Is Canada taking the wrong approach to the labour shortage?

Good discussion of high vs low wage market needs. However, a discussion of productivity and per capita GDP missing, and the current immigration policies are working against increasing productivity as Skuterud and others have argued:

Does Canada need more immigrants with less education to do low-paying work, when many of their highly educated peers are already toiling in such jobs?

As employers struggle to find workers, a new report is calling into question Canada’s efforts to use immigration to deal with labour shortages.

“The labour shortages we’re seeing are mostly concentrated on the lower-skilled jobs, but we know that there’s already a very large proportion of immigrants with university education working in these jobs,” Statistics Canada researcher Feng Hou, co-author of the joint StatsCan and immigration department report, told the Star.

“It’s important for policymakers and the public to decide if we want to continue to select highly educated new immigrants to work in lower-skilled occupations or increase (the number of) immigrants with lower education levels.

“It’s a choice we have to make.”

The stakes are high and could have a lasting impact on the Canadian labour market — changing the calibre of the future workforce, suppressing wages or discouraging employers from investing in innovation and improving work conditions.

There could also be unexpected societal consequences.

“A significant move away from highly educated immigrants would weaken the tendency for the children of immigrants to attain high education levels, a major success for Canada compared to other countries,” cautions the report.

“In many countries the population generally has a more positive attitude toward highly-skilled immigrants than the lower-skilled. Any change that negatively affects Canadians’ perception of immigration could put a damper on its success.”

Canada raises immigration intake

As of March, Canada’s unemployment rate was at five per cent. Meanwhile, job vacancies have trended down 731,570 across all sectors since last June, despite a slight increase earlier this year.

The growth in unfilled jobs was in transportation and warehousing (+14,500) as well as health care and social assistance (+12,400), while the numbers dropped for professional, scientific and technical services (-6,200; -10.9 per cent), manufacturing (-4,200; -6.0 per cent) and educational services (-3,800; -14.1 per cent).

To tame the tight labour market, the federal government has raised the annual intake of new immigrants, with a goal of bringing in 500,000 a year by 2025, relaxed the rules to usher in foreign workers and passed a new law to prioritize potential immigrants in targeted sectors, including those in lower-skilled jobs previously ineligible for permanent residence.

A one-time program was also launched to grant permanent residence to 90,000 international students and foreign workers in essential jobs in Canada — many in the low-skilled spectrum of the caregiving and food production and distribution sectors — to ease the crunch.

Concerns have been raised regarding the extent to which immigration should be geared toward filling higher or lower-skilled jobs, and whether the country is on the right track.

How are newcomers to Canada faring?

Based on census and the government’s immigration database, the new study examined how newcomers who came under different programs fared and if they were employed in jobs at par with their education and skill levels. Although the analysis was based on 2016 data, Hou believes the findings would be similar today.

Among all immigrants aged 20 to 64, 60 per cent were in higher-skilled jobs and 40 per cent in lower-skilled positions, comparable to the ratio among their Canadian-born peers, at 64 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively.

(Higher-skilled jobs are defined as requiring a minimum of two years of post-secondary education and above; lower-skilled jobs only require some high school education and on-the-job training.)

Although immigrants played a key role in the labour market at all skill levels, accounting for 24 per cent of all employment, they also are more likely than their Canadian-born peers to be at the bottom of the ladder. 

According to the 47-page report, 34 per cent of immigrants selected via the economic category (including principal applicants, spouses and dependants, and in Canada since 1980) were employed in lower-skilled jobs.

Even among longer-term economic immigrants who have been in Canada for more than a decade, 31 per cent were in lower-skilled positions. 

This group of immigrants, selected for their higher education and skills, is a major provider of lower-skilled labour. It accounted for 53 per cent of all adult immigrants, and almost half (46 per cent) of the immigrant labour force in lower-skilled jobs.

Economic immigrants who were chosen under the Provincial Nomination Program, which allows provinces to select their own permanent residents, had the largest share in lower-skilled jobs, at 40 per cent. That compared to 28 per cent among those in the federal skilled worker program and 15 per cent in the Canadian Experience Class.

“Traditionally, economic immigrants in particular have been selected based on a ‘human capital model,’ which orients immigration towards higher educated individuals,” said the report. “However, not all economic immigrants occupy higher-skilled jobs.”

