@IRCC Consultations: Shaping the future of immigration in Canada

Somewhat cynical about the consultations exercise.

On the surface, may be a response to the increased public commentary questioning the impact that current and planned high immigration levels have on housing, healthcare adnn infrastructure but without the political will for a fundamental review of immigration programs and policies, which appear largely based on a “more the merrier” approach. The “learn more” section suggests that no fundamental review is planned.

Will be interesting to see if those consulted include critics of the current approach, not from the various advocacy groups but more broadly:

Immigration is critical to Canada’s long-term success. To fully harness the potential of immigration and create the best experience for newcomers,

Canada needs an immigration system that is strong, easy to navigate and adaptive to change.

The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today announced the start of a broad-based engagement initiative—An Immigration System for Canada’s Future—aimed at exploring how immigration policies and programs can support a shared vision for Canada’s future. The engagement, which will continue throughout the spring, will include in-person dialogue sessions across the country, thematic workshops and a survey for the public and our clients. The input gathered will inform Canada’s future immigration policies and programs, and will help shape a system that will benefit communities across the country for decades to come.

The next generation of Canada’s immigration system will involve continued, whole-of-society collaboration. That is why this engagement initiative is intended to capture a diversity of perspectives from a broad range of partners and stakeholders, including all levels of government, businesses, academia, post-secondary institutions, settlement organizations, implicated sectors in Canada and our clients.

To kick off the engagement initiative, Minister Fraser chaired the first dialogue session in Halifax. The session provided an opportunity for the Minister and participants to exchange ideas and discuss how Canada’s immigration policies and programs can better support the needs of communities from coast to coast.

If you would like to contribute to the future of Canada’s immigration system, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will also be launching a survey, which will be available to the public later in March in addition to the dialogue sessions and thematic workshops with stakeholders. We encourage you to visit our website to learn more about how to get involved.


Clark: Let’s get politicians to tell us how they would close Roxham Road, not why, Yakabuski: Trudeau can no longer avoid tough choices on Roxham Road 

As always, the herd instinct at play in coverage of irregular arrivals and Roxham Road, given Premier Legault’s public pressure and Pierre Poilievre’s simplistic solution.

Two of the best are Clark, who calls for a needed but unlikely change, and Yakabuski who argues time for though choices:

Let’s hold all our politicians to one simple rule about Roxham Road: Don’t tell us what you want to do about it. Tell us how you would do it.

Quebec politicians have been calling for the unofficial crossing on the border between Quebec and New York state to be closed. And Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called for the feds to do so within 30 days.

But as it turns out, there is no switch that opens and closes the border. So what is it they are actually proposing?

Mr. Poilievre said that all it takes is a simple decision, but he couldn’t say what the government should decide to do.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons why the government should do something. People want the border to be under control. They want migration to be safe and orderly.

And there is palpable frustration when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau essentially says he’s got nothing other than time to wait for U.S. President Joe Biden to solve the problem by changing a border agreement. And that’s essentially what Mr. Trudeau was saying Wednesday when he said that if Roxham Road was closed, asylum-seekers would just cross at other places. It’s probably true, but not a solution.

So how can it be done? Quebec Premier François Legault wants a deal with the U.S., too, but faster. Mr. Poilievre – and most politicians – don’t want to specify. Real proposals usally involve doing things the politicians don’t want to talk about. And many so far have been ineffective or ridiculous.

When People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2017, he proposed sending the military. In 2018, two Conservative MPs proposed declaring the entire 8,891-kilometre border into an official border crossing, arguing that would trick the U.S. into taking back those who entered Canada at Roxham Road. That same year, then-Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée briefly suggested a fence, or “a sign, a cedar grove, a police officer, whatever.”

Mr. Poilievre told reporters on Tuesday that it must be easy, because Mr. Trudeau shut down Roxham Road during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that didn’t happen with a snap of the fingers. When the two countries shut their borders, the U.S. agreed that Canada could direct border-crossers back. When the borders reopened, that arrangement ended. And here we are again.

That’s one thing to remember: Once they step foot into Canada, non-Americans can’t be sent back to the U.S. unless the U.S. agrees. The Safe Third Country Agreement allows for asylum seekers who enter Canada at official border posts to be turned back, but not those who cross in between. Canadian governments have tried for years to get the U.S. to change that, to no avail. On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said he’s working on it.

Of course, the simplest way to stop people from crossing at Roxham Road would be to scrap the Safe Third Country Agreement. Then asylum-seekers would just show up at official border crossings, as they did before 2004. And as Mr. Legault pointed out the other day, Mr. Trudeau tweeted in 2017 that Canada welcomes those fleeing persecution and war. It’s just that scrapping the agreement would almost certainly bring a lot more of them.

Some have proposed a fence. But obviously, people can go around it. There are lots of places to cross the border. It might disrupt the organized route to Roxham Road but police would probably have to intercept border-crossers at more places.

And there is Mr. Bernier’s idea: Send in the troops. Or police. But the real question is what they would do. Presumably they wouldn’t shoot everyone. Would all asylum-seekers be thrown in jail indefinitely?

Maybe there are better ideas. It would be nice to hear them. But Canadian politicians who don’t tell us how they would do it are avoiding the talk about costs, or the potential for border breaches to proliferate, or locking people up, or toughening the system.

Those are things debated by American politicians, who argue about harsher rules to discourage asylum-seekers from trying to enter the U.S. Mr. Biden is proposing refusing asylum claims from people who travelled through central America.

But now, Mr. Trudeau has essentially admitted he won’t do anything until Mr. Biden agrees to solve the problem for him.

And those such as Mr. Poilievre who call for Roxham Road to be closed are just mouthing meaningless words until they tell us how.

Source: Let’s get politicians to tell us how they would close Roxham Road, not why

François Legault has got his mojo back, or sort of.

After returning from Ottawa this month with a fraction of the billions of additional health care dollars he had been demanding for his province, the Quebec Premier was ridiculed by opposition parties and political pundits alike for being all bark and no bite.

Thanks to Ottawa’s recent transfer to cities in Ontario of asylum seekers arriving at the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road in Quebec, Mr. Legault has been able to boast to the home crowd that he’s still got it. That his government’s constant efforts to force Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do something about the “migrant crisis” facing Quebec is finally getting results. Thanks to his leaked letter to Mr. Trudeau and an op-ed in The Globe and Mail, Mr. Legault can tell Quebeckers that he has finally got the rest of Canada’s attention, if not its respect.

In truth, Ottawa last year began bussing some asylum seekers from Roxham Road to hotels in Cornwall, Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Windsor when it could no longer find rooms in Quebec. Since early 2023, those transfers have been occurring on a systematic basis. Mr. Legault wants Ottawa to continue to transfer migrants to other provinces, arguing correctly that Quebec has “taken on a completely disproportionate share” of asylum seekers entering Canada since Roxham Road was reopened in late 2021.

Mr. Legault also wants Mr. Trudeau to permanently “close the breach” in Canada’s border-security by prohibiting migrants from claiming asylum at Roxham Road, as it had temporarily done for an 18-month period during the pandemic. Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling for Roxham’s closing within 30 days, also citing the pandemic-related closing as proof that Ottawa has the authority to act unilaterally to address the loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement that enabled more than 39,000 migrants to enter this country in 2022 at what has become our most official unofficial border crossing.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser called Mr. Poilievre’s ideas “reckless” and lacking in “depth and understanding.” Amid a global migration crisis, Mr. Fraser added, Canada has a “responsibility to implement real, long-term solutions.”

Real, long-term solutions are not this government’s strong suit. It does excel at posturing, virtue signalling and dithering. But it has offered little evidence that it is taking concrete steps to address the increasing flow of asylum seekers at Roxham Road.

It is easy to understand why a government that prefers to project a compassionate image would be reluctant to act in any manner that might make it look heartless to some. Turning asylum seekers away at Roxham Road, in effect surrendering them to U.S. immigration authorities, would subject the Trudeau government to a backlash from within Liberal ranks.

Yet, it must be pointed out that this government has no problem turning away asylum seekers who arrive at official land border crossings. Are those who arrive at Roxham Road any more worthy of refugee status in Canada than the others?

What we do know is that almost half of “irregular border crossers” who arrived in Canada after 2016 saw their asylum claims rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board or abandoned or withdrew their applications before a final IRB determination. And that the surge in irregular crossings at Roxham Road has left the IRB with a backlog of more than 74,000 cases that is growing rapidly each month. A refugee system that is meant to provide asylum to those fleeing persecution in their country of origin is being exploited by smugglers who prey on vulnerable people seeking to escape economic hardship in Latin America and Africa.

There are those in Liberal circles who argue that the “fundamental premise” at the heart of the STCA – specifically, the designation of the United States as a “safe” country for refugee claimants – no longer holds true. But as the Federal Court of Appeal found in 2021, it is up to the federal cabinet to undertake continual review to ensure that the United States continues to meet the criteria for safe country designation.

Not once since taking power in 2015 has the Trudeau government sought to cancel this designation – not even during the dark days of Donald Trump’s presidency, when some migrant children were separated from their parents.

The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule on the STCA this year. Even if it upholds the legality of the agreement, a new proposal by President Joe Biden to turn away all asylum seekers at the U.S. border who arrive from a third country via Mexico raises new questions about Canada’s continued designation of the U.S. as a safe country.

For Mr. Trudeau, there are no “real, long-term solutions” to the Roxham Road dilemma that do not include making tough, even excruciating, choices.

Source: Trudeau can no longer avoid tough choices on Roxham Road

Krauss: Artificially Intelligent Offense?

Of note, yet another concern and issue that needs to be addressed:

…Let’s be clear about this: Valid, empirically derived information is not, in the abstract, either harmful or offensive.

The reception of information can be offensive, and it can, depending upon the circumstances of the listener, potentially result in psychological or physical harm. But precisely because one cannot presume to know all such possible circumstances, following the OpenAI guidelines can instead sanction the censorship of almost any kind of information for fear that someone, somewhere, will be offended.

Even before ChatGPT, this was not a hypothetical worry. Recall the recent firing of a heralded NYT science reporter for using “the N-word” with a group of students in the process of explaining why the use of that word could be inappropriate or hurtful. The argument the NYT editors made was that “intent” was irrelevant. Offense is in the ear of the listener, and that overrides the intent of the speaker or the veracity of his or her argument.

A more relevant example, perhaps, involves the loony guidelines recently provided to editors and reviewers for the journals of the Royal Society of Chemistry to “minimise the risk of publishing inappropriate or otherwise offensive content.” As they describe it, “[o]ffence is a subjective matter and sensitivity to it spans a considerable range; however, we bear in mind that it is the perception of the recipient that we should consider, regardless of the author’s intention [italics mine] … Please consider whether or not any content (words, depictions or imagery) might have the potential to cause offence, referring to the guidelines as needed.”

Moreover, they define offensive content specifically as “Any content that could reasonably offend someone on the basis of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, marital or parental status, physical features, national origin, social status or disability.”

The mandate against offensiveness propounded by the RSC was taken to another level by the journal Nature Human Behaviour, which indicated that not only would they police language, but they would restrict the nature of scientific research they publish on the basis of social justice concerns about possible “negative social consequences for studied groups.” One can see echoes of both the RSC and Nature actions in the ChatGPT response to my questions.

The essential problem here is removing the obligation, or rather, the opportunity, all of us should have to rationally determine how we respond to potentially offensive content by instead ensuring that any such potentially offensive content may be censored. Intent and accuracy become irrelevant. Veto power in this age of potential victimization is given to the imaginary recipient of information.

Free and open access to information, even information that can cause pain or distress, is essential in a free society. As Christopher Hitchens so often stressed, freedom of speech is primarily important not because it provides an opportunity for speakers to speak out against prevailing winds but because that speech gives listeners or readers the freedom to realize they might want to change their minds.

The problem with the dialogues presented above is that ChatGPT appears to be programmed with a biased perception of what might be offensive or harmful. Moreover, it has been instructed to limit the information it provides to that which its programmers have deemed is neither. What makes this example more than an interesting—or worrying—anecdote is the emerging potential of AI chatbots to further exacerbate already disturbing trends.

As chatbot responses begin to proliferate throughout the Internet, they will, in turn, impact future machine learning algorithms that mine the Internet for information, thus perpetuating and amplifying the impact of the current programming biases evident in ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is admittedly a work in progress, but how the issues of censorship and offense ultimately play out will be important. The last thing anyone should want in the future is a medical diagnostic chatbot that refrains from providing a true diagnosis that may cause pain or anxiety to the receiver. Providing information guaranteed not to disturb is a sure way to squash knowledge and progress. It is also a clear example of the fallacy of attempting to input “universal human values” into AI systems, because one can bet that the choice of which values to input will be subjective.

If the future of AI follows the current trend apparent in ChatGPT, a more dangerous, dystopic machine-based future might not be the one portrayed in the Terminator films but, rather, a future populated by AI versions of Fahrenheit 451firemen.

Source: Artificially Intelligent Offense?

UK now among most accepting countries for foreign workers, survey finds

Interesting shift:

The UK has become one of the world’s most accepting places for foreign workers, according to a survey in 24 nations revealing a sharp increase in British acceptance of economic migration.

People in the UK emerged as less likely to think that when jobs are scarce employers should give priority to people of their own country than those in Norway, Canada, France, Spain, the US, Australia and Japan. Only Germany and Sweden were more open on that question.

In what the study’s authors described as “an extraordinary shift”, only 29% of people in the UK in 2022 said priority over jobs should go to local people, compared with 65% when the same question was asked in 2009.

The findings come as employers call for more migration to help fill more than 1m vacancies, and after the prime minister appointed the anti-immigration firebrand Lee Anderson as deputy chair of the Conservative party. He has called people arriving in small boats on the south coast “criminals” and called for them to be “sent back the same day”. Police have been deployed to hotels where asylum seekers are being housed amid violent protests by anti-immigration activists.

“It was unthinkable a decade ago that the UK would top any international league table for positive views of immigration,” said Prof Bobby Duffy, the director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, who shared the findings from the latest round of the survey exclusively with the Guardian and the BBC. “But that’s where we are now, with the UK the least likely, from a wide range of countries, to say we should place strict limits on immigration or prohibit it entirely.”

The UK ranked fourth out of 24 nations for the belief that immigrants have a very or quite good impact on the development of the country – ahead of Norway, Spain, the US and Sweden.

One factor in the shift in opinions on the question of “British jobs for British workers” may be that in 2009 the UK was in a deep recession, with more than double today’s unemployment, whereas today the economy suffers from a worker shortage, with 1.1m vacancies in the UK, 300,000 more than before the pandemic.

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, last year urged employers to look to the British workforce in the first instance and “get local people”, although the government has widened visa programmes for seasonal workers and care staff.

Duffy said the findings showed that “it’s time to listen more carefully to public attitudes”. He said: “Politicians often misread public opinion on immigration. In the 2000s, Labour government rhetoric and policy on this issue was more relaxed than public preferences, and arguably they paid the price – but the current government is falling into the reverse trap.”

People in the UK are now the least likely of the 24 countries that participate in the World Values Survey study to think immigration increases unemployment, and second from top in thinking that immigrants fill important job vacancies.

They are very likely to say immigration boosts cultural diversity, and very unlikely to think immigration comes with crime and safety risks. However, more people in the UK think immigration leads to “social conflict” than in several other countries, including Canada, Japan and China.

The UK ranks highly for believing immigrants have a positive impact

The World Values Survey asks the same questions in countries that account for almost half the world’s population. The surveys in each country are not carried out simultaneously, so the latest UK findings are compared with data from other countries gathered since 2017.

“We have seen a shift that is quite remarkable in the UK,” said Madeleine Sumption, the director of the migration observatory at Oxford University, adding that the findings were in line with decreasing public concern about immigration since the 2016 EU referendum.

“There is speculation it is about the fact that the end of freedom of movement has created a feeling the UK now has more control,” she said.

She added that there had also been positive media coverage about what migrant workers bring to the economy, especially given worker shortages in industries such as agriculture.

“I think it potentially creates space for a less polarised debate about immigration,” she said. “To the extent there is a consensus that immigration can be positive for the country and the question was how to manage it well, you can imagine that would be more a technocratic debate.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our points-based immigration system recognises the valuable contribution that people from around the world can make to our economy, public services and wider society. It attracts the best and brightest talent from across the globe by putting skill and talent first – not where someone comes from.”

Source: UK now among most accepting countries for foreign workers, survey finds

Nicolas: Ô Canada… quoi?

Of interest:

La star du R&B canadien Jully Black refusait de chanter l’Ô Canada dans des événements sportifs depuis déjà quelques années. En entrevue à la CBC, elle raconte avoir été profondément ébranlée par les nouvelles entourant la découverte présumée de tombes non identifiées d’enfants autochtones sur les terrains d’anciens pensionnats. Depuis, les mots ne venaient plus.

Le week-end dernier, elle a toutefois accepté d’interpréter l’hymne national pour un match des étoiles de la NBA… à sa façon. Plutôt que de prononcer les paroles anglaises habituelles « our home and native land » (« notre maison et terre natale ») , elle y est plutôt allée d’un « our home on native land » bien senti. Notre maison en terre autochtone. Il n’en a pas fallu plus pour que tout le pays réagisse.

D’un côté, sur les médias sociaux, son geste a suscité beaucoup d’admiration, notamment de plusieurs personnalités autochtones. De l’autre, des Canadiens très attachés à l’Ô Canada ont cru qu’elle avait outrepassé son rôle. La division dans les réactions n’est pas sans rappeler la tempête qu’a déclenchée le genou à terre de Colin Kaepernick en 2016. L’ex-joueur étoile de la NFL avait ainsi voulu attirer l’attention sur le problème de la brutalité policière aux États-Unis.

Sauf que nous ne sommes pas aux États-Unis. Et ici, l’hymne national a une histoire très particulière. On a presque envie de sourire devant un chroniqueur conservateur de Toronto qui croit qu’on ne peut pas toucher aux paroles de l’Ô Canada.

On a envie de lui rappeler que la musique originale est de Calixa Lavallée, et que le poème est d’Adolphe-Basile Routhier. Que l’hymne a été chanté pour la première fois le 24 juin 1880, pour les fêtes de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Que le mot « Canada », à l’époque, était encore largement synonyme du Canada français. Et que les traductions anglaises (oui, au pluriel — il y en a eu plusieurs) constituent déjà une forme de récupération politique d’un chant qui a été conçu pour parler de tout autre chose que ce qu’il représente aujourd’hui.

Au fond, le geste de Jully Black représente l’appropriation d’une appropriation d’une oeuvre. En en modifiant les paroles dans son interprétation, Black a posé un geste politique sur un chant dont la trajectoire est déjà liée intimement à l’évolution sociale du pays.

Ce n’est qu’en 1980, juste avant le rapatriement de la Constitution par Pierre Elliott Trudeau, que l’Ô Canada est devenu par loi l’hymne national du pays. Avant, des générations d’enfants avaient dû entonner God Save the Queen (ou King) dans les écoles du Dominion. Et en 2018, les paroles anglaises ont été modifiées par le Parlement, pour que le « true patriot love in all thy sons command » devienne un « true patriot love in all of us command », moins genré.

L’Ô Canada porte donc en lui les traces du nationalisme canadien-français du XIXe siècle, de l’autonomisation progressive du pays par rapport à l’Empire britannique au cours du XXe siècle, et de l’égalité des genres du XXIe siècle.

La réflexion sur la place des peuples autochtones au pays et sur l’histoire de la colonisation, qui a pourtant largement avancé dans les dernières années, se trouve encore absente du texte. Par son interprétation, Jully Black a repris une suggestion qui avait d’ailleurs été faite à maintes reprises auparavant, notamment sur nombre d’affiches dans les manifestations des dernières années.

Reste à savoir si, au-delà du moment viral, quelque chose de concret restera de son geste.
• • • • •
La réflexion ci-haut pourrait apparaître à première vue complètement futile. En effet, il y a mille et une crises urgentes dans le monde : un hymne national n’est certainement pas une priorité. Et même modifiées, les paroles d’un chant symbolique restent nécessairement symboliques. « Our home on native land » entonné avec la plus belle voix du monde ne fait absolument rien, concrètement, pour changer les rapports de force entre Autochtones et non-Autochtones au pays. On aurait raison, donc, de pointer du doigt les limites des discussions sur des sujets aussi complexes que la colonisation qui portent seulement sur des questions de représentations abstraites.

Ce qui est intéressant ici, c’est que le débat sur l’Ô Canada advient parce qu’il y a eu transformation — ou du moins, évolution — des mentalités canadiennes. C’est parce qu’il y a une réflexion de plus en plus répandue sur le rapport de l’État canadien à ses territoires que le geste de Jully Black trouve un écho. Ce qui est intéressant ici, c’est donc moins la modification des paroles elle-même que la manière dont elle résonne.

La politique québécoise a longtemps été principalement divisée entre souverainistes et fédéralistes. Et le « fédéralisme », dans ce contexte, sous-entendait une défense du statu quo.

Le Canada qui a organisé le love-in de 1995 était un Canada convaincu de ses propres vertu, grandeur et perfection. Pour bien des Canadiens, dont Black s’est en quelque sorte fait la voix le week-end dernier, ce Canada-là n’existe plus.

La critique du nationalisme canadien n’est plus, depuis plusieurs années déjà, une question politique qui émane presque exclusivement du Québec. Bien sûr, les peuples autochtones ont aussi critiqué le pays depuis sa fondation même. Mais il se trouve aussi maintenant de plus en plus d’alliés sensibilisés à ces perspectives qui utilisent leur voix (ici, littéralement) pour remettre en question des idées pourtant centrales à l’édifice idéologique sur lequel le Canada s’est construit.

Parfois, cette évolution politique s’exprime sous forme de débat sur les statues présentes dans l’espace public ou sur le nom d’un édifice. Maintenant, c’est de l’hymne national dont il est question. Mais l’important, dans ces moments d’éclat, ce n’est jamais la statue, l’édifice ou le chant. L’essentiel de l’affaire réside toujours dans le récit qu’on se raconte, comme société, pour faire corps.

Source: Ô Canada… quoi?

Must read: Australia’s Migration System: Breakdown & Fixes, a candid assessment from Australia’s Minister of Home Affairs

How nice it would be to have a Canadian minister talk so frankly about real issues, problems and failures.

Of course, much easier when a government is new to office, and has no record. Largely impossible for any current Canadian government minister to make such a statement after seven years in power, but it is nevertheless that many if not most of the issues she raises apply equally to Canada:

We’re here today on the land of the Gadigal people.

I acknowledge their enduring custodianship of the land and waterways around Sydney, and I acknowledge any First Nations people with us today.

I live, work in and represent one of the most culturally diverse parts of Australia.

More than two thirds of my neighbours have at least one parent born overseas. For more than half, both parents were born overseas.

And so I’m lucky to see, up close, the hugely powerful ways in which our country is economically and culturally enriched by our migrant history.

Whether it’s the thriving, migrant-owned businesses that dominate the high streets of my electorate, or the smell of spit roast in our street at Greek Easter, or the joy of watching my kids grow up alongside children from dozens of different cultures, my patch of our country virtually pulses with life.

Migration is Australia’s special sauce.

Everything big and important we have achieved, for most of the last 100-years, has occurred, in part, because we’ve invited people from around the world to come and help us with our national endeavours.

Think of Australia emerging out of the Second World War, severely underpopulated. With the clarion call to “populate or perish”, migration supported Australia’s national security, and laid the foundation for the post-war boom that lasted for two decades.

The 1970s saw Australia emerge as a vibrant, modern, middle-power, with strong links to our Asian neighbours. Our nation buried the White Australia Policy and embraced multiculturalism.

Migration helped Australia rebound out of the dark days of the 1990s recession. From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, the share of skilled migrants in our annual intake doubled.

What followed was Australia’s economic miracle: from 1991 onwards we enjoyed the longest running period of continuous economic growth, on record, anywhere in the world. 

Migration delivers in huge ways for Australia when the system matches the needs of our nation, in that moment.

Yet I would challenge anyone in this audience today to explain what our migration system today is designed for.

What national problems are we seeking to solve? How is this program helping Australia on our national journey, as we look to the rest of the 2020s and beyond?

I have been the Minister for Home Affairs for 8 months, and no one has yet been able to answer these pretty fundamental questions. And that, my friends, is part travesty, part massive opportunity.

Because we do have some big national problems.

Our economy is stuck in a productivity rut and real wages are lower now than they were a decade ago.

Australia is the developed country in the world most at risk of a warming climate. But it is also the country with the biggest opportunity to transition to a net-zero economy. We need to make sure we have the skills to do this.

We confront the most dangerous geopolitical circumstances Australia has faced since the 1940s. We need to build better sovereign capabilities, fast.

And, we have an ageing population, which means big pressures on the economy, and the need for many more workers in health and aged care than we will be able to find in our domestic population.

Migration will never substitute our focus on skilling Australians. It is not the full answer to any of these problems. But it is a part answer to all of them.

Unfortunately, the system today is not designed to help us manage any of this. Our migration system has been on continental drift for a decade.

Australia’s migration system is broken. It is unstrategic. It is complex, expensive, and slow. It is not delivering for business, for migrants, or for our population.

In November last year, I asked former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Martin Parkinson, to work with migration experts Dr Joanna Howe and John Azarias, to review Australia’s migration system and help our government get this program working in the national interest.

Today, I want to talk to you about some of the insights from that process and share some thinking on early directions for reform.

The many ways in which migration is broken

I have said the program has been on continental drift for a decade.

I’m going to talk you through a bit more detail on what the implications have been for the country. And to do that, I need you to understand one thing about the current structure of the migration program.

Our migration system is made up of two big programs: a capped permanent program and a demand-driven temporary one. 

Australia’s migration history has been built on permanency and citizenship. That is, we invite people to come to our country, and we want them to invest and build a life here: to start businesses, get their kids educated, and to make this country their own. That’s the Australian model.

Today, really for the first time in our modern history, our uncapped, unplanned temporary program is the centrepiece and driver of our migration system. This simple fact is the source of huge problems.

Since 2005, the number of net skilled permanent migrants coming to Australia each year has stayed roughly the same – at somewhere around 30,000 people.

Yet in that time, the number of temporary migrants has exploded. 

In 2007 we had about 1 million temporary migrants in Australia, excluding visitor and transit visas. Today that number is 1.9 million.

This rather staggering shift in direction has happened without any real policy debate or discussion. It happened not through thoughtful planning and strategy, but by negligence and continental drift. And, this reliance on temporary migration is having enormous economic and social consequences.

We don’t do any real planning and thinking about who these 1.9 million people are. You can see from the slide that just 6% are here on skilled visas. Are these 1.9m people bringing the skills and capabilities we need to drive our nation forward? We just genuinely don’t know.

The temporary program is now not just the biggest source of migrants overall, it is now also the biggest feeder into the permanent program. Let me say that again. When we fill those limited precious permanent slots each year, 65% are filled by people who are already in Australia, on temporary visas.

So that unstrategic, drifting nature of the temporary program is now the tail wagging the dog of the permanent program.

Today, it is relatively easy for a low skill, temporary migrant to come to Australia, but difficult, slow and not particularly attractive for a high-skill, permanent migrant to come here. We’ve got the system backwards.

This focus on temporariness means that migrants cannot truly flourish.

We want our migrants to be brilliant potential citizens. Today, many of those 1.9m temporary migrants live in a state of permanent temporariness, unable to invest in their education, get a loan to start a business, or feel emotionally that they can set down roots.

Instead, many are trapped in a Kafkaesque limbo, perpetually filling in forms and cycling through different kinds of temporary visas. Not good for them, not good for the country.

Many temporary visas require employer sponsorship and engagement. And in some contexts, this is a recipe for the kind of endemic worker exploitation we all know is occurring: in agriculture, in hospitality, in retail. No one in this audience wants this to be happening in our country.

So the big problem with our system today, the big Kahuna, is the fundamental structure. If we want this system to deliver for our country, we need to revisit how we think about the role of temporary and permanent migration in Australia, and how these systems interact.

And we need to start that discussion with a consideration of who we need to help us on our Australian journey, and design a new program around those clear goals and objectives.

Many other problems…

While the structure of the program matters most, there are some other big opportunities here in the reform discussion.

One is the untapped potential in the population of migrants who are already here. In my view, international students are where the big dividends are. We are training international students in our world-class education system. But after their studies are finished, many are required to leave.

When students do stay after graduation, they aren’t transitioning well into the labour market. Around 50% are working in lower-skilled roles than they are qualified for.

They’re not the only group. Skilled migrants will often come with a partner who is as well qualified as the primary applicant. But the evidence suggests those partners are not engaging well with the labour force. Again, value just left on the table, for that family and for our country.

Inertia and drift have infected almost everything. Our system is clogged with arcane, ineffective rules which don’t serve a clear purpose.

We use outdated occupation lists to determine workforce needs. This is a particular problem in tech, where the skills needs of industry (and even the language used to describe the needed skill sets) move really quickly. We don’t have a data-driven approach to building those lists, and we don’t think about the strategic needs of the workforce and our nation in building them.

We have a labour market testing process that in some cases is little more than a box ticking exercise. The way we recognise skills and qualifications earned in other countries is really, really problematic.

We have a points system which helps determine which migrants will be able to come which doesn’t differentiate properly on age, income or skills. That system gives the same number of points to a 39 year old as to a 24 year old, even though their economic output will be substantially different.

The combined effect of all these outdated rules is complexity, cost and delay. The system needs rules, of course. But let’s make sure they’re achieving what they are meant to.

Because at the moment, we’re simply making Australia an unattractive destination for the workers we really want and need. We have a desperate shortage of nurses, yet an overseas trained nurse practitioner can pay up to $20,000 and take 35-months to get their qualifications recognised.

This is Professor Brian Schmidt. Brian is an American-born physicist who is now Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University. He migrated to Australia in 1994.

Today’s brilliant young astrophysicist will likely have to wait for 178 days, and pay thousands of dollars upfront, just to get a visa decision. That’s if they are lucky – many will wait significantly longer than a year.

Would Brian Schmidt have come to Australia under these circumstances? Or would one of the most preeminent minds of his generation have taken his Nobel Prize, and gone elsewhere. What a tragic loss that would have been for our country.

You won’t be surprised, after what I have said here, that Australia’s share of the global pool of skilled migrants has almost halved over the past three decades.

And indeed, many of you in this audience would observe that other countries are driving the war for talent, relentlessly identifying the skills they need, finding them around the world, and inviting those migrants to join their national endeavours.

In Australia, you get this: complexity, bureaucracy, cost, uncertainty and delay. And once you’ve endured all that, maybe – maybe – you’ll be allowed to come for a defined period, on a temporary visa.

Highly valued migrants from around the world face bureaucratic delay coming to Australia, and red carpet treatment migrating elsewhere.

We just can’t let that continue. And our government does not intend to do so.


The upshot of all this – and indeed I could go on – is that our migration system today is something of a renovator’s delight. Let me share with you some of the ways in which we are working to change how this system operates.

We started this journey at the Jobs & Skills Summit in September last year where the call from those of you in this room for substantial reform of our migration system was unanimous. Businesses small and large told us that they needed a bigger permanent program, and we have delivered that.

We’ve drastically reduced the visa backlog – many of you will remember there were almost a million unprocessed visas sitting in the system when we took office, now it’s fast approaching half a million, which is roughly normal.

We’ve established Jobs and Skills Australia, a new part of government that will provide expert, evidence-based advice on skills shortages, vacancies and the overall state of the labour market. And we’ve got Minister Andrew Giles working to design a better system to prevent migrant exploitation.

We’re doing what we can with broken pipes.

What is clearly required here is structural reform which is significant in scope and scale.

We are looking at eight big changes that will drive a new model for migration in Australia:

  1. The first is simple but important. We need to articulate a clear definition of why our migration system exists, and what problems we want it to solve, so we can design a program where the structure, rules and administration meet those objectives. The Migration Review is finalising the early part of this work.
  2. We need to redesign the fundamental structure of the migration system, and rebalance the temporary and permanent programs. We need sensible, good discussion on the long-term management of the migration program as a whole, including working with our State Government colleagues to address infrastructure, services and housing. I should note that the changes I’m describing here don’t necessarily mean more migrants. The push is for more care, time, attention and strategy to getting the right people here when we need them.
  3. We need to remove policies which create ‘permanently temporary’ conditions. This will mean being clear on where migration is truly temporary and managing this fairly.
  4. We need to sharpen our focus on skills, both having clear strategic thinking behind who we are trying to get here, and where they will come from, as well as a streamlined process that doesn’t frighten them away. This will involve actively selling our country to the migrants we need, not just sitting back and seeing who we get. Part of our goal here will be to create a system that helps deliver skills to our regions, and to small business – two groups which are struggling to access our migration system today.
  5. We need to unlock migrant potential, by improving the speed and ease with which we recognise migrants’ existing skills when they arrive, and increasing support to translate the skills of secondary applicants and others into the labour market.
  6. We need to better coordinate and integrate the needs of the labour market, training and education system and the migration system – and that will mean giving Jobs & Skills Australia a formal role in our migration system for the first time.
  7. We need to design out migrant worker exploitation wherever we can.
  8. We need to fix the administration of the system – simplify the arcane rules and reduce complexity. No more spaghetti diagrams please.

These are the big directions of our work, and I’m really looking forward to working with you in this room on this nation-shaping reform project.

Our next steps are to prepare, based off the work of the Migration Review Team, a draft architecture for a new migration system. We will release that for consultation and discussion in April. And I will be very genuinely keen to hear what you think.


Let me finish with a quick closing thought.

Australia is often called the Lucky Country, and I know this is overused. But it’s overused because it’s so powerful.

Donald Horne would probably say that back in his day, Australia could have sustained the kind of policy ineptitude I have described on something so fundamentally important to us as a nation.

I truly, deeply believe those days are behind us. The economic, social and security challenges we face are much more serious than what I see when I look back, at least in my adult lifetime. We simply cannot afford to drift any longer. Not with something so truly pivotal to who we are, and what we are, as a country.

One of the most sacred tasks of the national government is to determine who we should invite here to help Australia continue its journey.

Today I have talked about a lot of problems. But what is actually more important to me is the opportunity. Australia is a truly great country, with a fundamentally broken migration system.

Imagine what we can achieve when we get this powerful engine working again for the national interest.

Source: Australia’s Migration System: Breakdown & Fixes

Legault pitches English Canada for closure of Roxham Road and transfer of migrants

While Premier Legault has a point, he and many commentators in Quebec and the Rest of Canada all too often forget about the annual grant for immigration and integration to Quebec under the 1991 Canada-Quebec accord: funding cannot be reduced no matter how much Quebec decreases the number of immigrants it selects and no matter how great the decrease compared to the Rest of Canada.

The numbers for 2022 illustrated this: $697.03M for 69,000 Permanent Residents, rest of Canada $832.41 M for 366,000 Permanent Residents. Or, about $10,000 per Quebec Permanent Residents compared to about $2,300 for the rest of Canada. This overstates the difference somewhat given what is included in the Accord but not dramatically so.

The Minister’s comments, as quoted, suggests the government has no realistic solution to the underlying problem, which likely is the case, but then some honesty and frankness would be welcome:

After demanding for months that Ottawa stop the flow of migrants into the country, Quebec’s premier is making his pitch to English Canada for the closure of an irregular border crossing popular with asylum seekers — and for their transfer outside his province.

The number of would-be refugees entering Quebec “has exploded,” François Legault wrote in an English-language letter published Tuesday in The Globe and Mail, adding that the province’s social services have been pushed to their limits. The sooner the federal government closes Roxham Road — an irregular border crossing in southern Quebec frequently used by asylum seekers — the better, the premier said.

“This situation even raises several humanitarian considerations, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to receive asylum seekers with dignity,” Legault said.

The letter is similar to the one Legault wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday. But unlike the letter to Trudeau, Legault’s message in the Globe does not include concerns that the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers is putting the French language in Montreal at risk. The premier also doesn’t mention that he’s asked Trudeau for more money to pay for the costs of caring for would-be refugees.

“We have therefore asked the federal government to settle new asylum seekers in other provinces that are capable of supporting them with dignity,” Legault wrote in the Globe. The letter called for Ottawa to transfer to other provinces all new asylum seekers who enter irregularly, “while Quebec catches its breath.” Ottawa should issue work permits and process refugee applications faster, he added.

“In the meantime, Mr. Trudeau’s government should send the message loud and clear to would-be migrants not to come via Roxham Road anymore.”

For months, the Legault government has been calling on Ottawa to close Roxham Road and to transfer asylum seekers to other provinces. The influx of would-be refugees in Quebec has put significant strain on the housing, education and social services sectors, the government says.

According to federal government statistics, more than 39,000 people claimed asylum in Quebec in 2022 after crossing into Canada outside official ports of entry, mostly through Roxham Road. About 369 people who crossed irregularly over that period claimed asylum in the rest of the country. In total, around 64 per cent of all asylum claims in Canada in 2022 were made in Quebec.

In response to Legault’s letter to Trudeau, the office of federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said Monday that Ottawa had transferred thousands of migrants to Ontario to take pressure off Quebec, adding that the government was working with other provinces and municipalities to find other temporary accommodations.

Source: Legault pitches English Canada for closure of Roxham Road and transfer of migrants

Close Roxham Road border crossing within 30 days, Poilievre urges

Could we not have some more serious discussion of solutions rather than simplistic Conservative virtue signalling and, for that matter, simplistic Liberal virtue signalling?

Ironically, arguments that Canada is “broken” apply particularly in the case of immigration and thus no need for cheap points:

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling for the federal government to close the Roxham Road border crossing within 30 days amid a rising influx of migrants entering Quebec irregularly and spurring calls from Quebec leaders who say their communities cannot keep up with the pace.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday, Poilievre laid the blame for the surge of migrants squarely at the feet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who he accused of encouraging irregular crossings at Roxham Road and not addressing a backlog of refugee claims.

The Conservative leader argued that Trudeau had already demonstrated Roxham Road could be closed without violating the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, and urged the government to do so again — failing to mention the entire border was shut down during that time.

“If we are a real country, we have borders. And if this is a real prime minister, he is responsible for those borders,” he said.

The Safe Third Country Agreement requires asylum seekers arriving in Canada or the U.S. to make their claim in the first country they arrive in and forbids them from first arriving in one country and then making a claim in another. However, migrants who cross the border between official posts can claim asylum after they are intercepted by police as they are already on Canadian soil.

Poilievre’s comments come as Quebec Premier Francois Legault this week called on Trudeau to make the Roxham Road crossings a top priority for next month’s meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and to renegotiate the agreement.

He reportedly told Trudeau in a letter on Sunday the pact has pushed asylum seekers to Roxham Road, and that a renegotiated treaty should apply to all entry points.

On Tuesday, the Globe and Mail published an English-language letter by Legault where he said the number of would-be asylum seekers entering Quebec “has exploded,” pushing the province’s social services to their limits. The premier also pitched other provinces to take in some of those migrants.

Source: Close Roxham Road border crossing within 30 days, Poilievre urges

Lightman: Working more and making less: Canada needs to protect immigrant women care workers as they age

Of note. Would also be interesting to have some comparisons with males and with a variety of sectors. It would also benefit from analysis of the cost of the proposed measures and the impact of those costs:

The pandemic has heightened Canadians’ awareness of the 3D jobs — dirty, difficult and dangerous — done by many migrant workers in our communities.

When the pandemic first struck, many of these workers were on the front line working in essential services. Engaged in low-wage work in health and child care, immigrant care workers had high rates of COVID-19 infections, while also experiencing widespread job losses and continuing financial struggles to make ends meet

Our recent paper in the Journal of Aging and Social Policy reveals troubling realities for immigrant women care workers as they age. We found that immigrant women aged 65 and over who entered Canada through the (Live-in) Caregiver program work more but make less than other comparable immigrant women. The required live-in component was removed in 2014 and the program has since been split into two pilot programs

These findings are crucially important given Canada’s rapidly aging population and increasing concern about senior poverty in racialized communities.

Working past retirement age

In Canada, we have long known that it is disproportionately racialized immigrant women (specifically Black and Filipina women) who do challenging and devalued work as carers. We also know that jobs like personal support workers, home health aides and child-care workers are still usually associated with “women’s work” and tend to have low wages.

However, what we have not known is whether these women continue to experience these disadvantages later in life. Specifically, we have very little information about the financial challenges immigrant women care workers in Canada face as they age. 

On the one hand, it is plausible that care workers are more likely than other workers to continue working past the typical retirement age because of their relatively low wages and limited savings

On the other hand, due to the physically and emotionally demanding nature of care work, which can be detrimental to their health, care workers may be less likely to continue working past age 65 and have higher rates of eligibility for government low-income supports. 

Our recent research tried to clarify the situation of immigrant care workers as they age. We examined 11 years of Statistics Canada data from 2007-2017 to compare the income sources and trajectories of immigrant women who entered Canada through three migrant entry programs. 

We used Statistics Canada’s Longitudinal Immigration Databaseto unpack how the gendered and racialized devaluation of caring occupations disadvantages immigrant women as they age. The database is a comprehensive source of administrative data that includes information on the socio-economic status of tax-filing immigrants since their arrival in Canada.

The data show that care workers are more likely to be employed after the age of 65 than other immigrant women, but have a lower and declining total income as they age. 

Furthermore, while care workers receive higher rates of government pension benefits, they tend to have lower levels of private pension savings. And the cumulative income they report shows a relative decline over time.

Prioritizing care workers as they age

So what does this all mean? Our study underscores serious concerns about government investment in alleviating senior poverty. The conditions of low-wage care workers, before and after retirement, must be prioritized.

The package of pension supports available in Canada, which includes Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Pension Plan, does not offset the decline in earnings immigrant care worker women face as they age. 

That means there is a need to enhance policies that address senior poverty, recognizing that immigrant care worker women are among Canada’s most vulnerable populations. These women experience intersectional disadvantages as immigrants, women and racialized minorities. 

Our findings also reinforce the need for more full-time, permanent and well-paying jobs in the Canadian care sector. As of 2017, the unemployment rate of female immigrants in Canada was nearly double that of their Canadian-born counterparts. Recent research finds that the pandemic increased rates of unemployment and led to shifts to precarious work for many immigrant women in Canada.

The federal government must enhance access to and the amount of money provided through the Guaranteed Income Supplement to address senior poverty within underserved communities. Any government invested in reducing social inequalities and protecting vulnerable senior populations must consider the financial challenges immigrant care worker women face as they age and equalize their income over time with other comparable groups. And we, as the electorate, must do our part to keep governments accountable to this goal. 

Ultimately, immigrant women are doing the essential jobs that most Canadians rely on. They are caring for our elderly, sick or young family members when we are in need. 

It is the very least we can do to ensure that immigrant women care workers are able to age with financial security, dignity and adequate social protections.

Source: Working more and making less: Canada needs to protect immigrant women care workers as they age

Germany to Reform Skilled Immigration Act to Further Tackle Labour …

Will be interesting to see the impact of these changes. Given that Germany is also a federal system, there may be some credential recognition issues in some sectors:

Germany is ready to make another step to create a better and more alluring environment and system for more skilled foreign workers to come and work in the country, as on Monday, February 20, the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Homeland (BMI) and the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) have initiated the state and association hearing on the new Skilled Immigration Act.

Commenting on the move, the BMI Minister Nancy Faeser said that through the hearing the government intends to identify and then remove bureaucratic hurdles for skilled workers to come to Germany and start working more quickly.

According to her, the country in particular needs workers in areas like artisanal and care, which have been deeply affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

If people bring professional experience or personal potential, we will enable them to gain further qualifications in Germany and gain a foothold in our job market,” the Minister said amongst others.

In a statement issued by the BMI regarding the hearing on the new Skilled Immigration Act, it has been pointed out that the Act will continue to have a “classic” route. Through it, those who have a professional or university degree recognized in Germany, alongside with an employment contract, will be able to come to work in the country, including here the EU Blue Card.

The government, however, intends to make the Blue Card accessible and attractive to even more specialists with a university degree, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

The authorities are planning to make it possible for foreigners to work in non-regulated professions by only presenting through a foreign professional or university degree and professional experience, without it needing to be formally recognised by the German authorities first.

Salary threshold will however, remain a condition for the employer offering the job position to the foreigner applying, in order to ensure fair working conditions.

As per foreign professional qualification, whenever required, foreign workers will be able to have them reognised after they arrive in Germany, and not before, as it currently is.

The Ministry also recalls that the already adopted Opportunity Card will permit third-country citizens who do not have a job offer, to come to Germany and search for a workplace.

Short term employment will also be permitted, though it will be subject to a quota, while nationals of the Western Balkans countries will remain eligible for moving to Germany for work purposes under the tried-and-tested regulations specific for this region.

The Federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Hubertus Heil also believes that Germany’s economic prosperity depends on the country’s ability to secure skilled workers where needed.

But we also need immigration from abroad to have enough skilled workers in the country. With the new Skilled Immigration Act, we are making the necessary progress. In the international competition for bright minds and helping hands, we are offering new and, above all, easier ways to work in Germany,” he said.

Earlier in January, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had also warned of “radical” immigration visa changes, saying that “Germany visa procedures should be turned upside down” in order to bring over more foreign workers and fill in labour shortages in key sectors in Germany.

Source: Germany to Reform Skilled Immigration Act to Further Tackle Labour …