Policy

Tuesday, 23 August 2016 20:45

The Billion Dollar Immigration Question

Written by

Commentary by Kareem El-Assal and Sonia Takhar

Canada’s immigration minister John McCallum recently announced that the federal government is evaluating the merits of launching a new program to attract investor immigrants to the country.

Entrepreneur and investor (“business”) immigration programs aim to stimulate economic growth by attracting investment capital, business savvy, and high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) to Canada.

On the one hand, the programs draw talent, investment capital, and spending power to Canada. Yet, they have met with mixed success since Canada began to open its doors to business immigrants in 1978. In addition, public concerns have been raised about the impact of programs on housing affordability, the ‘sale’ of Canadian citizenship, and the extent to which the programs benefit Canada’s economy and society.

 

These issues raise a billion dollar question: does Canada need dedicated business immigration programs?

According to most Canadian jurisdictions, the answer appears to be ‘yes’. Today, such programs exist federally, and in eight out of 13 provinces and territories.  

Measure of success

To what extent have business immigration programs benefitted Canada’s economy? The answer depends on one’s benchmark of success.

If the primary objective is to draw investment capital and more spending to Canada, the federal government’s Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), which was terminated in 2014, and the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program, which continues to operate, have been successful.

Between 2007 and 2011, the programs raised $6.42 billion in investment capital for the governments of Canada and Quebec.  

A 2010 study argued that the main economic benefit of the IIP was the purchasing power of immigrants who spent significantly on homes, education, and goods and services in Canada.

Business and job creation

However, if the main aim is to attract individuals and investment capital which will lead to business and job creation, then much works lies ahead.

Most of Canada’s programs set out to achieve this end. It is in this vein that Canada overhauled its business immigration programs in 2014 as government research found that business immigrants had only limited economic success in Canada, both in terms of their earnings and running successful businesses.

The social value of the programs also merits examination. Canada seeks immigrants who will socially and culturally integrate into local communities and become engaged citizens. As such, Canada’s business immigration programs contain residency provisions which require foreign nationals to spend a certain length of time in the country to either qualify for or maintain their Canadian permanent residence status, or to become eligible for citizenship.

This has created a persistent challenge: residency requirements may be difficult to reconcile with the fact that entrepreneurs and investors are highly mobile, and frequently travel around the world to tend to their business.

Future of Business Immigration

Luckily, Canada’s extensive experience in this space provides stakeholders with lessons that can be applied in designing the business immigration programs of tomorrow. For these programs to meet Canada’s economic and social objectives, the following considerations must be taken into account.

Canada must take into account global competition. In the 1980’s, Canada was an international pioneer in business immigration, competing with only a handful of countries.

The field is much more crowded today, with about 30 countries offering such programs. Canada must continue to keep an eye out for competition in peer nations, and remain flexible enough to glean lessons learned and adapt global best practices.

Policy experimentation continues to feature prominently in the programs designed in Canada and elsewhere. Canadian policy-makers often adjust programs to try to create the right incentive structures and conditions for immigrants to facilitate business and job creation in Canada.

Program monitoring, refining, and a bit of patience will help policy-makers achieve Canada’s business immigration goals.

Public buy-in

Determining appropriate business immigration intake levels to support economic growth, preventing fraud, limiting burdensome application requirements, and processing applications quickly, all remain pivotal to success.

When it ended in 2014, the IIP had a backlog of 65,000 applications, which would have taken six years to process. Balancing these important and challenging responsibilities is essential if Canada wants to remain globally competitive and attract the best and the brightest.

Social issues such as housing affordability and residency requirements require additional scrutiny. Public opinion matters, and for these programs to succeed, the Canadian public must buy into the economic and social rationale.

Increasing public awareness of social benefits – such as business immigrants being a significant source of charitable contributions – may help ease concerns.

While these challenges appear daunting, Canada’s overall success with immigration should give stakeholders confidence that the country is fully capable of creating successful business immigration programs that benefit Canadians.

Kareem El-Assal is Research Associate, Education & Immigration, at the Conference Board of Canada and Sonia Takhar, a Student Intern. Please visit Entrepreneur & Investor Immigration Summit 2016: Vision, Action, Prosperity

Friday, 19 August 2016 16:15

Refugees: Opportunity will Trump Tragedy

Written by

Commentary by Steve Dooley in Surrey

A Surrey forum held earlier this year on helping Syrian refugees settle in our area started with an ice-breaker. Participants were asked to stand if they were born outside Canada.

About a third of the room stood.

They were next asked to stand if their parents were born outside the country. More stood.

Grandparents? More took to their feet.

And at great grandparents, nearly the whole room was standing.

In the multicultural dynamic that is Canada, we know that apart from our Aboriginal communities, all of us, at one point in our family lineage, came from somewhere else.  And over the nearly 150 years of nation building, there have been many paths to becoming part of the Canadian fabric.

Some have been relatively easy, others, born of great tragedy – those fleeing war, trauma and abuse, not necessarily coming to Canada as a choice.

Eager to contribute

And with the picture of a lifeless child on a beach in Turkey, the world opened its eyes to the latest forced migration from Syria, with many Syrian refugees arriving in Canada over the past six months.

Many refer to the settlement of Syrian refugees as a crisis. There have been fears that federal government targets would overwhelm settlement services and host municipalities.

