News Analysis by NCM Newsroom
Days after being sworn in as prime minister on November 4 last year, Justin Trudeau listed priority tasks for his ministers.
Like that of his colleagues, the list for John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, drew much from the Liberal party’s election promises.
While resettling Syrian refugees was the number one priority, McCallum was told that his overarching goal was “to reopen Canada’s doors to welcome those who want to contribute to its success.”
The wording was clever. While it tried to highlight the previous Conservative government’s reluctance to open Canada’s door to refugees, it retained the essence of what the country’s need for immigrants has always been: It’s the economy, stupid.
And, McCallum has stuck to the time-tested script. Tabling this year’s report on immigration targets in parliament, he said the government is boosting the base number of immigrants to be admitted next year to 300,000. The previous annual targets from 2011 to 2015 was 260,000, but it swelled to 300,000 this year on account of the Syrian arrivals. The last time this base figure was reached was way back in 1913.
Attempting to give this annual setting of targets a more long-term view, the minister told reporters that it “lays the foundation for future growth." What was unsaid is that last year’s election rhetoric for letting in more refugees was a one-off political gesture meant to to induce a feel-good across the country and reinforce the "Canada is back" mantra.
Although the 2017 intake targets includes 40,000 refugees and protected persons, it is down from nearly 56,000 this year. Also slightly down is the number of people who would be let in on humanitarian or compassionate grounds: 3,500 against this year’s 3,600.
And when it comes to government-assisted refugees, the numbers are far lower. The number for 2017 is 7,500, down from nearly 20,000 admitted so far this year, and still fewer than the nearly 10,000 admitted in 2015.
Like the previous government, the targets focus on boosting entries for those in the "economic" class. It has been increased to 172,500 from 160,600. In the family class, the number of sponsored spouses, partners, children, parents and grandparents will climb to 84,000 from 80,000.
Signalling left, turning right
While people in the settlement sector would bemoan the cuts to refugee intake given the continuing crises around the world, others would call it pragmatism. Those less charitable to the Liberals would say they are back at their game of signalling left, turning right.
The Liberals know that Canadians will not continue to be supportive of refugee resettlement. Reports about the government being caught off guard by the large number of children each Syrian family had in tow would cast doubts about the whole manner of bringing them in, starting from the vetting process.
Keeping both public perceptions and capacity constraints in mind, the government has astutely kept in abeyance its own economic growth council’s recommendation to raise annual immigration levels to 450,000 over the next five years.
However, it is doubling down on bringing in economic immigrants. Early on, Ottawa indicated that it would be more positively inclined towards international students becoming permanent residents, with McCallum terming them as “the perfect immigrants.”
The Express Entry immigration selection system, the key change to the economic immigration stream made by the previous government, is now being seen as a tool to also promote family reunification. The idea is to give candidates with family members already in Canada additional points.
The unsettling thing about the emphasis on immigration levels is the indifferent attitude towards the very feature that makes our system unique: one of the shortest paths to citizenship, that over 80 per cent of immigrants eagerly choose to take. At least until recently.
The number of citizenship applicants has plummeted for the second year in a row after the more than a doubling in the application fee from $300 to $630. For a while it was $200, after being at $100 for a long time.
Evidently, citizenship applications are down. Only 36,000 citizenship applications were received from January to June this year, a little more than one-third of the number for the same period last year, according to data obtained for policy analysis by Andrew Griffith, a retired immigration department director-general. In 2015, a total of 130,000 applications were submitted compared to an average of 200,000 in the previous years.
While $630 itself is a hefty sum, the actual cost incurred could be much more if one includes the fee (around $200) for a language proficiency test that many applicants would need to take, and further for the Canadian passport (minimum $120). And, in the case of persons from source countries like India that do not allow for dual citizenship, the expenses add up. The fee to process the giving up of Indian citizenship and obtaining a new visa would take the costs to well over $1,500.
Imagine a family of four needing to spend $6,000 when struggling economically to put roots in a new country. No one is suggesting that citizenship should come cheap, but forcing those on the cusp of becoming citizens to bear the whole cost of the process is rather unfair. Especially when the government is ready to waive or subsidize fees for refugees. How much more do new Canadians need to do to become citizens of a country they cheerily chose?
More importantly, isn't ultimate citizenship the whole point of welcoming new immigrants in the first place?
