New Canadians were not left out of Canada’s 2015 budget released by the Federal government in late April. The government’s focus on newcomers centres on three primary objectives: remove financial barriers to international education accreditation, reduce costs to send money abroad and provide funds to relocate to job markets with more prospects.
Lowering Costs of Sending Money Abroad
The 2015 budget proposes to provide $6 million over five years to help Canadians access lower-cost remittance services to send money back home. This includes creating a website that will compare service fees by various providers, to help Canadians make informed decisions when sending money.
Monica Boyd, Canada Research Chair in Immigration and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, says this initiative is a feel-good response by the government.
“They’re saying [high remittance fees] are a problem and they care, and will put information on the web,” she says. “It’s to let people know they have choices. It’s a nice promise, but we don’t know what more they’re going to be doing.”
“It’s really important because most of us come here to support a big family so it’s necessary to send money home.” – Muhammad Razak
Muhammad Razak, who sends money a few times every year to family overseas, has the same concern. When he heard that the government would work to lower the cost of remittance services, his first question was: “What’s the procedure?”
This is something the government has yet to indicate. Razak says, however, that this should be a priority. “It’s really important because most of us come here to support a big family so it’s necessary to send money home.”
The EAP report states the government will, “work with financial institutions to evaluate possible collaboration opportunities to expand access to lower-cost remittance services.”
Funds for Obtaining Credentials
The government also announced plans to make the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans program permanent.
Introduced in 2011, the pilot project provided loans to foreign-trained individuals to help cover the cost of obtaining their credentials in Canada. A total of $9 million was provided over two years to 1,500 recipients across the country, with an average loan amount of $6,000.
The Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to put $35 million over five years towards making this a permanent initiative.
“The impact of providing micro loans to internationally trained professionals is profound.” – Dianne Fehr, Immigrant Access Fund
The loans will continue to be provided by community-based organizations like Immigrant Access Fund, a nonprofit in Alberta. Dianne Fehr, the organization’s Executive Director says she was thrilled to hear the government is making this program permanent.
“The impact of providing micro loans to internationally trained professionals is profound. We knew that [the government] was pretty pleased with this program,” Fehr says.
Immigrant Access Fund received $1.8 million from the government during its pilot program, which initially provided over 300 loans. Fehr explains that the $1.8 million of government funding has since been recycled back into the program 1.5 times as people pay off their loans.
Recipients begin to pay interest as soon as they receive the loan money for up to two years, and then pay 1.5 per cent above the prime rate, a rate set by Immigrant Access Fund. Fehr says the government has been completely hands-off by allowing community organizations to determine participants’ eligibility and interest rates.
Fahad Mughal, who immigrated to Canada in 2011, is one of the organization’s loan recipients.
“I was looking to upgrade my skills and learned about a business analyst certification program, but there wasn’t any government funding for this.”
He found out about the Foreign Credential Recognition Loans program and took a $5,000 loan to enroll in the certification program. That program led to his current job as a business analyst with the City of Edmonton.
“I know immigrants who want to go to Toronto or Vancouver. I’ve seen immigrants live in these saturated markets and they’re just doing survival jobs. I didn’t move to Canada to do these survival jobs and that’s why I moved.” – Fahad Mughal
Mughal, who was educated in Pakistan and has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in business administration, initially immigrated to Brampton. He worked odd jobs for several months before moving to Edmonton.
Since finding professional and steady work, he has convinced five families who planned to live in Ontario, to move to Edmonton instead.
“I think that’s the main reason why immigrants come to Canada,” Mughal says. “They want to have a better life. I know immigrants who want to go to Toronto or Vancouver. I’ve seen immigrants live in these saturated markets and they’re just doing survival jobs. I didn’t move to Canada to do these survival jobs and that’s why I moved.”
Funds to Relocate
The government also proposes to allocate $7 million over two years towards programming, which will support youth and immigrants to relocate to areas in Canada where job opportunities exist.
Studies done by Statistics Canada show that immigrants integrate better and faster in cities like Edmonton and Calgary, rather than larger metropolitan cities like Toronto and Montreal.
Boyd says the proposed budget of $7 million to encourage this move is quite low.
“It’s not a lot of money,” Boyd says. “It’s simply [the government] saying we are going to focus on things that we think are going to facilitate the life of immigrants in Canada. But they’re not saying much about what exactly they’re doing or how they’re going to do it.”
The Minister of Employment and Social Development, Pierre Poilievre, was unavailable for an interview with New Canadian Media before deadline.