There have been many challenges in meeting immediate and short-term needs of refugees, who woke up after a long flight, finding themselves in this new place called Canada.

Long wait lists for English training, housing shortages, particularly for larger families, and lack of employment opportunities are very real problems being addressed in communities across Canada.

A recent experience I had with a small group of refugees in Surrey has led me to believe that far from a crisis, the settlement of new refugees in Canada is in fact a huge opportunity.

Being a good neighbour

As the lead researcher on a year-long, recently completed study involving Simon Fraser University and several community partners, I had the pleasure of working with seven recent refugees from Myanmar, Somalia, Iraq and El Salvador. They were recruited as project research assistants (RAs) to help set the study’s scope, recruit participants, lead focus groups, interpret findings and participate in community planning.

While each had a personal story of tragedy and survival, they were eager to contribute, brought a broad set of skills and capacity to the work, and become leaders within their own communities.

The study, Our Community Our Voice: The settlement and Integration Needs of Refugees in Surrey, B.C., was a joint effort between SFU, the Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) and the City of Surrey.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada provided funding through the Surrey LIP. SFU’s involvement exemplifies the University’s commitment to engaging our communities, being a good neighbour and helping to solve issues that affect our communities.

Our report, which will help the city draft its settlement plan, spoke to the many issues facing refugees, and lays out a series of recommendations, from additional resources for new or existing programs targeting health, language, employment and housing, to improving how we communicate with refugees at all levels of the settlement process, and helping the community to better understand and engage with refugees during their transition.

Talents and dreams

No one understands this better than the refugees themselves, who deeply informed our discussions. And our RAs were the bridge.

In community development we often refer to skills development as “capacity building”.

It was clear to me that these refugees brought a lot of capacity to the amazing work they did, and I was thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to work with this stellar group of individuals.

There is still much work to be done, but these RAs showed us first-hand how the refugees coming to Canada bring far more than the label imposed on them.  They have talents and dreams and hopes for their children.

And, while some will find their way back to their homelands, most will become part of the Canadian fabric, stay and make contributions to nation building.

Some will live quiet and simple lives, while others go on to become lawyers, doctors, nurses and teachers, or go into politics, start a new business venture, open a new media outlet.

They will build things, work in construction and on the factory floor. So will their children. But through the actions of daily living, all will contribute to the Canadian dynamic.

Based on Canadian history and my own experience from this study, I know, with time, there is space for opportunity to trump tragedy. It is not a crisis we have on our hands, but another in a long series of humanitarian support efforts that over time will lead to positive impacts on our neighborhoods, our cities and our nation.

Thirty years from now, in another community forum on how to support the latest wave of refugees, people will be asked to stand if they are born outside Canada. The Syrian refugees of today will stand thinking back on their own experiences of settlement.  

And, they will lend a hand.

Steve Dooley has been the Executive Director of Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus for the past 3 years. Having developed his community based research interests over 20 years, he continues to address social and civic issues such as refugee settlement, poverty, and crime reduction. Steve co-chairs the City of Surrey's Poverty Reduction Coalition and sits on Surrey's Local Immigration Partnership (LIP).

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Commentary by Kareem El-Assal in Ottawa

Canada is expected to welcome up to 305,000 immigrants this year.

The last time Canada admitted that many newcomers was in 1913, when a staggering 401,000 immigrants arrived in the country.

With immigration minister John McCallum recently announcing that Canada intends to have a three-year immigration plan by November, it is worth exploring what the ‘right’ level might be for Canada.

Historically, Canada’s immigration levels have been determined by:

·         demographic and economic factors

·         public policy

·         Canada’s ability to absorb newcomers

·         trends in international migration

·         Canada’s capacity to process immigrant applications

·         public support for immigration

Factors in play

Demographic and economic considerations are at the heart of Canada’s immigration decisions. Sustained economic growth and prosperity are only possible with a healthy population size.

This means having enough people to meet Canada’s current and future labour force needs, and the needs of the provinces and territories, and industry. 

Public policy, namely Canada’s objectives of admitting immigrants for a range of purposes, including non-economic factors, also influences annual immigration levels. These include reuniting families, providing protection to those in need, and ensuring Canada reaps social and cultural benefits from immigration, such as by admitting Francophones.

Canada must also assess its ability to absorb new immigrants.

This requires allocating enough settlement and integration supports for immigrants, such as language training and employment services. Other essentials such as good housing and health care services must also be available to Canadians and newcomers.

It also entails ensuring that enough good jobs are available for newcomers and that our labour market information systems are strong so that they can find the jobs.

The push and pull factors that influence global flows of migrants also impact Canada’s immigration levels, as shown, for example, by the country’s recent response to the events in Syria. As a member of the global community, Canada acts when others need help.

Ensuring immigrants meet Canada’s eligibility requirements requires time, money and effort, which affects how many applications can be processed and how many newcomers can be admitted each year.

Finally, public confidence in Canada’s immigration system is crucial, since Canadian governments are expected to respond to the will of the people.

So, what is the ‘right’ level?

Canada achieves the right level of immigration when it balances the aforementioned considerations prudently. Arguably, Canada does a pretty good job of that already.