Whereas the Liberals were critical of all the changes to immigration rules made by the Harper government, they were coy about reviewing the citizenship fee during the election campaign. Now that they hold the reins and are reviewing Bill C6 to amend the Citizenship Act, there is still no mention of any adjustment to the fee.
While tax-paying permanent residents are already an underclass unable to vote even in local elections, this disenfranchisement is now set to grow and become a permanent feature of our polity. It calls into question our own understanding of democracy and surely not something we should be proud of.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all NCM columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of New Canadian Media.
by Our National Correspondent
Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) was appointed Chair of the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) earlier this month. New Canadian Media conducted an interview with him by e-mail.
Q: You obviously bring a strong international outlook to the new position given your own early background and education in Egypt. How do you think your immigrant background will help as Chair of the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU)?
A: Together the presidents of Atlantic Canadian universities share a diverse range of experience and we are stronger because of it. Having been an international student that immigrated to Canada, I would not claim to understand the needs and hopes of all international students. Everyone’s experience is unique, but that does not prevent me from drawing on my experience when I approach an issue.
I believe the key to success for both international and Canadian students stems from good relationships. At the University of Prince Edward Island, we strive to keep this at the core of everything we do, and it is emphasized during new student orientation and mental health and well-being initiatives. Interactions with friends, family, professors, staff, employers, and strangers affect our day-to-day lives, and building good relationships with these people can make all the difference.
International students will almost always have smaller networks of people in their lives so providing those services and opportunities to build those relationships when they come to Canada is key.
Q: As you say in your news release, foreign students are a particular focus. How do you think the current population of international students is fitting into Atlantic campuses? Are they contributing to the overall campus experience or do they tend to keep to themselves?
A: The culture of Atlantic Canadian universities is one in which the larger community and the campus are integral to one another. The cultural and social influences of students and their communities impact each other positively and benefit the overall experiences and success of everyone.
International students play a very important role on Canadian campuses as they are ambassadors for their respective countries. In Atlantic Canada, we strongly believe that integrating our international students into our campus communities not only benefits international students, but also Atlantic Canadian students.
Q: What does your early experience in Canada as a student/researcher tell you about what more Canada – particularly the Atlantic universities – can do to make foreign students feel more welcome? What advice do you provide to international students that you run into?
A: Canada has been, and is, welcoming to students of all cultures, and international students arrive in Canada with great appreciation for our country and its diversity. Having been an international student myself, I can say that there were many Canadians who made me feel at home by demonstrating support, kindness, and sincerity.
I personally have worked with and supervised dozens of international students and I tell them all, “In Canada you have the opportunity to be yourself, talk about your culture, interact with your community, and embrace Canadian values while enriching them with those of your own home.” This is advice that can truly help to make the best of an international student’s experience while studying in Canada.
Q: In your view, should international students have a pathway to Canadian citizenship? Would that help the Atlantic region address its demographic challenges?
A: When I think of immigration and encouraging our international students to stay and pursue citizenship, I recognize the many benefits that would have for our region. As our governments are actively working to attract talent and youth to help build our economy and society, an obvious group of people to attract would be the international students who are currently studying, researching, and honing their skills here in Atlantic Canada. In addition, I have to think about it from the point of view that even if our international students decide to return to their home country, they will forever be linked to Atlantic Canada. This too will have positive results, because if our international students are looking for opportunities to build bridges globally, there is a good chance that their first thought will be Atlantic Canada.
Q: Your time in Canada appears to have taken you to institutions from coast-to-coast. Can you please share with our readers your views on Canadian multiculturalism?
Having arrived as an international student and lived in Canada for over 30 years, I have seen many examples of how Canadians welcome, appreciate, and support the benefits of multiculturalism. We consist of people from all over the world, and yet we are probably one of the best examples of embracing differences. This makes us unique as we pour an incredibly strong foundation that embraces and respects the values of everyone.
THE B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) on Monday launched a legal challenge to protect the rights of Canadians facing revocation of their Canadian citizenship due to allegations of misrepresentation.
The organizations argue that any Canadian facing the loss of their citizenship must have a full and fair opportunity to defend themselves in a hearing. However, this long-standing right to a hearing was taken away by the last government in Bill C-24.
Since it took office, the current government has set targets and initiated revocation proceedings to strip citizenship from between 40 and 60 Canadians per month, despite the fact that it denounced citizenship revocations by the minister alone, without a hearing, as “dictatorial” while in opposition.
