Policy

Friday, 23 October 2015 21:11

Pros and Cons of Family Reunification

Written by

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

Justin Trudeau has now officially been elected as Canada’s 29th Prime Minister and with him come promises of investment in infrastructure, electoral reform and changes to the lengthy family reunification process.

Some of those changes involve doubling the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents to 10,000 each year, speeding up permanent residency applications for spouses and raising the age limit for dependants.

These changes mark a reversal to the Conservative government’s overhaul of the family reunification process in 2011.

Limitations placed by the federal government at that time on the application process meant sons and daughters living in Canada could expect to wait up to six and a half years before their parents’ applications were processed.

Changes to regulations

Allowing immigrants to sponsor their parents and grandparents is concerning to many economists and politicians because of the heavy price tag it carries.

According to Fraser Institute Senior Fellow Martin Collacott, each grandparent ultimately costs Canadian taxpayers more than $300,000 in services and welfare benefits over the course of their time in the country.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]he government attempted to limit Family Class immigration after noticing that some relatives who were brought to Canada ... were likely to make little economic contribution to Canada."[/quote]

In his study, titled “Canadian family class immigration: The parent and grandparent component under review,” Collacott explains that the government attempted to limit Family Class immigration after noticing that some relatives who were brought to Canada were ultimately unskilled, had limited English language skills, and were likely to make little economic contribution to Canada.

Over the last few decades, these assumptions have led to an increase in the number of economic immigrants coming to Canada from 45 per cent in 1990 to 63 per cent. To contrast, family class immigrants have dropped from 34 per cent in 1990 to 25 per cent in 2014.

The group that has most acutely felt the effects of these changes are older prospective immigrants.

In 2011, the Conservative government temporarily stopped receiving applications for sponsored parents and grandparents in order to deal with a backlog of approximately 160,000 applicants.

When the stream reopened in 2014, the government limited the total number of applicants in this category to 5,000 per year.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“At the basis of this is an assumption that only economic immigrants are important.”[/quote]

Jason Kenney, who was then the Citizenship and Immigration Minister, explained these changes when they were announced, by stating: “We're not looking for more people on welfare, we're not looking to add people as a social burden to Canada. If their expectation is that they need the support of the state then they should stay in their country of origin, not come to Canada.”

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

“This is not a random phenomenon,” explains Marc Yvan Valade, a PhD candidate in policy studies at Ryerson University. “At the basis of this is an assumption that only economic immigrants are important.”

A different type of contribution

Despite these arguments, some experts argue that this focus ignores the many non-economic contributions these immigrants make.

“If it would help immigrant families to secure a stronger foothold in our society and feel even more belonging and want to contribute, well this is a gain for all of us,” says Valade. “It’s a gain not only economically in the short term, but it’s a gain in the long term as a society.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[Family reunification] is a gain not only economically in the short term, but it’s a gain in the long term as a society.”[/quote]

A study by the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary found that family separation could both exacerbate the vulnerabilities of the children in these families as well as hinder meaningful integration into Canadian culture.

“Contrary to the representation of sponsored relatives as a drain on the health-care system and social services, we heard instead that sponsored parents and grandparents were playing critical roles as child care providers that allowed their children to go out and become part of the workforce in Canada,” the study explains.

The Liberals' promise

Navdeep Bains, just-elected Liberal MP from Mississauga-Malton and a member of Trudeau’s economic advisory group, told New Canadian Media during the election campaign that the party’s policies reflect this understanding.

“Family reunification is important as it enhances the family support system,” he said. “It will have meaningful impact for new Canadians as it will enable families to earn double incomes if a couple or shift worker gets child care support from their parents. It is sound economics, as good family dynamics help people to thrive.”

In the days leading up to his party’s Oct. 19 win, long-time Liberal MP John McCallum said his party intended to “put the family reunification program back on [the] rails.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Super Visas are not a substitute for family reunification.”[/quote]

“Let’s be clear, Super Visas are not a substitute for family reunification,” McCallum said.

Introduced by the Conservatives, the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa (Super Visa) is a temporary resident permit that allows parents and grandparents to stay for up to two years in Canada per visit, and is valid for up to 10 years.

“The family reunification program is a priority for us. It is a huge issue, that is cause for anger, frustration and tears,” added McCallum, who formerly served as the party critic on the immigration file. “We see it as part of an immigration program that will welcome new Canadians with a smile instead of a scowl.”

Valade is optimistic about these changes, but says the real test will be whether sufficient resources are made available to treat demands in a reasonable time.

“Overall, the whole Family Class program should be reviewed in a way that considers the immigrant family as an asset for Canadian society, and a contribution to immigrant integration.”

With additional reporting by Election Desk Editor Ranjit Bhaskar in the Greater Toronto Area.


This is part two of a two-part series looking at family reunification policy. Read the first instalment here.

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by Fatima Syed in Toronto

While citizenship, immigration and refugee policy have been major issues in the current election campaign, not much has been said about the three-fold increase in the cost of becoming a citizen imposed by the Conservative government.

Both the Liberal party and the New Democratic Party (NDP) have talked about bringing about changes in the immigration process if elected, but have been non-committal on reducing the current $630 fee for an adult to become a citizen.

When New Canadian Media asked Liberal leader Justin Trudeau during a campaign stop about his party’s plans to ease the pathway to Canadian citizenship, he said his government would tackle these issues, including reviewing the application fee, “in a responsible way.”

In its own analysis, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has said that “While [it is assumed] that there will not be a reduction in overall demand for citizenship as a result of the fee increase, it is acknowledged that some may be required to delay their application as they will need more time to save for the new fee.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"$630 per person is a large sum of money to be charged [to] people who just recently started their lives from scratch.”[/quote]

According to Statistics Canada, 14 per cent of university-educated immigrants who’ve come to Canada in the last five years are without a job, and those that have one earn, on average, 67 per cent of the amount their Canadian-born counterparts do. Many refugees, who often find themselves working low-paying jobs, will be unable to afford the high costs.