In spite of the country regularly welcoming over 200,000 immigrants each year, Canadians are becoming increasingly supportive of immigration, according to polling evidence. An annual Environics survey, for instance, shows that Canadian support for immigration has grown since the 1990s.

According to the Conference Board’s Long-Term Economic Forecast, Canada will need to bump its immigration levels up to one per cent of its population within the next two decades (it is currently around 0.80 per cent) in order to sustain a healthy level of economic growth across the country.

While higher levels of immigration will not offset Canada’s aging population trend, it will help keep the country’s population growing by 0.9 per cent annually and add capacity for the productivity and innovation gains that we so badly need.

Of course, higher levels of immigration will mean that more supports will be needed to ensure both Canadians and newcomers are able to find good jobs and continue to access good services. This will help keep Canadians supportive.

Canada can only admit hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year if the public is on board. The evidence suggests that they are.

Canada at 150

Next year, Canada turns 150. Canada admitted all of 11,000 immigrants in its year of confederation.

In 2017, Canada will welcome that same number of immigrants every two weeks. Not bad, eh?

This October, the Conference Board hosts Minister John McCallum at a major meeting in Toronto to discuss the future of Canada’s immigration system.

In December 2016, the Conference Board hosts Canada’s first ever Entrepreneur & Investor Immigration Summit in Toronto. This national two-day event is discussing the value of business immigration programs to the Canadian economy, as well as their social implications, and how these programs can be improved.

In May 2017, we are hosting our third annual Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa, a major two-day event that attracts participants from across the country.


Kareem El-Assal is a research associate for Education & Immigration at the Conference Board of Canada. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Monday, 11 July 2016 14:38

Consultation Overlooks Citizenship

Written by

Commentary by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

Some things never change. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) launches consultations on immigration and leaves out any questions on the related issues of citizenship policy.

Sigh … Immigration consultations are welcome and needed. They can and should help better inform future level plans and I would hope that there will be widespread participation with diversity of views.

It may well be that the Government believes that having passed Bill C-6 (to amend the Citizenship Act) it has no need to consult on citizenship. It is hard to believe that this is a mere oversight.

But consulting on immigration while being silent on where and how citizenship is part of the picture is, at best, a missed opportunity.

Values and tradition

Also interesting to note the question of “Canadian values and traditions” which should provoke some interesting discussion, and which is related to immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism.

Were there to be citizenship-related consultation questions, my initial suggestions would be -

  1. What percentage of newcomers should we expect to become Canadian citizens? In what time frame?
  2. Does citizenship play an important role in integrating and participating in the Canadian economy and society? In which way?
  3. Do we have the balance right between facilitating and encouraging citizenship and ensuring a meaningful connection to Canada?

Here is a preview of the questions available under Submit your views of immigration -

Opening Questions

  1. How many newcomers should we welcome to Canada in 2017 and beyond?
  2. How can we best support newcomers to ensure they become successful members of our communities?
  3. Do we have the balance right among the immigration programs or streams? If not, what priorities should form the foundation of Canada’s immigration planning?
  4. How should we balance encouraging mobile global talent to become citizens with physical presence residency requirements?

Questions: Unlocking Canada’s diverse needs

  1. How can immigration play a role in supporting economic growth and innovation in Canada?
  2. Should there be more programs for businesses to permanently hire foreign workers if they can’t find Canadians to fill the job?
  3. What is the right balance between attracting global talent for high-growth sectors, on the one hand, and ensuring affordable labour for businesses that have historically seen lower growth, on the other?
  4. How can immigration fill in the gaps in our demographics and economy?
  5. What Canadian values and traditions are important to share with newcomers to help them integrate into Canadian society?

Questions: Modernizing our immigration system

  1. Currently, immigration levels are planned yearly.  Do you agree with the thinking that planning should be multi-year?
  2. What modernization techniques should Canada invest in for processing of applications?
  3. What should Canada do to ensure its immigration system is modern and efficient?
  4. Is there any rationale for providing options to those willing to pay higher fees for an expedited process?

Questions: Leadership in global migration and immigration

  1. Is it important for Canada to continue to show leadership in global migration? If so, how can we best do that?
  2. How can Canada attract the best global talent and international students?
  3. In what ways can Canada be a model to the world on refugees, migration and immigration?

Andrew Griffith is the author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad.

by Selina Chignall in Ottawa

As 25,000 Syrian refugees live through the process of resettlement and beginning new lives in Canada, a Statistics Canada study published today reveals that the children of refugees who arrived in Canada between 1980 and 2000 are thriving.

StatsCan’s, Educational and Labour Market Outcomes of Childhood Immigrants by Admission Class, reviewed the 2011 National Household Survey to examine the socioeconomic outcomes of immigrant children who arrived in Canada before the age of 18 during those two decades.

The study examined each class of immigrant — skilled workers, business immigrants, live-in caregivers, the family class and refugees. 

The study found children of all categories of refugees (private, government and landed) had achieved better graduation outcomes than their Canadian-born peers. They had also outperformed those who settled here through the live-in caregivers and family class.

Roughly 30 per cent of refugees from all classes went to university — whereas 24 per cent of children born to two Canadian-born parents attended university and 19 per cent of those born to live-in caregivers.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"We have the proof before our eyes how refugees and children of refugees have proved themselves in Canadian society."[/quote]

The highest portion of immigrant children were those who came via business and the skilled-worker class. Of those who came through the channel, 59% obtained a university degree, while 50% of those from the skilled-worker class got their diploma.

