Liberal Platform: Commitment to abolish citizenship fees

I am still wading through to Liberal campaign platform, and will do a comparative analysis of the immigration, citizenship, multiculturalism and diversity commitments of all parties.

As someone who has long advocated for lowering citizenship fees, it was a pleasant surprise to see the Liberals addressing the excessive fee increases imposed by the previous Conservative government in 2014-15 (from $100 to $530 for adults, plus $100 “right of citizenship” fee of $100).

The net result has been a decline in the number of people applying for and obtaining citizenship, although the decline also reflected policy changes under the Conservatives, since reversed by the Liberals (residency back to 3 of 5 years, language and knowledge testing ages back to 18-54).

The chart below best captures the decline, comparing the last full census period citizenship take up, showing a decline from 77.2 to 68.5 percent.

My analysis of census data did show a positive correlation between income and citizenship take up (What the census tells us about citizenship)

However, while some will welcome the complete elimination of the fees, I always advocated for a reasonable balance between the societal benefits (political integration and participation) and private benefits (right to enter Canada and voting rights). Given IRCC data showing a processing cost of around $530 (2010-11), an adult total fee of $300 would have represented an appropriate balance between public and private benefits.

By eliminating the fees, the platform will most likely be perceived as political positioning with immigrant voters.

“A More Affordable Path to Citizenship

We will make applying for Canadian citizenship free for permanent residents.

With the right supports, immigrants are able to get to work, help build up our communities, and grow our local economies in short order. But arriving in Canada is just the first step on a long journey to citizenship.

Becoming a citizen allows new immigrants to fully participate in Canadian society, and the process of granting citizenship is a government service, not something that should be paid for with a user fee. To make citizenship more affordable, we will make the application process free for those who have fulfilled the requirements needed to obtain it.


Making applying for Canadian citizenship free for permanent residence (sic)





Note: IRCC Departmental plan 2019-20shows “Citizenship funding from 2019–2020 to 2021–2022 ranges between $61.4 million and $63.9 million.” This suggests  the Liberals are anticipating a significant increase in the citizenship take-up rate, not just one reflecting the increase in the number of immigrants.

Ethnic media election coverage 22-28 September

Latest weekly analysis of ethnic media coverage. For the analytical narrative, go to Ethnic media election coverage 22-28 September:

USA: Federal judge’s ruling upends how ICE targets people for being in the country illegally

Hard to follow all the restrictive changes in US immigration and related policies and the various court challenges and their impact, so found this summary helpful:

In a third defeat in less than a day for the Trump administration, a federal judge blocked it from vastly extending the authority of immigration officers to deport people without first allowing them to appear before judges.

The decision late Friday came before the policy, which was announced in July, was even enforced. The move would have applied to anyone in the country less than two years.

For the record:
1:31 PM, Sep. 28, 2019 An earlier version of this article misspelled U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr.’s last name as Birrote.

The decision came just after a federal judge barred Immigration and Customs Enforcement from relying solely on flawed databases to target people for being in the country illegally.

Early Friday, the administration suffered what would be its first defeat on the immigrant front in less than 24 hours when a federal judge blocked its plan to dismantle protections for immigrant youths and indefinitely hold families with children in detention.

Those protections are granted under the so-called Flores agreement, which was the result of a landmark class-action court settlement in 1997 that said the government must generally release children as quickly as possible and cannot detain them longer than 20 days, whether they have traveled to the U.S. alone or with family members.

In a statement Saturday, the White House responded angrily to the decision to halt its plans for expedited removal of immigrants.

“Once again, a single district judge has suspended application of Federal law nationwide — removing whole classes of illegal aliens from legal accountability,” the statement read in part. “For two and a half years, the Trump Administration has been trying to restore enforcement of the immigration laws passed by Congress. And for two and a half years, misguided lower court decisions have been preventing those laws from ever being enforced — at immense cost to the whole country.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which had sought the injunction granted just before midnight celebrated the result.

“The court rejected the Trump administration’s illegal attempt to remove hundreds of thousands of people from the U.S. without any legal recourse,” said ACLU attorney Anand Balakrishnan, who argued the case. “This ruling recognizes the irreparable harm of this policy.”

In the first setback Friday for the Trump administration, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said new rules it planned to impose violated the terms of the Flores settlement. Gee issued a strongly worded order shortly after, slamming the changes as “Kafkaesque” and protecting the original conditions of the agreement.

Gee wrote that the administration cannot ignore the terms of the settlement — which, she pointed out, is a final, binding judgment that was never appealed — just because leaders don’t “agree with its approach as a matter of policy.”

Barring a change in the law through Congressional action, she said, “Defendants cannot simply impose their will by promulgating regulations that abrogate the consent decree’s most basic tenets. That violates the rule of law. And that this court cannot permit.”

The new regulations would have eliminated minors’ entitlement to bond hearings and the requirement that facilities holding children be licensed by states. They also would have removed legally binding language, changing the word “shall” to “may” throughout many of the core passages describing how the government would treat immigrant children.

The government is expected to appeal.

In the second decision Friday, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. issued a permanent injunction barring ICE from relying solely on databases when issuing so-called detainers, which are requests made to police agencies to keep people who have been arrested in custody for up two days beyond the time they would otherwise be held.

ICE is also blocked from issuing detainers to state and local law enforcement in states where there isn’t an explicit statute authorizing civil immigration arrests on detainers, according to the judge’s decision.

The decision affects any detainers issued by an ICE officer in the federal court system’s Central District of California.

That designation is significant because the Pacific Enforcement Response Center, a facility in Orange County, is an ICE hub from which agents send out detainer requests to authorities in 43 states, Guam and Washington, D.C. It is covered by the Central District.

“ICE is currently reviewing the ruling and considering our legal options,” Richard Rocha, an agency spokesman, said in a statement. “Cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement agencies is critical to prevent criminal aliens from being released into our communities after being arrested for a crime.”

Tens of thousands of the requests are made each year to allow ICE agents additional time to take people suspected of being in the country illegally into federal custody for possible deportation. Approximately 70% of the arrests ICE makes happen after the agency is notified about someone being released from local jails or state prisons.

In fiscal year 2019, ICE has lodged more than 160,000 detainers with local law enforcement agencies, according to the agency.

Although police in California do not honor these ICE requests because of earlier court rulings that found them unconstitutional, agencies in other parts of the country continue to enforce them.

The civil case, which has wound its way through years of delays and legal wrangling, has broad implications for President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration as the ACLU and other groups sought to upend how immigration officers target people for being in the country illegally.

“I think the decision is a tremendous blow to ICE’s Secure Communities deportation program and to Trump’s effort to use police throughout the country to further his deportation programs,” said Jessica Bansal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.

The class-action lawsuit, which represents broad categories of people who have been or will be subjected to detainers, alleged the databases that agents consult are so badly flawed by incomplete and inaccurate information that ICE officers should not be allowed to rely on them as the sole basis for keeping someone in custody.

The judge agreed with that assessment, finding that the databases often contained “incomplete data, significant errors, or were not designed to provide information that would be used to determine a person’s removability.”

These errors, according to the decision, have led to arrests of U.S. citizens and lawfully present noncitizens. From May 2015 to February 2016, of the 12,797 detainers issued in that time frame, 771 were lifted, according to ICE data. Of those 771, 42 were lifted because the person was a U.S. citizen.

The detainer process begins when police arrest and fingerprint a person. The prints are sent electronically to the FBI and checked against the prints of millions of immigrants in Homeland Security databases. If there is a match — such as someone who applied for a visa or was apprehended by Border Patrol — it triggers a review process, which often culminates with an agent at the center deciding whether to issue a detainer.

Last year, the Pacific Enforcement Response Center issued 45,253 detainers and alerted agents at field offices to more than 28,000 additional people released from law enforcement custody before ICE could detain them.

Trump has singled out police in California and elsewhere for their refusal to honor detainers, using them to highlight what he says are problems with the country’s stance on immigration enforcement and the need to take a more hard-line approach.

In the years since the lawsuit was filed, ICE has amended its policies, saying the changes made the process for issuing detainers more rigorous.

Source: Federal judge’s ruling upends how ICE targets people for being in the country illegally

In court documents, Trudeau defends decision to call out Quebec heckler for ‘racism’

Interesting case. PM comments come across as reasonable and thoughtful:

In the wake of Justin Trudeau’s blackface scandal, his comments in a recent lawsuit give an illuminating insight into how the prime minister thinks about racism.

In August 2018, Trudeau made headlines when he called out a woman for “intolerance” and “racism” after she heckled him at a rally in Quebec and asked him about “illegal immigrants.”

That incident led to an ongoing lawsuit that has received little public attention since it was filed by the heckler last December. In July, Trudeau was questioned in Montreal as part of the lawsuit.

In the court documents, obtained by the National Post this week, Trudeau said he believed the intolerance had to be addressed clearly and also pointed to a particular brand of Quebec nationalism he found troubling.

In videos that circulated widely of the altercation — during a speech Trudeau gave to Liberal supporters at an event in Sabrevois, Que. — the prime minister can be seen telling the heckler that “this intolerance regarding immigrants does not have a place in Canada,” and later that “your racism has no place here.”

At the time, commentators and Conservative politicians were quick to accuse the prime minister of berating an elderly woman without justification, a narrative that changed somewhat after it was revealed that the woman, Diane Blain, had connections to far-right nationalist groups.

In December, Blain filed a defamation lawsuit against Trudeau, demanding $90,000 for psychological distress and damage to her reputation and her right to freedom of expression.

Trudeau’s defence argues that it was “perfectly legitimate” for the prime minister to “note the intolerance expressed by the terms used by Ms. Blain.”

During his examination, Trudeau told Blain’s lawyer the context of her comments made it clear she was intolerant. But he also said he doesn’t believe Blain was a racist, despite having accused her multiple times of racism.

At the event, Blain called out multiple times from the crowd, asking, “When will you give us back the $146 million that we paid for your illegal immigrants?” Her question was in reference to the Quebec government’s demand at the time to be reimbursed for costs incurred by the influx of asylum seekers entering Quebec at Roxham Road, between official entry points.

In examination, Trudeau said he didn’t initially understand Blain’s question, but realized what she was asking when he heard the words “your illegal immigrants.” He told Blain’s lawyer that the way she asked the question, referring to “your illegal immigrants,” proved it was not in good faith. “It was a context in which the goal was to disrupt and push an agenda that was either anti-immigrant or that simply wanted to spark fear and concern about immigrants,” he said. “So for me, it was important to respond firmly and clearly.”

He also said he felt it was necessary to speak out swiftly because the crowd was very diverse and many of his supporters at the event were immigrants.

He went on to discuss Quebecers’ concerns about asylum seekers at Roxham Road, saying there are “very reasonable people” who worry about illegal border crossings. “But there’s a point where it goes beyond concern and (becomes) a desire to preserve a historic Quebec identity against immigrants,” he said. “And unfortunately, it’s not something we hear often, but it’s common enough to be part of a pattern.”

At the August event, Blain asked Trudeau if he was tolerant of “Québécois de souche,” a term that refers to white Quebecers who are descendants of the original French colonists. He responded by saying he was tolerant of all perspectives and accused Blain of being intolerant. Later, when she confronted him again as he was moving through the crowd, he told her, “Your racism has no place here.”

Blain’s lawyer, Christian Lajoie, asked Trudeau during the examination about Quebec nationalism, after Trudeau said he didn’t like the term “Québécois de souche” because of its “connotations of intolerance.”

Trudeau referred to René Lévesque, the founder of the sovereigntist Parti Québécois, saying the former premier envisioned a “civic nationalism,” not one based on ethnicity. “I think a little bit for some people in recent years, we’ve been missing that desire to bring people together that Mr. Lévesque had,” he said.

Still, asked directly if he believes Blain is a racist, Trudeau said no. “I was speaking about her comments… that I associated with intolerance,” he said. “There’s a wave of thinking that has racist elements.”

In the days after the altercation, Trudeau stood by his response to Blain’s questions, telling reporters that “Canadians deserve to know that they have a prime minister that will always underline when these dangerous tactics are used in politics.” At the same time, media reports revealed that Blain had connections to far-right nationalist groups Storm Alliance and Front Patriotique du Québec and that she had once refused to be served by a Muslim woman at a dental clinic in Montreal.

In her lawsuit, Blain claims the event and subsequent media coverage caused “serious damage to her dignity, honour and reputation,” and that her family has been divided by the incident. She is asking for $90,000 in damages. She initially wanted an additional $5,000 for the pain caused by an RCMP officer grabbing her arm, but that has since been dropped. Blain did not respond to the Post’s request for an interview, and her lawyer declined to comment.

Trudeau’s defence claims that Blain came looking to confront him and his responses to her questions were reasonable under the circumstances. It points out that Blain identified herself as the woman in the videos after the fact, and has given several interviews about the incident. A spokesperson for Trudeau declined to comment.

During his examination, Trudeau indicated he believed his lawyer had approached Blain to try and reach a settlement. Blain recently told right-wing news site The Post Millennial, which has reported on the examination, that no settlement has been reached. According to court documents, preparation of the file will not proceed until November, after the Oct. 21 election.

Source: In court documents, Trudeau defends decision to call out Quebec heckler for ‘racism’

International education in Canada is booming — but the system is flawed. Here’s how to fix it

Final part of the Star’s series on international education and their recommendations how to address the abuse and challenges. Some are more realistic than others (hard to see provincial funding increasing to reduce reliance on international students, and not sure what the capacity is for settlement services to handle students) but many are eminently practical:

Make more classroom supports available. Provide better information on employment rights. And begin regulating education recruiters.

Those are just some of the ways to bolster the experience of international students in Canada and improve the burgeoning international education system, according to students, teachers, policy-makers and others.

A months-long joint investigation by the Toronto Star and the St. Catharines Standard found the explosive growth in the number of international students in Canada, particularly in Ontario colleges, has left students feeling overwhelmed and teachers frustrated.

There are now more than 572,000 international students in Canada — the largest cohort ever — and a 73 per cent hike since 2014. That unprecedented growth has proven extremely lucrative, with international students pumping $21.6 billion into campuses, communities and the economy nationwide last year. But it has also brought significant challenges.

Part 1 of the Price of Admission series looks at how international students have increasingly been used as a key source of revenue to prop up an underfunded Canadian education system. Part 2 examines how one Ontario college scrambled to deal with a crisis on campus in the wake of a surge in international enrolment. And Part 3 explores how international students, desperate to stay here permanently, are sometimes exploited by employers.

Reporters spoke with students, teachers, school administrators, policy-makers, academic researchers, recruiters and advocates on how we can make things better.

Some have suggested one way of preventing international students from being taken advantage of in Canada, would be to grant them permanent residence upon arrival. But others say this is unrealistic and it is unlikely any political party in power would want to do that.

Here are some of their other suggestions:

For the provincial government:

  • Invest in post-secondary education to reduce reliance on revenue from international students to fund public education.
  • Regulate education recruiters to crack down on misinformation about Canada’s education and immigration systems, similar to a mechanism in place in Manitoba that monitors designated education providers, recruiters and contracted agents.
  • Reach out to international students to inform them about their job rights and enforce employer compliance.

For the federal government:

  • Make pre-arrival information and checklists available to incoming students on such things as housing, transportation, cost of living, health care, immigration and employment.
  • Grant students access to settlement services, including help with job searches, housing and counselling.
  • Provide clear information to prospective students about the pathways to immigration and the criteria for permanent residence down the road.
  • Raise the threshold of the GIC deposit required of international students to ensure they have the minimum savings to complete their studies in Canada.
  • Enhance and expand the immigration department’s current “letter of acceptance verification project” and “international student compliance project” to ensure students are not using their study permit just for the purpose of entering the country. Make this part of the regular audit of Canada’s international education strategy.
  • Work with provincial partners to survey students about their needs and experience, and track their progress through the education and immigration systems, using the data for policy reviews and decisions.

For schools:

  • Improve vetting system to ensure English language admission test scores accurately reflect a student’s actual language proficiency, including interviews with college staff.
  • Provide improved linguistic supports, including better access to translators, to help students from non-English speaking countries navigate the education system, student and medical supports, and to assist teachers in the classrooms.
  • Provide additional classroom and counselling support to help international students unfamiliar with Canada’s education system, teaching styles and culture throughout their studies and not just limited to the initial orientation.
  • Offer cultural sensitivity and awareness training to teaching and administrative staff about international students and the unique challenges and circumstances they face.
  • Implement an early warning system among school administration to assist failing students.
  • Start a buddy system matching international students with their domestic peers to ease their transition and better integrate them into the school community.

Source: International education in Canada is booming — but the system is flawed. Here’s how to fix it

Birth tourism needs to become an election issue, says president of Doctors of B.C.

Yet another article based upon the latest CIHI data, highlighting some payment issues:

Birth tourism needs to be curtailed by the federal government as the Canadian health care system is “struggling to meet the needs of our own citizens,” says Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of Doctors of B.C.

Births by non-residents seeking to get instant Canadian citizenship for newborns now accounts for about a quarter of all deliveries at Richmond Hospital, according to the latest federal data, but the issue is not getting any attention from political parties even with the federal election in full swing.

In the past six months, Ross has delivered two babies to birth tourists at Royal Columbian Hospital and in both cases, they left the hospital without paying her fees. Ross would not disclose which country the patients came from but said they have ignored multiple invoices sent “after the fact” to the addresses they supplied. The physician fee for vaginal deliveries ranges between $600 and $1,500.

B.C. hospitals ask for deposits when non-residents register, $13,300 for a caesarean section and $8,200 for a vaginal delivery. But those fees are for hospital costs only and physicians who work on a fee for service basis, as do many of those who deliver babies, have great difficulty collecting their separate fees from birth tourists. Occasionally, hospital lawyers have to sue foreign patients in a bid to be paid.

Ross said it is clear that some birth tourists have “no intention” to pay their bills and doctors in many provinces are starting to talk about how to address the problems. She said the federal election campaign is a perfect time to start talking about the fact that if Canadian citizenship weren’t so easy to obtain in such a way, it is doubtful the numbers of birth tourists would be going up the way they are.

“We’re at a crisis, a tipping point, so it’s really important that some higher authority takes this on,” Ross said. “Hospitals and doctors have no option but to provide service. We can’t turn people away if they are sick, injured, or in labour.”

The federal Conservatives flirted with a potential clampdown on birth tourism in the past and the current Liberal government has said it was studying the matter, but no leader has commented during the current campaign about potential changes.

Data for the last fiscal year provided by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows that eight of the top 10 most popular hospitals for non-resident births are in Ontario, with the other two in B.C. Births to non-resident mothers, a category which also includes international students and other non-permanent residents who are expected to pay for their medical and hospital services, are also growing in frequency in Alberta.

Across Canada, CIHI hospital discharge data shows there were 4,099 births to non-residents in 2018/19 (excluding Quebec), compared to 3,628 the year before. While the number has been increasing every year for the past decade at least, non-resident births still account for only about two per cent of all births in Canada.

However, at Richmond Hospital last year, they accounted for 23.1 per cent of all births and at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver, they accounted for 10.3 per cent of all births.

Andrew Griffith, a fellow at the Environics Institute and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said 454 non-resident women delivered babies at Richmond Hospital in 2018/19 and 139 women gave birth at St. Paul’s Hospital. And the number of babies may even be higher than the number of women because some deliveries involve multiple babies.

Griffith noted that across Canada, non-resident births rose 13 per cent in the last fiscal year, a rate that is higher than both immigration and overall population increases. The number of non-resident births in B.C. rose 3.3 per cent overall; at St. Paul’s, they rose by 12.9 per cent from 2017/18 to 2018/19 and at Richmond Hospital, the increase was 5.6 per cent. At one hospital in Ontario, the increase was as much as 49 per cent.

Griffith said it is too early to say whether Ontario and Alberta are going to supplant B.C. as the favoured destinations for birth tourism.

“In general, I prefer to have two years of data before knowing whether this is a shift or simply a one-year anomaly. But it is significant I think that Richmond seems to have stabilized,” he said, adding that it has traditionally accounted for nearly three-quarters of all non-residents births in B.C. Indeed, there are numerous websites marketing services to Chinese women and dozens of birth houses in Richmond, catering to the needs of women coming here to have their babies.

An Angus Reid poll done early this year showed that 64 per cent of Canadians were opposed to granting automatic Canadian citizenship to babies born to birth tourists and an almost equal proportion wanted to see laws changed.

Source: Birth tourism needs to become an election issue, says president of Doctors of B.C.

Conservatives, Liberals rank economy high in immigration file, but diverge on integration, cultural values, says survey

What one would expect given other polling data but still of interest:

Conservatives and Liberals tend to agree that jobs and the economy should rank high when it comes to the immigration file, but concerns for the plight of refugees and integration of immigrants depends on where one falls on the political spectrum, suggests a new study released today.

Whereas many Conservatives prioritize on cultural values, national security, and jobs, the Liberals and NDP place less importance on those concerns, according to a survey from the Digital Democracy Project, a months-long effort that the Public Policy Forum and McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy are leading.

“Partisans differ in terms of what they’re talking about when they talk about immigration, what dimensions … they think about,” said Peter Loewen, a political science professor at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, one of the report’s authors.

Respondents were asked to rank eight dimensions related to immigration, including social services and welfare; diversity and multiculturalism; and illegal immigration, were of high concern.

For example, Conservative partisans expressed more concern over illegal immigration than other partisans, with 42 per cent saying it’s a concern, compared to 28 and 27 per cent of respondents who identified as Liberal and NDP supporters, respectively, the survey suggested.

The data, based on an online panel survey of 1,559 Canadians, was conducted from Sept. 11 to 16. Online polls are not considered to be truly random and cannot be assigned a margin of error.

There are marked differences between the Liberals and NDP on the immigration file, too. NDP supporters rank Canada’s responsibility towards welcoming refugees as higher on the list over jobs and the economy, while Liberal supporters indicated it as less of a priority, with 29 per cent choosing it as a top concern, compared to 44 per cent who identify with the NDP.

Researchers also found that most Canadians are misinformed about Canada’s immigration levels and refugee intake. Asked how many refugees Canada admitted in 2018, only 12 per cent answered correctly, 61 per cent were unsure, and 24 per cent said it was higher than the actual figure of 28,000.

“The worrying takeaway is that the more people are exposed to traditional news, to social media, the more likely they are to give incorrect answers about immigration levels, refugee intake levels,” Prof. Loewen said. “People are taking misinformation from somewhere in the ecosystem.”

Nativism could also explain differences in views on immigration policy, the report noted. In seeking to measure the level of nativist sentiments with a series of questions, researchers found that while Canadians “exhibit modest levels of nativism,” Liberal and NDP supporters have lower scores than Conservative supporters. (To measure respondents’ openness to nativist sentiments, they were asked to rate six statements, including whether they agree “immigrants take jobs from real Canadians” and if Canada “would be stronger if we stopped immigration,” on a five-point scale.

Attempts to provide information on the economic benefits of immigration had an influence on respondents’ perception of immigration, according to the study. Half of respondents were given an excerpt from a 2018 Conference Board of Canada report that said immigrants are key to economic growth. Among those who weren’t given the report, 23 per cent said immigration was bad for the economy and 57 per cent said it was good. Those figures changed slightly to 19 per cent and 63 per cent among those who viewed the report.

“While theories of motivated reasoning suggest that partisan respondents will reject information that doesn’t conform to their existing values or beliefs, the effect of this intervention was stronger for right-leaning partisans than for left-leaning partisans,” the report noted. “…This suggests that providing the public with relevant information could also influence their opinions on public policy, and that nativism is not as much of an immutable sentiment as commonly believed.”

Though Canada isn’t immune from nativist and populist sentiments, the report noted that such expressions don’t mimic the trends in the U.S. and “far-right parties in Europe.” The report suggested that the embrace of populist sentiments is “most common” among NDP supporters than Liberals, while the Conservatives are in between.

Previous studies from the Digital Democracy Project have looked at how Canadians consume and share media and its effects on their support for policies in the lead-up to the federal election.

Source: Conservatives, Liberals rank economy high in immigration file, but diverge on integration, cultural values, says survey

Douglas Todd: Drawing Canada’s party lines on immigration in this election

Likely better to await the formal party platforms for the specifics (or absence of …):

The United Nations reported last year that Canada is the fourth most accepting country in the world for immigrants.

Working with pollsters from Gallup, the UN tallied each country’s quotient for tolerance by asking residents of each nation whether it was a “good thing” or “bad thing” that immigrants were living in their country, were becoming their neighbours and marrying into their families.

While Canada came out close behind No. 1 Iceland and ahead of the Netherlands, Australia and the United States (ninth), some of the least-accepting countries for migrants turned out to be Pakistan, Greece, Poland and Egypt. The polling showed residents of populous India and China were not as hostile to newcomers as those in South Korea, Israel and Russia, but were still highly wary.

Canadians’ relatively welcoming approach to migrants is the backdrop to this federal election campaign, in which each party’s different approaches to immigration policy are quietly but increasingly bubbling to the surface, as a modern-day record proportion of Canadians — roughly half — now tell pollsters that Ottawa is allowing in too many immigrants.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is nevertheless standing on his record of welcoming asylum seekers, hiking immigration levels by one-third and increasing international students and guest workers by half. The Conservatives’ Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, stresses that immigration is a positive for the country and that “sadly, under Justin Trudeau, a record-high number of Canadians believe that immigration should be reduced.”

The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh has made it a priority to allow in more parents and grandparents of Canadians and further increase Ottawa’s immigrant-settlement funding for Quebec. The leader of Canada’s fourth most popular party, the Greens’ Elizabeth May, has promised to erase the temporary foreign workers program.

Most Canadians don’t want the kind of overheated immigration conflicts that have occurred in some countries. But specialists such as Simon Fraser University political scientist Sanjay Jeram say it’s healthy for Canadians to not avoid the issue, since it affects housing, employment, urban congestion, the welfare state and training programs. And UBC political scientist Antje Ellermann has said our immigration policy history is potentially vulnerable to public pushback.

“Populism is a consequence, not the cause of political dissatisfaction,” Ellermann said. “Canadian immigration policy has traditionally been dominated by the government and civil servants, and rarely engaged the public in meaningful ways. (That makes it) vulnerable to popular challenge.”

Canadians certainly have diverse opinions on migration. For instance, the Angus Reid Institute found 32 per cent want to keep the current refugee levels, of about 50,000 per year, while 18 per cent say they should increase and 40 per cent say they should be lower.

Canadians show similar variations on the federal “family reunification” program, which typically brings in older immigrants sponsored by relatives. Angus Reid analysts say Canadians are expressing “pushback” on this program out of concern such newcomers are “more taxing on the nation’s social services.”

Here’s more on how the four main political parties are handling migration issues:


In a close race with the Conservatives, Trudeau is not talking a great deal about specific immigration policies, says Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker, who notes the prime minister has mostly been questioning other candidates on whether they are tolerant.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has been more assertive. Highlighting how the Liberals have brought in a record number of international students, he recently confused education experts by boasting there were 721,000 such students in Canada in 2018. His officials later clarified the actual figure for Dec. 31, 2018, was 573,000. Hussen has also this year accused some of his political critics of being un-Canadian.

One of Trudeau’s rare forays into migration-related policy during the campaign occurred in Metro Vancouver, where there is a housing crisis. Trudeau pledged to follow the B.C. NDP and institute both a Canada-wide foreign buyers tax on housing as well as a speculation tax aimed at “satellite” homeowners, who earn most of their wealth outside the country, where it’s not subject to Canadian income tax.


After releasing his party’s immigration policy in May, Scheer has been low key on the potentially hot topic. Yet the Conservatives are airing ads that feature Scheer with the tagline “I’m voting for a fair immigration system.”

This month an Ipsos poll found 42 per cent of Canadians believe the Conservatives are best suited to handle immigration policy. That compares to the Liberals at 16 per cent, NDP at nine per cent, Greens at two per cent and the People’s Party of Canada, which wants to reduce immigration levels to 150,000 a year from the current 320,000, at 11 per cent.

The Conservatives have vowed to “set immigration levels consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests.” The party claims it would be more bold than the Liberals in clamping down on the thousands who have made irregular border crossings into Quebec. And this week Scheer promised to launch a national inquiry into “corrupt” money-laundering, both domestic and foreign, in the real-estate industry, which he said is inflating housing prices.


Singh is putting a strong emphasis on family-reunification programs, with the NDP saying it “will end the unfair cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents.” The party would also “take on unscrupulous immigration consultants.”

Even while Quebec Premier Francois Legault has cut immigration levels by 20 per cent, Singh has promised to have Ottawa respond to a lack of workers by giving the province $73 million more each year to settle newcomers. Critics, however, point out the federal government already sends Quebec four times as many taxpayer dollars to settle each immigrant than it sends to B.C. and Ontario.


The most surprising thing in the Greens’ policy is a commitment to end the temporary foreign worker program, which brings in about 100,000 people a year, while allowing more of them to become permanent residents. The Greens also say they want to define the term “environmental refugee,” turning it into a new category within Canada’s immigration system.

Even though the UN has verified that Canadians are among the world’s most welcoming people, it’s clear the complexities of immigration policy are still an issue, with politicians trying different ways to appeal to the public’s diverse opinions.

Source: Douglas Todd: Drawing Canada’s party lines on immigration in this election

Immigration Officials Want To Change References Of “Foreign National” To “Alien” In A Policy Manual

Not an innocent change:

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services officials are planning to change all references of the term “foreign national” to “alien” in the agency’s policy manual, according to a Department of Homeland Security official with knowledge of the plans — a move that will upset immigration advocates who have long said the word is offensive and unnecessary.

While the term “alien” is found within US Code and is regularly referenced in the immigration system and in court rulings, the word has, in recent years, been wiped from the California Labor Code and the Library of Congress after advocacy efforts.

USCIS, however, is looking to proactively insert more references to the term into its policy manual, an online collection of its immigration policies, by replacing all references of “foreign national” to “alien” to describe those who are not US citizens. The policy manual posted online features more than 800 references to the term “foreign national” and already features more than 100 references to aliens.

A spokesperson for USCIS defended the change, saying that the agency “proposes to use the legal term in the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

“It is important that our agency, which administers our nation’s lawful immigration system, align our internal materials with the INA,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Under the INA, the term ‘alien’ means ‘any person not a citizen or national of the United States.'”

The agency has long been known as focused on providing services to immigrants, evaluating visa, work authorization, and naturalization applications. Under the Trump administration, it has made a restrictive turn, focusing more on enforcement, former officials say. In 2018, the agency removed the phrase “a nation of immigrants” from its mission statement.

“Like the decision to remove the phrase ‘nation of immigrants’ from USCIS’s motto, this is yet another step in the administration’s effort to make our legal immigration system unfriendly and inaccessible,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council. “At a time when USCIS faces historic and still-growing backlogs, it’s disturbing that the agency is using its limited resources to carry out what appears to be an anti-immigrant messaging campaign.”

The planned work comes as USCIS deals with crushing backlogs of immigration benefits cases. Average case processing times have jumped 46% from the 2016 fiscal year to the 2018 fiscal year. The average processing time has gone up from just over six months to more than nine months in that same time period, according to data compiled by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Ur Jaddou, the former chief counsel for USCIS, said the effort to replace the words will be time-consuming.

“Lawyers should certainly review it to make sure it is accurate. That will take time and resources,” she said.

Since he began as acting director, Ken Cuccinelli has pushed policies that cut back the time immigrants have to consult with attorneys before their initial asylum interviews and implored asylum officers to be stricter in interviews.

He has maintained an active Twitter feed where he has attacked the asylum officers’ union for criticizing a policy that forces immigrants to remain in Mexico, advertised his TV appearances, and repeatedly rebuked local jurisdictions for policies that limit their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In recent weeks, he requested the ability to publicize the personal information of refugees and asylees who were accused of crimes.

As a Virginia lawmaker in 2008, Cuccinelli sponsored a resolution calling for a rewrite of the Constitution to deny citizenship to Americans who were born to immigrants who crossed the border without authorization.

“This sounds like something utterly unnecessary and potentially offensive, and the only silver lining is maybe this waste of time and resources will slow down more substantive adverse policies that they no doubt have in store as well,” said Doug Rand, a former immigration official under the Obama administration.

Jaddou said the push to the term “alien” was unfortunate.

“Taking the time to change it back — when I haven’t heard that the use of the less offensive term has created issues — makes me wonder about the actual motive to return to a term that many find offensive,” she said.

Source: Immigration Officials Want To Change References Of “Foreign National” To “Alien” In A Policy Manual

‘We think of them as cash cows.’ International students want to immigrate, but colleges, employers want to boost their bottom lines

Believe this is the last piece in the Star series. Will be interesting to see if this gets picked up or not during the campaign:

When Romina Avila and her husband Arturo Castaneyra decided to leave behind the growing violence in Mexico for a better life elsewhere, the couple set their sights on Canada and its colleges — an increasingly popular ticket for immigration.

By enrolling as international students at the college level — a more affordable alternative to university — they could acquire Canadian education credentials, postgraduate work permits and job experience to boost their chances for permanent residence, a feat Avila’s two older sisters and their spouses had previously accomplished.

“Everyone is looking for the same thing: Enrol in a college, get your one-year work experience and apply for permanent residence,” says Avila, a 32-year-old Mexico City native, who came to Canada with her husband in 2014, a year after Canada launched an aggressive campaign to double its annual number of international students to 450,000 by 2022. That target has long been surpassed.

In 2018, there were 570,000 study-permit holders in Canada — three-quarters enrolled in post-secondary education. The federal government estimated their spending, including tuition, amounted to $21.6 billion and supported 170,000 Canadian jobs.

Canada ranks fourth in the world among top destinations for international education, just behind the United States, the United Kingdom and China, having recently nudged ahead of Australia and France. A survey last year by the non-profit Canadian Bureau for International Education found that 60 per cent of international students planned to apply for permanent residence and 75 per cent said being able to work here after their studies was key to their decision to choose Canada.

A joint investigation by the Toronto Star and the St. Catharines Standard looked at the exponential growth of international students in Canada, especially in colleges. This influx has prompted concerns about whether international education has become an immigration shortcut, a default migrant workers’ program and a money-making business rather than primarily an opportunity for higher learning.

“The policy creates vulnerability, maybe not intentionally, but the way the policy was designed and enacted is what it’s producing,” says Wilfrid Laurier University professor Margaret Walton-Roberts, whose research focuses on international student migration. “There’s this desire to use this (education) stream to get permanent residence. All the way along, there are a lot of people who have an interest in making money out of this group, including the Canadian government.

“It’s been used by the government to prop up the post-secondary education sector. We kind of think of (international students) as cash cows.”

Colleges Ontario, an industry group representing the province’s 24 publicly funded colleges, says the push for international education has been driven by labour and skills shortages as a result of the country’s low birth rate and aging population. Colleges, it says, are better positioned to deal with the changing needs of the job market, with their historical focus on practical, shorter-term skills training and established networks with local employers.

Several years ago, Sang Woo Jo, 28, of South Korea, decided he wanted to immigrate to Canada and work as an auto technician. The best way to do that, he figured, was with a student visa.

Jo already had experience, having worked in Seoul for four years as a mechanic for the automaker Renault. But he didn’t know the English words for car parts and basic maintenance tasks, such as oil changes and tire rotations.

He arrived in 2017 and this spring wrapped up a two-year motive power co-op program at Niagara College, which trains auto mechanics.

“I will never go back to Korea,” he says. “I would really love to stay here … Good people, good country and good pay here in Canada, very good career here.”

After graduating, Jo landed a gig at Audi in Newmarket — a three-year work visa allows him to stay and work.

That’s not surprising for Wayne Toth, co-ordinator of motive power at Niagara College — a program with about 300 students, more than half of them international, mostly from China, Korea, India and the Caribbean.

“There’s a huge demand for skilled trades, especially in automotive,” says Toth. “A lot of (our students) are securing full-time positions when they graduate. There’s a huge number of seasoned technicians that are coming up for retirement.”

And, he says, by the nature of being already far from home, international students tend to be more willing to relocate for work, which makes them good matches for employers.

Niagara College says it routinely gets calls from local businesses, such as Fallsview casino, wineries and personal support worker agencies, seeking graduates.

“In the last year, we’ve seen a big uptick in requests,” says Shawna Luey, associate director of the college’s international student services. “We’re liaising more and more with employers and people in the community that hadn’t necessarily thought about international graduates as ongoing members of their greater community.”

Canada’s immigration department awards points to applicants under the skilled immigrant program based on attributes such as age, education, language proficiency and work experience. As part of Ottawa’s economic plan, the government tweaked the point grid and began rewarding applicants with bonus points if they have a degree, diploma or certificate from a Canadian publicly funded academic institution (up to 30 points) and work experience in Canada in an occupation with a staff shortage (up to 80 points.)

Andrei Evangelista of the Philippines tried twice to immigrate to Canada: in 2010 as a skilled worker and in 2014 as a live-in caregiver, but was refused both times. After working as a nurse abroad for nearly a decade, he enrolled in the postgraduate gerontology program at Niagara College in Welland and arrived in 2018.

He worked part-time as a personal support worker, and as a cashier at Walmart, earning in a day what he earned in a week back home.

“My goal was to be out of the Philippines and get a better paying job,” says Evangelista, who just completed his one-year diploma program this spring and started a full-time job at a nursing home in Halifax on a postgraduate work permit. He plans to apply for permanent residence after he earns the Canadian experience to meet the point threshold for immigration.

In 2016, about 30,000 former international students became permanent residents in Canada. In 2018, that number almost doubled to 54,000, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Last year, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced a new program to expedite student visa applications for those from China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam by fast-tracking processing from months to just 20 days. The four countries made up 60 per cent of Canada’s international student population in 2018. In July, the program was expanded to Pakistan, and to Morocco and Senegal this month.

“International students make significant contributions to the schools and the colleges and the universities and the communities in which they reside. The diverse perspectives that they bring to our classrooms enrich the educational experiences of Canadian students,” says Hussen.

“International students are the ideal future Canadians,” he adds. “That’s because they have Canadian post-secondary education and, in many cases, Canadian work experience. They also speak one, if not both, of our official languages. All of which is a recipe for a newcomer’s success in Canada.”

York University education professor Roopa Desai Trilokekar, whose research focuses on international education, says there’s no doubt most international students enrolled in our colleges have their eyes set on immigration.

“Today’s international education is a business. Our education (quality) can suffer if we bend too much to an open market,” cautions Trilokekar, who attended university in the United States in the 1970s as a visa student from India before immigrating to Canada in 1996. “If we don’t have enough check and balance, it’s going to open a different can of worms.”

Australia began an aggressive campaign to recruit international students in the early 2000s and saw its international enrolment peak in 2009. That growth slowed down after a series of attacks on international students from India amid rising racial tension.

In a comparative research study, Trilokekar and co-author Zainab Kizilbash, identified a number of challenges in Australia’s education and immigration systems, including unethical recruitment and graduation practices as well as lower admission standards.

“They encouraged the admission of non-genuine students who were looking for backdoor entry into Australia’s workforce,” the study says. “In addition to distorting Australia’s international education sector, these practices also negatively affected the integrity of its migration program.”

Canada has already taken a page from Australia’s experience by introducing a list of designated learning institutions for prospective students and limiting post-graduation permits to those who attend publicly funded universities and colleges, which are under more stringent government monitoring.

Even if you get an acceptance from a Canadian school, it still doesn’t mean Canada will let you in. In fact, last year, more than a third of student-visa applicants were turned away for a variety of reasons, such as failing to convince an immigration officer their main intent was to pursue their studies.

Immigration officials also require schools to submit a compliance report twice a year that verifies the academic and enrolment status of international students at their institutions. Cases are referred for further review if a student is suspended, asks for a leave, defers enrolment or has poor attendance.

According to the immigration department, the number of study permits revoked has tripled from 1,538 in 2016 to 5,502 in 2018, with 1,048 students stripped of their student status in the first two months of this year alone. A similar trend was reported in the number of study permit extensions being refused for students failing to meet their obligations and graduation timeline.

International students can lose their study permits if they get caught working more than the 20 hours a week permitted by the federal government. The opportunity to work during the academic year was introduced as a way to help students pay for their studies and earn Canadian work experience for immigration.

Critics, however, say international students have increasingly joined the revolving door of migrant workers, mostly to fill low-paying jobs in Canada.

“They come, live and work here mostly in low-wage retail, labour and factory jobs, sometimes through temp agencies. They are no different from other migrant workers, except for the added component and costs of the actual studies,” says Syed Hussan of Toronto-based Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, a national advocacy coalition of migrant workers, grassroots organizations, unions, faith groups, activists and researchers.

Migrant workers’ advocates say they first heard from international students around 2016. They raised issues such as owed wages and wage theft as well as complaints about workplace abuse and exploitation. The advocates initially referred them to unions and settlement services, but came to the realization there’s a “total absence of any meaningful services and advocacy” for this overlooked group.

The migrant workers’ alliance then reached out directly to international students, and since then more than 1,800 people have reported a range of issues from labour standards, to housing, wages and immigration.

“Migrant students don’t have many rights to access to begin with and there is a complete lack of information about their rights in Canada,” Syed Hussan says. “The point is the immigration system is designed to create and reinforce temporary status with the promise for a better life. And everyone is taking advantage of these students. Many of them end up doing low-wage work and later being forced to leave.”

In canvassing international students about their employment experience, alliance members uncovered some troubling incidents:

  • A group of six 17-year-olds from Brazil enrolled in a six-month language program say they were sent to clean offices in Toronto and Mississauga in the evening — without pay — as part of a “language training on-site practicum.”
  • A Pakistani student, who completed a two-year post-grad diploma in computer programming and was on a postgraduate work permit, says his employer had him deposit his paycheques, then forced him to withdraw the money and hand it back over in exchange for a reference letter for his permanent residence application.
  • Two students from India say they were hired to load trucks at a warehouse and split $350 in wages for the 25 hours they each put in on the job every week. The hourly rate amounted to just $7.

Minister Hussen says the government takes the integrity of the international education system very seriously, but he believes these cases are a minority and blames the problem on unscrupulous recruiters who mislead and misinform students.

“The vast majority of international students are fine. They come, they know the rules and abide by them. They have a great experience,” Hussen says in an interview.

“The story of international students has been a very positive story. They make great contributions to our economy and amazing contributions to our classrooms. Some of them choose to stay and become permanent residents and help us fill unfilled jobs and bring much-needed skills to Canada.”

Fred Gibbons, president of Northern College in Timmins, says international students have become an increasingly important source of labour in smaller communities at businesses such as Home Depot, Canadian Tire, local grocers and the service industry.

“They’re doing the part-time jobs that many of our kids don’t want to do anymore and in many respects there aren’t the kids around to do the jobs anymore,” says Gibbons. “They’re being embraced by the employers. They’re saying these students show up on time, they’re polite, they’re punctual, they’re reliable.”

Former international student Varunpreet Singh, a student co-ordinator with the migrant workers alliance, says international students are vulnerable to exploitation because of Canada’s increasingly “temporary” immigration system, which brings in migrants on temporary status with the promise of permanent residence through a myriad of confusing pathways.

“What’s most challenging is these students are so afraid to come out and share their experiences. They have invested so much in the process with the hope of staying. There is so much pressure on them to succeed,” says Singh, 27, who enrolled in George Brown College in 2014 before completing a master’s degree in architecture at University of Calgary two years ago. He became a permanent resident in February.

“The blame is not just on the employers who pay these students below minimum wage and exploit them, but on the system that allows the abuse to take place.”

Last year, Ireland rolled out a scheme to offer amnesty to former international students who had overstayed and gone underground after finishing their studies and failing to secure permanent residence. “Offering permanent residence upon arrival is the only solution to these problems,” Singh suggests.

Victoria Esses, director of the Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations at Western University, says international students make ideal immigrants because theoretically they are already acculturated and have better English skills and an education more familiar to Canadian employers.

“You don’t have to be a PhD to be a skilled immigrant,” says Esses. “The thing that we need to pay attention to is how we are integrating international students. Being isolated in a classroom or in residence (from Canadian students) is not going to help them integrate.”

While schools tend to focus on international students’ initial orientation upon arrival, Esses says they require continuous support throughout their studies and in the transition into the labour market and permanent residence.

One of the challenges in integrating international students is, as temporary residents of Canada, they are not eligible for immigrant settlement services, and universities and colleges can only provide limited support beyond their academic and social needs.

Phoram Ghelani, a former international student from India, says many families like his have to borrow money to enable their children to study in Canada and, once here, the students must work to pay their own bills and sometimes even support their families back home.

“To us, immigration and international education are the same thing. We don’t see any difference,” says Ghelani, who came to Toronto from Rajkot City in India’s Gujarat state for the one-year hospitality and tourism operations management program at Humber College in 2014, after finishing an undergraduate degree in commerce from Saurashtra University.

“Even if we only get a sh–y job here, we still make more money than doing a decent job in India. Canada’s economy runs on immigrants and immigration. The product it sells is immigration, permanent residence,” adds the 25-year-old, who worked as a chef with his one-year post-grad work permit and was granted permanent residence in December. He now works as a banking adviser.

Critics say if Canada increases enrolment without investing in support for international students, the quality of education will suffer and the whole international education system will become, by default, simply a way to earn money and permanent residence.

“Is it right?” asks Laurier’s Walton-Roberts. “Not if people are not getting something of value out of the process. So what’s the thing of value that they want? Is the thing of value they want permanent residence or a particular education? If they are getting it and if the college process is the means to get there, the question to ask is, is that a problem?”

Avila, the George Brown graduate from Mexico, says although she initially came to Canada with her husband for the ultimate purpose of immigration, she had grown to love the community worker program she enrolled in.

“We do feel we are used as cash cows to subsidize the Canadian education system. We do feel we have no rights as international students. I didn’t want to go back to school, but this is the best way to immigrate to Canada,” says Avila, who has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Mexico.

“The college experience does make it easier to find a job and meet people and network in Canada. I’m here because of international education. It does open the door for me.”

Source: ‘We think of them as cash cows.’ International students want to immigrate, but colleges, employers want to boost their bottom lines