Pretty oldish news, but important. If you have dual British and Canadian citizenship, as of September 30, 2016, you will need a Canadian passport to be allowed to fly back into Canada. So you have about a month to sort that out. From Metro Toronto: “‘What is changing is that the Government of Canada is […]
Brits in Toronto
Commentary by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa
Some things never change. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) launches consultations on immigration and leaves out any questions on the related issues of citizenship policy.
Sigh … Immigration consultations are welcome and needed. They can and should help better inform future level plans and I would hope that there will be widespread participation with diversity of views.
It may well be that the Government believes that having passed Bill C-6 (to amend the Citizenship Act) it has no need to consult on citizenship. It is hard to believe that this is a mere oversight.
But consulting on immigration while being silent on where and how citizenship is part of the picture is, at best, a missed opportunity.
Values and tradition
Also interesting to note the question of “Canadian values and traditions” which should provoke some interesting discussion, and which is related to immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism.
Were there to be citizenship-related consultation questions, my initial suggestions would be -
Here is a preview of the questions available under Submit your views of immigration -
Andrew Griffith is the author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad.
by Howard Ramos in Halifax, Nova Scotia
In a country where over one in five people are immigrants and far more are children and relatives of immigrants, questions of who gets into Canada and how decisions are made on immigration matters are of central concern. For instance, does the immigration system profile people from particular countries or specific ethnic or racial backgrounds? How is family sponsorship evaluated? And why do some people get visas to visit while others don’t?
Questions like these are tackled head-on by McMaster sociologist Vic Satzewich in his prize winning book Points of Entry: How Canada’s Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In. He offers a comprehensive overview of Canada’s immigration system by looking at the overall social and political context driving immigration, the organizational structure of the Immigration department, and most interestingly, how immigration officers on the ground make decisions on individual applications and prospective immigrants. [We have excerpted a section of the Introduction to give readers a flavour of the kind of dilemmas visa officers face.]
Biases in the system
The professor visited 11 visa office abroad between 2010 and 2012 across all regions and also met with officials in Ottawa several times. In his visits he tagged along with visa officers to see how they do their jobs, reviewing field operating notes and discussing with them about how they make their decisions.
He was particularly interested in examining the discretion that immigration officers have in their decisions, and their role as, what he calls, street-level bureaucrats. Their discretion and ability to make on the ground decisions have led some to question whether there are biases and hidden agendas in Canada’s immigration system.
Satzewich found no direct evidence of discrimination in approval and refusal rates across visa offices around the world, nor did he observe it through the practices of immigration officers. In fact, he found little variation in rates across regions and source countries, with officers very aware of the need for consistent application of policies. He drilled down into specific visa categories by looking at decisions made around spousal and partner sponsorship, decisions on those applying under the skilled worker program, as well as those seeking visitor visas.
His analysis of the family pathway offers important insights on the Canadian government’s concern with marriage fraud. His analysis is vivid and colouful, with descriptions of what goes into case processing and an explanation of how immigration officers identify anomalies they want to investigate and then ultimately the interviews they conduct with prospective immigrants and their sponsors.
His analysis of skilled workers offers a similar level of insight.
During his field research, Canada’s immigration system was in a period of rapid and constant change. Former immigration minister Jason Kenney tweaked how the system worked on a regular basis, ultimately leading to fundamental changes to the immigration system. Satzewich tracked those changes and how it affected the system and on the ground decisions by immigration officers.
One significant change documented is the increased importance of visitor visas over permanent residency with the introduction of a super visa for parents and grandparents, the rise of temporary foreign worker applications, and a move towards attracting more international students.
Another important change was the previous government’s move to rationalize the processing of immigrants and speed up the processing time.
Rather than finding overt bias and discrimination in the immigration system, what Satzewich found was an increased pressure on immigration officers stemming from a move towards immigration processing targets, faster deadlines, increased use of impersonal evaluation criteria, the auditing of their decisions and a move away from interviews and discretionary autonomy.
Despite all the changes, Satzewich did not find a nostalgic longing for “old times” among the immigration officers he spoke with. In part, this is because of generational turnover, with fewer and fewer officers having worked in the immigration system when their on-the-ground decisions carried more weight in the evaluation of files.
