Thursday, 08 October 2015 20:03

Family Reunification: The Economic Cost

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.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Policy
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 18:32

Nova Scotia Aims to Lead in Immigration

by Kelsey Power in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia now has the ability to fast track an additional 300 immigrants through new express entry streams.

The announcement made by Premier Stephen McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab earlier this month came after the federal government gave into the province’s pressure.

It’s great news, we have worked extremely, extremely hard in this province and that’s recognition that the federal government and CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) has seen that,” Diab told New Canadian Media. “We want to be seen as the hardest working provincial jurisdiction in the country when it comes to immigration.”

Nova Scotia will now be allowed to nominate 1,350 immigrants under the provincial nominee program (PNP) this year, nearly double the 700 nominees the province was previously capped at.

Originally 350 spots had been reserved for the express entry streams, and they were already filled at the time of this increase.

It was also recently announced that Nova Scotia’s PNP will now include two new streams: the entrepreneur stream and the international graduate entrepreneur stream.

“It’s important to poke at the notion of how much things are increasing or decreasing,” says Howard Ramos, a political sociologist who is a professor at Dalhousie University. “We’re not talking about a huge increase here, 300 more spots under express entry is not a large number of people.”

Despite this, Ramos does view the announcement positively. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province.”[/quote]

“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province,” he says. “I think that it will mean change, but change is a good thing.”

Express entry applicants bringing their families, buying property and engaging in other markets and services is a step towards solving Nova Scotia’s demographic and economic issues, explains Ramos, but it may not solve the province’s rural needs.

“I think the intent is to spread out migration to all the parts of the province, but if the jobs are actually in Halifax I’m not so confident there will be so much of a spread as people may hope for,” says Ramos.

According to Gerry Mills, director of operations for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), approximately 25 per cent of people coming into Nova Scotia have said they were interested in settling outside the urban area of Halifax, but many eventually have to move to the city to find employment.

“I think there are communities across Nova Scotia who really see immigration as part of the solution to their demographic challenges,” says Mills. “The reality is that immigrants come from large urban centres. They’re risk takers and they want to move to urban centres.”

Nova Scotia’s pioneering streams

The national express entry system is an electronic system that was introduced in January to better manage how skilled workers apply to immigrate to Canada. It prioritizes people based on their ability to settle and take part in Canada’s economy, rather than the first come, first serve system.  

Its main improvement has been decreasing application processing times, although it also aims to fill labour shortages.

The three federal economic immigration programs it is tied to are: the federal skilled worker program, the federal skilled trades program and the Canadian experience class.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada.”[/quote]

Nova Scotia was the first province to create its own associated streams. Under the PNP, these are Nova Scotia demand, created last January, and Nova Scotia experience, introduced in May.

Both streams, like the national express entry system itself, are aimed at highly skilled immigrants. Ideal candidates for Nova Scotia would be individuals already living there and contributing to the economy – like international graduates.

“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada,” recalls Diab. “We received numerous calls from other provinces looking for advice on how we’re doing what we’re doing, which is actually wonderful.”

The program was launched specifically to help students working in Nova Scotia to become permanent residents, aiding both international graduates and their employers.  

“This is exclusively for Nova Scotia graduates who are working for Nova Scotia employers in jobs where these employers are saying these are the people that we need and want because they have the skill that we couldn’t find in other graduates,” says Diab. “It’s a win for everybody.”

Benefits of a provincial stream

When an express entry candidate is nominated through any PNP they are invited to apply for permanent residency.

These applicants must have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy of the province or territory they are applying to and must want to live there. There is no requirement as to how long they must stay.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream."[/quote]

The difference between applying to the provincial express entry systems versus the national one is if the candidate is nominated by a PNP he or she gains a higher Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. This is the tool used to evaluate an express entry individual’s profile credentials.

A PNP nomination, and associated job offer, garners 600 of a possible 1,200 points.

Without the direct nomination, hopefuls must apply to the Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) job bank in search of one. The idea is employers in provinces and territories would then search through this pool for candidates.

Nine months later, though, the job bank is still not operational.  