In February 2014, the government had increased the application fees from $200 to $400, the first ever price hike since 1995.  These prices include the $100 right-of-citizenship fee, which is refunded if an application is rejected.

Then, citizenship application fees were quietly increased for the second time in one year through a Dec. 23, 2014 news release about reducing the backlog in citizenship applications.

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2RJu8gX6e8&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

‘Path to citizenship not a toll road’

Refugee advocates and others have denounced the steep fee increase arguing that it will place a great deal of pressure on the immigrant population.

In a May 12, 2014 committee hearing on the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (Bill C-24), Bernie M. Farber, a founding member of the Jewish Refugee Action Network (JRAN), said “the government is tripling the application fee, which will be added to the new cost imposed on applicants a year ago when the government privatized language testing. The price of applying for citizenship will now cost four times more than it did in 2006.”

“The path to citizenship should not be a toll road,” added Farber. “Tapping some of the most vulnerable among us for user fees is nothing more than a cash grab that is both unseemly and counterproductive.”

Bruna Pizarro Aguiar, a 23-year-old immigrant working part time at a non-profit and a pizza franchise in Toronto, still doesn’t understand why the application fee has skyrocketed.

“When you move to a new country you have to put up with unforeseen challenges,” says Aguiar. “And four years is not enough time for people to get back up on their feet. $630 per person is a large sum of money to be charged [to] people who just recently started their lives from scratch.”

However, many immigrants are resigned to the fact that they have to pay up. “Most people who come to my office with citizenship applications say it’s annoying, it’s difficult, but we’ll pay it,” says Mary Keyork, a Toronto-based immigration, citizenship and refugee lawyer.

Fee increase part of more complex issues

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander justified the price increase by saying it will help speed up processing times.

A CIC press release said 260,000 people became new Canadians in 2014, double the number from 2013. It said the application backlog has been reduced by 17 per cent since June 2014.

Many media reports have suggested that the government has been trying to increase citizenship fees for some time so that would-be citizens would cover most of the cost of processing their applications.

Previously, immigrants only paid for 20 per cent of the cost, with the rest being borne by the federal government.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[U]nlike in Australia, CIC offers no ongoing quarterly reports to show compliance.”[/quote]

Based on citizenship projections from 2014, the additional fee increase could bring in an additional $60 million to the federal reserves in 2015. However, there has been little said about where the money will go and its impact on the CIC.  

Andrew Griffithformer Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalismargues that while the increased funding allowed the government to reduce processing times, “unlike in Australia, CIC offers no ongoing quarterly reports to show compliance.”

In an interview, Griffith suggested that one of the reasons the impact of the price hikes have not been investigated in full or held accountable is because they were part of other significant changes to the citizenship process that had larger implications in Bill C-24.

“These changes were more complex and controversial so the price hike just got buried in there,” says Griffith.

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Thursday, 08 October 2015 20:03

Family Reunification: The Economic Cost

Written by

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

As the date of the federal election draws nearer, political candidates have begun to consider the costs of reuniting immigrant families – both economically and socially. 

On September 25, Justin Trudeau announced that if elected, the Liberal government would double the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents to 10,000 each year, speed up permanent residency applications for spouses and raise the age limit for dependants.

“Making it easier for families to be together here in Canada makes more than just economic sense. When Canadians have added supports, like family involvement in child care, it helps drive productivity and economic growth,” Trudeau stated.

The Conservative response to this statement was critical. “The previous Liberal governments made all of the same kinds of promises, and they left a system with seven and eight-year wait times,” said Jason Kenney, Conservative candidate and former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, at a news conference.

Kenney toted the Conservative government’s accomplishments, stating that they have increased overall immigration levels by over 20 per cent, admitting 258,000 new permanent residents per year.

The majority of these individuals, however, are classified as economic immigrants – individuals who are sought after for their applicable skill sets – not members of the family class Trudeau spoke of.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) figures, 63.4 per cent of new permanent residents were economic immigrants in 2014, while 25.6 were family class and 8.9 were refugees.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The government has made it clear that they want to favour economic immigration, so they’re putting an emphasis on making that part of things work.”[/quote]

“The main issue is that [family reunification is] just not [a] priority for government,” says Janet Dench, the Executive Director of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “The government has made it clear that they want to favour economic immigration, so they’re putting an emphasis on making that part of things work.”

Express entry

On January 1 of this year, the government announced its new policy of express entry, which expedites the application process for qualified economic immigrants.

Under express entry, applicants to the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program and the Canadian Experience Class may enter Canada in as little as six months. 

Kenney recently referred to express entry as “a system that’s fast, that connects people to the labour market so they can realize their dreams and fulfill their potential upon arrival in Canada.”

The system compares candidates against one another, ranking their skills and experience levels using a points-based system. Those who receive the highest scores are then invited to apply for permanent residency. 

In 2014, the number of economic immigrants who came to Canada was 165,088, the largest number in 12 years, except for a spike in 2010. Compare this with the 66,659 family class immigrants brought to Canada in 2014. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If you try to attract the more knowledgeable immigrants, then our market is going to globally be more advantaged over time and more competitive.”[/quote]

Marc Yvan Valade, a PhD candidate in policy studies at Ryerson University, explains that the government has prioritized these workers over families because they provide a skilled and capable workforce to Canadian employers. 

“If you try to attract the more knowledgeable immigrants – those who have diplomas, who have experience – then our market is going to globally be more advantaged over time and more competitive,” he says.

By allowing entry to those able to financially support themselves, the government also reduces costs associated with resettlement, welfare and health programs, he said.

However, he feels this belief is “short-term” as well as unverified. According to Valade, the skilled immigrant workers he has encountered during his research say that the skills they were brought to Canada for are not being valued once they enter the country. 

“Most of them are saying, ‘Well, we found out in a difficult way that our lack of Canadian experience on the market was a big hurdle and most employers didn’t want to hire us because they felt insecure with what we were bringing,’” he shares.

“They feel kind of cheated, forced into survival jobs of which they often remain prisoner,” he adds.

Refocus on the families

For Dench, this focus on economic interests distracts from those who are the most at risk – families and children seeking reunification.

