Policy

by Susan Korah (@waterlilypool) in Ottawa

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens in the famous opening lines of his novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

A similar scenario was set up when two parliamentarians claimed that Canada is a leader in combating family violence in diverse communities, while two keynote speakers from the front lines of social work and advocacy argued that recent changes in immigration policy actually exacerbated the problem.

This exchange of views took place at the conference titled “Impact of family violence: Continuing the conversation with South Asian and diverse communities,” organized by the Social Services Network (SSN). A Toronto-based not-for profit charitable organization, SSN was established in response to the United Way of York Region’s finding that the South Asian community there was underserved by mainstream service providers.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Minister Chris]Alexander listed a number of government accomplishments that he said would “make sure immigration is not a pathway to violence,” and put Canada in “a role of leadership.”[/quote]

This conference was the fifth in a series of annual discussion forums hosted by SSN to connect the South Asian and other collectivist communities with all the key sectors involved in violence prevention and response.

The focus of the conference was finding solutions and strategies and supporting communities, whose voices are silenced through fear and shame, said Dr. Naila Butt, Executive Director of SSN.

The Government’s Role in Combatting Family Violence

Special guest speaker, Minster of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, who tabled Bill S-7 or the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act in Parliament to tackle forced marriages, underage marriages and polygamy, said: “These are issues around which there is a growing groundswell, especially among newcomers. They have chosen this country, and we have a responsibility to combat such things as forced marriage and domestic violence.”

Alexander listed a number of government accomplishments that he said would, “make sure immigration is not a pathway to violence,” and put Canada in “a role of leadership.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Family violence is not unique to South Asians; it is universal, and happens in developed, as well as developing, nations.” - Senator Salma Ataullahjan[/quote]

Alexander said that one of these was former Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s initiative against forced marriage.

“On the immigration front we have been extremely active in the last nine years,” Alexander continued, citing such measures as conditional permanent residency and tools to detect and prevent marriages of convenience, forced marriage and human smuggling.

He also said that the government had put an end to proxy marriages and marriages by fax, which, perhaps surprisingly, used to be accepted as valid in Canada.

“But all this is still not enough,” he said, adding that Bill S-7 (which also amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to exclude polygamists) has passed in the Senate and is soon to be passed in the House of Commons.

Senator Salma Ataullahjan, of Pakistani origin herself, said at the conference: “Family violence is not unique to South Asians; it is universal, and happens in developed, as well as developing, nations.”

Describing her work on this issue at the international level, as a member of the Inter Parliamentary Union, she echoed Alexander’s statement that Canada has been a world leader in the effort to eliminate family violence and violence against women and girls. She added that parliaments have a key role to play in this.

Problems with Recent Immigration Policy

Keynote speaker Dr. Hannana Siddiqui of the Southall Black Sisters – a not-for-profit organization set up in 1979 to meet the needs of Black (Asian and African-Caribbean) and minority ethnic women in the U.K. – was critical of the name of the Bill. She had been called upon to give evidence by video-link to the Canadian Senate as it deliberated on Bill S-7.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Don’t use inflammatory language. For example, child abuse is barbaric, but it is not regarded as specific to one culture. Culturalizing forced marriage and similar practices will only lead to more discrimination against minorities.” - Dr. Hannana Siddiqui[/quote]

“I have concerns about the name of that Bill,” she said. “We don’t have to call these practices ‘barbaric’ or ‘cultural’ because then one can blame ‘culture’ for these unacceptable actions.”

She suggested that the Bill be renamed. “Don’t use inflammatory language,” she advised. “For example, child abuse is barbaric, but it is not regarded as specific to one culture. Culturalizing forced marriage and similar practices will only lead to more discrimination against minorities.”

She also cautioned against culturalizing honour-based killing, the form that domestic violence takes in communities with extremely conservative values around honour and shame. “It’s about gender inequality and patriarchy, so don’t culturalize it,” she said.

Tracing the history of her organization and of the Black feminist movement in the U.K., she said the first step, as in Canada, was to get rid of the reluctance to 'wash our dirty linen in public,' and to acknowledge and name the problem of family violence.

She said that in the 1970s, the State adopted a laissez-faire approach and tolerated anything as long as it fell under the umbrella of “culture.”

“This was liberal multiculturalism,” she said. “Respect everyone’s culture, don’t criticize and don’t interfere.”

This did not help her cause at all she explained, because: “Multiculturalism is no excuse for moral blindness.”

With the criminalization of forced marriage in the U.K. last year, the pendulum has swung away from liberal multiculturalism, she said. However, the problem with laws like this, and Canada’s Bill S-7, is making them effective, she added.

“It might be just driving the issue of forced marriage underground, because the victims, mostly young women, would be fearful of putting their parents in jail.”

She said financial constraints are a further obstacle to enforcing such laws. With the climate of austerity, and the consequent cutbacks in government funding, it would be difficult for victims to meet legal and other expenses, she pointed out.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Dr. Rupaleem Bhuyan, assistant professor at the faculty of social work, University of Toronto and the event’s second keynote speaker, was critical of recent (2008 to 2014) immigration policy changes, which she said actually make life more difficult for women victims of family violence.[/quote]

Identifying herself as the child of South Asian parents, Dr. Rupaleem Bhuyan, assistant professor at the faculty of social work, University of Toronto and the event’s second keynote speaker, was critical of recent (2008 to 2014) immigration policy changes, which she said actually make life more difficult for women victims of family violence.

Bhuyan has experience working as the principal investigator for the Migrant Mothers Project, a participatory action research project that works with a network of anti-violence against women organizations, legal advocates and immigrant women in Toronto.

Based on her research, Bhuyan said that the marked growth of temporary migration during this period, for example, through the Temporary Foreign Workers program, leaves many women in legal limbo, because as spouses of temporary workers, they have no rights whatsoever.  

