An individual who has been cited for misrepresentation will be barred from becoming a Canadian citizen for a period of five years following the finding of misrepresentation.
An investment bank executive has warned that several economies around the globe are facing a debt crisis, with economic growth being stunted by an increasingly ageing population.
According to the European chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, the average age of the population has been increasing in the US, Japan and Europe, increasing the pressure on younger individuals to bear their burden.
Japan, most noticeably, has been struggling to cope with its ageing population. The country’s gross governmental debt has increased to more than 200% of its gross domestic product and it is predicted to cross 400% by 2040. As a result, the Japanese government has announced drastic measures to boost economic productivity, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe keen on increasing female labour participation.
Goldman Sachs believes that a more straightforward way out of the crisis would be to boost productivity by increasing immigration. The demographics in most major economies including the US, in Europe and Japan – are a major issue and present us with the question of how we are going to pay down the huge debt burden.
Goldman Sachs also pointed to increasing life expectancy which is causing a major shift in demography in many economies. « With life expectancy increasing rapidly, we no longer have the young, working populations required to sustain a debt-driven economic model in the same way as we’ve managed to do in the past. »
The demographic shift means that we need to look to more creative policy, including immigration and workforce expansion in order to find ways to pay down debt.
Tens of thousands of hard-working and law-abiding temporary foreign workers living in Canada were set to be deported starting this past April following the implementation of the “cumulative duration rule”, also known as the “4 in, 4 out” rule. The rule is arguably representative of the unfairness of Canada’s revolving-door system of worker exploitation, with TFWs deemed to be disposable workers.
This “4 in, 4 out” rule stipulates that foreigners working on temporary worker visas for four years, who have not acquired permanent resident status, must leave the country for four years before being allowed to return. The law has been on the table for quite some time, but it seems to have been ignored by the majority of those affected.
Yet their vulnerability to deportation is making thousands of TFWs deal with the difficult task of sorting out all their affairs and packing up their lives in a very short space of time. Families are being placed under a lot of stress. While foreign-born children are required to leave Canada along with their TFW parents, Canadian-born children of TFWs have Canadian citizenship and are allowed to stay, thereby putting the families in the difficult situation of having to live apart.
As the numbers of temporary labour migrants have grown over the last decade, the cumulative duration rule is the approach the federal government has adopted to limit immigration to Canada through temporary labour migration programs. The introduction of the rule comes following a period of lobbying from various groups who argue that TFW programs take away job opportunities from Canadians struggling to find work in a challenging economic environment. The Alberta Federation of Labour, for example believes that TFW programs provide “a cover for providing employers with a mechanism that keep wages low when economic conditions suggest that they should rise.
There are essentially two kinds of migrant workers arriving in Canada: long-term immigrants and temporary short-term residents. This distinction leads workers along separate paths and into different labour market segments, and eventually into a future as permanent residents and citizens as well as non-citizens.
For temporary residents who cannot transition to permanent residence, their path now requires them to leave Canada and return to their country of origin.
In addition to working holiday programs, temporary workers are admitted to Canada through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), the Live-in Caregivers Program (LICP), and the Temporary Foreign Workers Programme (TFWP).
Low-skilled workers arriving through the SAWP usually leave Canada within eight months, and as such are not affected by the 4 and 4 rule.
The LICP allows for the employment of foreign workers as domestic caregivers in exchange for a pathway to citizenship, though changes introduced in 2014 have made it more difficult to do so. However, LICP caregivers admitted prior to the 2014 changes are not subject to deportation under the 4 and 4 rule.
The TFWP accounts for the largest number of temporary workers and has become the centre of attention under new government policy.
Meant as a stop-gap, short-term solution to fill severe labour shortages so businesses could continue to grow and create more opportunities for Canadians, the TFWP has become the cause of widespread resentment among those who believe it causes economic hardship. This was brought to the forefront of public opinion when a major bank issued a public apology for hiring TFWs to permanently replace local employees, even though the TFWs were higher-skilled.