“Children who are waiting to be reunited with their parents in Canada can routinely wait two, three, four years for the processing,” says Dench. “In the case of refugees in particular, the children are often left behind in a very dangerous situation.” 

According to the CIC, spouses, common-law partners or dependent children (under 19 years of age) applying to be reunited with their families in Canada can wait between six months and four years for their applications to be processed. The minimum wait time increases significantly for parents and grandparents, adopted children, children to be adopted, orphans and other family classes.

For refugees, the wait times are also exorbitantly long. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s cruel to ask spouses to wait far longer in war zones than we ask skilled workers to wait.”[/quote]

Laura Best, an immigration and refugee lawyer with Embarkation Law Corporation, works with individuals attempting to bring their family members to Canada on a daily basis. 

“It’s very frustrating and difficult to explain to people that if their partner applied to come to Canada through a skilled worker program, they could be here much faster than applying through a family class to reunite with their loved ones,” she says. “It really speaks to the priorities of the government.” 

She continues: “It’s cruel to ask spouses to wait far longer in war zones than we ask skilled workers to wait.”

Policy changes moving forward

The federal government recently announced that it was increasing its resources aimed at resettling refugees from Syria and Iraq, doubling the number of employees at the Winnipeg processing centre where all refugee applications are handled and sending more immigration officers abroad.

While Dench is happy to see that the government is going to try to reduce the red tape surrounding resettlement and immigration for refugees, she is disappointed that there haven’t been any measures specifically addressing family reunification.

“Why are not all [of] these families priorities?” she asks. “Reuniting children with their parents, that should be a priority and there’s really no excuse for Canada to be routinely taking more that six months for those children to come to Canada.” 

“It doesn’t need to all be about narrowly answering Canada’s economic needs, but reuniting families and protecting refugees are important and valid objectives that also need to be responded to,” she concludes.


This is part one of a two-part series looking at family reunification policy. The second instalment will focus on the pros and cons of family reunification.

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015 00:56

Policy Advice for the Next Minister - Part 2

Written by

by Nick Noorani and Kareem El-Assal 

It is perhaps a good thing that immigration is not a major federal campaign issue, although the issue does surface in certain immigrant-rich ridings. And, of course, it was one facet of the Globe debate in Calgary, during which the leaders of the three major federal parties spoke to their own platforms
 
However, anecdotally, we know that lots of Canadians vote for a party based on their approach to immigration: the age-old question, how many is too many? among them. 
 
New Canadian Media reached out to immigration experts across Canada to help inform any incoming government's future policy direction. We have put together six key questions and requested short, pithy responses. Part 1 of this series can be found here. Here is the take of two more experts -
 

1. What advice would you give an incoming minister of immigration and multiculturalism?

Noorani: The past five years have seen a substantial change in the immigration system. From a system that was inherited that created huge backlogs as a result of a law passed by former Government forcing every single application to be processed even if they did not meet the requirements. This led to an inefficient system creating backlogs of six to seven years that saw many candidates coming to Canada in their late forties and fifties! The former point system rewarded education and work experience at the cost of language skills. This has resulted in us having the best educated taxi drivers in the world.

I believe that the new immigration system is a more modern humane way of getting immigrants into Canada. The Express Entry system is an online application process that factors in Canada’s labor market requirements and selects immigrants who have the language proficiency required for employment as well as the education needs to contribute to Canada’s economy. Additionally, we have the ability to bring in younger candidates who can contribute positively to the Canadian economy. This is a scalable and sustainable program and I do not believe this system should be tampered with.

I would like to see Multiculturalism as being harmonious with being Canadian.

Louis LaFontaine, the great co-founder of the union that would eventually lead to our Confederation, had this to say about being Canadian when addressing his electors at Terrebonne in 1848:

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada is the land of our ancestors. It is our country as it must be the adopted country of the different peoples which come from around the globe, to make their way into its vast forests to build their homes and place their hopes. Like us, their paramount desire must be the happiness and prosperity of Canada. This is the heritage which they should endeavour to transmit to their descendants in this young and hospitable country. Above all, their children must be like us, Canadians.[/quote]

El-Assal: The Conference Board of Canada is a non-partisan organization.

2. Would you change the relative proportion of economic, family unification and humanitarian (refugee) migrants arriving in Canada every year?

El-Assal: While Canada’s immigration system has always been driven primarily by demographic and economic objectives, family-class immigrants and refugees remain essential elements of the country’s immigration system. As such, adequate supports should continue to be in place to enable the effective attraction, settlement, integration and retention of all three classes of immigrants.

Noorani: Economic category: According to the Conference Board of Canada, our fertility rate stands at 1.6 which is well below our replacement rate of 2.1. This means a big gap and the report calls for numbers to rise to 350,000 per annum. The largest proportion should be economic class so that we have the population growth additionally, being high skilled professionals, we can expect an economic boost as well.

3. What's the ideal number of newcomers (including refugees) that Canada should take in every year (compared to the current average)?

Noorani: Answered above.

El-Assal: According to the Conference Board’s Canadian Outlook Long-Term Economic Forecast, Canada requires 350,000 immigrants arriving annually by 2035 to sustain healthy economic growth. Of course, this depends on Canada’s absorptive capacity (i.e. being able to effectively settle and integrate immigrants and provide essential supports and services to the newcomers), while also ensuring that Canada’s safety and security is upheld.

4. Should multiculturalism be official policy? What needs to change?

El-Assal: Multiculturalism is an official Canadian government policy, expressed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Canada’s multiculturalism policy, and approach to settlement and integration, encourages immigrants to become full participants in all aspects of Canadian life. This process, which is commonly referred to as nation building, helps promote social harmony in the country. As a result, there is widespread acceptance of immigration in Canada as illustrated by a recent Environics Institute survey which also found that Canadians see multiculturalism as one of the nation’s most important symbols.

Noorani: Good, bad or ugly, multiculturalism is the glue that holds us all together as a country and I would be averse to changing anything because it works! 