Cyclical factors are driving labour market conditions

The study referred to the many factors contributing to the pandemic-induced labour market conditions: worker fatigue; concerns among workers about COVID-19 infection; strong government financial support to individuals; the decline in immigration levels; and a possible desire to change jobs.

Given most of these drivers were cyclical, it recommended the temporary foreign workers program may be a more reasonable solution to the labour crisis amid current economic uncertainty.

However, critics say the solution is not about bringing in fewer low-skilled immigrants but focusing more on credential recognition in order to make the best use of all immigrants’ skills.

“The business cycle has not led to fewer temporary foreign workers. The use of temporary foreign workers through different immigration streams continues to go up,” said Naomi Alboim, who served senior federal and provincial government roles in immigration and labour.

“They say they hope it will resolve itself when the pandemic abates. But the pandemic is still with us. It’s not necessarily good for our economy just to continue to bring in temporary foreign workers, nor is it good for the temporary foreign workers.”

The report cited the boom and bust of the higher-skilled tech and oil sectors as examples of the temporariness of cyclical labour market, but Alboim said it failed to recognize the “ongoing needs” for lower-skilled workers in areas such as skilled trades and health care that can’t be easily replaced by automation and technology. 

“Even if the high interest rates result in a reduction of economic growth and perhaps less people being required, we know that there are sectors at the lower end where we are going to continue to need people,” said Alboim.

“I’m not saying the majority of people coming into the country should be selected on the basis of lower skills. We should just have a little bit more of a balance so we don’t have a bifurcated immigration system that says, ‘Higher-skilled. Permanent. Lower-skilled. Temporary.’”

‘We do need … a mix’

The success of the economic immigration program comes down to the match between newcomers’ skills and the jobs that need to be filled, said Rupa Banerjee, Canada Research Chair of economic inclusion, employment and entrepreneurship of Canada’s immigrants.

It’s an irony that low-skilled immigrants in many ways actually have employment appropriate to their education and skill levels while their highly educated and skilled peers struggle to get compatible jobs and become disillusioned with the decision to come to Canada.

“What’s really important is to look at this through a more nuanced viewpoint. It’s not as cut and dry or black and white as simply we don’t need as many low-skilled immigrants,” said Banerjee.

“We do need to have a mix of different skill levels coming into Canada, but we still have this problem of job skill mismatch and that continues to be a major challenge that we need to continue to work on.”

Source: Is Canada taking the wrong approach to the labour shortage?

Australia Seeks to Fix ‘Broken’ Immigration Program After Review

Some aspects also broken in Canada but government loathe to admit:

Australia will change its immigration system after a review found the current model is not fit for purpose, Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil said.

The system was overly-complicated and open to exploitation, the review found, failing to target and retain skilled workers and international students vital to boosting the country’s economic productivity.

Australia’s immigration system was “broken,” O’Neil said in Canberra Thursday. “It is failing our businesses, it is failing migrants themselves and most importantly it is failing Australians,” she said.

Australia will increase the income threshold for temporary skilled migration in July 2023 from A$53,900 ($36,000) to A$70,000 ($46,000), to raise the bar on the types of jobs which justified importing labor. In addition, all temporary skilled migrants would be given a pathway to permanent residency from the end of 2023.

Despite the changes, O’Neil said Australia’s overall immigration levels would not increase as a result of the reforms.

The difficulty of attracting skilled migrants comes as Australia attempts to boost its economic growth and productivity in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. With unemployment hovering at 3.5%, there are skilled labor gaps in a range of industries including aged care, health and defense.

More changes are expected in the coming months, O’Neil said, with a full plan to improve the migration system due by the end of 2023. The investor visa class is expected to be reviewed, the minister said, with concerns it has been used in the past to buy a ticket into Australian residency.

Source: Australia Seeks to Fix ‘Broken’ Immigration Program After Review

Changing how U.S. forms ask about race and ethnicity is complicated. Here’s why

Good explainer. Canada’s visible minority categories provide much richer detail:

The first changes in more than a quarter-century to how the U.S. government can ask about your race and ethnicity may be coming to census forms and federal surveys.

And the Biden administration’s revival of this long-awaited review of federal standards on racial and ethnic data has resurfaced a thorny conversation about how to categorize people’s identities and the ever-shifting sociopolitical constructs that are race and ethnicity.

While this policy discussion is largely under the radar, the stakes of it touch the lives of every person in the United States.