The number of TFWs has rocketed over the last decade, from about 100,000 TFWs in 2002 to about 338,000 in 2014. While a majority of TFWs in 2000 were high-skilled, by 2008 lower-skilled TFWs became the largest category. It is against this backdrop that the 4 and 4 rule was enacted.
However clarifications are in order. First the high cost of recruitment, travel, and other fees including $1000 in government fees associated with employing TFWs can lead to exploitative instances of debt bondage for TFWs who are made to work off these employment costs or ‘loans’ by their employers.
Second, many temporary foreign workers choose to work overseas, including Canada, to secure employment at much higher wages than is otherwise available in their own country. Indeed, foreign remittances account for a significant portion of family income for millions of workers working abroad from India and the Philippines, the world’s top source of low skilled migrant workers.
Third, the 4 and 4 rule applies mainly to low-skilled TFWs working in manufacturing, retail, and hospitality. The Canadian government has formally exempted a number of high-skilled TFWs employed in management and professional capacities, as well as their spouses and dependants.
The 4 and 4 rule gives rise to claims of an unjust and unequal treatment of temporary foreign workers based on class, skill, and qualifications. While higher-skilled migrants are often able to transition to permanent residence, the majority of TFWs in Canada who are low skilled, cannot. The 4 and 4 rule serves to reinforce an exploitative revolving door system that admits and then removes temporary workers seen as disposable. It is a difficult stigma that Canadian policymakers should acknowledge. At the very least, Canada must ensure the foreign workers coming here to work, fully understand their temporary status. This will ensure that those choosing Canada do so under mutually beneficial economic conditions.
As part of the anti-terrorism initiative, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a trifecta of measures aimed at beefing up the country’s ability to thwart violent jihad. Some of these measures had previously been announced in the budget, including more money for Canada’s spy agency and more scrutiny of foreign visitors.
NDP member Randal Garrison, MP from Esquimalt – Juan de Fuca, said the program is a “worrying expansion” of the biometrics collection program for visitors.
“It raises some obvious and serious questions about how the information will be handled and who it will be shared with,” Garrison said. “How will these policy impact international business activities, our tourism industry or visits by immigrant family members? There are far too many unanswered questions.
Under the new measures, the federal government will commit $137 million more over five years to Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service, along with $41 million more a year afterward. The additional funding, Harper said, would allow CSIS to beef up its frontline capacity to counter terrorist threats and activities.
Some experts have argued the earmarked money simply isn’t much given the current threat environment, especially with legislation giving the agency more power to stop Canadians from joining terror groups abroad, disrupt bank transactions, and secretly interfere with radical websites.
The government also plans to expand biometric screening to all foreign citizens needing visas to come to Canada including those who require work or study permits and immigrants. The procedure is already required for travelers from 30 countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt, but would now apply to visitors from a further 150 others.
Harper said Canada already has access to biometric data collected by other countries and would share its data with them, but said privacy and legal standards will be in place to protect Canadians.
The identity verification measures, which require legislative changes, are expected to take effect in 2018. Harper said the government would kick in $313 million over five years to support the new requirement.
Under the current system, applicants must pay a biometric fee of $85 per person, in addition to the application fee. According to a Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson, this fee would be extended to visa applicants from new countries added to the list requiring biometric screening.
The federal government has cut funding to the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) English language program, in a move many immigrants say will hinder their ability to learn the country’s main language.
The program has been funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada with the aim of giving new immigrants an opportunity to learn English for conversation, business and academic purposes.
The cuts affect funding to the language schools that run the program in Ottawa, with between 150 and 180 students every year taking the 12-week summer program at Ottawa’s Algonquin College alone.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Sonia Lesage said that summer courses are traditionally less well-attended than courses at other times of the year, and that other language training courses will continue to be available to newcomers in Ottawa.
Lesage emphasised that funding to the program was linked to the number of immigrants that arrive in each province, among other factors, and that the program was « designed to be flexible and accessible”.