5. Should provinces and municipalities have a greater role in immigration? What role should that be?

Noorani: Absolutely! Their roles as so critical to positive outcomes for newcomers. Municipalities are the micro level and Mayors need to take a leadership role in helping immigrants beyond song, dance and ethnic food!

El-Assal: Federal, provincial and municipal governments are all critical actors in Canada’s immigration system, and work together to foster an approach towards immigration that allows the three levels of government to achieve mutual objectives. Inter-government collaboration between the senior levels of government has strengthened in recent decades as a result of increased dialogue and formal Federal/Provincial/Territorial agreements. More progress on collaboration will be needed to ensure that immigrants reach their full economic potential – credential recognition, bridge training, settlement services, language training, housing, and access to transportation are among the issues that will require expanded effort by all three levels of government.

6. What can a new government do differently to enable "foreign credential recognition?

El-Assal: FCR has been a challenge in Canada that governments have been trying to address for decades. To make further progress, governments, and key stakeholders including business, regulatory bodies, post-secondary educational institutions, and immigrant-serving organizations will need to invest more resources to ensure viable solutions are attained nationally and regionally on the scale required to increase national productivity and innovation performance and close the income gap currently experienced by immigrants. 

Noorani: The FCR program along with the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications are great initiatives and need to be brought to the logical conclusion. Additionally the single pan-Canadian standard should be complemented by a single point of contact and Web portal, which would streamline and simplify the licensing process and better align it to the new labour market demand-driven immigration system (i.e. Express Entry). To increase efficiency and transparency, the assessment and recognition process should be accessible pre-arrival and online to the fullest extent possible. Governments should collaborate with regulators and other stakeholders so that prospective immigrants are required to begin the credential recognition process as part of their immigration application. 

Related reading: Policy advice for the next/new #cdnimm minister


Kareem El-Assal is a Research Associate at the Conference Board of Canada. He plays a key role in the Conference Board’s National Immigration Centre, a five-year research intensive initiative that will culminate in a National Immigration Action Plan for Canada. He is developing the agenda for the Conference Board’s Canadian Immigration Summit 2016, a major two-day event that will be hosted in Ottawa on April 4-5, 2016. 

A social entrepreneur and an immigrant advocate, Nick Noorani is the founding publisher of Canadian Immigrant magazine and Immigrant Networks, and author of the best-selling book Arrival Survival Canada,  published by Oxford University Press.

 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015 13:32

Policy Advice for the Next Minister

Written by

by Andrew Griffith, Robert Vineberg & Richard Kurland

It is perhaps a good thing that immigration is not a major federal campaign issue, although the issue does surface in certain immigrant-rich ridings. And, of course, it was one facet of last week's Globe debate in Calgary, during which the leaders of the three major federal parties spoke to their own platforms
 
However, anecdotally, we know that lots of Canadians vote for a party based on their approach to immigration: the age-old question, how many is too many? among them. 
 
It is in this context that New Canadian Media reached out to immigration experts across Canada to help inform any incoming government's future policy direction. We have put together six key questions and requested short, pithy responses. Here is the take of three experts -

1. What advice would you give an incoming minister of immigration and multiculturalism?

Griffith: Dont neglect citizenship.

If a change in government, maintain increased integrity measures but reduce fees, drop knowledge and language testing for 14-17 year olds (and restore discretion for all), stop revocation for dual citizens for treason or terror, implement oral hearings for misrepresentation, prepare a new and more inclusive citizenship study guide (Discover Canada), set in place an all-party or broad consultative group to recommend changes to the 2014 Citizenship Act.

If no change in government, implement service standards with automatic publishing of results, provide reduced citizenship fees for low-income applicants (e.g., refugees), fully abide by any court decisions regarding citizenship admissibility and revocation and simplify the language in Discover Canada.

Vineberg: We need to return humanity to immigration. Building a nation is not simply bringing workers chosen by employers.  Our immigration officers abroad need to be authorized to choose nation builders in addition to employees. 

A pool of potential immigrants is a good idea but Express Entry is far too complicated.

Kurland: Get good advisors who know the facts and who don’t have an agenda. 

2. Would you change the relative proportion of economic, family unification and humanitarian (refugee) migrants arriving in Canada every year?

Vineberg: Canada’s refugees dropped from 36,000 in 2005 to 23,000 in 2014. Canada can do better than that.  Family Class is steady at about 60,000 or 25% of immigration over the past decade but is not meeting demand. If levels were increased to 320,000 the Family Class could grow to 80,000.

Kurland: That depends on the Minister’s needs.

Griffith: No strong views.

3. What's the ideal number of newcomers (including refugees) that Canada should take in every year (compared to the current average)?

Vineberg: One of the reasons we need more temporary foreign workers is that immigration has not kept pace with the growing population and economy.  Whereas 250,000 represented .9% of population in 1993, it only represents 0.7% today.  Immigration levels need to be raised to at least 0.9% or 320,000 per year.

Griffith: Set in place an advisory body, broadly-based, that would review the social and economic integration data, nationally and regionally, to provide recommendations to government for longer-term targets and assess whether current levels and mix are appropriate.

Kurland: No such thing as an ideal number.

4. Should multiculturalism be official policy? What needs to change?

Griffith: It already is (i.e., Multiculturalism Act, Charter s 27, employment equity and human rights legislation).

Consideration of whether a Multiculturalism Commissioner reporting to Parliament is needed to provide focus for reasonable accommodation discussions, equity and other related multiculturalism issues given lack of attention within CIC. Rebalance settlement funding to provide small additional program (G&C) resources for second generation integration issues. Maintain funding for police-reported hate crimes Statistics Canada annual report. Restore the mandatory Census and for the 2021 Census year, add a supplementary Ethnic Diversity Survey (last done in 2001).

Vineberg: The Multiculturalism policy is fine. The politically motivated multicultural grants undermine the program and ought to be eliminated.

Kurland: Don't know.

5. Should provinces and municipalities have a greater role in immigration? What role should that be?

Vineberg: Provinces have a Constitutional right to be involved in immigration and should be allowed to bring in more immigrants. Raising immigration levels to 320,000 would provide lots of room to do so.