The study also found that the average earnings of refugee children — $41,000 to $44,000 — were similar to the earnings of children with both Canadian-born parents and immigrant parents who came into the country via the business and skilled working class streams. Their annual earnings were about $46,000

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), said she’s not surprised by the positive outcomes refugees have in their new home.

“We have the proof before our eyes how refugees and children of refugees have proved themselves in Canadian society.”

Dench said it confirms what CCR has been saying for a long time: refugees contribute enormously to Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Playing catch-up is an issue many teens face, and the educational system still hasn’t figured out how to support these students,"[/quote]

However, there are barriers some refugee children face that can prevent them from pursuing higher education, including helping their families to pay off their transportation loan. Those looking to settle in Canada have to pay their way here and undergo a medical examination. If they can’t afford to do so, the government will help pay for these services, but the families have to reimburse them for the loan. 

“We hear they might not be able to go to university because they have to earn money to pay off the transportation loan,” Dench said.

For some refugees, the loan is waived. For the rest, it can cost a family $10,000. They have one to six years to pay back the loan, depending upon how much the owe the government. 

An issue that also could affect the future generations of refugees pouring into the country from countries like Guatemala, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Syria is that they come from war-torn countries whose education systems have or are close to collapse, said Monica Boyd, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto.

A report from World Vision said between two million and three million Syrian children are not attending school. For many of these young children who have gone months and years without formal schooling, Boyd said it’s an added challenge when they start their new life in Canada.

According to a November 2015 report by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, of those Syrians who arrived in 2014, 34 per cent were under the age of 15, and 15 per cent were 15 to 24 and 48 per cent were between 25 to 64.

Statistics Canada and Boyd both said the younger the children are when they settle in a new country, the better education outcomes they have. She said this was due in part to youngsters spending a longer period in the school system where they can improve their language skills.

It’s harder for teens to catch up on language skills and to adapt to a new education system.

“Playing catch-up is an issue many teens face, and the educational system still hasn’t figured out how to support these students,” said Dench.


Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca

Wednesday, 24 February 2016 03:34

Migrant Myths Influence Immigration Policies

Written by

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

At a time when Canada has seen a shift in immigration policy, particularly when it comes to resettling Syrian refugees, a study reveals that myths and imaginaries created around migrants can influence a country’s immigration policies. 

Based on a discussions held among researchers and practitioners during a one-day symposium organized at the University of Ottawa in May 2014, the policy brief defines myths and imaginaries as “symbolic collective representations of individuals’ aspirations, hopes and dreams.” 

This can refer to the perceptions and imaginaries of migrants themselves and of policymakers who are concerned with their movements.

The report recommends policymakers examine the diversity of myths created around migrants and adopt a rational approach to deal with the reproduction of these imaginaries rather than take them at face value.

The creation of myths and imaginaries

Luisa Veronis, one of the three authors of the research paper, explains to New Canadian Media that the policy brief applies to the individuals suffering from the processes of “globalization” and who are considered economic immigrants, as their livelihoods in their countries are very limited.

She believes that with technology, we’re much more aware of the conditions and quality of life in other parts of the world. Because of this, we might have preconceived notions of what immigrants and refugees are like, just as they might have preconceptions of Canada and its people.

Veronis says, “What is important to look at are imaginaries — how are they produced [and how they] circulate and influence migrants’ entire journey, from movement decisions to their settlement process. Either they want to travel illegally or wait, as we are seeing in Mediterranean right now.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]We might have preconceived notions of what immigrants and refugees are like, just as they might have preconceptions of Canada.[/quote]

However, in case of the Syrian refugees, experts believe that “myth” has not significantly influenced their initial movement, as it is necessity-driven. 

As the report suggests that, more research is required to document the vast diversity of myths that exist.

“We want to go a little bit broader and show how cultural production and collective values, understanding and notions shape decisions,” she explains.

Perceptions of immigrants influence policy

John Shields, a political science professor from Ryerson University, says that the creation of these myths is not a one-way street.

“The Conservatives’ imaginary about Muslim immigrants from Syria had a particular kind of political imaginary, and some of it is manufactured or propagated for political reasons,” he explains.

Unlike Conservatives, Shields says that Liberals see immigration in broader terms; accepting them is an act of nation-building and they see them as new citizens who can contribute to Canadian nation as a whole.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Some of it is manufactured or propagated for political reasons."[/quote]

Veronis sees the initial welcoming of Syrian refugees as an easy move, but is curious about what the Liberals will do to the changes the previous government made to the country’s immigration policy.

“I think the most difficult [thing] to do is to address the immigration policy, which basically will tell us [whether] they also believe the immigration is mainly [an] economic driving force,” she says.

Refugee and immigrant perceptions of Canada

While comparing migrant imaginaries of US and Europe with those of Canada, Shields says that the perceptions are positive overall. 

“What defines Canada as a distinct society, the most common answer is diversity and multicultural instead of hockey players or maple syrup,” he says.

However, Shields thinks that by focusing on the economic benefits of immigrants in their policies, Conservatives might have created an inaccurate perception of the country as a place of economic opportunities.

Criticizing the “point system”, Shields says that it conveys the message to immigrants that they will be offered an automatic job, which is not helping the system.