Any changes to those standards by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget could affect the data used to redraw maps of voting districts and enforce civil rights protections, plus guide policymaking and research. They could also influence how state and local governments, as well as private institutions, generate statistics.

Here are a few things to know about this complicated effort that could change OMB’s Statistical Policy Directive No. 15:

Asking about race and ethnicity in a combined question could shrink a mysterious “Some other race” category

The current standards require federal forms that ask participants their identities to inquire about race and ethnicity through two separate questions. That’s why on census forms, for example, before you see the race question, there’s a question about Hispanic or Latino identity, which the U.S. government considers to be an ethnicity that can be of any race.

But for the 2020 census, close to 44% of Latinos either did not answer the race question at all or checked off only the box for the mysterious catchall category “Some other race,” according to data the Census Bureau released last month.

“They provide really important insights to what we’ve seen in our research over the decade — that Hispanics continued to find great difficulty with answering the separate questions on ethnicity and on race,” Nicholas Jones, director of race and ethnic research and outreach in the bureau’s Population Division, says about the data, the release of which the bureau moved up to help inform discussions about OMB’s standards.

The rise of “Some other race” — which is legally required on the census by Congress and is now the second-largest racial category in the U.S. after white — helped drive earlier research by the bureau into alternative ways of asking about race and ethnicity.

Combining those two topics into one question, while allowing people to check as many boxes as they want, is likely to reduce confusion and the share of Latinos who mark “Some other race,” bureau research from 2015 suggests.

And that has led an OMB working group to propose making a single combined question the new required way of collecting self-reported racial and ethnic data.

How would a combined question likely change how many people identify as Asian, Black or Pacific Islander?

The bureau’s research involved comparing how people could respond to a combined question vs. separate questions.

Its testing in 2015 – along with similar testing in 2010 and 2016 – found no statistically significant differences in the shares of participants who reported identifying as Asian, Black or Pacific Islander. (There are conflicting findings about the potential impact on the percentage of people reporting as American Indian or Alaska Native.)

But Howard Hogan, a former chief demographer at the bureau who retired from the agency in 2018, contends that research is inconclusive on the potential effects a combined question could have on those groups, particularly on the Black population.

“We don’t know for sure. It’s possible that it would have no effect or even increase. But it’s also equally possible, and I believe slightly more likely, that it would reduce,” Hogan says about a combined question’s impact on the share of people identifying as Black, adding that not all of the bureau’s experiments were designed to test how people may respond to a combined question when it’s asked by a census worker in person, which is how many people of color have participated in the count rather than filling out a form on their own.

The bureau was able to do a month of in-person interviewing for its testing in 2016, and it found no statistically meaningful differences in the shares of people identifying as Asian, Black or Pacific Islander.

Despite the limitations of the agency’s research, the bureau’s officials continue to stand behind their recommendation that a combined question would be the “optimal” way of asking about a person’s race and ethnicity.

“We’re confident in the sampling methodology as well as the consistent results that we’ve seen across three, large national tests,” says Sarah Konya, chief of the bureau’s census testing and implementation branch.

There are concerns about how a combined question could affect racial data about Latinos

Major civil rights organizations focused on census and data issues have also voiced their support for a combined question.

But a campaign called “Latino Is Not A Race,” which is led by a group of researchers who are part of the afrolatin@ forum, has raised concerns that a combined question would allow some Latinos to answer the question by only checking a box for “Hispanic or Latino.”

“The idea that there are some Latinos who are just Latino is contributing to the myth that Latinos are exempt from racialization. That’s not true. Our history has never been that. If you go back to any country in Latin America, you will see a racial hierarchy where whites were on top, brown-skinned people were somewhere in the middle, and Black people and people racialized as Indigenous have been on the bottom,” says Nancy López, a sociology professor who directs the University of New Mexico’s Institute for the Study of “Race” and Social Justice and is calling for research into an additional racial category that could be meaningful to Latinos who are racialized as “Brown.”

The OMB working group has said it’s looking into doing more testing of the combined question’s effects by this August, and outside advisers to the bureau on its Census Scientific Advisory Committee have recommended additional tests and focus groups on specifically how Latinos would respond to this race-ethnicity question format.

Any follow-up research is running up against a summer 2024 deadline that OMB has set for its review of the standards in order to enact changes before the end of President Biden’s first term and in time for them to be incorporated into 2030 census preparations, which are already underway.