As most immigrants settle in cities, municipalities need to be part of the settlement and integration planning process.

Kurland: No, there is no greater role required. The provinces and the feds both have jurisdictional responsibility. 

Griffith: No strong views.

6. What can a new government do differently to enable "foreign credential recognition?

Kurland: Go transnational. What is good in one country may be good in another country. So if Australia has accredited a person, see if that accreditation would be valid in Canada.

Griffith: Provide frameworks and tools to increase mindfulness of implicit bias and discrimination within certifying bodies regarding standards and qualifications to ensure that the criteria used are objective.

Vineberg: The federal government needs to create better incentives for the provinces and territories to create national standards for credential recognition and if they do not, as with the national securities regulator, the federal government should create national bodies to do so and encourage provinces to join.


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. His latest book is Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote. He is also an advisor on NCM's board of directors.

Robert Vineberg’s career in the Canadian Federal Public Service spanned over 35 years, most of which were with the immigration program, serving abroad, in policy positions at national headquarters in Ottawa and, most recently, as Director General of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Prairies and Northern Territories Region, based in Winnipeg.  He retired from the public service in 2008 and is now volunteering with immigration and cultural organizations and researching the history of immigration policy. 

Richard Kurland is a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer and the Editor-in-Chief of Lexbase, Canada's largest immigration periodical.

 

Tuesday, 01 September 2015 18:46

Research Watch #7: Enclaves and Earnings

Written by

by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

Several observers have noted that immigration is, generally, a non-partisan issue in Canada. That probably explains why it's not a topic of debate during this current federal election campaign. But, it's safe to say that the next government will inevitably be confronted with competing demands on the immigration file.

In this edition of Research Watch, we offer the next Minister of Immigration a look at two studies that highlight why federal policymakers need to understand where immigrants settle, how they integrate and factors that determine their economic success in Canada. 

The truth about ethnic enclaves

A recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the notion that communities with high populations of visible-minority immigrants are rife with socio-economic marginalization and cultural isolation.

In the report “Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” researcher Daniel Hiebert sets out to answer whether these enclaves are the so-called “ghettos” they are often perceived to be.

While the answer proves complex and varied, the key finding of Hiebert’s research is that, in Canada, this tends not to be the case.

[quote align="center" color="#999999]"[I]t seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.[/quote]

This is particularly true of neighbourhoods where there is a dominant ethnocultural group (twice the size of any other group) living alongside several smaller groups.

“[In these communities] the stereotype of the poor immigrant neighbourhood doesn’t work,” Hiebert says. “Where there is one large group, there’s probably some sort of internal capacity for helping people because of the scale of that group.”

He suggests that this is the case because social capital is strong in these communities. Immigrants are more likely to find work more easily or have success in small business ventures because of shared commonalities with other residents.

In addition, the many other cultural groups in the enclave prove to be an asset, Hiebert explains, offering what he calls “bridging” social capital – the type of learning that comes from being exposed to other cultures that helps integrate into mainstream society.

Communities with a high percentage of visible minorities that tended to have more socio-economic challenges were those where no dominant group was present – rather, just several small cultural groups residing together.

For Hiebert, the findings highlight three important ideas.

First, he says, “Cultural diversity is everywhere.” He cites an example: in the past, an organization in “Chinatown” may have found it effective to exclusively serve Chinese Canadians, but with what is now known about the diverse make-up of communities, that type of exclusivity may mean some residents are left behind.

Second, it is time to re-evaluate services for immigrants overall. Hiebert points out that many present-day services were developed in the 1970s when immigrants were settling in inner-city locations rather than suburban ones, and while that is changing, agencies may not be keeping pace.

Finally, Hiebert concludes his study by stressing that in order to truly understand and serve these ethnocultural communities effectively, municipal governments must be at the decision-making table and engaged in the development and reform of immigration policy.

“If cities are the places where most immigrants are settling and integrating,” says Hiebert, “it seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.”

Contributors to economic success

With Canada continuing to compete in the global market to attract economic immigrants, a better understanding of predicting future earnings and success here is vital.

A recently released study from Statistics Canada based on historical data observing two cohorts of immigrants from the late 1990s and the early 2000s may help in this area. 

The study shows that, in the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.

“Basically, it appears that economic principal applicants with Canadian work experience at the time of landing are treated more like Canadians in the labour market in terms of returns to education and experience,” explains researcher Aneta Bonikowska, adding the same goes for having strong official-language skills.

But in the long-term (over a period of five to 10 years), this changes. Age and education play a factor.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.[/quote]

“Even though we don’t see a big return right off the bat, the earning trajectories of higher, better-educated immigrants are steeper than lower-educated immigrants – over time you see a gap in earnings developing on average,” says Bonikowska.

There is also a correlation between all four characteristics that affects the long-term predictions of an immigrant’s earnings.

As Bonikowska explains, the economic returns on age (the younger an immigrant, the higher the earnings, typically) and education at landing depend on that immigrant’s official-language skills and previously accumulated Canadian work experience.

While the Stats Canada report is meant to be an exercise in analyzing historical data – not a forecast of the future – Bonikowska points out that, from a policy standpoint, if more detailed information was collected from arriving economic immigrants, better predictions could be made about their potential success.

She says factors like the nature of an immigrant’s study, what institution he or she studied at and what level of education was achieved prior to arriving in Canada would give a better sense of who did well from the cohorts studied.

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by Rosanna Haroutounian (@rharoutounian) in Montreal, Quebec

The Quebec government is working on changes to its immigration policy that will bring it in line with the federal Express Entry program, which aims to match newcomers with employer needs.

In the new system, immigration applicants will present a “declaration of interest” that will help match their skills to the demands of the market place.

The changes come too late for Ndaw Mamadou, who immigrated to Quebec City in June 2014 and now plans to leave for Toronto.

Born in Senegal, Mamadou studied intercultural communications in France before applying to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.

“Even if the government tries to facilitate the integration of immigrants, the reality is different,” says Mamadou. “The lack of quebecois experience is the main obstacle.” 