His research ultimately shows that Canadian immigration officers are highly dedicated to their jobs and recognize the weight of the decisions they make on a daily basis.
CLICK FOR EXCERPT:
Brenda points to the telephone on the wall and gestures to Maria that she should pick it up. She welcomes Maria and introduces herself as “the visa officer responsible for your case.” She asks Maria in English if she can understand what she is saying. Maria nods in agreement, but Brenda asks her to please say “yes” or “no.” Maria says “yes.” Brenda needs a verbal response because she has to document her decision-making process by keeping notes of the questions asked, Maria’s replies, and her own assessment of the answers. Brenda then asks if she is comfortable conducting the interview in English, and since Maria lived in the United States for several years, she says “yes” but asks that Brenda “speak slowly.”
Brenda already knows a lot about Maria and her circumstances from the spousal application for immigration that she and her Canadian sponsor submitted eight months ago. Maria’s husband wants her to join him in Saskatoon, and as part of the application, couples are asked to tell the story of their relationship. Brenda reviewed the application about a month ago, but something about the couple’s story did not add up. Her program assistant contacted Maria to schedule the interview so that Brenda’s concerns could be addressed.
Visa officers do not interview every applicant for admission to Canada. In fact, headquarters in Ottawa likes them to keep the number of interviews down and encourages them to make their decisions solely on the basis of the information in the application. Interviews take a lot of time, and time in a visa office is in short supply. Officers are trained to make their decisions to approve or refuse visa applications relatively quickly. Brenda has two or three dozen files stacked on the corner of her desk and on top of two filing cabinets in her office. Her program assistant is working on a couple dozen other files at various stages of processing. Globally, there are thousands of applications in what Citizenship and Immigration euphemistically calls its “inventory,” which is its code word for “backlog.” The more time Brenda spends on one file, the longer other applicants must wait for a decision.
Officers must also meet their yearly visa issuance targets. It is early December, and Brenda’s office has not yet met its target for family class spousal visas. If Brenda fails to meet it, this will reflect badly on her and on her boss, the immigration program manager. Headquarters in Ottawa will also be unhappy because it will have to find another visa office to pick up the slack. All the other offices are also working hard to meet their own targets, so a last-minute request to increase a target because another office has not met its own quota means that something has gone awry. If no other office manages to fill the gap, the overall target for family class admissions will not be met, and the immigration minister will want to know why. The minister announced the targets the year before in Parliament and will be held accountable by the Opposition if the number of visas falls far below, or far above, them. Since politics are politics, Opposition colleagues can be rather unforgiving in their assessment of a cabinet minister’s performance and will relish any opportunity to cast the minister as incompetent or as failing to control his or her department.
In a family class spousal sponsorship case, such as that of Maria, Brenda must be “satisfied” that the relationship between Maria and her husband in Canada is “genuine” and that its primary purpose is not for Maria to gain permanent resident status in Canada. Upon reviewing the file a month earlier, Brenda suspected that this might be a marriage of convenience. She uses the interview to figure out whether the relationship is real and whether its primary purpose is immigration.
After asking a few simple, factual questions – Maria’s full name, date of birth, and other matters that already appear on the application – Brenda starts to focus more closely: “It says on your application that you lived in the United States for fifteen years and that you returned to Guatemala three years ago. Why did you return to Guatemala after living for so many years in the United States?” Maria explains that she missed her family and returned to Guatemala to be closer to them. This sounds odd to Brenda, who thinks to herself, “Why would someone voluntarily leave the United States to go back and live in Guatemala?” She suspects that Maria is concealing something, so she pointedly asks, “Were you deported from the United States?” After pausing for a moment to reflect on her answer, Maria admits that she was slated for deportation but chose to leave before the American authorities put her on the plane. She does not explain why she was going to be deported, but Brenda puts two and two together and surmises that Maria probably overstayed her original visa and then somehow caught the attention of US immigration authorities. For Brenda, Maria’s original evasive answer to the question of why she left the United States confirms her concerns and prompts her to dig deeper.
She moves on. “How did you meet your husband?” Maria explains that they first met at the birthday party of a mutual friend when they were both living in Los Angeles. They dated a few times, but nothing really came of the dates. A few years later, they met again at another birthday party of a mutual friend, this time after she had returned to Guatemala.