“I think policy makers need to be aware of what [ideas] immigrants have in terms of coming here,” he says. “We obviously need a lot of shifts in the policies and [to] modify the point system.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Shields says] Conservatives might have created an inaccurate perception of the country.[/quote]

When comparing refugees with skilled immigrants, Shields explains that refugees have a tougher set of challenges to overcome which are far from imaginary. Still, they are driven by certain aspirations.

“They come with some kind of dreams and hopes that help to sustain them along inhumane times of transition,” he says.

Ratna Omidvar, head of Ryerson's Global Diversity Exchange and an adjunct professor, adds that Canada opens the door of safety and security for them, but they still have to work to get an education, find work and integrate themselves in Canadian society.

“[The refugees] come with little knowledge. What [they] are not prepared for is to open doors of integration and inclusion. People are not prepared for that at all,” she says.

Commenting on the report, Omidvar says that it’s important to deconstruct truth from fiction in order to create policies that are both realistic and to some idealistic.

She saw this blend of reality and idealism following the 2015 election. Before then, Omidvar says “It was a myth that Canada is always a welcoming country to refugees, as our response to refugee crisis was muted.”

Then things changed, and the imagination of the nation caught up in reality. 

Omidvar is pleased with the new government’s handling of the resettlement process and calls it a “romantic narrative”.

“We are going to welcome refugees and immigrants with a smile,” she says. 

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by Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough, Ontario

At a time when national and local mainstream media seem to be downsizing and shutting down daily, where does Canada’s ethnic media fit in? And how will these outlets survive? 

The 2015 Canadian edition of the Global Media Journal, edited by Rukhsana Ahmed, explores these questions with five research papers that “address challenges and opportunities multicultural (ethnic) media present to immigrant integration.” 

Across the board, one sentiment is clear: when considering both its multiculturalism and national media policy, Canada must keep ethnic media in mind.

Brampton’s ethnic media bridges cultural divides

It takes more than receiving a press release from the municipal government to ensure ethnic media report on city affairs, according to a case study by Ryerson University’s April Lindgren. In her study, “Municipal Communication Strategies and Ethnic Media: A Settlement Service in Disguise”, she suggests the city of Brampton is leading the pack in understanding this. 

Interestingly, a decade ago, a similar study deemed the city of Brampton unresponsive to the needs of its immigrant community.

So what changed? 

Lindgren cites 2006, when the city transitioned from being a multiracial city with various visible minority groups making up over 50 per cent of its demographic to a city with a dominant South Asian — specifically Punjabi-speaking Indo-Canadian — population as a turning point of sorts.

This is when growing concern emerged from long-time residents about newcomers and the city recognized a need to amplify its ethnic media reach in order to mitigate brewing conflict.

The resulting strategy included hiring an ethnic media coordinator who had to speak Punjabi, standardizing advertising buys across a number of approved ethnic media outlets and translating all communications material into Punjabi and Hindi (as well as Urdu and Portuguese).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The city recognized a need to amplify its ethnic media reach in order to mitigate brewing conflict.[/quote]

While it wasn’t all smooth sailing — for example, some papers thought the press releases were paid advertisements and invoiced the city for them — Lindgren concludes that municipalities that follow Brampton’s lead will find they are actually “providing a settlement service in the guise of a communication policy.”

This is echoed by University of Ottawa researchers Luisa Veronis and Rukhsana Ahmed, who studied four ethno-cultural communities in Ottawa — Chinese, Spanish-speaking Latin American, South Asian and Somali — and their access to and use of ethnic media. 

They suggest the City of Ottawa adopt a similar strategy as Brampton and engage multicultural media, which is typically more accessible (i.e. free, absent of language barriers) as well as translate important communications material, particularly on the city website.

Chinese language media struggles to maintain standards

The pressing need for stability and growth often trumps journalistic quality for Chinese-language media in Canada, say many members of the Chinese Canadian ethnic media in Xiapoing Li’s research paper, “A Critical Examination of Chinese Language Media’s Normative Goals and News Decisions.”

Much of the pressure for remaining profitable comes as a result of increased competition from free newspapers and websites entering the market and declining advertising revenues. Case in point: one of the top dailies, World Journal, ceasing all publication in Canada. 

But as Li points out, Chinese-language outlets have many important functions, one of the most important being assisting with the integration and settlement of first generation Canadians. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The pressing need for stability and growth often trumps journalistic quality for Chinese language media.[/quote]

These outlets are also the preferred media for Chinese migrants living in major Canadian cities who are looking to gather both government and general lifestyle information, according to researcher Yuping Mao. 

“The government and NGOs should try to disseminate important information in Chinese ethnic media and through Chinese social networks,” states Mao in “Investigating Chinese Migrants’ Information-Seeking Patterns in Canada: Media Selection and Language Preference”.

Mao's study further underlines what Li's paper finds: Chinese ethnic media should not only be upheld to high journalistic standards, but should be created in ways that are sustainable in Canada.

For this to happen, Li puts forth three recommendations for Chinese ethnic media in Canada: offer professional training opportunities for ethnic media journalists, some who are hired without any previous experience to reduce costs; explore possibilities of organizations like the CBC collaborating with major ethnic media outlets; and finally allocate public funds for multicultural and multilingual media — a model already in place in Australia.

“There is little justification for the absence of similar services when Canada is held up as a model of multiculturalism,” Li writes. 

Younger generations distance themselves from ethnic media

While ethnic media’s importance among first generation Canadians is clear, these outlets are growing out of touch with subsequent generations, says University of Waterloo’s Augie Fleras.

In “Multicultural Media in a Post-Multicultural Canada? Rethinking Integration,” Fleras examines the shortcomings of “multicultural media” when it comes to connecting with readers and viewers who are resistant to being placed in ethnic silos. 

The issue is part of a larger context in which second and third generation Canadians see multiculturalism as an “obsolete straight jacket,” the paper suggests. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Second and third generation Canadians see multiculturalism as an “obsolete straight jacket."[/quote]

Fleras writes that in 2015, 10 ethnic papers flourished in their federal election coverage throughout just five Brampton, Ontario ridings where there is a heavy South Asian population. This is at the same time when longstanding publications like Canadian Jewish News and Corriere Canadese struggle to stay afloat.

In order to survive, traditional ethnic media must evolve, Fleras explains, making several recommendations. 

The most important one is to produce content that is reflective of the complex lived realities of racialized Canadians, many of whom subscribe to this mentality: “Do not judge me because of my ethnicity, but never forget where I came from.”


Research Watch is a monthly column on NewCanadianMedia.ca that looks at recently released and emerging research relating to immigration, settlement, immigrant/ethno-cultural communities and multiculturalism. Researchers or organizations releasing studies we should consider are encouraged to write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016 11:48

Flying in Family Class: An In-Depth Series (Part III)

Written by

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

In Pakistan, where retirement homes do not exist, children consider it a moral duty to take care of their parents as they age. 

Asad Khan says this is why he wanted to sponsor his father last year after his mother passed away. His sisters are married, and his elder brother lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

Khan, who works in Toronto as a human resources manager, couldn’t apply for his father’s sponsorship immediately as the annual cap of 5,000 applications is usually reached soon after Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) begins accepting applications the first week of January each year. 

Therefore, Khan opted for the super visa, which has an approval rate of 85 per cent and takes a maximum of eight weeks instead of the four or more years it takes to process a regular sponsorship. 

Khan was happy that he did not have to meet the required minimum income needed – a pre-requisite of sponsorship – or have to wait in a long queue to process his father’s application. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Because of [the] super visa, my father is not alone back home and waiting anxiously.”[/quote]

“Because of [the] super visa, my father is not alone back home and waiting anxiously,” says Khan. “In fact he can travel back frequently.” 

Khan managed to get the visa in five weeks after buying medical insurance for his father, which must be renewed every year. 

Elderly are not a burden 

Sikander Lalani, CEO of Lalani Associates, a leading immigration consultancy provider in Pakistan, says that relocating in Canada is often not the preference of elderly Pakistani people, as they do not want to leave their homeland, culture, family and religious values at such a tender age. 

The only exception to this is if the situation is critical to the extent that there is nobody to take care of them back home. 

“The number of dependent parents who opt to settle in Canada is not more than 10 per cent of the total immigrants from Pakistan,” says Lalani. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“They come here not for medical or other financial benefits, but only for [the] love and affection they carry for their kids.”[/quote]

More Pakistani parents and grandparents prefer to shuttle back and forth between the two countries, Lalani explains. Those who have financial constraints and health issues will not visit frequently. 

“They come here not for medical or other financial benefits, but only for [the] love and affection they carry for their kids,” he adds.  

Khan says many Pakistani people who are elderly do not prefer to live in Canada because of the harsh weather, which is usually tough for them to bear, as is staying indoors for most of the year. Cold weather can also aggravate some of their medical conditions. 

In 2013, former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stated that the health-care costs of elderly immigrants creates a burden on the Canadian health-care system and other social resources. He further noted that a set of grandparents could cost the system $400,000. 

Lalani refutes the claim. “What burden are they talking about?” he asks. 

“They get [a] sponsorship fee. In return two family members – husband and wife – are contributing to [the] economy and paying hefty taxes. Later the kids – an average Pakistani family has three – will follow suit as [the] next generation. Is this a burden or constant contribution to [the] economy?” 

Family reunification reforms needed

When it comes to the reunification of spouses or children with their families, Lalani says that laws should not disrupt the basic structure of a family. He says that now, the biggest hindrance is the time consumed by the process, which varies between six months to four years. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s a trauma for a skilled person that he is away from his family – a mental torture."[/quote]

“It’s a trauma for a skilled person that he is away from his family – a mental torture – how could you expect someone to concentrate on his job or studies or overall performance in a totally new environment with a stress that seems endless?” asks Lalani. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised reforms to the 2013 family reunification program during his election campaign. 

He pledged to double the number of parents and grandparents’ applications accepted from 5,000 to 10,000 and speed up the processing time, but Lalani says that it will take time to materialize. 

“It was a political statement, as the change in policy will face resistance from bureaucracy and making it a law is time consuming so it won’t trigger that fast.” 

The changes made in 2013 to the immigration rules also increased the minimum necessary income (MNI) to sponsor parents and grandparents by 30 per cent and reduced the maximum age of dependents from 22 years old to 18. 