In the meantime, both López and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund are calling for the standards to clearly define the difference between the concepts of race and ethnicity, which the OMB working group acknowledges many people understand to be similar or the same.

If there’s no combined question, there may be no new “Middle Eastern or North African” checkbox

Entangled within the discussion about the combined-question proposal is the possibility of a new checkbox for “Middle Eastern or North African” — a category that the OMB working group has proposed to no longer classify as white under the federal standards.

Many people in the U.S. with origins in Lebanon, Iran, Egypt and other countries in the Middle East or North Africa do not identify as white people, and advocates for Arab Americans and other MENA groups have spent decades pushing for a checkbox of their own on the census and other forms.

Including a “Middle Eastern or North African” checkbox would likely reduce the share of participants who mark “White” or “Some other race,” while increasing the shares marking “Black” or “Hispanic or Latino,” the Census Bureau’s 2015 research suggests.

But if OMB does not change the standards to allow for a combined question about race and ethnicity, it’s not clear whether a new checkbox for “Middle Eastern or North African” would be approved. The bureau’s research has not specifically tested treating that category on forms as an ethnicity, which has long been the preference for the Arab American Institute and other advocates for a MENA category.

Source: Changing how U.S. forms ask about race and ethnicity is complicated. Here’s why

Swiss to erect 1st national memorial honoring Nazi victims

Over due, but test will be how it interprets Switzerland’s role in persecution of Jews and others during the Nazi regime:

Switzerland’s executive body agreed Wednesday to help pay for a national memorial to honor the six million Jews and other victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, in what the leading Swiss Jewish group is calling the country’s first official monument of its kind.

The Federal Council, the seven-member executive branch, approved 2.5 million Swiss francs (about $2.8 million) for the memorial that will be erected at an unspecified “central location” in the capital, Bern, at a time when the number of Holocaust survivors has dwindled and antisemitism has risen again.

“The Federal Council considers it of great importance to keep alive the memory of the consequences of National Socialism, namely the Holocaust and the fate of the six million Jews and all other victims of the National Socialist regime,” a government statement said.

Switzerland and its capital, through the move, were “creating a strong symbol against genocide, antisemitism and racism, and for democracy, the rule of law, freedom and basic individual rights,” it said.

The statement did not mention whether the memorial would make any direct reference to any Swiss role in the persecution of people during the Nazi regime in Germany.

The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, an umbrella group, said Switzerland has about 60 small, private sites remembering the Holocaust and other crimes of the Nazis.

“There is, however, no official or national memorial for the numerous Swiss victims of persecution, for the thousands of refugees repelled at the borders or deported, but also for the many courageous helpers in this country,” it said, noting that the memorial would be created to honor them all.

The group says recent studies have shown that a “sizeable number” of Swiss citizens were victims of the Nazi regime, “persecuted because they were, for example, Jews, socialists, Sinti or Roma.” Both Sinti and Roma are peoples who live predominantly in eastern Europe.

It noted that thousands of people flocked toward Swiss borders during World War II seeking protection, only to be “repelled and, in many cases, sent back to certain death.”

Switzerland has long grappled with its ties to Nazi Germany — not least through a call for national introspection on the issue from its first Jewish and woman president, Ruth Dreifuss, in 1999.

The country was neutral during WWII, but a government-appointed panel in 1997 found Switzerland had taken part in over three-fourths of worldwide gold transactions by Nazi Germany’s Reichsbank — both as buyer and intermediary.

Source: Swiss to erect 1st national memorial honoring Nazi victims

Canada developing new immigration policy to attract French-speaking people — especially teachers

Of note (last year they met the target for francophone immigration):

The Liberal government says it is developing a new policy on francophone immigration as a way to grow the French language in Canada.

Official Languages Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor says it’s an advantage for Canada to have a bilingual workforce and population.

The policy is part of a five-year action plan for official languages the government released today.

Source: Canada developing new immigration policy to attract French …

Des immigrants se disent injustement recalés en français par Québec

A noter:

Québec accuse de nombreux immigrants d’avoir menti sur leurs compétences linguistiques et les recale lors d’une entrevue orale, en dépit d’une preuve attestant qu’ils ont déjà réussi le niveau requis en français, a appris Le Devoir. Plusieurs d’entre eux peuvent même être « bannis pour cinq ans » du processus de sélection du Québec, dénoncent des avocats.