Brenda also knows a fair amount about Maria’s husband. She has access to the Field Operations Support System database, which contains information about the application history of everyone who has applied for admission to Canada in the past several years. Before the interview, Brenda pulled up the file for Maria’s husband, which told her that he, too, is from Guatemala and that seven years ago he submitted a successful refugee claim in Canada. He had lived in the United States for several years but then crossed the border into Canada at Surrey, British Columbia. She suspects that he, too, was scheduled for removal from the United States and that rather than return to Guatemala, he decided to take a chance with the Canadian refugee determination system. When he crossed at Surrey, he must have uttered words to the effect that “I am a refugee.” As soon as Canada Border Services Agency staff heard the word “refugee,” a complex refugee determination process came into play. Ultimately, Maria’s husband convinced the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board that he was genuinely in fear of his life in Guatemala, so he was granted permanent residence status in Canada.
After this, he returned to Guatemala to visit some old friends, where “by chance,” he met Maria again. Since he planned to be in Guatemala for a month, they started dating, and this time they fell in love. Within two weeks, they were married at a small civil ceremony. A few close friends attended. Though his mother and two brothers lived in Guatemala, they were not at the wedding. Maria explains that they lived “far away” and could not travel to Guatemala City for the wedding. She adds that her mother and sister stayed away because they thought that her husband was not “good enough” for her.
As Maria explains the circumstances of how she met and married her husband, Brenda looks through a pile of thirty or forty photographs that the couple included in the application to support the story of their relationship. The photos show the marriage ceremony and the small reception that followed it. One shot shows about twelve guests seated at a large restaurant table, all happily toasting the bride and groom.
The other pictures are of the wedding night and the honeymoon. The wedding night photos show the couple in the bedroom. She is wearing lingerie; he is in a bathrobe with his chest exposed. They are lying on a bed, smiling directly into the camera and toasting with champagne. Brenda looks at these pictures and cracks a barely visible smile. She thinks to herself, “Why on earth would they have a photographer in their bedroom on their wedding night?” The honeymoon photos show the couple on a beach in Panama. Maria explains that they chose Panama because they got a good deal on a package offered by a local resort. Shortly after their honeymoon, Maria’s husband returned to Canada and began the process of sponsoring her for permanent resident status.
Brenda then turns to the issue of children. “It says on your application that you have a child in the United States.” “Yes, she is grown and goes to college.” “Were you ever married before?” “No, this is my first marriage.” Finally, Brenda moves on to questions about Maria’s relationship with her husband. “It says on your application that you talk to your husband every day for about twenty minutes.” Also included in the file are a stack of phone cards that Maria says she uses to call her husband in Saskatoon. The cards provide no information about the numbers that were dialed or the length of the calls. Since, in themselves, they are not evidence of much, Brenda asks, “So what do you talk about with your husband when you call?” Maria says that they talk about how much they love and miss each other, and how they can’t wait to be together again. Brenda smiles, but then asks, “Okay, but you can’t talk about love all of the time. What else do you talk about?” “We talk about our lives and our future life together, things like that.” At this point in the interview, Brenda starts to drill down, to look for specifics. In her view, real couples talk about more than just love: genuine partners have some knowledge of each other’s past and everyday lives and circumstances.
“Where does your husband work?” “A trucking company; I think its name is On Time Trucking, or something like that.”
“What is the name of your husband’s boss?” “I don’t know.”
“What are the names of some of the people he works with?” “He does not really have any friends at work.”
“What are the names of his non-work friends?” “He sometimes talks about a guy named Sam, who lives in the same apartment building.”
“What kind of apartment does he live in, and how many bedrooms does it have?” “I don’t know.”
“What is his favourite meal?” “Hamburgers.”
“What does he like to cook for himself?” “Hamburgers.”
“What was the last movie he saw?” “Friday the Thirteenth.” “So, he likes scary movies?” “Uh huh.”
This back-and-forth about Maria’s knowledge of her husband and his life in Canada lasts about ten minutes, and then Brenda asks, “Are you looking forward to moving to Saskatoon?” “Yes, very much.” “What is Saskatoon like?” “I don’t really know, but it seems it is a lot like California.” Brenda, visibly surprised by this answer, says, “Really? What makes Saskatoon like California?” Maria pauses for a moment and replies, “There is shopping there, it is clean, things like that.” “Have you ever seen any pictures of Saskatoon in the winter?” “No.”