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by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Toronto

Even more than career prospects, the perceived high quality of life is at the top of the list of what motivates skilled professionals in countries like India, China and the Philippines to consider applying for immigration to Canada.

This is according to recently released data from the World Education Services (WES), in a report titled “Considering Canada: A Look at the Views of Prospective Skilled Immigrants.”

Over 3,000 respondents completed a survey WES administered to individuals considering applying to Canada – primarily those living overseas. As one of several agencies that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) designated to provide educational credential assessments (ECA) to be used as part of the new immigrant application process introduced in 2012, the organization had access to this population.

Vinitha Gengatharan, director of international relations at University of Toronto and chair of the board of directors for Agincourt Community Services Association, says this type of information is crucial to know if Canada is to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive global landscape.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Aside from demographic information and examining the motivations of prospective skilled immigrants, “Considering Canada” also takes a look at what the perceived barriers this group of people expects to face upon arriving in Canada, if successful.[/quote]

“There is a competition for skilled immigrants all over the world —everybody wants them,” says Gengatharan, whose family arrived in Canada from Sri Lanka 30 years ago. “What are they looking for when they decide to immigrate, and what can Canada offer? What can we do to be more competitive in that space . . . to be an attractive destination, is why it’s important to reach out to this audience. How can we be proactive in meeting their needs?”

In the months leading up to the report’s official release, Timothy Owen, director of WES Canada, presented some of its key findings at conferences throughout the country. He says the fact that prospective immigrants place high value on Canada’s standard of living is something he made a point of highlighting to the various stakeholders he presents to – academics, government officials, community service providers and regulatory bodies.

“I think that kind of spoke to — for me anyways — Canada being seen as a good place to live and to bring up your family, and while career prospects were a very important part of the decision to come to Canada, maybe this lifestyle was one of the driving factors and motivators.”

WES graph 1

A Younger, More Educated Candidate Pool

“Considering Canada”also highlights changing demographics amongst those now considering migration to Canada. The candidate pool appears to be younger, and also more educated.

What the report shows is that within the ECA applicants WES surveyed, nearly 95 per cent fell within the 25- to 44-year-old bracket, and only three per cent in the 45- to 64-year-old one. This is in comparison to data released by CIC in 2013 about landed immigrant applicants that showed 84 per cent were 25 to 44 years old.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Owen says that one of WES’s goals following the release of the report is to look at ways to create services that help skilled immigrants learn how to transfer their skills to similar lines of work, instead of resorting to “survival jobs.” [/quote]

Furthermore, nearly all of the applicants held a degree; 40 per cent had a master’s degree or higher. This is up from previous reports from CIC, which indicated a smaller percentage (only around 18 per cent with a master’s degree) of applicants in 2012/2013 were that highly educated.

This raises the question of why the demographics have changed. Owen has one hypothesis.

“I think part of it could have been that it was taking a long time in the old immigration system for people to get processed and arriving in Canada after they made their application, and so maybe some of the people who were best qualified found other opportunities somewhere else,” he explains. “That’s a possibility, but now, with the Express Entry program, I know the goal is to speed up the processing of people.”

What Comes Next

Aside from demographic information and examining the motivations of prospective skilled immigrants, “Considering Canada” also takes a look at what the perceived barriers this group of people expects to face upon arriving in Canada, if successful.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Even more interesting: depending on a person’s native country, their outlook on Canadian career prospects varied. At 26 percent, Chinese respondents had an overwhelmingly more negative view of job opportunities in Canada, in comparison to their Indian and Filipino counterparts, of which only one per cent and two per cent indicated negative outlooks, respectively.[/quote]

And while not enough Canadian experience was listed by 59 per cent of respondents as the number-one barrier, Owen says this remains an overwhelming frustration amongst people who eventually end up fulfilling the application process and arriving in Canada.

“How do you get Canadian experience if you can’t get a job in Canada?” is a common question he says WES research consultants encountered during recent research with focus groups of respondents who are now in the country. “And people are frustrated that their experience from their home country isn’t valued as highly as they thought it would be. That’s probably the biggest surprise to people.”

Owen says that one of WES’s goals following the release of the report is to look at ways to create services that help skilled immigrants learn how to transfer their skills to similar lines of work, instead of resorting to “survival jobs.” 

This is something Gengatharan can appreciate: her dad worked for one year as a security guard upon arrival in Canada, before eventually gaining employment in a position more closely related to his land-surveyor profession.

“I know so many people [working “survival jobs”], that’s how they gain their Canadian experience; I feel like in a globalized world a lot of experiences can be transferable,” she says, adding it still remains unclear exactly what is accepted as “Canadian experience.”

Lack of information about jobs, and lack of licensure or foreign licences not being recognized in Canada were tied at second place for the most anticipated barriers, while discrimination, insufficient English/French language skills and not enough education/training ranked fairly low on the list.

WES graph 2

Even more interesting: depending on a person’s native country, their outlook on Canadian career prospects varied. At 26 percent, Chinese respondents had an overwhelmingly more negative view of job opportunities in Canada, in comparison to their Indian and Filipino counterparts, of which only one per cent and two per cent indicated negative outlooks, respectively.

Owen says WES aims to present this report to community agencies, academics and government and regulatory bodies to hopefully ensure a better-informed approach to service provision for prospective immigrants – particularly while they are still overseas.  

This is something the Christine Nielsen, chief executive officer at the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS), says her organization is greatly in support of. A national certifying body that has been using WES’s ECA as part of its prior learning assessments for the last five years, the CSMLS sees around 300 people each year looking to come to Canada to work in the medical lab profession.

Nielsen says her organization does much of its assessment work while the clients are still overseas, and she would like to see more regulatory bodies follow suit.