Ces derniers — et leurs clients — déplorent ce qu’ils qualifient d’acharnement de la part du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI). « Québec cherche des façons innovantes de torturer des gens, des gens qui ont le malheur d’être convoqués en entrevue pour qu’on évalue leur niveau de français », laisse tomber David Chalk, un avocat en droit de l’immigration, dont certains clients ont été recalés.

Le Devoir s’est entretenu en français, à l’oral et à l’écrit, avec plusieurs candidats à l’immigration n’ayant pas le français comme langue maternelle qui ont été convoqués à une entrevue. Il préserve leur anonymat pour ne pas nuire à leurs démarches.

D’origine chinoise, Chang déplore la façon dont il a été traité par le MIFI, qu’il qualifie d’« arrogant » et d’« irresponsable ».

Le jeune homme a fait une maîtrise dans une université anglophone d’ici et dit être « tombé en amour » avec le Québec. Le Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ) lui permettait de réaliser son rêve d’immigrer, mais il devait apprendre le français et obtenir l’équivalent du fameux « niveau 7 » sur l’Échelle québécoise des niveaux de compétence en français.

Au printemps 2022, après avoir réussi tous les tests de français oraux et écrits agréés par le MIFI, il a demandé le Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ), le précieux sésame lui permettant de demander la résidence permanente au gouvernement fédéral. Or, son rêve s’est effondré lorsqu’il a été convoqué quelques mois plus tard à une entrevue de contrôle par le ministère de l’Immigration du Québec. Celui-ci lui a dit avoir des raisons de croire qu’il avait soumis des « documents faux ou trompeurs » pour attester de son niveau de français, ce que nie le principal intéressé.

Au terme de l’entretien, qui « s’est très mal passé », Chang s’est vu octroyer un niveau 4. Dans la lettre du MIFI, on l’informe aussi que sous prétexte qu’il a menti sur ses compétences en français, toute nouvelle demande qu’il voudrait soumettre pourrait ne pas être évaluée, et ce, pour les cinq prochaines années. « J’étais dévasté », a-t-il dit.

Le Devoir a pu consulter la lettre de refus, qui, ironiquement, contenait plusieurs coquilles. Elle détaille, au moyen d’exemples, certains problèmes de français du candidat, notamment en commentant sa prononciation. « On a ridiculisé mon accent », déplore Chang dans un français tout de même compréhensible pour Le Devoir.

Ce jeune homme s’indigne surtout du fait que le MIFI l’accuse d’avoir menti, de ne pas avoir « démontré la véracité de [sa] déclaration sur [sa] connaissance du français oral ». Selon lui, ayant déjà obtenu l’équivalent d’un niveau 7 à un examen de français reconnu par le MIFI, il était normal qu’il affirme détenir ce niveau. « En aucun cas, je n’ai eu l’intention de tromper qui que ce soit dans le processus ! »

Une pratique illégale ?

Pour Me David Chalk, le ministère veut « piéger » les gens. « Cette question n’a aucune raison d’être posée, sauf pour accuser quelqu’un de fausse déclaration. »

Ningsi Mei, une avocate qui dit avoir de plus en plus de clients refusés, estime que l’entretien, auquel participent un agent du MIFI et un enseignant, est subjectif. « C’est un jugement personnel. »

Après avoir été recalés à l’entrevue du MIFI, plusieurs de ses clients ont quitté le Québec, soit pour une autre province soit pour leur pays d’origine. « Ils me disent qu’ils ne se sentent pas les bienvenus ici. Ils croient que le [gouvernement] veut juste limiter le nombre d’immigrants et qu’il ne veut pas de ceux qui ne parlent pas parfaitement le français », a rapporté l’avocate.

Me David Chalk se dit surtout agacé par les présomptions de tromperie qui servent à justifier une convocation en entrevue. « Pourquoi alléguer d’emblée que le candidat est un fraudeur ? »

En 2016, des soupçons de fraude et de production de faux documents avaient mené l’Unité permanente anticorruption à ouvrir une enquête, ont révélé des documents de cour. C’est ce qui avait incité le ministère de l’Immigration du Québec à vérifier de manière plus proactive le niveau de français oral des candidats au PEQ en les convoquant en entrevue.

Or, cette pratique a été contestée devant les tribunaux en 2017. Les avocats avaient fait valoir que les preuves soumises par leurs clients pour attester leur niveau de français dans le cadre du PEQ étaient conformes à la loi, contrairement aux tests de français oral supplémentaires menés par le MIFI.

Un jugement de la Cour supérieure rendu en décembre 2018, confirmé par la Cour d’appel, leur avait donné raison et avait forcé le MIFI à annuler ses décisions de refus de CSQ pour une cinquantaine d’immigrants, surtout originaires de l’Asie.

En août 2018, le Règlement sur l’immigration a été changé, et le ministre peut désormais exiger qu’« une personne démontre une connaissance du français oral au niveau 7 », a affirmé Émilie Vézina, porte-parole du ministère. Quant aux présomptions de fraude qui servent à la convocation des gens en entrevue, on se contente d’expliquer que c’est « en fonction des faits propres à chaque demande ».

D’après les données du MIFI, plus de 2000 personnes se sont soumises à cette entrevue depuis l’automne 2016. Les convocations ont connu une augmentation et sont en voie de rattraper le niveau prépandémique. Quant au taux d’échec, il varie beaucoup, allant de 16 % à 84 % selon les années.

Convoqués même après avoir obtenu un CSQ

Le Devoir a échangé avec plusieurs immigrants qui se sont fait convoquer en entrevue même après avoir obtenu leur Certificat de sélection du Québec.

C’est le cas d’Emily Zhao, une enseignante et danseuse d’origine chinoise qui est arrivée au Canada il y a huit ans. Elle a obtenu son CSQ en juillet 2018 et attend depuis la résidence permanente pour elle et sa famille. Or, en janvier dernier, elle a, à sa grande surprise, reçu une lettre du MIFI la convoquant en entrevue et l’informant de ses intentions d’annuler son CSQ.

 « C’est comme si vous aviez obtenu votre permis de conduire et que, cinq ans plus tard, on vous appelle pour repasser l’examen et annuler votre permis », a dit cette mère de famille, qui a accepté de témoigner à visage découvert.

Citant la décision des tribunaux, Emily Zhao a refusé de se présenter en entrevue, prétendant qu’il n’était pas légal de vérifier à nouveau son niveau de français. La semaine dernière, elle a finalement reçu une lettre de rétractation du MIFI : son CSQ demeurera valide.

Mme Zhao craint d’avoir été placée sur une « liste noire » de personnes ayant obtenu leur CSQ alors que des soupçons de corruption pesaient sur le programme. Elle craint aussi que la remise en question de son certificat ait suspendu le traitement de sa demande de résidence permanente au fédéral, ce qui expliquerait la longue attente.

Selon le MIFI, depuis septembre 2021, 70 personnes ayant déjà obtenu un CSQ ont été convoquées à une entrevue visant à vérifier leur français oral, et près de 60 % ont échoué.

Après s’être vu refuser son CSQ, Chang est rentré en Chine la semaine dernière. Pour lui, c’était comme « tout jeter et partir ». Il croit que son expérience a découragé certains de ses amis. « Ils ont peur d’essayer. Parce qu’ils savent à quel point j’ai essayé d’apprendre le français. »

Source: Des immigrants se disent injustement recalés en français par Québec

Porter: It’s OK to ask whether immigration is intensifying our housing crisis

Reasonable question as many have increasingly been asking. Of course, housing availability and affordability affect everyone, Canadian-born and immigrants:

According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s population grew by 1,050,110 people in 2022. International migration accounted for 95.9 per cent of this growth.

Some have questioned whether Canada’s immigration policy is at odds with its efforts to address the housing crisis. Paul Kershaw of UBC has pointed out that newcomers, through no fault of their own, will amplify demand for housing and drive up home prices. CIBC CEO Victor Dodig recently expressed concern that increasing immigration levels without first increasing housing supply risks triggering Canada’s “largest social crisis” over the next decade.

Others argue that it is too simplistic, even xenophobic, to ask whether high levels of international migration could be intensifying our housing crisis. They argue that the blame for the housing crisis lies with government, which has failed for decades to build sufficient housing to accommodate predictable population growth, and that individual migrants are no more responsible for our housing crisis than they are responsible for overcrowding on public transit.

While this argument has superficial appeal, it suffers from three fallacies.

First, it conflates immigrants — individuals who, by definition, have just moved to Canada, and therefore can’t possibly be responsible for our long-standing housing crisis (indeed, they’re probably victims of it) — with immigration policy, which is set by government and is a proper subject of political debate. Individual immigrants are clearly blameless, but it is legitimate to ask whether our government could be exacerbating the housing crisis through its immigration policy.