The interview lasts for about an hour, and after the last question Brenda takes a few minutes to review the overall application and digest Maria’s answers. She then tells Maria that she is not satisfied that her relationship with her husband is genuine, and that she believes that the primary reason for her marriage is to gain permanent resident status in Canada. She details the “concerns” that have led to her assessment. Maria listens with apparent surprise that her story is not believed and spends the next few minutes trying to address each of Brenda’s concerns by repeating what she has already said. After listening intently, Brenda says, “Thank you, I am ready to make my decision.”
In the end, what decision do you think Brenda made? Did she grant Maria her family class spousal visa, or did she refuse the application? Was Maria in a real relationship, or was it a fake? Did she get married primarily because she wanted to become a permanent resident in Canada or because she loved her husband and wanted to start a new life with him?
Canadian visa officers must answer these kinds of questions every day. They make decisions about who should, and should not, be issued a visa to enter Canada, both as permanent and temporary residents.
Excerpted with permission from Points of Entry: How Canada’s Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In, by Vic Satzewich, 2015, UBC Press, Vancouver and Toronto, Canada.
Howard Ramos is a Professor of Sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada.
‘Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Canada Border Services Agency should improve information sharing’ AUDITOR General of Canada Michael Ferguson’s audit of citizenship applications concludes that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not adequately detect and prevent fraud to ensure that only applicants who met selected eligibility requirements were granted Canadian citizenship. The report […]
Commentary by Don Curry in North Bay, Ontario
The federal government needs to take off its MTV glasses (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver) and resume looking at the rest of this vast country when it makes immigration and refugee decisions.
It used to, but that came to a crashing halt June 1, 2012 when 19 Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) offices were closed. The cuts were right across the country — Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George, Victoria, Lethbridge, Regina, Barrie, Kingston, Oshawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, Trois Rivières, Moncton and Charlottetown.
The cuts saved the government only 67 jobs, but changed the dynamics negatively for those in the regions and, arguably, positively for those in MTV and other large cities that retained their CIC offices. Local knowledge disappeared overnight. Government settlement officers who knew their region and all settlement agencies well, ended up, in some cases, selling cars for a living. There were 238 layoffs across CIC around that time as then minister Jason Kenney did his bit to slash government spending.
Those remaining tried hard to keep up, but if you are working in a government office tower in a large city you may be unaware that North Bay and Thunder Bay are at opposite ends of Northern Ontario. You may have little knowledge of what lies between them. You can’t possibly develop the relationships necessary to identify a strong settlement agency from a mediocre one.
Effect on settlement services
The cuts affected settlement agencies that no longer had a government settlement officer dropping by to check on challenges and successes and sending that information up the line. They affected clients who now had to travel much further to renew a Permanent Resident card or seek another service that only the government could provide.
Clients and settlement agencies were told to use the help line. Try it and clock how long you are put on hold. Then call back later and ask the same question to another call centre employee. It is quite likely you will get a different answer.
I've previously argued that the Syrian refugee crisis has demonstrated that smaller centres across the country can accommodate refugees quite well, perhaps even better than the large centres.
The latest announcement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, the new name for CIC) is that it will now include Brandon, Kingston, Mississauga and Thunder Bay as temporary sites for the settlement of Government Assisted Refugees.
The fact that there was a request for proposals was not well known or many other centres would have applied. And what is this temporary status all about? Is it big brother saying we’ll let you do it for a while but then we revert to the big cities that know what they’re doing?
If IRCC still had eyes and ears on the ground across Canada the decision would have been more inclusive. There would have been more applications and the government people in the regions would have known which settlement agencies had the capacity to succeed and which did not.
Clogging the system
Congratulations to Brandon, Kingston, Mississauga and Thunder Bay, but common sense and personal knowledge tells me there are many more cities across Canada capable and eager to become settlement centres for Government Assisted Refugees.
Many Syrian refugees landing in MTV are clogging the system, stuck in hotels with no access to language classes, and this is happening in cities such as Ottawa as well.
We have a new, and in my view, more enlightened federal government that is doing a pretty good job with resettling Syrian refugees. But it could do so much better by doubling or tripling the number of cities across Canada that accept Government Assisted Refugees.
Smaller centres need population growth and larger centres are bursting at the seams. A little social engineering on the part of the federal government would be a good thing.
Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting (www.curryconsulting.ca) He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and now serves as a board member.
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by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City
In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s media: the federal government has a new plan to welcome immigrants that aims to reunite more families; women from ethnic communities in Canada call for a more inclusive International Women’s Day; and Saskatchewan language schools are dealing with a significant cut in provincial funding.
Family reunification, refugees a focus: McCallum
Canada will welcome between 280,000 and 305,000 immigrants in 2016, a significant increase from the number admitted in recent years.
According to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the 2016 target represents a 7.4 per cent increase in planned admissions compared to 2015.
As reported in the Indo-Canadian Voice, IRCC said in its Mar. 8 announcement that this plan will emphasize family reunification in order to address the current backlog in processing applications and reunite families more quickly.
“As we continue to show our global leadership, Canada will reunite families, offer a place of refuge to those fleeing persecution, and support Canada’s long-term economic prosperity,” immigration minister John McCallum is quoted as saying in the Voice.
2016 will also see an increase in the number of admissions under the Refugees and Protected Persons class to support the Liberal’s plan to resettle Syrian refugees, as well as increase the numbers of refugees accepted from other countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, and Eritrea.
Migrants without status in Canada have asked the government to grant them the same rights that are given to Syrian refugees and to process their claims for status that they say the previous Conservative government ignored.
The Conservatives criticized the Liberal plan to cut the number of immigrants accepted under the economic class.
“It is the responsibility of the federal government to balance the needs of the Canadian economy with our humanitarian responsibilities,” said Michelle Rempel, Opposition Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Voice reported.
IRCC said the economic class will still make up the majority of immigration admissions in 2016, representing more than half of the total.
On Mar. 7, Quebec’s provincial government announced its new immigration policy, which also puts an emphasis on matching immigrants to the needs of its labour market. The plan, called “Together, We Are Quebec,” also aims to retain international students and temporary workers.
Other provinces, like Nova Scotia, are still negotiating with the federal government to gain authority over their immigration targets and say they won’t see changes in their quotas until 2017.
A more inclusive image of women in Canada
On Mar. 3, Canadian Immigrant magazine presented its third annual “Immigrant Women of Inspiration,” which focused on the theme of immigrant women in academia for 2016.
Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, Shalina Ousman, Parin Dossa, Leonie Sandercock and Purnima Tyagi are not only PhDs in various areas of study but “are pushing boundaries in education, in their passionate pursuit of knowledge, ideas and change.”
Some women say there is a need for more interfaith, intercultural events and dialogue to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) in Canada.
In a column for CBC Edmonton, Nakita Valerio wrote that rhetoric surrounding IWD does not promote intersectional or inclusive feminism.
She wrote that debates in Canada around issues concerning ethnic women, such as a Muslim woman’s decision to wear a niqab or a hijab, highlight how the day “accentuates the fact that equality for women in this country is still heavily tied to the individual's background, religious, racial, or otherwise.”
In the Globe and Mail, Septembre Anderson wrote that the definition of “women” used in IWD discourse does not include women of colour.
“In Canada, black women and other women of colour find themselves missing not only from movements for gender diversity, but also from seats of power.”
Both columnists pointed out that while 2016 marks 100 years since women in several provinces won the right to vote, Asian and African women in Canada gained this right much later, a struggle which is not described in the commemorative materials. Anderson called on women in power to work with women of colour and use their positions to eradicate discrimination.
Uncertain future for Saskatchewan language schools
The Saskatchewan Organization for Heritage Languages (SOHL) says it is disappointed to learn the province's Ministry of Education will stop providing it subsidies to run 80 heritage language schools. SOHL has been receiving provincial subsidies for 25 years and currently teaches over 30 languages.
“The schools focus on teaching language and culture to immigrants and refugees, and improving access to indigenous languages,” reports CBC. SOHL's executive director Tamara Ruzic told the Regina Leader-Post that about 10 language schools have opened each year, many teaching Arabic.
She added that the $225,000 SOHL receives is “peanuts to the government.”
Minister of Education Don Morgan said that the decision was made for economic reasons, and added that the funding, which amounts to $4.58 per student each month, can be paid by parents.
“As a result of the announcement by the Ministry of Education, many of these non-profit heritage language schools will be faced with the difficult decision of whether they can continue to operate,” said Girma Sahlu, president of SOHL, in a press release.