Skepticism over changes

Mamadou, who already holds a BA in English literature, says he wants to go to Toronto to improve his English. He is just one of the thousands of immigrants who arrive in Quebec, but soon depart for other parts of Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Your average business is not even remotely connected to immigrants.”[/quote]

“Just because the Ministry makes these changes or Citizenship [and Immigration] makes changes at the federal level, doesn’t mean that employers have to accept them,” says Patricia Rimok, president of Immigration Business Network (ib2ib). “Your average business is not even remotely connected to immigrants.”

The Montreal-based ib2ib is an online business resource that provides trading opportunities for immigrants who invest or start businesses in Quebec, Canada, or the U.S. 

Rimok also worked for Quebec’s government from 2003 to 2011, first as chief of staff for the Ministry of Immigration and then as President of the Conseil des relations interculturelles du Québec (Council of Intercultural Relations), an advisory and member board under the Minister of Immigration's portfolio. 

She explains that employers do not have the capacity to evaluate skills that immigrants bring to Quebec from other countries. 

“When someone does come from out of the country and applies, the evaluations that are done are quite reductive because immigrants who come in can do five, six, seven times more than what’s asked,” she explains. 

Mamadou says that many immigrants who apply for the comparative evaluation of studies also see their international diplomas undervalued, which he says hinders their integration and professional development. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A] lot more can be done to ensure immigrants don’t lose out on using their full range of skills.[/quote]

“We would expect that immigrants with higher levels of education would be accessing higher-level jobs because of the skills they bring, but that’s not what happens,” explains Rimok. 

She says that while she welcomes the changes, a lot more can be done to ensure immigrants don’t lose out on using their full range of skills. 

Changes ‘big on paper’ but not in reality 

Quebec’s immigration policy has been in place since 1990. 

Under the Canada-Québec Accord Relating to Immigration and Temporary Admission of Aliens, Quebec can set its own annual immigration targets and select which immigrants settle in the province (with the exception of refugees and family reunification classes). 

Every immigration application is processed in chronological order, regardless of whether it meets selection criteria in areas like language, skills and country of origin.  

Elsewhere, the federal government determines the number of immigrants admitted and the selection process. 

Quebec’s Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil announced in January that the policy would be updated to bring it in line with national immigration rules, which were reformed in 2014.  

Public hearings were held earlier this year from Jan. 28 to Feb. 10, bringing together stakeholders such as immigrants, industry representatives and experts from organizations serving newcomers. 

On the first day of public hearings, the commission heard from Jacques Frémont, president of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights). 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]79 per cent of Quebecers are white francophones, yet they hold about 95 per cent of senior management positions in the province’s civil service.[/quote]

He pointed to the level of representation of racialized persons in the public service to illustrate the magnitude of the challenge the government faces, which he said should serve as a model for other sectors of employment. 

Visible minorities and white Quebecers whose mother tongue is not French or English make up about 12 per cent of Quebec’s population, but according to a 2013 CBC investigation only about seven per cent of Quebec government employees belong to these categories. 

The same study found that about 79 per cent of Quebecers are white francophones, yet they hold about 95 per cent of senior management positions in the province’s civil service. 

“In the media, the government and Minister [Weil] talk about these big changes,” says Stephan Reichhold, director of TCRI, a group of organizations working with refugees, immigrants, and those without status in Quebec. Reichhold represented the group during one of the public hearings. 

“The changes are big on paper and in discourse, but in reality, they will not result in big differences.” 

Another series of consultations will be held on updating the Immigration Act, resulting in a bill to be presented to Quebec’s legislature, along with the new policy, this fall. 

In the spring, all the pieces will come together in a new Immigration Act for the province.

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by Ranjit Bhaskar (@ranjit17) in Mississauga, Ontario

Canada will persist with its new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital plan despite the less-than-enthusiastic response to it so far.

Pilot programs like this always take time to be known in a competitive global environment,” Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Tuesday in Mississauga, Ont. at a meeting with a select group of media.

Canada has so far received just six applications for the pilot program as of June 8, according to data obtained by Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer through an Access to Information request.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Minister Alexander ruled out easing the entry norms under the pilot to make it popular like the previous one.[/quote]

Popularly referred to as the “millionaire visa,” at its launch in January it was expected that at least 50 foreigners would join the plan, under which applicants must be far richer than what was stipulated previously for a similar program.

Would-be immigrants under this class must now invest a minimum of C$2 million in Canada for a 15-year period and must have a net worth of at least C$10 million. Among other new criteria, they must also be able to speak English or French.

Launched in the mid-1980s, the old plan fast-tracked visas for foreigners with a net worth of C$800,000 and C$400,000 to invest. The amounts were later upped to a net worth of C$1.6 million and C$800,000 to invest.  

The old plan was very popular, particularly with Chinese investors. As demand surged, the program was frozen in 2012 to clear backlog. It was scrapped last year amid criticism over allowing the global rich to buy their way into Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Minister Chris Alexander] said the program was the first of its kind in the world and proof that Canada’s immigration programs will remain the most agile and responsive. “We are prepared to adjust.”[/quote]

Minister Alexander ruled out easing the entry norms under the pilot to make it popular like the previous one. “Keeping program standards high will ensure that Canadians continue to benefit from our immigration programs,” he said.

The minister said the pilot was only one among a number of pathways to attract investment into Canada. He pointed out the Start-Up Visa Program that hopes to attract immigrant entrepreneurs who have the potential to build innovative companies that can compete on a global scale and create jobs.

He said the program was the first of its kind in the world and proof that Canada’s immigration programs will remain the most agile and responsive. “We are prepared to adjust.”

Responding to new high in immigration levels

On the controversial aspects of Bill C-24, which came into force last month, Alexander said his government has only built on existing rules. “The new rules are meant to weed out citizens of convenience who view the Canadian passport only as an insurance policy.”

He said Canada has increased its response to refugee resettlement in view of the crisis in Iraq and Syria along with renewing its commitment to reuniting families.  

