Canada needs 300,000 new rental units to avoid gap quadrupling by 2026: report [the Achilles heel of Canadian immigration policy]

Housing is the Achilles heel of Canadian immigration policy and levels:

Canada’s rental housing shortage will quadruple to 120,000 units by 2026 without a significant boost in stock, Royal Bank of Canada said in a report Wednesday.

In order to reach the optimal vacancy rate of three per cent, the report suggested Canada would need to add 332,000 rental units over the next three years, which would mark an annual increase of 20 per cent compared with the 70,000 units built last year.

The research analyzed vacancy rate data released in January by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Canada’s vacancy rate fell to 1.9 per cent in 2022, its lowest point in 21 years, from 3.4 per cent in 2020 and 2021.

Competition for units also drove the highest annual increase in rent growth on record, by 5.6 per cent for a two-bedroom unit.

Canada’s rental housing stock grew by 2.4 per cent in 2022, led by Calgary at 7.4 per cent and Ottawa-Gatineau at 5.5 per cent, while Toronto and Montreal saw the smallest percentage increases at 2.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

“We haven’t seen that many additions to the purpose-built inventory in almost a decade, so you would think that added supply of units would ease some of the competition, but what the CMHC rental market data revealed to us was that it didn’t,” said RBC economist Rachel Battaglia.

Slow growth in Canada’s two most populous cities has been outpaced by rapidly increasing demand, partly fuelled by high immigration levels, she said. Annual federal immigration targets are set to grow eight per cent by 2025, meaning demand is unlikely to let up.

Battaglia also pointed to affordability and behavioural preferences for the influx of rentals sought. She said more Canadians are choosing to live alone, meaning fewer incomes per household.

“You have a lot of people being funnelled into the rental market who maybe would have liked to own something but it’s just not financially in the books for them right now,” said Battaglia.

The report estimated an existing deficit of 25,000 to 30,000 units of rental stock across Canada. In addition to building more supply, it recommended turning condo units into rentals, converting commercial buildings and adding rental suites to existing homes to help ease the pressure.

Without such measures, Battaglia said the market could “become infinitely more competitive.”

“Which is not something that we want to realize given the competition we’re already seeing,” she said.

“You’re already seeing rents increase dramatically.”

Source: Canada needs 300,000 new rental units to avoid gap quadrupling by 2026: report

Carlaw: Declining naturalizations signal larger problems in Canada’s citizenship and immigration system

Left-wing perspective on problems with the citizenship program, with most of the issues pertaining more to immigration, particularly temporary residents, than citizenship save for perhaps fees and some of the language and learning requirements. Dual nationality prohibitions are more of an issue for Chinese nationals than Indian nationals.

And a bit silly to say the problem that the problem reflects that political and bureaucratic institutions are “disproportionately composed of men of primarily European descent discounting the earlier changes that were made by the same group and while political institutions continue becoming more diverse.

Surprising in his catalogue of issues, Carlaw failed to mention the long-promised revision of the citizenship study guide, Discover Canada, to a more contemporary and inclusion narrative:

recent press release from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship that cites Statistics Canada data has highlighted concerns over a 40 per cent reduction in Canada’s “naturalization rate” — the rate at which permanent residents are becoming citizens.

The release, headlined Newcomers falling out of love with Canadian citizenship generated a number of other media headlines.

Concerns over how and whether those living and working in Canada are attaining citizenship and important rights — including to vote and run for office — are of course well placed. But love of country by immigrants is not the primary problem.

Individual choices and sentiments are a relevant factor, but there are observable structural explanations. Beyond Canada’s control, not all countries permit dual citizenship. That includes major source countries China and India where many immigrants to Canada are from. It is understandable that some permanent residents prefer not to renounce the citizenship of their country of origin. 

But within Canada’s control, there are troubling shifts in our overall citizenship and immigration model. Inequalities connected to its colonial nature have left growing numbers of residents without citizenship or even a pathway to it.

Annual immigration levels, for example, only represent those accepted as permanent residents and obscure the number of those admitted to Canada under less secure conditions.

This has occurred thanks to under-discussed but at times controversial shifts from permanent to temporary or multi-step migration

These shifts can be obscured by focusing primarily on the naturalization process and the sentiments some attach to it rather than the larger settler colonial landscape of migration and immigration and its relationship to citizenship and belonging at each stage.

Unkept promises and unlearned lessons

In recent years, Canada has apologized for past discriminatory immigration measures and its treatment of Indigenous Peoples. And there have been recent symbolic advances recognizing First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and Canadians’ treaty responsibilities in the citizenship oath

However, social exclusions in modern forms related to the project of Canadian nation-building, citizenship and belonging persist. They are even intensifying in important respects.

recent report from the Yellowhead Institute found that, despite an expressed commitment to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, the Federal government has only fulfilled 13, with those providing symbolic rather than structural remedies.

This example is indicative of why many Indigenous people — themselves denied the vote for much of Canada’s history — understandably view Canadian citizenship as, at best, a “kinder, gentler form of colonialism.”

These realities also remind us that the terms and hierarchies of citizenship and societal membership in Canada shift over time. They are subject to social struggle. And apologies and symbolic advancements do not relegate mistreatment to the past. 

Hierarchies of belonging persist

“White Canada” immigration policies that favoured European immigrants and largely excluded those from elsewhere were in place until the 1960s. 

These entrenched institutional and demographic dominance by white settlers. Europeans immigrating to Canada in earlier periods had ready access to permanent residence and eventual citizenship, unlike many of their contemporary racialized counterparts.

Institutional racism continues to be felt in the country’s immigration system and political life as tiers of citizenship and belonging continue to be practiced in old and new forms.

Canada adopted official multiculturalism in 1971, yet two years later it entrenched migrant worker programs, primarily for racialized workers from the Global South. As with past exclusions, these workers still have to navigate programs and realities that prevent or make it difficult for them to access permanent residence and citizenship.

This is particularly the case for those working in what are deemed to be “low skill” positions. Many such workers become “permanently temporary” despite ongoing demands for their labour.

Today, Canada’s political institutions are still disproportionately composed of men of primarily European descent. And they continue to set and enforce problematic terms of citizenship and societal membership. 

Today’s more difficult pathways to citizenship

Today’s immigrants — who mostly come from the Global South — face a system of complex chutes and ladders when it comes to their status in Canada. That system leads many migrants to remain stuck in an immigration purgatory, far away from pathways to permanent residence, let alone citizenship.

Even those often characterized as the perfect immigrants — international students who pay vast sums that subsidize our post-secondary education system — face limited and precarious pathways to permanent residence and citizenship. 

As economist Armine Yalnizyan recently noted, today for each person granted the security of permanent residence, there are two migrant workers or international students who have uncertain or no access to permanent status.

This could prove an obstacle to attracting and retaining workers. When it comes to citizenship and societal membership, it hinders inclusion by creating an exploitable class of workers who lack full political and social rights.

In the face of these realities, many migrants, students and workers are mobilizing to address these exclusions. This includes protests in several cities demanding “status for all” to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

To return to the later stages of the process of becoming Canadian by adopting citizenship, under the former Conservative government, citizenship became harder to get and easier to lose by design.

Unfortunately, amidst the last decade’s battles between more exclusionary Conservative and rhetorically warmer Liberalvisions of citizenship, tougher and more expensive procedures than previously existed remain under both.

The costs of applying for citizenship increased significantlyunder the Conservatives, and have remained prohibitive for many. The Trudeau government has made some positive reforms, such as reversing changes that made it take longer to become a citizen. But it has failed to follow through on its election promises to eliminate citizenship fees.

One recent study argues that it is likely that fee hikes and tougher, often expensive language requirements negatively impact a significant number of applicants.

Even those who have managed to obtain permanent residency and fulfilled their residency requirements face further “boundaries related to management flaws, classed naturalization, and cultural biases.” That means many, particularly refugee claimants and family class immigrants, struggle with the citizenship process.

For those who can reach the end of the process, some find it distasteful to continue to have to declare an enforced oath to a colonial figure, a reminder of the structures and hierarchies discussed in this article. 

Given this context, the significant decline in Canada’s naturalization rate should be less surprising, though no less alarming as Canada continues to foster and even intensify inequalities of societal membership in its citizenship and immigration regime.

Source: Declining naturalizations signal larger problems in Canada’s citizenship and immigration system

An Ottawa-Ontario turf war hobbled efforts to bring in skilled workers. Here’s what ended it

Of interest:

Around the world, ideology drives the politics of immigration by pushing people apart.

Across Canada, geography drives a deeper wedge between rival governments in Ottawa and at Queen’s Park.

Over the past decade, an undeclared turf war has hobbled Ontario’s attempt to recruit skilled workers. The federal government refused to give Canada’s biggest province a significant say in who came here.

Now, Ontario is finally getting a bigger role in selecting skilled immigrants. And Ottawa has belatedly declared peace in our time.