“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream because you get those 600 points, which now automatically gets you in because the numbers are so low,” explains Mills. “It’s like a cream rises to the top situation: in January you had to have 700 and something points, last week it was 400.”

{module NCM Blurb}

 

 

Published in Top Stories

by Danica Samuel (@DanicaSamuel) in Toronto

Over half the population of international students in Ontario are deciding to stay put after graduating, and it’s for a good reason.

A recent study titled International Students in the Ontario Postsecondary System and Beyond, which was funded by Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario and presented at the National Metropolis Conference in Vancouver, shows a significant increase of international students living in the province between 2000 and 2012.

International Migration Research Centre (IMRC) researchers found an increase in students coming from Asia, Africa and the USA to study in Ontario, but more importantly found that over 50 per cent are opting to remain in Canada after completing their studies.

One of the IMRC researchers, Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts, says it’s important to evaluate the students’ experiences, and how they are impacting Canadian immigration, when looking at the study’s findings.

“We need to understand what is happening to these students in terms of their transition into the labour market and transition into permanent residency,” says Walton-Roberts.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Tuition fees are a transmission of funds to Canada’s post secondary sector. It is also an investment in an individual’s education. As long as that person can reap the benefits of their investments, that’s okay. Can they enter the labour market, or if they go back to their country, will their credentials offer them the opportunity to have a wage premium?” - Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts, International Migration Research Centre[/quote]

“International students are becoming more a part of the immigrant demand and that is a deliberate policy and pathway that the government has engaged in.”

An Economic Boost

According to the study, from 2002 to 2011, 190,000 international students came to Ontario and over 60,000 made a transition to another visa.

Walton-Roberts claims there are several factors to the growth, but most recognized is the Student Partners Program (SPP), which originated in 2009 as an assisting program for Indian students looking to study at Canadian college institutions. India is also the leading country in international student migration.

In addition to SPP boosting college registration, international students in general represent more of an economical boost in terms of immigration.

International students are now considered the fourth largest import in Canada and Walton-Roberts says the focus should be on making sure everyone benefits from this.

“We could look at it as a privatization of immigrant settlement processes,” she explains.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I can’t shake the sense that we as international students are keeping the whole system afloat, but being chased away right after it’s done with us.” - Mahnoor Yawar, International Student[/quote]

“Tuition fees are a transmission of funds to Canada’s post secondary sector. It is also an investment in an individual’s education. As long as that person can reap the benefits of their investments, that’s okay. Can they enter the labour market, or if they go back to their country, will their credentials offer them the opportunity to have a wage premium?”

Exorbitant Fees

For some international students, like 27-year-old Humber College journalism student, Mahnoor Yawar, from Dubai, it’s hard to see the benefits of the transmission of funds Walton-Roberts speaks of.  

“I’m frankly tired of having to pay twice the tuition as local students and getting half the opportunities available to them,” Yawar says.

“I can’t shake the sense that we as international students are keeping the whole system afloat, but being chased away right after it’s done with us.”

For 22-year-old Achint Arora, who is studying accounting at George Brown College (GBC), his transition to Canada from India was relatively smooth, but costly.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“When we look at the major countries international students come from, you have to consider the gender politics in those countries and how comfortable families might be sending their daughters overseas.” - Dr. Margaret Walton-Roberts, International Migration Research Centre[/quote]

He applied online, as well as successfully passing his International English Language Test with a score above average.

“I always wanted to study across seas, so I did my research, applied and they accepted me,” explains Arora.

When it comes to the fees, he agrees with Yawar. “For international students the fees are too high, and paying fees at universities are next to impossible. University is about $26,000 a year, and a college is $18,000. So I did some research, read reviews and decided to attend GBC.”

International students pay anywhere from $11,000 to $13,000 more than their domestic counterparts.

Gender Parity

Although many foreign students are entering into Ontario, there has been a significant decrease in female international students.

According to IMRC, from 2008 to 2012 there was a decrease of eight per cent of females coming to Ontario for education.

Walton-Roberts says it’s a reflection of the countries most international students migrate from.