The minister said in the past three years close to 75,000 people have come in on family reunification visas and 50,000 have been issued super visas.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]There has also been an increase in the numbers of visitors from countries like Brazil, China and India on account of new 10-year multiple entry visas, [Minister Alexander] added.[/quote]

On the issue of reducing the age of dependents to 18, Alexander said it was done to make it consistent with laws of the land, which consider those above that age as independent adults.

“When these young adults apply for residency on their own, their pathway would be faster as the points system gives them a huge advantage,” he explained.

There has also been an increase in the numbers of visitors from countries like Brazil, China and India on account of new 10-year multiple entry visas, he added.

“These visitors are economically significant for the Canadian economy along with international students, whose intake has doubled over the past few years. Last year the number crossed 64,000, up from 29,000.”    

The minister said international students are potential immigrants through a new channel.

With 262,000 people entering in 2014 alone, he said the current level of immigration is a new high in Canadian history.

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by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario

With the federal election approaching, it seems a fitting time to gauge the pulse of the Canadian public to find out where it stands on issues of immigration and multiculturalism. It’s also an opportune time to take note of the challenges members of specific ethno-cultural groups – often invisible in mainstream discussion – face on a day-to-day basis. In this edition of Research Watch, we examine emerging research that offers insight into both these areas.

Public opinion on multiculturalism: not as bad as you might think

The Canadian public’s opinion on multiculturalism and immigration has changed remarkably little over the last three to five years – it remains relatively positive. This is according to the Environics Institute’s recently released report, which aims to update the organization’s ongoing research on topics of immigration and multiculturalism dating back to the 1970s.

This overarching highlight of the report is particularly notable, says Environics executive director Keith Neuman, because recent commentaries in the media and public discourse regarding things like concern of domestic terrorism, citizenship and immigration policy reform, and international refugee issues may suggest otherwise. 

“It would not be surprising to find that perhaps Canadians are becoming more weary of immigrants, people coming with different cultures – but we didn’t find that.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][W]hile there is a tendency to think that Quebec residents are the least tolerant of immigration and multiculturalism, there were some areas in the study that proved otherwise.[/quote]

What was also particularly interesting, Neuman adds, is that while there is a tendency to think that Quebec residents are the least tolerant of immigration and multiculturalism, there were some areas in the study that proved otherwise.

For example, 68 per cent of Quebec residents surveyed expressed increased concern about the treatment of Muslim people – the highest percentage across all regions surveyed. 

“This tells us that we should be careful not to peg Quebecers as the most anti-immigrant [or anti-multicultural] part of the country,” Neuman says.

The study put forth a range of statements such as “Overall, immigration has a positive impact on the economy,” or “There are too many immigrants coming into this country who are not adopting Canadian values” and then compared the national responses in 2015 from those over the last 30 years. The results were analyzed based on respondents’ province of residence, age, socio-economic profile and political-party allegiance.

Neuman points out that while the findings based on political party are in line with previous research – indicating supporters of the New Democratic Party are the most positive about immigration and multiculturalism and those of the Conservatives the least – the gap is gradually narrowing.

“In some of the key questions, some who support the Conservatives become more positive about immigration and multiculturalism,” he explains. “The difference has been diminishing, not growing larger.”

Acknowledging complexity in racial identity

What it means to be Somali, Canadian, Muslim, Black, and in many instances all of those is a large part of the identity crisis faced by Somali-Canadians – both immigrants and non – states the first half of “The 360 Project: Addressing Racism in Toronto” report released last week by the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The Somali Canadian is being profiled on two levels, race and religion, and after September 11, the Somali has been profiled more so on Islamophobia. These are the layers … we are newcomers, refugees, Black and Muslim."[/quote]

“It’s a discussion that one has of ‘who am I?’” explains Mohamed Elmi, research assistant at the Diversity Institute and a member of the team who put together the final report, which was based on a one-year study.

Raised in New Brunswick and having lived in Halifax, Ottawa and Toronto, Elmi says the discussion of identity has resonated with him no matter where in Canada he went. “[It’s] the idea that in different spaces I’m Somali and in public spaces I’m Canadian.”

His sentiment is echoed throughout the report’s segment titled “Addressing the Discrimination Experienced by Somali Canadians in Toronto,” which combines the voices of 15 focus-group participants with various academic literature to address key issues affecting the community in relation to racial identity, education, housing, justice, employment and health.

“Everyone is Black in Africa,” says one participant. “You come here [to Toronto], you are identified as Black, and with that you are put into a box that is very confusing … Parents don’t know what Black is, however, the young people know that there is a Black experience.” 

Another participant speaks to the multiple dimensions of discrimination members of the community face. “The Somali Canadian is being profiled on two levels, race and religion, and after September 11, the Somali has been profiled more so on Islamophobia. These are the layers … we are newcomers, refugees, Black and Muslim."

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][S]ystemic change needs to come from an understanding that lumping people together based on wide-sweeping categories such as “racialized” or “visible minorities” isn’t effective when creating community programs and services.[/quote]

More than anything, Elmi says the report, which details challenges experienced by the Somali Canadian community such as the cycle of poverty and racial profiling by police, sets out to “give voice” to a marginalized community.

“It was a conversation about race, a conversation about identity, a conversation about community,” he explains. While it doesn’t make any conclusive policy recommendations, he adds, what it is calling for is “the need to move for systemic change.”

Wendy Cukier, founder of the Diversity Institute and one of the lead authors of the report, says that part of that systemic change needs to come from an understanding that lumping people together based on wide-sweeping categories such as “racialized” or “visible minorities” isn’t effective when creating community programs and services. It’s important to consider the intersection of many complex challenges often experienced by marginalized communities, she says.

“There are other issues that have a huge impact on the experience of people in that broad category,” she says. “We know, for example, that within that broad category, different ethnic groups experience different levels of discrimination.”

The second portion of the report focuses on the discrimination experienced by racialized LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer) youth who are homeless in the Greater Toronto Area, particularly in terms of challenges with the police, feelings of isolation and a lack of culturally appropriate services. 

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Activists from ethnic communities in Canada said they will fight a new law that changes the Citizenship Act which gives government the power to strip the citizenship of anyone convicted of terrorism, treason, or spying.