“I think the Canadian government needs to work fast paced on the re-location of the basic family structure and also reversing the minimum age of dependent children from 18 to 22, because in Asian culture children under 23 are dependent on their parents unless they are married,” says Lalani. 

He notes that the pledge made by Trudeau did not say much on the MNI required for sponsors. 

“It was criticized as a benefit for high-net worth [individuals],” Lalani says. “This still needs to be reconsidered as elderly people are not a burden at all.” 


Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this piece through the NCM Mentoring Program.

Monday, 18 January 2016 20:54

Flying in Family Class: An In-Depth Series (Part II)

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Family reunification is at the core of the Liberal government’s immigration policy. After our two-part in-depth piece on the pros and cons of the family class immigration stream, this new series takes a closer look at the process from the perspectives of major immigrant groups in Canada. What are the opinions and experiences of individuals and families who took this route or are in the process of doing so? We find out what works and what needs improvement. The following report is the second in our series and looks at the frustrations caused by painfully long wait times. Read part one here.

by Marieton Pacheco in Vancouver 

Elmira Padlan-Bautista is no stranger to Canada’s family reunification program. She and her husband have been going through the process of sponsoring both their parents since 2005. But after 10 years, Elmira’s parents are now with them in Canada, while her husband Jerold’s parents are still waiting in the Philippines. 

It’s a heartbreaking situation considering they tried to sponsor Jerold’s parents first. 

The couple’s application to sponsor the Bautistas in 2005 was initially refused due to lack of income, but after submitting additional documents in 2006, they were given approval to complete the requirements for both sets of parents in 2008. 

This included separate instructions to do medical tests in Manila and that’s where the problems started. 

“There was always something in their medical tests,” says Elmira. “There was a spot in [Jerold’s] dad’s lungs the first time; he was asked to undergo medication and come back after three months. When he was cleared, they found another issue with his mom this time.” 

Jerold’s mom has gone back for medical tests about 10 times already due to heart problems and complications from diabetes. It doesn’t help that she’s 73 years old. And with each exam costing around Php 3,000-5,000 (about $100-$150), it’s been quite an expensive and frustrating exercise. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s been too long that I think they’ve lost interest in coming here."[/quote]

“It’s been too long that I think they’ve lost interest in coming here, napagod na sa pabalik-balik kaya nawalan ng gana (it’s tiring to keep on going back [for medical reasons] and frustrating),” shares Elmira. 

Despite this, they received a letter from Canada's immigration department in 2013 asking them to pay for the parents’ Right of Landing Fee. They did, and Jerold's parents were asked to submit their passports to the Canadian embassy in Manila. 

But without medical clearance, their visas remain pending. It’s been so long that the parents’ have asked the embassy to just return their passports, which have been held for about a year. 

Lessons learned 

Elmira says she remembered all these lessons when she applied for her own parents’ sponsorship in 2008. After receiving approval to sponsor them in early 2011, she asked Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), which is now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), to send all correspondence through her.

Both her parents were also visiting Canada when the letter for their medical examination arrived. She checked with CIC and was able to have both her parents’ medical exam done here. With no hitches in their documents and medical tests, her parents were approved for permanent residency in December 2012. 

It was still a four-year wait, but Elmira is grateful, especially when compared with her in-laws’ case and those of some of her other friends in the community. 

“I don’t mind going through all the requirements and application ’cause it’s really worth it that they’re here,” she says. “They’ve been very helpful in babysitting the three kids. I didn’t have a bad experience with my parents’ sponsorship like we did with my husband’s parents. They’re frustrated, and we’re still frustrated...” 

More efficient, fair processing needed 

At the beginning of this month the IRCC began accepting parent and grandparent sponsorship applications for 2016. Many immigrants are again trying their luck to bring their families here. 

Current wait times to sponsor parents and grandparents (PGP) under the Family Class vary from four to six years depending on where your visa office is located. The IRCC’s website says its offices are currently working on PGP sponsorship applications received before November 2011. 

Immigration consultant Arlene Tungohan says the key is really to improve processing times for these applications. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s not a first-in, first-out system anymore. What’s happening is last-in, first out."[/quote]

Doubling quotas as promised by the new Liberal government from 5,000 to 10,000 may be a good thing, she explains, but it doesn’t really mean anything unless they speed up processing times for those who’ve been waiting for years. 

Tungohan adds she still has live-in caregivers’ applications for family sponsorship from five to six years ago. 

Their family members in the Philippines have undergone medical exams two to three times already, but their applications remain in processing. Then there are those who submitted applications in 2015 and have been given their PR already. 

“We don’t know why the process is that way,” Tungohan says. “It’s not a first-in, first-out system anymore. What’s happening is last-in, first out ... I guess they want to show it’s faster now with the changes, but it’s a little bit unfair. Many caregivers are suffering because of it.” 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“You hardly hear of parents going on welfare especially in the Filipino community.”[/quote]

Tungohan says family reunification has always been a priority under Canada’s immigration system, so whether it’s sponsoring parents or grandparents, or caregivers trying to bring the rest of their family members to Canada, wait times should be reasonable. 

Welfare not a ‘Filipino thing’ 

The immigration consultant also discredits criticisms on parents and grandparents being a burden to Canada’s health-care system. 

Many, if not all, of those approved to live here still want to work and contribute to the Canadian economy, she says, adding that collecting welfare is hardly a Filipino thing to do. 