The organization says the decision is a step in the wrong direction at a time when Canada is accepting many new immigrants and refugees who need welcoming environments and support in learning languages.
“The heritage language schools contribute to the retention of immigrants in Saskatchewan by helping people to maintain their culture, identity and traditions, while simultaneously learning about Canadian ways of life.”
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by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver
In this week’s round-up of what’s been making headlines in Canada’s ethnic media: The Liberal government is set to repeal Bill C-24; municipal councils wage war on Uber and Canadians react to Haryana violence in India.
Liberals plan to repeal Bill C-24
The Liberal government has announced that it will be making significant changes to the Citizenship Act, repealing the Conservatives’ controversial Bill C-24.
The bill gave the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage. According to the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, John McCallum, the new measures will make it nearly impossible to revoke citizenship.
Immigration officials will still be able to revoke citizenship if it was obtained by false representation or fraud and the federal court will be able to remove someone’s citizenship if they are involved in organized crime, war crimes or crimes against humanities.
Of particular interest to new and aspiring Canadians, the government says that it plans to remove barriers to citizenship posed by Bill C-24.
As reported in the Canadian Immigrant magazine, McCallum announced Feb. 23, “We believe that it’s better to make it easier rather than harder for people to become citizens.”
Expected changes include reducing the length of time that someone must be physically present in Canada to qualify for citizenship, allowing time in Canada before permanent residency to count toward physical residency requirements and amending the age range for language and citizenship knowledge exams.
The government also intends to repeal the intent to reside provision, which caused some immigrants to fear that they could lose their citizenship if they moved outside of Canada.
While McCallum didn’t elaborate on what other changes would be made, he told The Globe & Mail that specifics would follow “in coming days, but not very many days.”
The government is set to table its annual immigration report before Mar. 9 and it will outline targets for all classes of immigrants, including Syrian refugees.
Uber-taxi war rages in Brampton
The battle against Uber in Ontario continues as Brampton City Council voted on Wednesday to temporarily suspend ride-sharing companies until the City can decide whether or not to allow them to operate in the area.
The motion, which was brought forward by city councillor Gurpreet S. Dhillon, was unanimously accepted by council, who cited concerns over public safety, consumer protection, fairness and regulation.
“This is a victory for the residents of Brampton,” said Dhillon, as reported by The Indo-Canadian Voice. “I’m very proud that my motion was supported by all my council colleagues. This decision is a good first step to guarantee the public’s safety and security, while maintaining fairness — that is our priority right now.”
According to councillors, ride-sharing companies like Uber have presented challenges for consumers and companies in Canada. There are also issues of legality, as many of these drivers are not licensed under the cities’ mobile licensing bylaws and as such are operating contrary to their requirements.
Other cities in Canada are having similar conversations about the ride-sharing problem. Mississauga city council voted unanimously in early March to suspend Uber's operations in the city.
“Innovation, technology and growth are driving competition in an established industry that has a long history of providing quality and reliable service,” said Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie. “The debate about how to regulate Transportation Network Companies (TNC) is not going away and we need to get it right.”
The city will be seeking feedback from all stakeholders — the taxi and limousine industry, companies like Uber, as well as consumers — in reviewing the bylaws and regulations around ride-shares.
Students stand in solidarity with northern India
As caste violence continues to occur in the north Indian state of Haryana, Canadians are speaking out against fighting that has seen more than a dozen people killed.
On Mar. 2, students, faculty, and staff from the University of British Columbia (UBC) held a rally in solidarity with India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), where, as one student wrote, JNU students “are now facing deadly onslaught of the state – its entire students’ union and leftist leadership booked under the draconian sedition charges.”
According to The Indo-Canadian Voice, “Hundreds of universities, public intellectuals, human rights [organizations] from all over the world have raised their voice in support of the JNU students and teachers.”
The violence has also affected non-resident Indians (NRIs) living in Canada, who fear it will impact investment in the state.
In a statement reprinted in The Indo-Canadian Voice, the Overseas Association of Haryanvis in Canada said, “We, the NRIs of Haryana origin, would like to appeal to our brothers and sisters to support centuries-old brotherhood among 36 biradaris in the larger interest of Haryana and the nation.”
The organization further stated that the agitation has not helped the common man of the state. On the contrary, the statement said it “will create more unemployment and increase poverty in an otherwise prosperous state.”
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit