Wednesday, April 4, 2012


The Montreal Gazette editorial supports the elimination of the backlog. Other press outlets have done the same. the measures are necessary, but their implementation is problematic and they do not address the problem of family class immigrants that make up almost 4% of the total allowed to Canada and do not usually work or cannot find jobs.

Editorial: Toward a better system of admitting immigrants

In the end, the federal government solved the problem of Canada’s eight-year-long, 284,000-applicant immigration backlog the simplest way possible: it erased it.
Ottawa has cancelled applications that predated Feb. 27, 2008, telling applicants they are welcome to apply again and promising to refund the collective $130 million in fees they paid to apply under the Federal Skilled Worker Program.
It might have been fairer for the government to sift through the waiting list for particularly worthy candidates, but the list had become so long that just starting over made pragmatic sense. The government’s goal of creating a “fast and flexible economic immigration system” could never get off the ground as long as the enormous backlog existed.
There are compelling reasons for an overhaul that includes prioritizing younger immigrants with Canadian experience and knowledge of French and English. Canada’s employers have long complained of a mismatch between available jobs and the skilled workers admitted under the current point system; they are now also warning of a looming skills shortage. Meanwhile, recent immigrants who have arrived in Canada without knowing English or French, or without job skills that are in demand, are struggling financially.
A critically important area that still needs to be addressed is recognition of foreign credentials. Canada, like other developed nations, is anxious to admit as many professionals and highly skilled workers as it can. But when they get here, these workers must have their credentials accepted by the notoriously self-protective professional bodies of each province. The taxi driver with a PhD in physics is not an urban myth. The federal government is right to want to put an end to that kind of waste of human potential and training.
But it isn’t obvious how Ottawa can revamp this part of the system. Professional bodies are under the control of provinces, not the federal government. The professional orders have the authority to set entry requirements and standards of practice, assess applicants’ qualifications, credentials and work experience and register or license applicants whom they judge qualified.
Unfortunately, professional bodies are not always free of bias. In 2010, the Quebec Human Rights Commission found that foreign-trained doctors faced discrimination when they applied for residency, a final stage of training before they are licensed. That year only seven per cent of Quebec physicians in residency were foreign-trained, compared to 20 per cent in Ontario.
To counter this kind of parochialism, Ottawa wants to work with the provinces and employers across the country to set up a pool of skilled workers who could be deployed quickly wherever their skills are needed. As a theory it sounds fine, except that workers tend to have their own ideas about what they want to do and where they want to live.
One measure that will not fail is the government’s plan to conduct a pre-assessment of applicants before they submit their application. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the idea is to “be more upfront and honest” with would-be immigrants, screening out those who don’t have the requisite job or language skills. What would make this initiative even better would be to include a warning that the federal government does not have the final word – that the provinces and the professional orders do. Call it truth in recruiting.

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