Former University professor and now Filipino community leader Aprodicio Laquian denounced the law as very "un-Canadian" and vowed that Filipino groups will fight this harsh policy.

"Those are all very negative policies and we have been writing and sending letters to the parliamentarians in Ottawa objecting to all of these because these are really discriminatory," Laquian said.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is taking a two-pronged approach to reverse the law.

"If this law can’t be repealed and won’t be repealed in the near future, then we’ll turn to litigation," said Carmen Chiu, senior counsel of the association.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The Canadian Bar Association has warned that the changes to the citizenship law will open the floodgates to more offences being added to the list to justify citizenship-stripping.[/quote]

The law also makes it harder to become a Canadian citizen by increasing the length of time to four years and increasing the citizenship fees. This will not take into account time already spent working in Canada and will affect applications from former live-in caregivers, and temporary foreign workers.

"It’s going to be a setback as far as the fees are concerned, medyo mahal nga, you have to wait longer as well," said Effie Garcia of the Tri-Cities Filipino Canadian Network.

Former caregiver Nina Tolentino added, "When you came here as a live-in caregiver, you wait for two to three years and then to become a permanent resident and another four years. 

The Canadian Bar Association has warned that the changes to the citizenship law will open the floodgates to more offences being added to the list to justify citizenship-stripping.

To date, more than 100,000 people have already signed the petition to repeal the law.

'Second-class' status for some

The new immigration law enacted by the Canadian government dictates that ‘second class’ citizens – immigrants who obtained Canadian citizenship - may have their citizenship status stripped at any point, critics said.

Under this law, the only Canadians who can never lose their citizenship are those born in Canada who do not have another nationality (and are not eligible to apply for another nationality). No matter what crimes they may be accused of, these ‘first-class’ citizens can never have their citizenship taken away. On the other hand, Canadians with another nationality (and those who are eligible to obtain another nationality) now have second-class status, even if they were born in Canada: under Bill C-24, their citizenship can be stripped.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Many have also pointed out that some Canadians may not even be aware that they hold dual citizenships based on their origins, marriage and other family ties.[/quote]

There was stiff opposition to the rule in Canada because many claimed that since this cannot happen to those born in Canada, the new law would be discriminatory. The government of Canada has justified the new law saying that was meant to protect Canadians.

“Our Government knows that there is no higher purpose for any government than to ensure the safety and security of its citizens . . . that is why we are taking steps to confront the ever evolving threat of jihadi terrorism by revoking citizenship of dual nationals who have been convicted of heinous crimes such as terrorism, espionage for foreign governments or taking up arms against Canada and our brave men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces,” Chris Alexander, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister was quoted as saying.

Legal experts warn that the list of offences that could lead to the removal of citizenship might be expanded in the future. Additionally, Bill C-24 punishes criminal activity with exile – a practice abandoned hundreds of years ago that has no place in today’s democracy.

As a result of the new provisions that came into effect last month, warnings to dual citizens have been circulating online, especially on Facebook. Some posts warn that dual citizens, including those who were born in Canada, now have “second-class status” and that their Canadian citizenship can be “stripped arbitrarily.”

Many have also pointed out that some Canadians may not even be aware that they hold dual citizenships based on their origins, marriage and other family ties.

“Canadians with another nationality (and those who are eligible to obtain another nationality) now have second-class status,” the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said earlier this month.

Rocco Galati, a Toronto-based constitutional lawyer, told CTVNews.ca that a court challenge of Bill C-24 is in the works. He expects it to proceed in the late fall or early winter.

He said that although controversy over Bill C-24 has been brewing since its introduction, there is renewed interest since it became law.

What else is in Bill C-24?

Also known as the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, the bill received Royal Assent and became law in June 2014. The new legislation includes major changes to the citizenship application and approval process. That includes requiring permanent residents to be physically present in Canada longer than before in order to gain citizenship, higher fees for citizenship applications and expanding the age bracket for citizenship tests.

The new law is also prompting fears among some ethnic communities that they'll be unfairly stigmatized.

Those from countries that don't allow dual citizenship told government focus groups last year they had no issue with the law stripping of Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or spying offences.

But other participants said while they agreed people convicted of such offences should be punished, they were alarmed by the potential longer-term implications of the measures.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The government has given no indication that the Strengthening Citizenship Act would be expanded to apply to other crimes; the revocation measures were explained as a direct response to ongoing global terrorist threats.[/quote]

"For participants from places where dual citizenship is permitted, such as India or the Philippines, there were clear concerns that dual citizens as a whole were being stigmatized and singled out," says a newly-published report on the Citizenship and Immigration department sessions.

". . . It also left many wondering whether they should still consider retaining dual citizenship with their original home country out of fear that their Canadian citizenship could be revoked more easily by virtue of the fact that they are dual citizens or out of fear that with time, the criteria for revoking citizenship for a dual citizen is expanded."

The ability to revoke a dual national's Canadian citizenship was contained in a law passed last year that overhauled many elements of the Canadian citizenship program. The revocation provisions only came into effect last month.

The government has given no indication that the Strengthening Citizenship Act would be expanded to apply to other crimes; the revocation measures were explained as a direct response to ongoing global terrorist threats.

Human rights groups have argued the new provisions effectively create two tiers of Canadian citizenship, one for those born in Canada and one for those born elsewhere.

Several have included the issue as part of their briefs to the United Nations Human Rights Committee's scheduled review this week of how well Canada is meeting its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In the focus groups, however, what seemed to be more on participants' minds were the other changes to the citizenship process, including the longer residency requirement and new fees.

"The main criticism participants had about the television concept was the reference to protecting all Canadians from dual citizens who commit terrorist acts. This was seen as out of place in an otherwise 'feel good ad,'" the report said.

"On a related note, participants questioned why the advertisement provided detail regarding the revocation policy, which applies to the few, while being vague on other changes that would impact on more individuals who are applying for citizenship."

The series of 14 focus groups were held in December in B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec to solicit the views of those who have been in Canada less than 10 years on a range of issues.


Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

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