Analysts say the dramatic drop in immigration to B.C. from other countries, which recently plunged to negative numbers for the first time in 10 years, will not slow the flow of wealthy foreigners into Vancouver real estate. In the fourth quarter of 2014, immigration to B.C. was negative 3,145 people after a net increase of 18,753 in the previous quarter and an average of 34,000 annually for the past decade.
However, an exclusive study of national data shows that hundreds of wealthy foreigners are using a backdoor to B.C. without showing up on immigration numbers.
The Conservative government set April 1, 2015 as the deadline for the temporary low-skilled workers to leave the country after changing the rules in 2011. Formerly, TFWs had only to re-apply, but new rules require them to leave the country for at least four years before re-applying.
The exodus from B.C. has begun.
In all, 6,900 of these “non-permanent residents” left B.C. in the last three months of 2014 and even more will likely leave in the first and second quarters of this year.
There are an estimated 70,000 TFWs in B.C., third highest among provinces.
A 90-day provincial moratorium on applications under B.C.’s revised Provincial Nominee Program began on March 31.
|Source: BC Stats|
Quebec plans to bring in approximately 5,000 investor immigrants this year, a record amount.
Such investors loan the Quebec government $800,000 interest-free for five years and in return receive permanent resident visas for their family. The immigrant investor states they will reside in Quebec, but studies show that nearly all investors promptly relocate to B.C and Ontario.
From 2005 to 2012, about 45,000 millionaire migrants arrived in Vancouver through the previous federal and Quebec immigrant investor programs. To put this in perspective, the entire United States accepted less than 9,500 wealthy immigrants in the same period under its EB-5 immigrant investor program, representing less than 30,000 immigrants.
A number of so-called « Lost Canadians” have finally received their Canadian citizenship this month. As of June 11, citizenship was granted to those « Lost Canadians » who were born prior to 1947, and did not become citizens when the first Canadian Citizenship Act came into force in that year.
« This will also apply to their children born in the first generation outside Canada, » Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a written statement.
However, any Lost Canadian who wants a certificate to prove their citizenship – which will help them access pensions and apply for passports – still needs to apply from scratch to obtain it. The CIC website states that citizenship certificates take up to five months to process.
The “Lost Canadians” are a group of people who were denied or stripped of citizenship because of a complicated set of laws that discriminated on the basis of gender, race, and age.
Many people discovered that they were Lost Canadians only when they tried to obtain passports or access health care and were informed that they didn’t qualify because they did not have proof of citizenship, something that was denied to them when they would apply to CIC. As a result, a number of Lost Canadians sued the federal government.
The government passed the latest legislation last June after changes it implemented in 2009 still left several people ineligible to receive citizenship.
In addition to the provisions for Lost Canadians, other changes to the Citizenship Act have given CIC expanded powers to revoke the citizenship of Canadians, with dual nationals “who commit acts of terrorism or acts against Canadian interests” at risk of losing their Canadian citizenship.
Additionally, the right to appeal decisions on citizenship has been eliminated, and new citizenship applicants between the ages of 14 and 64 must meet basic knowledge and language requirements.
Boucherville, Québec, has topped the MoneySense 2015 List of Canada’s Best Places to Live, replacing last year’s top ranked place to live, St. Albert,Alberta. Ottawa has been ranked as the top large city, coming in at second place in the overall index.
The MoneySense index compiles data from Environics Analytics, Statistics Canada, and several other data providers, comparing several factors to assess 209 communities across the country. The greatest weighting is given to housing prices, employment and incomes, which are all given particular importance in the report, followed by factors like access to health care, low crime, good public transportation and weather. The index is broken down according to city size.
With a population of just over 43,000 inhabitants, and located across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal, top-ranked Boucherville is a predominately French-speaking community. The city boasts excellent livability ratings, scoring high marks in just about every category measured, including low unemployment, high incomes and affordable housing, as well as strong population growth, good access to transit and a vibrant arts community.