“When we look at the major countries international students come from, you have to consider the gender politics in those countries and how comfortable families might be sending their daughters overseas.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If there is a person in India practicing accounting for 15 years, how can I compete with him? People who are applying outside of Canada, and [those] who are sitting in Canada, are now in the same boat, and it’s a competition.” - Achint Arora, International Student[/quote]

Yawar says she was one of the fortunate females that was able to study abroad.

“There’s also a certain conservatism in the South Asian/Middle Eastern cultures that suggests women shouldn’t move out of their family homes, and especially so far away from it before they’re married,” says Yawar.

“I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents who want their girls to be able to support themselves before making major life decisions, so we ended up here.”

For some, Walton-Roberts says it boils down to money.

“It is a huge investment, and it may be that the family decides not to make that investment in their daughter.”

Life After Graduation

IMRC statistics show that 75 per cent of students transitioned from temporary to Permanent Residence (PR) in Ontario.

Plus, according to economic reports, they are making $3,000 more than the average permanent resident who did not study in Canada.

“We were only able to access certain data, and those transitioning, we did an estimate based on their characteristics and the pathways they took,” clarifies Walton-Roberts.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[We’re] a headache for companies... I was told it will be a long process for both the company and international students to apply for PR, so it’s more convenient for them to hire a Canadian.” Achint Arora, International Student[/quote]

Despite the promising numbers, though, Arora says the hardest part of being an international student is actually obtaining a stable job after completing school. With only four years given to find and maintain a job after he graduates, the pressure is on, he adds.

“[Citizenship and Immigration Canada] is becoming tougher, especially with their new Express Entry,” explains Arora. “If there is a person in India practicing accounting for 15 years, how can I compete with him? People who are applying outside of Canada, and [those] who are sitting in Canada, are now in the same boat, and it’s a competition.”

Arora says another problem lies with companies not willing to go the extra mile to help recently graduated international students.

“[We’re] a headache for companies. They have to write a letter for my citizenship, a LMO, and more, just to apply for the Express Entry. I was told it will be a long process for both the company and international students to apply for PR, so it’s more convenient for them to hire a Canadian.”

But Roberts says that the colleges have effectively set up their programs for the labour market and in the next few years the process will be much more profitable.

“I suspect there is a focus on the college programs because there is in an interest in getting entry into the labour market,” she explains.

“The fees are already less and many colleges have oriented themselves to the international market. Recruiters are a part of that story as well and colleges have had a very active relationship with them through marketing their programs effectively overseas.”

For now, Yawar isn’t entering the labour market, but says when she does, getting a job in her field will be challenging for reasons centred on diversity, or a lack thereof.

“I know Toronto gets a lot of praise for being diverse and having the most opportunities for a career in media, but at the end of the day, it’s a claim based in statistics rather than action. The lack of diversity – in race, in gender, in class – in media careers is a genuine problem that few are ready to acknowledge, because the existing culture of privilege is too comfortable.”

Yawar continues, “Nevertheless, I have hope that there’s a position out there I’m uniquely suited for, and will keep seeking out every opportunity that comes my way.”

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Education

by Aurora Tejeida (@Aurobots) in Vancouver

As the New Year kicks off there is a lot to keep abreast of within the Latin American diaspora. Here’s a look at some of the headlines that made the most waves in recent weeks within the Latin American media.

New Canadian Migration Rules May Lead to Fraud and Racism

One of the purposes of Canada’s new migration rules, specifically the Express Entry system, is to hand out more permanent residencies and to reduce the time applicants need to wait. The country is expected to admit 285,000 permanent residents this year, as opposed to last year’s 265,000.

While some may laud the Conservative government’s policies – which favour those who have job offers or are already working – others think the new model can easily lead to racism and fraud, since they consider it gives all the power to Canadian companies.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The news portal La Portada (a site for Hispanics living in Canada) says that the new policies will benefit professional migrants by helping them land a job... but the downside might be greater, as the site claims the biggest losers of the new system are refugees, families, men and women over the age of 35 and those that don’t speak English or French fluently.[/quote]

The news portal La Portada (a site for Hispanics living in Canada) says that the new policies will benefit professional migrants by helping them land a job – statistics show that the unemployment rate for professional migrants is 50 per cent higher than that of native Canadians.

But the downside might be greater, as the site claims the biggest losers of the new system are refugees, families, men and women over the age of 35 and those that don’t speak English or French fluently. The new point-based system will benefit those who are younger, single, educated and fluent in English or French, leaving out many migrants from economically developing countries, many of which are in Latin America.

New policies have also diminished health care for refugee claimants and made it harder for migrants to bring their parents to Canada. Some critics say racism is an issue and point to the strict finance checks required for citizens of “poorer” countries – who must prove they are “wealthy enough” even if they just want to visit Canada as tourists.Ayotzinapa protest in Vancouver. Photo Credit: Ivan Calderon

Rallying for Student Murders in Mexico

This past fall, members of the Mexican communities in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver organized demonstrations and sit-ins to denounce the Mexican government and demand the safe return of 43 rural students who went missing at the hands of police last September. Most of the demonstrations, which were attended by students, activists and members of several Latin American countries, were staged outside Mexican consulates during the months of October and November. 

On September 26, following a confrontation between local police and student demonstrators outside of the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa, six students were killed and 43 were taken by police. The officers were allegedly following an order from the mayor of the town of Iguala in the southern state of Guerrero. According to Mexican federal authorities, the police then handed the students over to a local drug cartel. During the search for their bodies, mass graves were found. Current police investigations point to a nearby dumpster where it appears a large number of bodies had been incinerated, but so far the government hasn’t been able to prove whether the bodies are those of the missing students.

Less than two per cent of crimes are prosecuted in Mexico, where violence has increased dramatically since Felipe Calderón’s presidency. Eighty thousand people have been murdered and more than 22,000 have gone missing since 2006.

Footage from one of the rallies held in Vancouver.

 

Latin America Soccer Cup Comes to Toronto

Eglinton Flats hosted the first Latin American soccer cup held in Toronto after eight consulates –Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, México, Uruguay and Brazil – decided to organize the sporting event as one of the activities for the Latin American health week.

The tournament, geared toward men over 18, took place in August, and proceeds went to help promote health among Toronto’s Latin American community. The purpose of Latin American health week is to offer free medical consults in Spanish, as well as services that aren’t usually offered by Ontario’s provincial health system.

Mexicans Migrating to Canada: Safety Over Economics

Mexico’s rise of violence and criminal activity is pushing young, educated residents and middle class families out of the country. For years the stereotypical image of the Mexican migrants was that of men and women who often risked their lives to move to the U.S. and Canada to help support their families back home, even though their migration status often meant that job offers were reduced to construction, agriculture and domestic services.

But Mexico is starting to breed a different type of migrant, one that isn’t leaving the country for economic reasons. According to La Portada, the Mexican government is refusing to release hard data, but studies done by Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) show that northern states are the most affected by this new trend, which unfortunately for Mexico is mostly made up of highly qualified and educated young men and women.

Canada currently asks Mexican nationals for a visa, even if they’re just visiting the country. The Latin American country is considered safe by the Canada Border Services Agency, which means it’s virtually impossible for a Mexican to be granted refugee status, even though the country is suffering from extreme violence and travel warnings to certain states are not rare. 

Diplomatic Relations Between Canada and Colombia at All-Time Best

Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos and the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, held a meeting in Colombia to broaden cooperation and strengthen the relationship between both countries.

President Santos assured journalists that diplomatic relations between both countries are at their best moment in history and mentioned specific areas they hope to work on.

The areas President Santos spoke of were education and technology, whereas Governor General Johnston spoke about natural resources in Colombia and more educational opportunities for Colombian nationals in Canada.

Other subjects that were discussed include culture, mining investments, energy and oil. For over 40 years, Canada has invested more than $137 million in Colombia; most of the money is destined to protect children, create better access to education and to protect human rights, among other things.

When it comes to education, Johnston also spoke about expanding scholarship offers to Colombian students through a young-leaders-of-America program. 


Aurora Tejeida is a Vancouver-based multimedia journalist who's originally from Mexico. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of British Columbia and she's written stories for The Tyee, Vice and The Toronto Star, among other publications. When she’s not writing about culture, the environment or migration, she’s wandering around the city trying to find a decent place for tacos. 

 

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Latin America

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved