Tuesday, April 29, 2008


New law would put skilled immigrants before families, opposition MPs say


From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

April 29, 2008 at 4:19 AM EDT

OTTAWA — Opposition MPs accused Immigration Minister Diane Finley yesterday of secretly planning to cut back on the number of immigrants who are allowed to come to Canada to be reunited with family members.

Ms. Finley says the intent of immigration legislation that has been tucked into an omnibus budget bill is not to reduce the number of family-class immigrants. The aim, she told the Commons finance committee, is to shorten the queue of immigrants that has developed because her department must process applications in the order they are received.

She said that means the skilled workers that businesses need might wait for years to come to Canada.

The new law would allow her to establish the categories of workers that will be processed - and reject applications from potential newcomers who don't meet those criteria.

But Liberal finance critic John McCallum pointed out that the new law would also allow the Immigration Minister to reduce the number of people who come to Canada to be reunited with loved ones.

Mr. McCallum said it is logical to assume that, if certain skilled workers are given high priority, family reunifications will be given a lower priority.

"If you are fast-tracking one group, you are slow-tracking another group, which is the family class," he said. "Essentially, you are putting more emphasis on newcomers as commodities, as workers, rather than newcomers as people."

Ms. Finley responded that the Conservative government does consider family reunifications a priority. "And, if at a future point in time, we decide that is the priority, they could be fast-tracked just like any of the worker categories."

Ms. Finley replied that there are millions of people in China and India alone who qualify for admission. "That doesn't mean that we can accept them all," she said.

Because the immigration changes are included in a budget bill, a confidence matter, they must be passed by the House of Commons or the country would face an election.

When asked why she decided against introducing standalone legislation, Ms. Finley said some good laws have been sidelined for up to two years in the minority Parliament. "We couldn't afford to let that happen with immigration. We have to act now," she said.

And it seems the Liberals' distaste for an election means the tactic will work.

Despite their opposition to what is being proposed, the Liberals have given no indication that they are prepared to bring the government down over immigration policy.

"We are certainly going to be against it. Whether we vote against it in sufficient numbers to provoke an election is a decision for our leader," Mr. McCallum told reporters. The Liberals would rescind any Conservative immigration changes they deem unpalatable when they return to office, he said.

When it was pointed out to Mr. McCallum that the Conservatives could form the government for many years, and any legislation passed by this Parliament could be in effect for a long time, he said, "That's possible, but it's not my decision as to the timing of the election."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


'Bold' new rules will help international students qualify for work permits


April 22, 2008

VANCOUVER -- International students who want to stay in Canada after completing their studies will have an easier time obtaining work permits under new rules unveiled yesterday by Immigration Minister Diane Finley.

In a move described as "bold" by a University of British Columbia official, Ms. Finley announced that students will no longer need a job offer to apply for a work permit.

Also, the new rules will allow students to remain in Canada for up to three years. Previously, foreign students could receive a one-year permit for a job in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, and a two-year permit if they were willing to work elsewhere in the country.

The changes will help create a pool of people with work experience who will find it easier to apply to immigrate to Canada, Ms. Finley said in a news release announcing the changes. "The government of Canada wants more foreign students to choose Canada and we want to help them succeed," she stated.

Michelle Suderman, associate director of international student development at UBC, said the federal government is eliminating one of the most daunting hurdles facing students who come to Canada to study.

Students have been required to find a job in their field of studies at the appropriate level and apply for a permit within 90 days of graduating. Like many Canadian students, international students often could not meet that requirement, she said in an interview.

"This will put Canada ahead every other country in the world," Ms. Suderman said, adding that international students will see the changes as a sign of Canada's openness to immigration.

"This is going to be significant to a number of students who will feel differently about Canada because of this announcement."

About 11,000 of the 64,000 international students in Canada received work permits last year. Almost one-half of the work permits were issued to students in Ontario and about one third were for students in British Columbia and Alberta. Two years ago, the government had issued only 6,200 work permits for international students.

The changes are part of an initiative announced last year to allow specified temporary foreign workers, and international students with Canadian degrees and work experience to apply for permanent-resident status without having to leave Canada. They can apply to stay permanently after one year of work experience in a managerial, professional or technical position.

The shift in policy on work permits for international students is not part of the controversial changes now being debated in Parliament that are intended to speed immigration for people with skills needed in Canada. Under proposed legislative changes, immigration offices would no longer be required to process all new applications from skilled workers. The immigration minister would issue instructions designating skills required by employers, allowing immigration offices to speed up the process for people with the designated skills.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Rudyard Griffiths: We need to fix our broken immigration system

Posted: April 18, 2008, 6:31 PM by Marni Soupcoff
Rudyard Griffiths

As Stéphane Dion weighs the pros and cons of triggering a federal election over the Conservatives’ proposed changes to the powers of the Immigration Minister, he would do well to reflect on one simple fact: 40% of skilled and professional male immigrants leave Canada permanently within 10 years.

This statistic, garnered from an exhaustive government study conducted earlier this decade, represents a searing indictment of our immigration system. It suggests that contrary to being an immigration success story, Canada’s selection process and settlement policies for newcomers are failing the country and recent immigrants alike, and imperilling our shared future.

The culprit here is the supposedly impartial point system that Canada uses to select immigrants. Adopted in 1967, the point system introduced the meritocratic idea that immigration to Canada should be colour-blind when it comes to the region and ethnicity of applicants. However, starting in late 1980s, a new set of biases began to creep into the point system. Whether it was the result of the management-school mania for fostering “knowledge-based” societies, or a class bias on the part of bureaucrats, the point system has been successively tweaked over the last two decades to favour newcomers with advanced degrees and high-level professional credentials.

The fundamental problem with an immigration system that selects for highly skilled and educated newcomers is that these individuals are chronically underemployed. They find it difficult, if not impossible, to get their foreign degrees or certifications recognized by Canadian institutions and professional groups. They also often have to master a new language and all must compete with Canadian born “white-collar” counterparts who have had the advantages of a lifetime of access to first-world education systems.

Given the economic hurdles that face the ever greater portion of highly skilled and educated newcomers who arrive in Canada each year, it is not surprising that poverty rates among newcomers have shot up over the last two decades.

In the 1980s, approximately one in four recent immigrants had family incomes below Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off. This number climbed steadily to 31% in 1990s to a whopping 36% in the last decade. By way of comparison, low income rates among the Canadian-born population declined from 17% to 14% during the same quarter-century period.

For far too many newcomers, the decision to vote with their feet and leave Canada permanently is an economic necessity, one born of an immigration selection process disastrously out of whack with the country’s labour needs.

Economists know the system is broken. And more important for Dion and the Liberals, so too do many immigrants. After all, they have experienced first-hand the painful discrepancy between their dreams for a better life in Canada and a country that treats newcomers as a pool of cheap labour.

Yes, the Liberals could use the new powers the Conservatives are proposing giving the immigration minister to whip up anxiety among first-generation Canadians about a general slowdown or freeze in the family-unification immigration stream. This will be a tough row to hoe, however, when the admittance rate for the parents and grandparents of new arrivals is up some 200% from 2005 to 2006.

Of greater danger to the Liberals is a Conservative response in an election campaign that emphasizes the societal benefits that would flow from having the immigration minister prioritize the applications from newcomers who have skills that are in high demand. Canada, despite its many foibles, is still a settler country that values merit and hard work. Neither newcomers nor Canadian-born care much if immigrants have PhDs or are welders. Rather, recent arrivals and the long-settled simply want everyone to have a fair shot a good job and the opportunity to better themselves and their children’s prospects.

Much like the myth of Canada being a nation of peacekeepers, Canadians are waking up to the fact that our image of ourselves as the country that “does” immigration better than anyone else is stale-dated. For the good of our economy and to do right by the quarter of a million citizens we welcome each year, we need to fix our immigration system. This should be a bi-partisan priority for Liberals and Conservatives alike, and not an election issue.


— Rudyard Griffiths is the co-founder of the Dominion Institute.


Saturday, April 19, 2008


Harper defends immigration reforms, announces new trade offices in India

20 hours ago

TORONTO — Controversial reforms to Canada's immigration laws may be risky and "misrepresented," but the Conservatives are determined to see the legislation through and fast-track sorely needed skilled workers into the country, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday.

The changes - denounced as mean-spirited and anti-immigrant by opposition parties - will help reduce the backlog of immigrants waiting to settle in Canada, Harper said.

"We know there are political risks in tackling this," he said at an Indo-Canadian gala in downtown Toronto.

"We know these will be misrepresented. But our government is determined to take action and get people flowing through the system and into the Canadian workforce where we need them right now."

The changes would place highly coveted immigrants - like doctors or other skilled labourers - on the fast track through the system. But while their papers would get processed quickly, other immigrants would be forced to wait behind them in the queue.

The government would also be allowed to set annual limits on the number of applications Canada processes.

But critics worry the reforms could lead to discrimination and leave too much power in the hands of Immigration Minister Diane Finley.

Canada needs immigrants and its immigration process is not working effectively, Harper explained as graphs illustrating the country's immigration backlog were projected on an enormous screen overhead.

"Frankly, this is becoming a crisis, and if we do not fix this soon, the long-term performance of our economy will be affected," he said.

The reforms will also help reunite families, provide the human capital Canada so desperately needs, and enrich the country with the cultural influence of newcomers, Harper added.

But the Liberals, who have traditionally counted on the electoral support of working-class immigrants, have heaped scorn on the immigration changes. While they avoided triggering an election over the issue earlier this month in a Commons vote, they've warned there will be other opportunities to defeat the reforms this spring.

Deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who attended the gala along with foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, said he's not convinced the changes will cut the queue of potential immigrants as Harper suggested.

The rules would only apply to those applying after Feb. 28 or March 1 this year, not to the 900,000 would-be immigrants still waiting in the queue who may just "give up and go away," he said.

"The regulations are directed at the new people coming in, and then he will target and select and we worry that they may cherry-pick," Ignatieff said.

"But there's no question change has to occur in the immigration system. We just are not sure that this is the way to go."

Harper also announced that Canada would open two new trade offices in India to help bolster economic ties with the booming country.

The offices will be located in Hyderabad, in the south, and in the eastern city of Kolkata. But Canada's existing trade offices in the country's north, in Mumbai and Delhi, will also get more staff to further enhance trade and investment between the two countries, he said.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Majority believes Canada coddles minorities

Poll reveals deeply divided attitudes toward immigration

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

April 17, 2008 at 4:04 AM EDT

OTTAWA — A majority of Canadians say their country bends too much in trying to make visible minorities feel at home, even as voters pat themselves on the back for being a welcoming society.

Results of a new survey for The Globe and Mail/CTV News also show substantial national fault lines on immigration, with urban Canadians more likely to support the growth of visible minority groups than their rural cousins are.

According to the poll, 61 per cent of those surveyed believe that Canada makes too many accommodations for visible minorities. In Quebec, 72 per cent of those surveyed feel that way.

At the same time, 88 per cent of Canadians believe that their community is welcoming to members of visible minority groups.

As the Conservatives move to amend Canadian immigration laws to clear a backlog, the party's base is apparently less positive about the increasing numbers of newcomers who call themselves visible minorities.

"On the one hand, there's a bit of self-satisfaction in terms of our record," said Peter Donolo, a partner with the polling firm the Strategic Counsel. "But there's also this kind of anxiety that's most pronounced in certain groups."

Mr. Donolo said some of the unease might stem from a spate of recent issues.

They include whether Islamic sharia law should be recognized and a Tory proposal during last year's Ontario election to extend public funding to all faith-based schools.

In Quebec, the government called public hearings into the "reasonable accommodation" of immigrants.

The poll also found that 45 per cent of those surveyed believe new Canadians hold on to their customs and traditions for too long, only two percentage points below those who feel newcomers integrate into Canadian life at a natural and acceptable pace.

Mr. Donolo noted there were substantial differences among Canadians on the issue, depending on their age, their education, the size of their community and other factors.

For example, on the matter of whether accepting new immigrants of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds is an enriching part of the Canadian identity, 65 per cent living in cities of more than one million agreed, compared with 53 per cent of Canadians in communities of fewer than 30,000.

And on the matter of whether new Canadians hold on to their customs for too long, 54 per cent in small communities said they felt they did, while 42 per cent in the large centres said they did not.

"People who tend to feel strongest about this are people who live in the smaller communities, where there would be less contact with members of minorities," said Mr. Donolo. "Whereas, the intensity of this feeling is much reduced in larger communities."

Supporters of different political parties also had differing views.

When asked to characterize the fact that five million Canadians are visible minorities, 55 per cent of Liberal supporters said it was a positive development, compared with 38 per cent of Conservative backers.

By contrast, 53 per cent of NDP backers, 56 per cent of Bloc Québécois backers and 59per cent of Greens found the numbers a good thing.

Asked whether, at 16 per cent, visible minorities make up too much of the nation's population, 55 per cent of Canadians said it doesn't matter.

Only 9 per cent said the proportion was too large, while 10 per cent said it was too small.

Mr. Donolo said some of the poll's results might help to explain policy decisions made by various governments.

For example, the Conservative initiative to ban face veils at voting booths may stem from the fact that 82 per cent of Bloc Québécois voters believe the country has yielded too much in making accommodations.

"They understand that there's some potential, particularly with switching Bloc voters," he said. "At the same time, though, they have to be on guard because there's a history or tendency of the media to brand them as outside the mainstream on these issues."

He added that Conservatives want to grow their base, and have made efforts to court visible minorities.

The poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted from last Thursday to Sunday, and is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Here is another example of our stupid immigration policies, which allow characters like the one below to string us along and make taxpayers pay for their abuses. It is time for major policy changes as to who can access the system.

U.S. drug convict pleads to stay

Man who aided meth production argues his actions are legal in Canada

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

Monday, April 14, 2008

METRO VANCOUVER - Surrey resident Ibrahim Mohammad Al Husein admits he provided a large quantity of ephedrine to a U.S. gang wanting to make crystal meth.

He pleaded guilty in a U.S. court and served a year in jail.

But now his lawyer is arguing in the Federal Court of Canada that the Jordanian national should not be excluded from remaining here because his U.S. crime is not illegal in Canada.

Blake Hobson argued before Judge Dolores Hansen in Vancouver last week that because supplying precursor chemicals like ephedrine for illegal drug production is not made a crime in the Canadian Criminal Code, it should not be held against Al Husein, who lives in Surrey with his wife and step-daughter.

"If the claimant's conduct is not criminal in Canada, then it cannot be used for the basis of his exclusion," Hobson said during a two-hour hearing. "Any way you look at it, possession of ephedrine in Canada is not a crime."

Al Husein has been ruled inadmissible by the Immigration and Refugee Board because of his U.S. conviction. One board member said that because al Husein admitted to a role in the scheme to make methamphetamine, he was part of a "conspiracy" to produce an illicit drug, which is in fact against the law in Canada.

Al Husein was considered a bit player in a bigger drug gang when he was caught in the U.S. in March 2000 with 17,000 pseudoephedrine pills and $81,380 cash.

His lawyer now says that that even though Al Husein "had the intent when he had the ephedrine to manufacture methamphetamine, that falls short of the test of a conspiracy."

"A conspiracy requires proof of an agreement," Hobson said.

Law enforcement agencies in Canada have complained that crime groups are legally importing large quantities of precursor chemicals to make both meth and ecstasy in clandestine labs. Much of it is shipped to the U.S. where the same precursors are illegal.

Federal immigration lawyer Nanafsheh Sokhansanj said Husein was rightfully excluded by the IRB because of his admitted criminality and involvement in what would amount to a conspiracy to make illegal drugs.

"Agreeing with someone to produce methamphetamine is a crime," she argued.

Sokhansanj told Hansen there does not have to be an identical offence in Canada to correspond with someone's conviction in another country in order to deem the claimant inadmissible in Canada.

The other issue is whether Al Husein officially completed his U.S. sentence. While he finished the jail time, he was deported to Jordan before completing five years of probation.

Hobson said Al Husein can't be blamed for the fact he was forcibly deported from the U.S. before the probation period ended.

But Sokhansanj said it is clear from the record that the Surrey man voluntarily agreed to be deported in order to avoid spending time in immigration detention. A warrant remains out for him in the U.S., she said, because of the probation breach.

Hansen reserved her ruling in the case.

Al Husein landed in Canada in 2002 after his U.S. jail stint and a brief period back in Jordan. He claimed refugee status on the grounds of religious persecution, stating his family and others had threatened him after he found Christianity.

But he remained on the radar of police on both sides of the border because of his association with others believed to be procuring chemicals for drug gangs to make meth.

The Americans tried to extradite him and two associates again in 2003 after more evidence surfaced of a conspiracy to smuggle hundreds of kilos of pseudoephedrine pills into the U.S.

Al Husein swore an affidavit in his refugee case on the collapse of the second set of U.S. charges, saying: "The extradition proceedings against all of us were completely dropped in November of 2003 when it was conceded that the U.S. could not even establish a prima facie case against anyone."

Monday, April 14, 2008



Plan for cultural passes off to slow start

Many new citizens confused by scheme giving them free access to museums, galleries and science centre

April 14, 2008

A fledgling initiative aimed at improving access to Toronto's cultural institutions for new Canadian citizens has already encountered some weighty roadblocks.

The Institute for Canadian Citizenship has embarked on an effort to offer Cultural Access Passes to the families of new citizens, granting them a year of free admission to six institutions, including the Royal Ontario Museum and the Ontario Science Centre.

But as the initiative got under way last week, it became apparent that providing true access to a group as large and diverse as Toronto's immigrant population comes with more than a few complications.

"These are forms of inclusion, and inclusion means work," said writer John Ralston Saul, who co-founded the ICC along with his wife, Adrienne Clarkson, in 2006 at the close of her term as governor-general. "It's good work, but it's work."
After a citizenship ceremony held Thursday morning, in which Cultural Access Pass applications were handed out in large red folders, many new citizens were confused at being handed yet more paperwork.

"This is part of my citizenship, isn't it?" asked Ikram Osman, 28, as she stood outside the courtroom and stared at the brightly coloured folder.

"It's not clear what they're talking about," said Mohamed Saleem Ansar, 47, as his wife and three daughters stared over his shoulder at the application. "We sort of understood that it's about museums, but not what we're supposed to do."

According to Curtis Barlow, CEO of the ICC, the program is still in "the pilot stage," and efforts are already under way to ensure that citizenship ceremony presentations about the initiative become clearer and more understandable, and that supplementary material is provided to help applicants use their passes.

"The key word here is accessibility, we want this to be as accessible and comfortable as possible to new citizens," he said. "Some elements are still in the works."

Applications for the Cultural Access Pass will be distributed at most citizenship ceremonies in Toronto, and those who don't receive an application at the ceremony will be directed to the ICC website, www.icc-icc-ca, where, Mr. Barlow said, an online version will soon become available.

But after being bombarded by paperwork throughout the citizenship application process, many new citizens appear wary of new forms and many don't have Internet access in their homes. Those who do complete the form may be limited by the cost of public transport, or, like Mr. Ansar, a superintendent who works seven days a week, the demands of a heavy work schedule.

"The intent behind the program is great, but if we really want it to work, there needs to be some more effort up front in terms of education, support and promotion," said Huma Pabani, a spokeswoman for the Maytree Foundation, a private organization that promotes immigrant integration. "It's important for them to understand the process and the benefits; otherwise they won't take advantage, and that's a shame."

If they do apply for passes, the six cultural institutions that new citizens and their families can visit for free include the ROM, Science Centre, Gardiner Museum, Textile Museum of Canada, McMichael Canadian Art Collection and the Art Gallery of Ontario, which offered a similar program in 2007.

Some at the citizenship ceremony, however, did understand the offer contained in the bright red folders. Before she even left the courtroom, Olena Yesapova, 39, who was born in Ukraine, had filled out her application.

"I will take my son because he wants to be an artist," she said. "It's a big surprise and a big gift for us. It's makes me very proud to be a Canadian."

Sunday, April 13, 2008


The gain drain

The conventional wisdom that immigration is an economic boon to Canada isn't holding up under scrutiny

Margret Kopala
The Ottawa Citizen

Saturday, April 12, 2008

CREDIT: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun
An immigration officer awaits passengers at Vancouver International Airport. A large percentage of entrants to Canada come as Family Class immigrants who are poorly suited to a labour market that in any case is not as vast as many believe, writes Margret Kopala.

Globalization has increased acceptance of a coffee-coloured world and provided endless supplies of skilled and other labour, so what's not to love about mass immigration?

While Canada's opposition parties quibbled over modest measures expediting the arrival of skilled immigrant workers, one answer to that question appeared in a report from the British House of Lords. Stunningly, it concludes that record levels of immigration bring no economic benefits.

The Economic Impact of Immigration argues that immigration addresses neither labour shortages nor problems associated with an aging society. Rather, low paid and young workers are being placed at a disadvantage because of competition from immigrants; worse, strains on public services and Britons being priced out of the housing market risk stoking social tensions.

According to the Telegraph, the U.K. government welcomed this contribution to its "huge immigration shake-up."

"It proves we were right to set up the independent Migration Advisory Committee to tell us which workers our new Australian-style points system should keep out or let in," said Immigration Minister Liam Byrne.

Here in Canada, few noticed the British report or even Britain's "immigration shake-up," though for similar reasons cracks have been appearing in Canada's immigration portfolio too. Now a small but growing number of academics, former civil servants and diplomats knowledgeable about Canada's complex and inefficient immigration system are speaking out. Martin Collacott and James Bissett have reached conclusions similar to the new thinking on immigration now gripping most western democracies, as did the late Bernard Ostry, while economists and professors emeritus such as Alan Green (Queen's University) and Herbert Grubel (Simon Fraser) are backing them up with far reaching data and analysis. Citizen groups, too, such as Canada Immigration Watch, are organizing to counter the vast stakeholder industry of immigration lawyers, consultants and advocacy groups that has so far monopolized Canada's immigration file. Out West, the Alberta Federation of Labour is squaring the debate with today's labour market realities.

A paper by Herbert Grubel, for instance, blames Canada's poor selection criteria and high rates of immigration for the failure of recent immigrants to achieve incomes comparable to resident Canadians, even though previous immigrants did so within 10 years of arrival. Accordingly, Immigration and the Welfare State in Canada: Growing Conflicts, Constructive Solutions published by the Fraser Institute estimates a cost to Canadian taxpayers of over $18 billion for immigrants who arrived between 1990 and 2002.

To understand Canada's selection criteria, it is helpful to see how the numbers align under Canada's two largest classes of immigrants to Canada: Economic and Family.

In 2002, 23.3 per cent of all Canadian immigrants were principal applicants, that is skilled workers who acquired sufficient points for language, skills, etc., under Canada's selection criteria to gain admission to Canada while their spouses and dependents, who are allowed automatic entry, comprised a further 30.5 per cent. Together, at 53.5 per cent of total immigrants, they made up the bulk of Canada's Economic Immigrants.

Family Class Immigrants, at 28.5 per cent of the total in 2002, are the other dominant set. Consisting of parents and grandparents (9.8 per cent) and "immediate" family members (18.7 per cent), these immigrants must be sponsored. Like parents and grandparents, the myriad cousins, uncles, in-laws, sisters and fiancées are then able to sponsor other "immediate" family members, leading to a phenomenon known as "chain" migration -- that is, an ad infinitum continuum of family links which may be far removed from the principal applicant who started the chain.

In other words, Family Class immigrants meet no selection criteria. This means they often arrive with no language or job skills and a commensurately diminished capacity for paying taxes and social integration.

The economic success of immigrants is also affected by the rate at which they arrive. Having levelled out at 0.5 per cent of the population or less after the Second World War, it skyrocketed in the 1990s to today's 1 per cent -- the highest rate in the world. These high rates, combined with slow economic growth in the 1990s, says Grubel, affected the income of new immigrants and those arriving the previous decade who now had new competition for jobs. It was in this period, too, that the number of ethnic enclaves -- defined as "census" regions where at least 30 per cent of the population is of a particular ethnic background -- rose to 254 by 2001 from six in 1981.

Despite similar economic conditions during the same period, Australian immigrants fared better than Canada's. Migrants there must fulfill a more stringent set of skills, credentials and language requirements. Australia also denies entrants social benefits for two years and admits a higher proportion of work-age immigrants. Parents of principal applicants, for instance, may enter only if the majority of their independently qualified children already reside in Australia.

Grubel, et al., offer constructive solutions to Canada's immigration quagmire but if economic realities matter, the new thinking on immigration may find its ultimate home among the stewards of today's labour market. After appearing before a Commons standing committee where he opposed employer exploitation of temporary workers, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour told me how, even in booming Alberta, there is no blanket shortage of labour.

"Overall, the market is tight but absolute shortages exist only in certain sectors. In others, like natural gas, forestry and agriculture, workers are being laid off," says Gil McGowan.

So why aren't we employing the people who are here, aboriginals for instance? Provincial training programs are what need fixing, he suggests. "Politicians have a cartoon understanding of what is happening in the labour market."

Margret Kopala's column on western perspectives appears every other week.


Friday, April 11, 2008


Canada to have more visa staff in Delhi mission

Canada will allocate more resources and staff to its New Delhi mission to speed up processing of immigration applications.

Making this announcement on Tuesday as part of proposed immigration changes, Diane Finley, minister of citizenship and immigration, said $109 million will be allocated over five years to hire more visa staff to speed up application processing in places where waiting time is the longest.

Since waiting time in India goes beyond five years, the minister said: "Missions, such as Delhi (and Manila), will receive additional resources to help improve wait times for permanent residence applications, international students and temporary foreign workers."

Outlining her so-called "principles" in defence of the proposed changes, which give the minister sweeping powers, Finley tried to fears about cuts in immigration from certain countries.

The proposed changes will help only streamline the immigration system and reduce the 900,000-plus backlog, she said.

"The aim of the changes is to modernise Canada's immigration system and significantly reduce the time it takes to bring newcomers and their families to Canada," Finley said.

Under the proposed changes, the minister will have the authority to issue instructions to immigration officers to fast-track applicants who will have jobs available in Canada.

In this way, the minister said, newcomers will have more opportunities to find work sooner, provide a better life for themselves and their families.

If the amendment is passed, all applications submitted after February 27, 2008, will be processed under the new Act.

The immigration minister can issue instructions to identify priority occupations based on input from provinces and territories, the Bank of Canada, Human Resources and Social Development Canada, employers and organised labour.

On the basis of market needs, applications would be processed faster, complying with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which forbids discrimination on the basis of country of origin, race and religion.

However, the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), which has moved a motion to block the changes, blasted Finley, saying: "The minister's 'just trust me' attitude is shocking.

"Immigrant families are legitimately concerned about these changes and this minister has done nothing to prove that she won't cut and delay family reunification."

NDP leader Olivia Chow said: "The minister says she wants to bring more doctors to Canada yet we see many foreign trained doctors already living in Canada who are not able to practice medicine, even after being licensed."

She added: "This bill is not about bringing in more doctors. It is not about skilled labour - it's about cheap labour. It's about bringing thousands more low-paid and often exploited workers."

Thursday, April 10, 2008


The debate over the proposed changes to the Immigration and refugee Protection Act continues unabated, bout despite all the hoopla and Liberal grandstanding, it seems that the Tories will manage to pass the legislation and have called the opposition's bluff: a vote of non-confidence seems most unlikely, and therefore no election will be called over this issue....I told you so :-)

Bill won't shut out immigrants, Tories insist

Opposition fears are unfounded, government says

Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, April 09, 2008

OTTAWA - The Harper government went on a charm offensive to demystify its controversial immigration bill yesterday, insisting the proposed changes are designed to reduce a massive backlog of visa applications, not close the door to immigrants.

Federal officials also shot down speculation by the opposition that the government will use the law to shut out immigrants of certain ethnic or religious backgrounds. Such a policy is out of the question, as it would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, officials say.

The government last month tabled a bill that would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to remove the Immigration Department's obligation to process all visa applications and allow the Immigration Minister to instruct visa officers to fast-track certain types of applications.

Department officials say the changes are essential if the visa backlog, which has reached about 925,000 applications, is to be eliminated.

Liberals have repeatedly attacked the bill in the House of Commons, accusing the Conservatives of seeking a back-door way to enforce an anti-immigrant agenda. The NDP has tabled an amendment to the bill, which has been rolled into the broader budget-implementation bill, that would effectively kill the changes. Since the budget bill is considered a matter of confidence in the government, its defeat would trigger an election. The House of Commons is expected to vote on the NDP amendment as early today.

Conservatives have responded to opposition accusations by pointing to the record number of immigrants entering Canada since the Tories came to office. Yesterday, a senior Immigration official said the department has concluded the existing visa-processing system is "simply not flexible enough to meet labour-market needs," and can only be repaired by legislative changes.

Immigration Minister Diane Finley yesterday promised implementation of the bill will follow principles that "ensure fairness" and respect the objectives of the Immigration Act, namely to support the economy, help families reunite and uphold Canada's humanitarian commitments.

"These principles will ensure ministerial instructions today and in the future remain fair, open and transparent," she said in a statement.

Under the new law, the Minister is expected to issue annual instructions on "categories" of applications that should be fast-tracked, such as those from high-demand professionals such as doctors. The Minister will decide which categories to prioritize based on input from the provinces and territories, the Bank of Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, as well as employers and labour unions.

Monday, April 7, 2008


The debate over the proposed amendments to the immigration legislation, which were cleverly buried in the Budget document, are the hottest topic in town (did the Feds take a page from the US Congress, where they do this all the time?). Some organizations applaud the changes, others condemn it. See, for example, Toronto Star article below (unsurprisingly, that newspaper is always "worried" about "families" and "humanitarian" cases, not about economics and costs). While I do not like the fact that the government has chosen to sidestep the long overdue debate over immigration, which is always a political hot potato, I think that, in practical terms, the changes are badly needed, that we need to start emphasizing the type of migration that the market forces require, and stop processing immigrants who will not work in Canada and will not integrate into the labour force. I also think that, unless the opposition is willing to bring down the government and risk an election that they may lose because the economy is doing well, the changes will become law....this train has left the station. The way this has been done, however, points to the FEAR that possesses politically-correct obsessed politicians who refuse to have a national debate over immigration....which could result in something quite nasty, as the recent hearings in the Province of Quebec over "reasonable accommodation" have shown.

Immigration reform plan worries bar association


Puts too much power in hands of officials, legal group says

April 03, 2008
Bruce campion-smith
Ottawa bureau chief

OTTAWA–Canada's immigration system risks being dictated by "ministerial fiat" rather than transparent regulations under a sweeping new law proposed by the federal government, a legal group warns.

While the Tory goal of reducing the backlog of would-be-immigrants is "laudable," Immigration Minister Diane Finley hasn't made the case why her dramatic reforms of the immigration system are the right solution, said Alex Stojicevic, chair of the immigration section of the Canadian Bar Association.

"We fail to see why these are necessary to achieve the government's aims," he said, calling the existing system relatively transparent and objective.

Under the proposal, Finley would have the power to issue "instructions" to her department to give priority to immigrants whose job skills are in demand in Canada. At the same time, she would have the power to refuse applications in other categories.

But Stojicevic suggested the reforms risk putting too much power in the hands of department officials.

"She wants to bring some sanity to these processing backlogs. She wants to try to address, where she can, economic priorities. We just don't see this change as necessary to accomplish that goal," he said.