“If you have no chance of practising your profession, or it’s going to take years for you to practise your profession, every immigrant I’ve talked to wants to know that information before they come and how long or how slow the process is going to be, and they can make the best decision for their families.” 


There is also no dearth of research studies being conducted by academics and organizations across the country relevant to new Canadians. Research Watch will keep an eye on the studies being released and uncover key findings on a regular basis. Conducting research that you think would be of interest? E-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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by Kelsey Johnson

Canada is “clinging” to its Temporary Foreign Worker Program by “its fingernails,” the senior vice president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce warned, saying public and government attitudes towards the program are putting the Canadian economy at risk.

“Canadians still need to keep taking a little breath here and gain a bit of perspective,” Warren Everson said, noting the past two years there has been a “public feeding frenzy” on the program.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Processing of applications, which can be up to 14-pages long, he said, “is slow and getting slower,” and employers have problems reaching Service Canada to check on their applications,[/quote]

“The main thing here is that the Canadian economy needs to compete effectively. We have said for years that competitiveness in our economy is directly related to the skilled workforce that we can put in the hands of our employers,” he explained.

“It is very, very destressing to see government processes that are, at the moment, delaying the entry of those workers into our economy.”

Everson was speaking as part of a three-member panel on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program at the Conference Board of Canada’s annual immigration summit in Ottawa.

The federal government overhauled the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in June 2014 in light of mounting public criticism after a handful of businesses were accused of abusing the program. Among the changes were higher processing fees, now set at $1,000 per worker, and a cap on the number of low-skilled foreign workers that companies were allowed to employ at a time.

While most of the government’s changes were targeted at low-skilled workers, which has had serious consequences for industries like agriculture, Everson said the reinvention of the TFWP program has hurt skilled workers too.

Since that overhaul, Everson said Service Canada seems “hesitant” to approve any of the necessary paperwork needed to bring in temporary foreign workers – known as Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA).

LMIA’s are used by Employment and Social Development Canada to asses whether bringing in a foreign worker will have a negative impact on the Canadian workforce.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The main thing here is that the Canadian economy needs to compete effectively. We have said for years that competitiveness in our economy is directly related to the skilled workforce that we can put in the hands of our employers.[/quote]

Processing of applications, which can be up to 14-pages long, he said, “is slow and getting slower,” and employers have problems reaching Service Canada to check on their applications, Everson noted. In the past there was an appeal process, there was someone with whom employers could go over applications and where employers could “make their case.”

Now, there’s no one to talk to, Everson said.

Service Canada and Canadian Border Services Agency employees also need “improved training” on the needs and challenges currently facing the Canadian workforce, he said.

He also underscored the question of keeping these foreign workers as permanent residents as a “critical issue.”

Provincial nominee programs are overwhelmed with applications, he said, noting British Columbia has frozen applications until July because of the backlog. In Alberta, the backlog in applications is estimated to be about 10,000.


Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca

by Kareem El-Assal (@immigrationCBoC) in Ottawa

Immigration has always played a crucial role in Canada’s social vitality and economic prosperity. Since Confederation, Canada has welcomed immigrants into communities throughout the country, and in return, immigrants have helped foster growth and build the nation.

However, as Canadians, we know that improvements can be made to our immigration system.

Immigration can be, understandably, an emotive topic. Social issues figure prominently in the immigration discourse of the day.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]With a rapidly aging population and one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, immigration plays a leading role in Canada’s population growth.[/quote]

The suggested abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program by some employers has not supported the notion that immigrants are here to supplement, and not supplant, Canadian workers.

With a rapidly aging population and one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, immigration plays a leading role in Canada’s population growth, accounting for about 65 per cent of annual net growth. By 2035, immigration is set to account for nearly all of it.

According to The Conference Board of Canada’s long-term economic outlook, Canada will need immigration levels of around 350,000 annually by 2035 to sustain our current standard of living and maintain a healthy economy.

As Canada continues to rely upon immigrants, we as a nation, must take a step back, become more introspective, and determine how to improve our immigration system.

Tailored Approach

Due to our rigorous entry requirements for economic-class immigrants, Canada admits some of the best and brightest immigrants the world has to offer.

According to the 2011 National Household Survey, 34 per cent of immigrants hold university degrees compared to 24 per cent of the Canadian-born population.

Conference Board research has shown that immigrants tend to be entrepreneurial, motivated, experienced and enhance business and trade ties between Canada and international markets.

At a time when xenophobia is rising in some quarters of the globe, multiculturalism remains one of Canada’s eminent institutions.

In comparison to peer nations, Canada maintains a relatively generous immigration system, as each year, about 10 per cent of newcomers are granted permanent residence status on humanitarian grounds.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In the absence of formal jurisdiction over immigration matters, municipalities and communities nationwide are seeking greater roles in attracting and integrating immigrants.[/quote]

On the other hand, research shows that on average, immigrants today do not make up the wage-gap with their Canadian-born counterparts. This is due to a combination of factors including challenges in our settlement services, credential recognition issues, language limitations, and, in some cases, discrimination.

Many employers and governments across Canada argue for a tailored approach to immigration that meets workforce and regional needs.

In the absence of formal jurisdiction over immigration matters, municipalities and communities nationwide are seeking greater roles in attracting and integrating immigrants.

Identifying the best ways to attract immigrants who are able to integrate into the workforce and meet our labour market needs is another issue currently debated.

While the new Express Entry system aims to address this matter, concerns are being voiced that it may unintentionally exclude some outstanding immigration candidates, such as international students, entrepreneurs, and other skilled workers already here on temporary visas.

Improvement a Must

On the world scene, other countries with demographic challenges similar to Canada’s are re-evaluating their existing policies to better attract skilled immigrants.