Second, it confuses the ultimate cause of our housing crisis with its proximate causes. A multi-decade failure by government to build enough housing for our growing population may be the ultimate cause of the crisis. But that doesn’t mean that high levels of international migration to Canada in 2022 were not a proximate cause of the market conditions that tenants experienced last year, including low vacancy rates and an 18 per cent annual increase in average rent for a vacant unit.

Third, it implies that by asking whether our immigration policy is intensifying the housing crisis, we are effectively blaming immigrant families for the crisis. This is an in terrorem argument that uses fear — fear of making immigrants feel unwelcome, or fear of being labelled xenophobic — to discourage us from honestly examining the effects of our immigration policy and openly debating whether the benefits are worth the costs.

Canada’s population grew by over a million people last year, in the midst of a housing crisis that sees more than 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness annually. It is reasonable to ask whether maintaining such high levels of international migration will lead to mass evictions, displacement, and homelessness for tenants; and, if so, how many tenants we are willing to sacrifice to achieve the benefits of population growth. 

Refusing to ask and answer these questions does a disservice to ourselves and to the migrants who will someday call Canada home.

Source: It’s OK to ask whether immigration is intensifying our housing crisis

In a growing India, some struggle to prove they are Indians

Of note:

Krishna Biswas is scared. Unable to prove his Indian citizenship, he is at risk of being sent to a detention center, far away from his modest hut built of bamboo wood that looks down on fields lush with corn.

Biswas says he was born in India’s northeastern Assam state. So was his father, almost 65 years ago. But the government says that to prove he is an Indian, he should furnish documents that date back to 1971.

For the 37-year-old vegetable seller, that means searching for a decades-old property deed or a birth certificate with an ancestor’s name on it.

Biswas has none, and he is not alone. There are nearly 2 million people like him — over 5% of Assam’s population — staring at a future where they could be stripped of their citizenship if they are unable to prove they are Indian.

Questions over who is an Indian have long lingered over Assam, which many believe is overrun with immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

At a time when India is about to overtake China as the most populous country, these concerns are expected to heighten as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government seeks to use illegal immigration and fears of demographic shift for electoral gains in a nation where nationalist sentiments run deep.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has promised to roll out a similar citizenship verification program nationwide even though the process in Assam has been put on hold after a federal audit found it flawed and full of errors.

Nonetheless, hundreds of suspected immigrants with voting rights in Assam have been arrested and sent to detention centers the government calls “transit camps.” Fearing arrest, thousands have fled to other Indian states. Some have died of suicide.

Millions of people like Biswas, whose citizenship status is unclear, were born in India to parents who immigrated many decades ago. Many of them have voting cards and other identification, but the state’s citizenship registry counts only those who can prove, with documentary evidence, that they or their ancestors were Indian citizens before 1971, the year Bangladesh was born.

Modi’s party, which also rules Assam, argues the registry is essential to identify people who entered the country illegally in a state where ethnic passions run deep and anti-immigrant protests in the 1980s culminated in the massacre of more than 2,000 immigrant Muslims.

“My father and his brother were born here. We were born here. Our kids were also born here. We will die here but not leave this place,” Biswas, said on a recent afternoon at his home in Assam’s Murkata village, near the banks of the Brahmaputra River.

The Biswas family has 11 members, of whom the citizenship of nine is in dispute. His wife and mother have been declared Indian by a foreigners’ tribunal that decides on citizenship claims. Others, including his three children, his father and his brother’s family, have been declared “foreigners.”

It makes no sense to Biswas, who wonders why would some be considered to have settled in the country illegally and others not, even though they all were born in the same place.

The family, like many others, has not pleaded their case before the tribunal or higher courts due to a lack of money and the arduous paperwork required in the process.

“If we cannot be Indian then just kill us. Let them (the government) kill my whole family,” he said.

Source: In a growing India, some struggle to prove they are Indians

These refugees are coming to Canada as health-care workers. Trouble is, they’ve been waiting for years

Innovative initiative with implementation issues:

For nine years, Patricia Kamssor has been working in a clinic in a refugee camp in Kenya doing everything from cleaning and dressing wounds to giving injections, treating infections caused by eating infected goats and cows, and helping one child who had a piece of corn stuck in their nose.

Established in 1992, Kakuma is one of the world’s largest refugee camps, home to 260,570 people who have fled violence in nearby African countries. It is hot, dusty and congested, with rows and rows of what is meant to be temporary housing made from clay and thin sheets of metal in Kenya’s northwestern corner.

It’s also Kamssor’s home. She’s a refugee herself, and she’s been invited to come to Canada to work in a nursing home on Nova Scotia’s south shore.

Source: These refugees are coming to Canada as health-care workers. Trouble is, they’ve been waiting for years

Claudia Hepburn: What newcomers say about Canadian immigration and how to improve it

More anecdotal and general than specific with some exceptions:

When Dr. Binal Patel immigrated, she got a job assembling sandwiches in a fast-food restaurant to provide for her baby daughter. A dentist trained in India, Dr. Patel wondered how she was ever going to afford the fees for the Canadian dental exams and, if she did not, how she would ever regain her self-respect and provide adequately for her children in Canada.

Canada’s immigration numbers are rising year after year. During the 2021 census nearly one-in-four people identified as immigrants, the largest proportion of Canadian immigrants ever, and highest among G7 countries. A considerable portion of them, like Dr. Patel, are well-educated and highly skilled when they arrive.

According to a recent Bloomberg-Nanos poll, most Canadians agree, immigration is good for the Canadian economy. Many also acknowledge that, more than ever before, we need the talents and skills immigrants bring, especially in sectors like health care and IT.

There is less consensus on how well our immigration system is working or what needs to be done to improve it so that immigrants, like Dr. Patel, can integrate efficiently.

In the process of developing a new podcast, we asked 20 experts for their views on Canadian immigration, and for their ideas and initiatives to empower newcomers to integrate faster. Podcast contributors ranged from Canada’s minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to business leaders concerned with productivity and labour supply, to immigrant sector CEOs working daily to support newcomer integration, and social entrepreneurs working to fix what they sometimes described as a broken system. We also captured the insights of skilled newcomers, including Dr. Patel.

We heard creative perspectives on how to strengthen immigration to make it more equitable for newcomers.

Arif Khimani, COO of Calgary-based IT staffing firm MobSquad, talked about his company’s approach. MobSquad identifies international tech professionals with the skills to match the needs of North America businesses. The company takes care of the immigration paperwork and finds the immigrants lucrative roles so that they hit the ground running on arrival in Canada. Employers, immigrants and the economy all benefit.

Shamira Madhany, deputy executive director and managing director for Canada of World Education Services (WES) reminded us that the speed of integration possible for IT talent needs to happen for health care professionals, too. Government, regulators and employers need to do a better job of ensuring that when internationally trained doctors, nurses and pharmacists choose Canada, we put them in a position to contribute their skills to our health care system as quickly as possible.

The perspectives shared with us were often inspiring but also, at times, dispiriting.

Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka, a public health physician and professor from Saskatchewan, originally from Nigeria, shared his belief that Canada remains an incredible land of opportunity for newcomers. Meanwhile, immigration advocate and Immigrant Networks founder Nick Noorani, who arrived to Canada from India in 1998, lamented the notion that in Toronto, “the best place to have a heart attack” was the back of an Uber, because of the number of internationally-trained doctors driving them.

What resonated most for me from these conversations was the importance of creativity and cross-sector collaboration to address integration challenges for immigrants. Jennifer Freeman, CEO of Vancouver-based PeaceGeeks told us that newcomers should be given easy access to the information and resources they need to thrive, virtually, wherever they are in Canada. She highlighted that each immigrant comes to this country with a smartphone and there’s no reason, in 2023, their settlement experience can’t be streamlined and simplified through the use of technology. As more countries around the globe experience population aging and skills shortages, the imperative to innovate is growing.

If Canada is serious about welcoming more immigrants and refugees each year, the status quo is not acceptable.

The next Dr. Ndbuka and Dr. Patel may decide the costs — in time and money — of integrating professionally in Canada are too high and choose one of the other countries working to fast-track the integration process for skilled professionals. Solving the challenges to integration our immigrants face will be key to our national prosperity, our health care system and Canada’s future.

Claudia Hepburn is CEO of Windmill Microlending, a national charity that empowers skilled immigrants and refugees to achieve economic prosperity through affordable loans and supports.

Source: Claudia Hepburn: What newcomers say about Canadian immigration and how to improve it