"That really should be the job of regulation. The system should be transparent. It shouldn't operate by ministerial fiat. And that's what we're talking about here, a kind of decree system," he said.

Stojicevic also questioned why the changes were tucked into the government's budget bill, rather than proposed in separate legislation.

"Why is this in the budget bill? ... It shouldn't be there. It should be debated in the public forum," he said.

The proposals have drawn flak from opposition parties who accused Finley of "cherry-picking" the queue of would-be immigrants.

"We cannot fix the immigration backlog by giving the minister powers to pick her favourite immigrants. We should not fix the backlog by capping immigration levels. This is not a solution to the problem," deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said in question period.

But Conservatives are daring election-shy Liberals to do more than criticize proposed immigration reforms and actually vote down the measures in the Commons, even if it means defeating the minority government.

"They can debate it as long as they want. They can do what they like on the bill. They can even stand in their place and vote against it if they do not like it," Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said.

Today, the New Democrats will introduce a motion urging MPs to oppose the government's budget implementation bill – and the immigration proposals in it.

"The principle of this bill is anti-democratic. ... It gives all the power to the minister to help people jump the queue. It's not accountable, it's not transparent," said NDP MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina).

However, Finley warned that if "significant" action isn't taken now, the backlog will stretch to 10 years.

"What we are trying to do is make it possible for more immigrants to come to this country and for them to get here sooner. ... We need families to be reunited. Employers need these people now," she said.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Immigration to the UK: facts and figures

Allegra Stratton guardian.co.uk,
Tuesday April 1 2008

Overview: Net immigration has added 1.5 million people to the population over the last 10 years. Two-thirds of them have come from the continents of Asia and Africa. In 2006 the total UK population was 60.6m. If net immigration continues at its current rate, as the government actuary's department calculates, the total population in 2031 will be 70m, and by 2081 it will be 85m.

The numbers: People born overseas account for about 10% of the population. This is up from just more than 6% in 1981 and just over 8% in 2001. This is compared with 24% in Australia, 23% in Switzerland, 19% in Canada and 13% in America. In France that figure is 8%, and 7% in Denmark.

The people: In 2006 the largest numbers of immigrants were born in Africa and the Middle East (3% of the working age population) and the Indian sub-continent (2.5%). Those born in the east and central European EU member states – the A8 - made up 1% of the working age population. Today A8 immigrants account for one in three of new immigrants since 2004.

Where do immigrants live and work: In the last three years, East Anglia had the greatest number of A8 workers registering with employers in the area (15% of the total), followed by the Midlands (13%) and London (12%). A8 immigrants are more concentrated in low-skilled jobs, with only 13% in high-skilled occupations. Overall, there are more foreign-born than UK-born workers in highly skilled jobs (49% vs 42%).

The three most popular sectors for all foreign-born workers in the UK are public administration, education and health (32%), distribution, hotels and restaurants (21%) and banking, finance and insurance (20%). Immigrants are concentrated at the high and low skill end of the occupation distribution.

How easy is it to find work? The employment rate of A8 immigrants is more than 80%, while that of immigrants born in Bangladesh is only around 50%. When employed, the average immigrant worker worked one and a half hours a week more in 2006 than the average individual born in the UK. The average hourly wage of all immigrants in that year was £11.90 compared with £11.50 for UK-born workers. The earnings gap is partly explained by the fact that immigrants are more likely than UK-born persons to live in London where hourly rates are higher than in the rest of the UK.

How educated? Among new immigrants (those arrived up to two years ago), the proportion of persons with degrees is particularly high (46%) and the proportion of persons with only secondary schooling particularly low (48%), compared to the UK-born population. Two-thirds of the UK-born population has only completed secondary school while 17% have a degree, Labour Force Survey data suggest. But 51% of all migrants have secondary school qualifications and 37% have degrees.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


New immigrants to GTA choosing suburbs over city, Uof T study finds

Natalie Alcoba, National Post
Published: Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Almost all new immigrants to the Toronto area are settling in its suburbs, according to a new study that differentiates between two groups of newcomers based on where they can afford to live. The wealthier demographic, primarily well-educated immigrants from India and China who come to Canada with substantial wealth, is gravitating toward Mississauga, Brampton, pictured, parts of Scarborough, Markham and Richmond Hill. They buy outright and plug into increasingly entrenched ethnic enclaves that remind them, to varying degrees, of home. In contrast, the relatively low-income immigrants from Asian, African and South American countries end up cramming large households into rental units located in "areas of extensive poverty," predominantly in the "inner suburbs" of Rexdale, North York and Scarborough, says the report from the University of Toronto's Centre for Urban and Community Studies.