Canada is already in competition for top-tier international talent with countries such as Australia, Germany, Japan, Sweden and the U.S., and this will only increase in the near future.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Indeed, in the absence of high immigration levels, Canada’s population will shrink, our economy will suffer and our standard of living will decline.[/quote]

Immigration will continue to be crucial to Canada’s prosperity. Without immigrants, Canada faces labour shortages, a smaller tax base and increased strain on our medical system and pension funds.

Indeed, in the absence of high immigration levels, Canada’s population will shrink, our economy will suffer and our standard of living will decline.

In 1967, when Canada introduced the world’s first immigration points system, we were world leaders. However, times have changed.

Faced with pressing demographic challenges and globalization, Canada should consider improvements.

A multi-faceted approach to change that incorporates all three levels of government, employers, communities, immigrants and other stakeholders, is needed to modernize our national immigration program and blaze a new trail.

The Conference Board of Canada’s new National Immigration Centre, a five-year research-intensive initiative, has been launched to develop a National Immigration Action Plan based on evidence and non-partisan analysis.

From April 13 to 15, the Conference Board will host a major, three-day Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa to explore the future of Canada’s immigration system.


Kareem El-Assal is a Research Associate for The Conference Board of Canada. He plays a key role in the Conference Boards National Immigration Centre. 

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by Kelsey Johnson

The federal government will not abide temporary foreign workers going underground to avoid an April 1 deadline that will force thousands of them out of the country, the immigration minister’s office said Tuesday.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We will not tolerate people going ‘underground.’ Flouting our immigration laws is not an option, and we will deal with offenders swiftly and fairly.” - Kevin Menard, spokesperson for Immigration Minister[/quote]

“Let there be no mistake: We will not tolerate people going ‘underground.’ Flouting our immigration laws is not an option, and we will deal with offenders swiftly and fairly,” Kevin Menard, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, said in an email to iPolitics.

The minister’s office was responding to an investigative report by iPolitics that revealed nine low-skilled temporary foreign workers employed in the agriculture sector had been made false promises of permanent residency from registered, and non-registered, immigration consultants who charged thousands of dollars for their services.

While the minister’s office did not comment specifically on iPolitics’ investigation, Menard admitted unscrupulous immigration consultants are still operating in Canada. This despite previous promises of a widespread crackdown on fraudulent immigration consultants by then Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in 2012.

“While most immigration consultants working in Canada are legitimate and ethical, it is clear that immigration fraud remains a threat to the integrity of our immigration system,” Menard said before referencing changes made to regulate the immigration consultant industry under the government’s Cracking Down on Crooked Immigration Consultants law.

Alexander later ignored a question on the matter when speaking to reporters after question period, turning away from the scrum when the query was made. When asked about the scheme in the House, Alexander said matters involving fraudulent immigration consultants should be referred to Canadian Border Services Agency.

Complaints, his office later clarified, can also be made to local police, the RCMP or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre if the complainant is in Canada.

Under Canadian law, immigration consultants found guilty in court for fraudulent activities on summary conviction are subject to a fine of up to $20,000, or up to six months imprisonment, or both. Individuals found guilty of an indictable offence are subject to a fine of up to $100,000, two years in prison or both.

Critics: A Shoddy System

That system, Liberal citizenship and immigration critic John McCallum told iPolitics, doesn’t seem to be working.

“The moral of this is to clamp down on these fraudulent people because they take money fraudulently from people who are vulnerable and they damage our system and our reputation and individuals involved,” he said.

“It’s about time the government took strong action on this as they’ve been saying they had for years now.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Their arbitrary timeline of April 1 has created unintended consequences which is workers who are already vulnerable… are now being charged hundreds of thousands of dollars and being made fake promises of possible residency.” - Jinny Sims, NDP employment critic[/quote]

NDP employment critic Jinny Sims agreed. She said she has routinely referred names of problematic immigration consultants to the minister, with no response. Ethnic radio, she stressed, is filled with ads from immigration consultants offering their services.

“It’s been a total mess,” Sims said, adding that Wednesday’s deadline for TFWs has only compounded their vulnerability.

“Their arbitrary timeline of April 1 has created unintended consequences which is workers who are already vulnerable… are now being charged hundreds of thousands of dollars and being made fake promises of possible residency.”

“It’s a very, very sad day.”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who is a lawyer, said she has serious doubts about immigration consultants – an industry she says appears to require more oversight.

“I’m deeply concerned about the quality of advice that potential immigrants and refugees get from immigration consultants,” May said. “I don’t want to smear an entire class of professionals but in my work as an MP… quite often I find that the advice given by immigration consultants has made their [individuals] situations worse.”

Workers looking to stay in Canada, she said, should call their member of parliament for assistance, particularly given the amount of confusion around the program and Canadian immigration pathways.

Finding Solutions

A solution, MPs say, must also be found to assist employers who are feeling the impacts of the changes — especially those working the agriculture sector, NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen said. The industry has repeatedly warned the government the April 1 deadline will be devastating in terms of labour loss.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Instead of fixing the real issues with the temporary foreign worker program, they [the government] have literally torn the ag[riculture] sector apart.” - Malcolm Allen, NDP agriculture critic[/quote]

The federal government has taken “a sledgehammer” to the temporary foreign worker program, Allen said – an approach the Ontario MP stressed has had devastating consequences for the agriculture sector and time is running out.

“Unless they [the government] are going to do something today, these folks are going to be on planes heading out of the country and some of the industries are going to be in a heck of a lot of trouble trying to get workers, even though they’ve applied for new ones.”

The entire program, he said, “is a mess” – with farmers, businesses, and workers livelihoods caught the middle. “Instead of fixing the real issues with the temporary foreign worker program, they [the government] have literally torn the ag[riculture] sector apart.”

Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca 

by Kelsey Johnson

Two days before an April 1st deadline imposed under changes to the government’s temporary foreign worker program, some foreign workers who have to go back to their home countries are doing so with empty pockets because of unscrupulous immigration consultants, iPolitics has learned.

iPolitics has confirmed nine cases in Alberta and Southwestern Ontario in which registered immigration consultants, or individuals claiming to be immigration consultants, have charged thousands of dollars to temporary foreign workers and made false promises of being able to keep them in Canada despite regulations that say they must return to their home countries for four years before coming back to Canada.

The four-year rule was implemented in 2011 by the federal Conservatives as a means to encourage employers to hire Canadians.

All nine cases involve low-skilled workers in the agriculture industry with fees paid to consultants ranging from $1,000 to $8,000. None of the workers is employed under the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program, which is exempt from the government’s four-year rule.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Most of the affected foreign workers have been promised permanent residency under the guise of the Express Entry program – for which low-skilled applicants do not qualify.[/quote]

The cases were confirmed by employers and fellow employees of the temporary foreign workers in question. None of the workers involved would speak with iPolitics for fear of creating more problems for themselves.

Cathy Kolar provides legal information on behalf of Legal Assistance Windsor. In an interview with iPolitics Monday, she said she has encountered a multitude of similar cases from across the country whereby foreign workers who are about to be sent home have spent the last of their savings on false hopes of permanent residency.

Those cases, she says, involve workers of all nationalities employed in various low-skilled jobs in the agriculture and service sectors with retainer fees ranging from $670 to $8,000.

Most of the affected foreign workers have been promised permanent residency under the guise of the Express Entry program – for which low-skilled applicants do not qualify, Kolar said. Others, she explained, are being promised open-ended work visas.

These applications, she added, risk jeopardizing the worker’s ability to apply for work visas or permanent residency in the future.

Turning to Private Sector for Help

Rampant confusion, Kolar said, is compounding the problem. The vast majority of low-skilled workers in Canada fall under the National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes C and D. There is currently no federal immigration pathway to permanent residency for workers classified under those codes.

Yet, Kolar said neither Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), nor Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) websites clearly state in either official language that there is no available route for these workers to obtain permanent residency.

Meanwhile, calls to Citizenship and Immigration’s 1-888-242‑2100 help line go unanswered, Kolar said – that’s if you can get through and can speak fluent English or French. Local immigration centres, like the one in Windsor, Ont., have been closed to the public, she explained, forcing foreign workers who are desperate to stay to turn to the private sector for help.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“This individual has collected data on everything from family connections to housing, to where their current address is, past employment history, all under the guise of putting forward a permanent residency application and so they [the worker] are very afraid of coming forward.” - Cathy Kolar[/quote]

Recourse for those workers who have been falsely promised permanent residency is even more limited, Kolar said.

“This individual has collected data on everything from family connections to housing, to where their current address is, past employment history, all under the guise of putting forward a permanent residency application and so they [the worker] are very afraid of coming forward,” she explained.

While legally, workers can file official complaints with the provinces’ law societies, that process can be arduous and takes time, Kolar said. Civil challenges are even more difficult because the individual’s temporary status can lead lawyers to shy away from the case.

Civil cases also cost money, she explained, which most of these workers don’t have – given they’ve spent the last of their savings on the earlier promise of permanent residency.

And most of these workers’ legal status in the country expires in two days. “If they don’t have status in the country, even though they’ve paid a significant amount of money, it’s really not going to result in status,” Kolar explained.

The Labour Crunch

iPolitics asked CIC about the available avenues to permanent residency for workers classified under NOC codes C and D. In an email, a spokesperson for the department responded with a list of federal programs designed to bridge skilled workers who are classified under NOC codes O, A, and B.

When asked, again, about low-skilled workers the department referred to provincial nominee programs. Only Alberta (whose program is currently overwhelmed with applications) and Saskatchewan’s provincial nominee programs are open to applications from low-skilled workers.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][W]hile the department’s minister has acknowledged the shortage of workers in the agriculture industry is a “problem” Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre has not proposed any solutions to the ongoing labour crunch.[/quote]

Saskatchewan’s program was only streamlined to accept low-skilled workers within the past two weeks.

A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada told iPolitics the affected industries had four years to prepare for the fast-approaching deadline, adding that employers can still apply for new foreign workers under the temporary foreign worker program.

And, while the department’s minister has acknowledged the shortage of workers in the agriculture industry is a “problem” Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre has not proposed any solutions to the ongoing labour crunch.

Effects on Employers

Kolar, meanwhile, isn’t the only one who is witnessing the despair of these affected foreign workers first-hand.

Joe Le is the operations manager for two of three All Seasons Mushrooms farms, located in Langley and Abbotsford, B.C. The third farm is located in Airdrie, Alta – near Calgary, where Le told iPolitics labour is in dire supply.

Within the next month, the farm operator said he is about to lose 20 workers because of the April 1 deadline, with another 35 forced to leave within the year. Those workers are originally from Thailand, the Philippines, Guatemala, Mexico and Ukraine.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“One hundred per cent of my staff who have to leave do not want to go home.” - Joe Le[/quote]

All of those staff, he said when reached by telephone at the Abbotsford farm, are desperate to stay. “One hundred per cent of my staff who have to leave do not want to go home.”

One worker on the farm, who’s from Thailand, is “worried sick” because he will not be able to support his family if he is sent home, harvesting supervisor Alycia Lavergn said, because back home he only makes $10/day.

“He says ‘I can’t afford my life, my children can’t go to school if I’m home. At least when I’m here [in Canada] my children have a better opportunity back in Thailand,” she recalls. Other workers, Le said, have told him they will starve if they are sent home.

At the Airdrie farm, Le said, some foreign workers who are about to be sent home have stopped showing up up to work and have simply “disappeared over night.”