“You hardly hear of parents going on welfare especially in the Filipino community,” she explains. “We take pride in being able to support our parents, in showing them that ‘hey, we are successful.’” 

But as long as processing times are not improved, families like the Bautistas will have to wait some more for a chance to support their parents here in Canada, or else they will continue hearing about the realities of their parents’ aging from thousands of miles away. 


Journalist Ranjit Bhaskar mentored the writer of this article through the NCM Mentoring Program.

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Monday, 11 January 2016 15:11

Flying in Family Class: An In-Depth Series (Part I)

Written by

Family reunification is at the core of the Liberal government’s immigration policy. After our two-part in-depth piece on the pros and cons of the family class immigration stream, this new series takes a closer look at the process from the perspectives of major immigrant groups in Canada. What are the opinions and experiences of individuals and families who took this route or are in the process of doing so? We find out what works and what needs improvement. The following report is the first in our series and looks at what can happen when family reunification rules bring together and split apart a family at the same time. 

by Shan Qiao in Toronto     
 
Canada’s family reunification program brought Simei Wu’s parents to Canada, while simultaneously separating her from her husband, who chose to return to Mainland China to be with his parents.
 
Wu and her husband Feng Xie immigrated to Canada in 2008. Two years later, after they settled down in Toronto working full-time in the service sector, Wu applied to have her parents come to Canada under the Family Reunification (FR) class.
 
“I’m the only child to my parents,” she says. “They [wanted] to live with me and help me take care of my child.”

 
As a popular tradition in the Chinese community, elderly parents often help their children by looking after their newborn grandchildren and assisting with housework.
 
Wu had her first child in early 2010. At that time, both she and her husband earned just enough to pay the bills. There wasn’t too much leftover to hire a nanny or for Wu to be a stay-at-home mom.
 
“I sent applications to sponsor my parents to immigrate in May 2010,” she recalls. “I learned from CIC’s (Citizenship and Immigration Canada's) website that the average waiting time was five to eight years.”

 
She initiated the same application process for her husband’s parents later that year.

The impact of changing policies

When Wu submitted her applications there was no yearly intake cap for the parent and grandparent sponsorship program.

This soon changed, under the Conservative government, due to the large backlog of applications.

On Nov. 5, 2011, CIC imposed a two-year moratorium on new applications and announced that when they were accepted again, only 5,000 a year would be permitted. As such, the government also created the super visa allowing elderly parents to visit Canada for two year periods. The visa is good for 10 years.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“My parents were anxious when they learned the halt on new applications."[/quote]

Wu’s parents were consequently on the super visa, remaining with their daughter while waiting for their FR application to progress.

“My parents were anxious when they learned [about] the halt on new applications. They didn’t know when they will receive immigrant status and worried [that] they might not be able to afford going to the hospital if sick,” Wu shares.

In addition, when Wu initially applied, the minimum required income for a family of her size (four grandparents, two parents, one child) was $59,907. This was determined based on the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) established by Statistics Canada annually.

The Conservatives then introduced a 30 per cent increase, meaning Wu’s family would need earn $77, 879 annually in order to sponsor all four grandparents. This posed a challenge since the family had been earning a humble $60,000 a year.

Last summer, after Wu’s second child started to walk, she found out through CIC’s website that her parents’ applications had been approved and their next step was to undergo a medical check.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Everything goes back to zero for my in-laws.”[/quote]

Her husband’s parents’ applications, however, had been forwarded to a Hong Kong office for further review, meaning possibly another five to eight years of waiting.

“Everything goes back to zero for my in-laws,” Wu explains.  
 
She says the prolonged process has already consumed her relationship with her husband Feng. The different outcome of each other’s parents’ applications has caused tension between Feng and his in-laws. He now works in China to look after his ailing parents, and only returns to Canada during holidays.

Getting through the red-tape 

As a result of her own experience, Wu has become more involved in talking with her immigrant friends and helping their elderly parents to apply for family reunification. 

She and her friends formed an unofficial parents’ immigration club at the Peanut Plaza in Toronto’s Don Valley West community.   

Group members exchange information with each other on the bench outside of the Feng Tai (Foody Mart) Supermarket. They pick up free Chinese weekly newspapers and magazines, searching for knowledge-based articles or immigration consultant advertisements. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I’m concerned that doubling the application numbers will also double the process time, making the waiting time as long as eight to 10 years."[/quote]

Each November, Wu and her friends begin preparing application documents. They secure Purolator couriers and meet them right at 9 a.m. on the first work day of each new year for CIC, to hand in their application packages, which are now only accepted by mail or couriers.
 
“People pay couriers an extra $200 or more for this job,” explains Wu. “They have to line up at CIC’s office to ensure the application is sent … it’s a battle to get your hope started.”

Skeptical of changes ahead

Yang Haifeng, the president of New Canadian Community Centre, is doubtful about the Liberal government’s campaign promise to double the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents to 10,000 a year.
 
“We’re not sure if it is really 10,000 applications yet because the additional 5,000 applications are not a small amount. It takes four to five years for applicants to get their FR status approved,” Yang says.
 

“I’m concerned that doubling the application numbers will also double the process time, making the waiting time as long as eight to 10 years. How could our seniors afford to wait for such a long time?”

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