Joining St. Albert, Alberta, in its slide down the rankings are Calgary and Strathcona County, two other cities in Alberta. The decline in Alberta is due to the fact that oil prices have fallen by more than half since last year’s index, and unemployment in the province has started to rise. Several locations in the West of Canada have fallen down the rankings in 2015, reversing a trend of recent years.
This year Ottawa is ranked as the top large city (those with populations over 400,000) and second overall, earning high marks for incomes, transportation, access to health care and low taxes. Ottawa is particularly well known for its historic buildings, museums and Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill. Residents cite the farmers’ markets, the Central Experimental Farm, easy access to skiing in the Gatineau Hills, and cross-border shopping in the US as being great features of their stable and prosperous city. Though Ottawa’s average home price of $422,000 is not cheap, its affordability is on par with much smaller cities.
While Ottawa has consistently been near the top of the rankings of large cities for several years, other large cities have made dramatic improvements as well. Hamilton, Ontario, has climbed to No. 41 from No. 77 mainly due to improvements in unemployment and property tax, while Surrey, B.C., moved up the list from No. 174 to No. 141.
Mid-sized cities have also recorded gains this year. Burlington, Ontario, is top of this category, ranking No. 3 in the overall list. Its close proximity to Toronto, Hamilton and the US border is one of the main reasons families settle here, with large park spaces and the close proximity to several schools raising the appeal.
When it comes to the best places to retire, people tend to be more concerned with mild weather, low property taxes, and having good access to health care, rather than economic factors like unemployment. On that basis, MoneySense has ranked Ottawa as the Best Place to Retire in 2015.
The top slot in the Best Places to Raise Kids in 2015 goes to St. Albert in Alberta. A combination of factors makes life easier for young families, with the youth demographic being the primary one. The large young population has helped maintain the popularity of the International Children’s Festival, which has been running in the city for more than 30 years.
For immigrants, the most important factors include good job prospects, high incomes, good transit, and affordable housing, as well as existing immigrant communities that they can be a part of. While big cities are usually the first preference for immigrants, other places like Saanich, B.C., are also sensible choices. The city is safe, and boasts of low unemployment and good public transit, with more than 17% of the city’s population being of an immigrant background.
Lastly, in terms of wealthiest cities, with an average household net worth above $1 million, this year there are six cities on the list, up from only two last year. West Vancouver, B.C., tops the list, while Canmore, Alberta recorded the biggest gain in net worth, up 20% since last year.
The American job market has beaten Canada’s by the biggest margin in 21 years. Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter said that although jobs in Canada were up one per cent over the past year, the country has recorded job losses in eight of the last 17 months due to the oil price crash.
By contrast, in the US the number of jobs in the private sector has grown by 2.5 per cent over the past year, the fastest rate since the peak of the internet boom in the late 1990s.
Until recently, Canada had the best job market performance among developed nations since the Great Recession of 2008. Canada fared much better than its American neighbor, with the US struggling with the effects of the financial crisis over the past seven years.
According to Porter, the last time the US beat Canada in job market performance was way back in 1994 when the Canadian economy was struggling with a manufacturing and housing slump, as well as mounting public debts. The unemployment rate in Canada at the time was above 10 per cent.
At present, Canada’s unemployment rate stands at 6.8 per cent, significantly higher than the 5.4 per cent recorded in the US. According to Porter, the reason behind the better performance of the US at present is due to its lower starting point after the shock of the 2008 financial crisis. Compared to Canada, the US had three per cent less of its working-age population employed.
The Bank of Montreal says that regardless of the US performance, it has “serious doubts on Canada’s economic outlook”.
Canada’s plan to boost exports to the US to counter the effects of the oil price crash has not yet worked out either. “Export volumes have been down over the past two quarters,” says Porter.
According to the statement released by StatsCan last week, Canada’s economy experienced a 0.6 per cent decline in the first quarter of the year, owing to a similar decline experienced by the US economy. Experts believe that 2015 will see a downward trend, with economic growth predicted at 1.5 per cent.