All Seasons’ owner approached a lawyer a year ago to enquire about ways the three farms could keep their 75 temporary foreign workers permanently. The lawyer determined it wasn’t possible under the current programs, Le said. If it had been an option, he said the owner would have immediately sponsored workers through the process.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“They’re waiting until the ninth hour, we’re nervous as hell, and then they say ‘fine, we’ll give it to you,” Le said about past applications, adding the farm’s contact at ESDC (Employment and Social Development Canada) has asked him to stop calling her for updates.[/quote]

Meanwhile, applications for new temporary foreign workers put forward six months ago are stalled. With the April 1 deadline less than 48 hours away, Le said the farm still hasn’t heard whether those workers have been approved.

“They’re waiting until the ninth hour, we’re nervous as hell, and then they say ‘fine, we’ll give it to you,” Le said about past applications, adding the farm’s contact at ESDC (Employment and Social Development Canada) has asked him to stop calling her for updates.

The farm, Le said, is scrambling to reorganize itself. He’s shifting workers around, while Lavergn is speed-reading resumes and fast-tracking interviews all in an effort to fill the pending voids – holes both say will be hard to fill because of lasting mark the departing workers have left on the farm.

“I can tell morale is going to be down because they’re [the fellow workers] losing part of their family,” Le said.

Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca

by Catherine Sas

Canada's new immigrant selection system for economic immigrants, Express Entry came into effect on January 1, 2015 and has dramatically changed our immigration program. What used to be an immigrant driven self selection model is now a government driven selection model.

The government will only choose the very best applicants and offer them an "invitation to apply" - an ITA. 

The higher the score an applicant receives on the ranking of their profile, the more likely they will receive an ITA.

Resist Temptation

Obviously, the temptation to enhance one's profile is very real. Resist that temptation! Inaccurate information that is provided in your profile could result in a finding of misrepresentation and a five year bar to ANY application to Canada - permanent or temporary.

Express Entry covers four of Canada's economic immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTW) and some portion of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP). It is highly recommended that before you start the application process, you determine that you meet the selection criteria for one of these programs.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The temptation to embellish or enhance your profile is significant. The penalty for a finding of misrepresentation has recently increased to a five year ban on any future application to Canada.[/quote]

The next and pivotal step is to register your profile with CIC. Based upon the information that you provide in your profile, you will be ranked on CIC's "Comprehensive Ranking System" (CRS) and given a score.

Your CRS score is based upon such things as your education, work experience, language proficiency, work or educational history in Canada, the work and educational history or language proficiency of your spouse or whether you or your spouse have close relatives in Canada.

You need a high enough CRS score in order for CIC to give you an ITA.

This is NOT determined by you - it is determined by CIC based upon the information that you provide in your profile. 

The temptation to embellish or enhance your profile is significant. The penalty for a finding of misrepresentation has recently increased to a five year ban on any future application to Canada.

Only provide accurate information that can be verified with supporting documentation. What does this mean? Your education must be confirmed by your diplomas or degrees. Your work experience should be confirmed by letters of reference from previous employers. Your language proficiency is assessed based upon scores of a CIC recognized language testing service. Be precise in providing the information in your profile.

Exercise Patience

In the early days of the New Year, many were sceptical about the scores that would be necessary to earn an ITA. Many felt that good applicants, including students or persons already working in Canada, would be shut out of the process.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]There is a progressive increase in the number of invitations provided to applicants and there is a progressive decrease in the necessary CRS scores to receive an ITA. This supports having patience with the process...[/quote]

Let's look at the Express Entry history in making offers to potential immigrant applicants. Canada's Minister of Immigration makes periodic announcements on the ITA's issued under Express Entry called Ministerial Instructions. So far there have been five sets of Ministerial Instructions issued regarding the Express Entry program:

1. January 31, 2015 - 779 applicants with CRS scores of 886 or higher;
2. February 7, 2015 - 779 applicants with CRS scores of 818 or higher;
3. February 20, 2015 - 849 applicants with CRS scores of 808 or higher;
4. February 27, 2015 - 1187 applicants with CRS scores of 735 or higher
5. March 20, 2015 - 1620 applicants with CRS scores of 481 or higher.

These figures are very telling of the ongoing trend in the EE process. There is a progressive increase in the number of invitations provided to applicants and there is a progressive decrease in the necessary CRS scores to receive an ITA. This supports having patience with the process as well as no need to enhance or embellish the information that you provide in your profile. 


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Partner in the Immigration group. With over 20 years of experience, she provides a full range of immigration services and is a leading immigration practitioner  (Lexpert, Who’s Who Legal, Best Lawyers in Canada).  Go to www.canadian-visa-lawyer.comor email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Republished with permission from the Asian Pacific Post.

 

Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander, continues to make the hiring of foreign workers difficult for Canadian employers. On February 21, 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) introduced new rules that require employers hiring foreign nationals under the International Mobility Programs, such as intra-company transferees and international experience class workers, to complete a new form and pay a $230 fee per worker as part of a new employer compliance program.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In the last several years, significant changes have been introduced to the TFWP to ensure that employers are not abusing the program or the foreign workers they hire.[/quote]

Canada has two programs available to employers to hire foreign workers: the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Programs (IMP). The TFWP is intended to be used by employers as a last resort when they are unable to fill labour shortages in their workforce with qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents. The IMP, on the other hand, allows employers to hire foreign workers under various international mobility agreements that Canada has signed with other nations.

Recent Changes to the TFWP and IMP

In the last several years, significant changes have been introduced to the TFWP to ensure that employers are not abusing the program or the foreign workers they hire. Employers hiring workers under the TFWP are required to make legally binding declarations that they will respect all the terms of their offer of employment to a foreign worker and comply with all applicable employment laws in the province or territory where they operate. They must also agree to be audited through program inspections to verify that they are meeting their legal obligations.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]These changes are consistent with the government’s recent trend of introducing tougher new rules for all employers and stiff penalties for those who break them.[/quote]

The new changes announced by CIC on February 21 extend the TFWP compliance measures to the IMP by requiring employers to submit information about their company and the details of the prospective employee’s job offer before a work permit will be issued. A new $230 fee is also imposed upon employers for IMP work permits to provide funding to make ongoing inspections for employer compliance with the job offers they are making to foreign workers. All of these changes mean that now ALL employers hiring foreign nationals, whether under the IMP or TFWP, are subject to inspections to determine whether they have been compliant with the terms under which they were allowed to hire a foreign worker. Non-compliant employers may face financial penalties, public bans from hiring foreign workers, or even criminal prosecution in the most serious cases.

Tougher Rules for Employers

The changes announced to the IMP should come as no surprise. These changes are consistent with the government’s recent trend of introducing tougher new rules for all employers and stiff penalties for those who break them. Last year, the government introduced new regulatory changes to enhance measures to prevent, detect and respond to employer non-compliance, as well as increasing penalties to punish bad employers and repeat offenders. Specifically, the government is seeking to introduce monetary penalties of up to $100,000 for each infraction in serious cases of non-compliance, taking into account the size of the business and whether the employer has a prior record of non-compliance. Under the proposed changes, even if an employer has committed only one violation, it could be fined multiple times for non-compliance if the violation affects more than one foreign worker. For example, if a violation affects five foreign workers, it could result in a separate fine being made against the employer for each of them!

Now more than ever, employers must be diligent to keep full and accurate employee records for foreign workers. Employers could be the subject of inspections and be asked for detailed employee records up to six years after a foreign worker has stopped working with them. Employers are recommended to keep employee records for at least six years, with a focus on pay statements to satisfy immigration authorities that they were compliant in providing their foreign workers with the exact employment terms they offered, including hours of work and the payment of wages and benefits. In the new world of inspections and compliance, employers now face significant monetary and reputational risks when hiring foreign workers.


Victor Ing is a lawyer with Miller Thomson. He provides a full range of immigration services. 

For more information go to www.canadian-visa-lawyer.com or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Reprinted with permission from South Asian Post.

Friday, 20 February 2015 03:33

Express Entry is not Easy Entry

Written by

On January 1, 2015 Canada's immigration program was dramatically and fundamentally changedOvernight our immigration program morphed from an applicant-driven model, to a government selection-driven model.

Up until December 31, 2014 an applicant could apply to immigrate to Canada, knowing that as long as they met the selection criteria for a specific category of permanent residence, their application would be processed.

That all changed with the arrival of 2015 and Express Entry. Now an applicant can only apply for permanent residence to Canada if, upon submitting a preliminary profile, they are given an “Invitation To Apply” (ITA) from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Without an ITA, you cannot apply for permanent residence in this new process.

Express Entry is the new economic immigration selection model which applies to several categories for immigration to Canada including: the Federal Skilled Worker program (FSW); the Federal Skilled Trades program (FSTP); the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

New Regulations 

Express Entry is designed to connect applicants who qualify under one or more of these program criteria, to be matched with employers requiring their skills and experience. For an applicant, the first step is to make sure that you actually meet the criteria of one of these programs. The second step is to have the proof that you meet the requirements of these programs. In order to ensure that you meet the first step which are the program criteria to be eligible to apply, you actually need to have the proof that you meet the second step first.

What does this mean? From the outset, in order to determine that you meet the program criteria for Express Entry, you need to have your language test result scores, your educational credential evaluations, and your reference letters from your previous employers confirming your past work experience. Once you determine that you will qualify, you need to submit your "profile" to CIC.  Based upon the information you provide in your profile, you will be rated on CIC's "Comprehensive Ranking System" (CRS). You will need to be able to score enough CRS points at the outset of the process based upon your education, work experience, language proficiency, work or educational history in Canada, the work or educational history or language proficiency of your spouse or whether you have close relatives in Canada. 

Submitting your profile is crucial to this process! It is not a mere preliminary application process where you can scratch your head and decide what you plan to do in the future. The "profile" is the basis upon which CIC determines whether to offer you an ITA or not.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]If you provide information in your profile which is not accurate, you may ultimately be found to have committed misrepresentation and not only denied permanent residence but prohibited from applying for permanent residence for a period of five years.[/quote]

Tougher Rules for Faster Results 

Assuming that you are given an ITA, you have 60 days to provide an electronic application for permanent residence. You must provide all information electronically and you must do so within 60 days. If you don't meet these requirements, you must start all over again. Given that there is only a 60-day window to provide the necessary proof to support your application, it is recommended that you obtain this proof at the very outset of this process - to determine whether you actually meet the program criteria at the beginning!

The dangling carrot to attract you to enter this new immigration application exercise is that applications will be finalized within six months of submission. So upon being provided with an ITA and submitting your permanent residence application online with all the necessary supporting documentation, CIC is saying that they will finalize the processing of your application within six months!

This sounds great so long as you can manage to fulfill all of their requirements and you can also deliver this information within the 60-day time frame. Based upon the applications that CIC receives, they will draw from the pool of Express Entry applicants. The first draw was made on January 31, 2015 when CIC issued ITAs to 779 applicants who had scored 886 CRS points. The second draw was made on February 7, 2015 when a further 779 applicants who had scored 818 CRS points were issued ITAs.

Future draws will be made based upon the applicants who have completed profiles and have the highest CRS scores. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The new Express Entry immigration policy is not easy.[/quote]

The new Express Entry immigration process is not easy. You need to have all of your documentation in order at the outset to prove that you meet the necessary requirements of the program. You need to ensure that the profile that you submit is completely accurate and you need to have all the supporting documentation to complete your application within 60 days of receiving an ITA.

This is CIC's new world order for economic immigration - Express Entry is not easy entry!

Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Partner in the Immigration group. With over 20 years of experience, she provides a full range of immigration services and is a leading immigration practitioner (Lexpert, Who’s Who Legal, Best Lawyers in Canada). 

Re-published with permission from Asian Pacific Post.

by Our Special Correspondent (@NewCdnMedia)

Canada’s most seasoned academic on immigration, Prof. Jeffrey Reitz, suggests that the decision of the government to postpone and reduce reliance on employer participation in the Express Entry system that takes effect Jan. 1 is simply a recognition of reality. Maintaining a leading role for government selection is the only way to ensure that Canada continues to receive an average of 250,000 new immigrants every year, he said in comments over the weekend.

In his view, short-term employer needs are not a good enough or efficient substitute for a system that has so far largely relied on the general employability of newcomers – also called the “human capital” model. Faced with mounting evidence that successive waves of immigrants are faring badly, the Conservative government has put in place a series of moves designed to increase employer participation to determine who gets in.

The eventual goal of this approach is to grant permanent residence under the “economic class” only to those who have a pre-arranged job offer in Canada. Reitz, affiliated to the University of Toronto’s prestigious Munk School of Global Affairs, though, has his doubts about relying on employers as a proxy for government or a neutral points system to fulfill the bulk (60 per cent) of Canada’s immigration needs.

[Broadly speaking, Canada’s quarter-million newcomers fall into one of three classes – economic, family unification and refugees, split traditionally at 60:30:10 per cent, respectively.]

The U.S, he said, attracts from 150,000 to 175,000 a year under a ‘pre-arranged job’ category, while Canada can expect 15,000 to 17,000 annually – almost certainly causing a huge gap in Canada’s annual target of attracting 250,000 new immigrants every year. Of the 250,000 new arrivals, 60 per cent fall under the economic class (including immediate family members), with roughly 65,000 being “principal applicants” who qualify based on their work experience, language skills and general employability criteria.

Interestingly, Reitz points out, a number of changes introduced in recent years have been modelled on Australian reforms introduced by the then John Howard government a decade ago, in the hope that more new immigrants will be employed from the day they land in Canada. “[T]he evidence for the success of the Australian initiatives was based primarily on short-term outcomes, and analysis of the overall performance of immigrants in Australia does not suggest that the new policies produced any overall improvement.”

Global experience

New Canadian Media interviewed Reitz in the context of the 2014 edition of Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective (Stanford University Press), an academic publication that is now in its third edition and includes policy reviews on every major immigrant-receiving nation.

“Nobody has had success” with this sort of employer-driven immigration system to produce large-scale immigration, the academic who has been tracking immigration trends in Canada and globally for four decades, said. The book has a chapter devoted to Canada, and in this Reitz writes: “Indeed, the Australian government has greatly reduced visa opportunities for international students and is reviewing its selection policy more generally.”

Overall, he writes in the book, “... it is far from clear that the new policy directions [in Canada] will actually improve the prospects for and impact of immigration.”

The UofT professor points out that while the jury is still out on the key question of net economic gain, Canadian newcomers can be expected to reduce income inequality mainly because they tend to be employed in high-skills jobs rather than at the lower end. “Immigrants compete for more highly skilled work in Canada, so the labour market impact is at levels of employment higher than the impact of relatively less-skilled immigrants in the United States.”

Income inequality has been a hot topic of political debate in both the U.S. and Canada in recent months. 

Immigrant credentials

Reitz also attempts to mathematically calculate the extent to which immigrant credentials are discounted in Canada: “[I]mmigrant skills in terms of both education and work experience have only about two-thirds of the value of corresponding skills held by native-born Canadians, and occupational under-employment is a significant reason for this imbalance.” This is based on a statistical calculation made by labour market analysts on the return on investment (ROI) that Canadians gain from every additional year of education.

Studies have shown that while mainstream Canadians gain five per cent in added earnings for every year of education, newcomers boost their average pay by just 3.5 per cent. “Some analysts have noted a decline in return for foreign experience as well, although no explanation for this trend has been found.”

The book chapter on Canada notes that the issue of immigrant credentials is today no closer to resolution: “There is as yet no overall plan to address the problem, which is certain to remain significant for many years.” Acknowledging that the availability of credential assessment services and bridging programs may be making a difference, Reitz, however, points that there has been “no effort to evaluate the overall impact of all these programs in relation to the problem of immigrant skill under-utilization.”

Further, Canada’s been receiving even more qualified immigrants in recent years. “If anything, the problem of immigrant employment in Canada has become more difficult over time, and it is more serious today than it was when it was first identified in the 1990s.”

Support for immigration

The 10-year retrospective in the book also has a section devoted to public opinion on immigration and politics. It points to the creation of the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform and the presence in Canada of a “distinct minority” that opposes the current level of immigration. Reitz takes issue with those who claim that majority support for immigration levels is a “myth”. Further, he adds, “Those who want to reduce immigration levels in Canada are very clearly the minority and have been for some time.”

In separate comments, the academic believes Canada has built up a “resilient base of support” for immigration and he does not foresee a shift in attitudes happening any time soon.

Here are some more nuggets from the book chapter entitled “Canada: New Initiatives and Approaches to Immigration and Nation Building”:

  • On immigrant settlement: Government statistics indicate that each immigrant receives about $3,000 worth of settlement services
  • On the politics of immigration: The Focus Canada survey showed that Conservative party supporters are significantly less likely to support immigration, based on their socially conservative values.
  • Ethnic vote: “The Conservatives have sought support among immigrants based on [socially conservative] values and, despite some success, have experienced difficulty because some of their related policies on multiculturalism and citizenship portray immigrants as a threat to traditional Canadian values.”
  • Immigrant integration: most analysts attribute successful integration to the fact that newcomers tend to be highly educated and skilled, and not necessarily to multiculturalism. Conversely, a decline in skill and education levels can be expected to have the opposite effect.

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