Just in time.

This month, a federal Liberal cabinet minister and his Progressive Conservative counterpart in Ontario agreed to double the skilled immigrants selected by the province for rapid resettlement, matching workers with work. By 2025, Ontario will get to select 18,000 skilled workers, primarily in the health-care, construction and hi-tech fields ― up from 9,000 in 2021 and just 1,000 a decade ago.

How did it happen?

The rise of inflation, the risk of recession, and the recurrence of labour shortages forced Canada’s two biggest governments, at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill, to work together after years of talking past each other.

But it’s not just the economic environment. The political climate has also brought the rival governments together to collaborate.

Two erstwhile enemies, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford, now meet almost monthly to cut cheques and cut ribbons for new factory investments. Against that backdrop of bonhomie, Monte McNaughton, one of Ontario’s most politically astute cabinet ministers, went one step further to bridge the partisan divide with his federal counterpart.

As the province’s minister of labour, McNaughton has long been a linchpin of Ford’s outreach strategy with union leaders. But he also has special responsibility for immigration and training, so when Sean Fraser was sworn in as the federal minister two years ago, McNaughton quickly texted an old pal to get his phone number.

That pal was Katie Telford, the PM’s chief of staff, with whom McNaughton has kept in touch since they served together as teenage pages in the legislature. Armed with Fraser’s number, McNaughton disarmed the new Liberal minister by dropping Telford’s name ― proof that he could work across ideological and geographical lines.

“I got his number from Katie and got ahold of him,” McNaughton told me this week. “I said to him, ‘This is not about politics whatsoever. We have a serious challenge in terms of the labour shortage … so let’s grow the numbers and actually do something that is going to make a meaningful difference on the ground.’”

They’ve been talking and texting ever since ― without political aides, without bureaucratic advisers, just the two of them. They started far apart, because the inherited challenge wasn’t just about bipartisanship but bilateralism.

Historically, the federal government was accustomed to unilateral action while Ontario contented itself with inaction. By contrast, Quebec had led the way decades ago, winning shared jurisdiction on immigration on the strength of its special French-language needs; meanwhile, Western provinces had quietly persuaded Ottawa to let them select thousands of immigrants to meet local labour market needs amid growing economies.

Ontario had never bothered to ask in the past. As the jobs went West, so did the talent.

A decade ago, seven out of 10 immigrants to Western provinces were in the “economic” class, compared to barely half of those coming to Ontario. By the time Queen’s Park woke up to that reality, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in Ottawa were unwilling to help.

“We’re not interested in devolving services to the junior level of government,” then-immigration minister Jason Kenney told me at the time.

Now, with the roles reversed ― there’s a federal Liberal minister in Ottawa, while his Ontario counterpart is a PC ― the roadblocks have been removed and a back channel reopened.

“I give full credit to Fraser,” McNaughton said in our interview. “We were more desperate than other provinces from a labour shortage perspective. We were receiving, as a percentage, less (skilled nominees) than any other province in the country.”

For his part, Fraser says he never saw it as a turf battle. The economic stakes are too high for political grudges or bureaucratic games.

A mismatched labour market “is one of the challenges that keeps me up at night,” Fraser told me at a recent Democracy Forum at Toronto Metropolitan University (where he also talked about crossing party lines to get advice from ex-PM Brian Mulroney).

If workers end up in the wrong regions for the wrong jobs, while skilled jobs are going begging in businesses elsewhere, all Canadians will pay the price of a delayed recovery and missed opportunity, he argued.

“I think this was a unique opportunity for us to increase (Ontario’s) provincial nominee program levels,” Fraser said at the TMU event I co-hosted last week, adding coyly: “Before too long we’re going to show up in Ontario.”

Days later, both ministers did indeed show up in Toronto to announce their landmark agreement. Ontario’s biggest employers promptly hailed the deal as an economic breakthrough that ruptures previous roadblocks.

Despite the doubling of the program, the new numbers are still small and the progress largely symbolic. But it is a strategic first step.

Immigration always has the potential to drive people apart. Consider the continuing tumult in the U.S. and U.K.

Yet two Canadian cabinet ministers quietly came together, in a bipartisan and bilateral way. They tried to work it out, so that the economics would turn out better for workers and workplaces alike.

Small numbers, yes. But no small feat.

Source: An Ottawa-Ontario turf war hobbled efforts to bring in skilled workers. Here’s what ended it

Ukrainians who fled to Canada in ‘grey area’ of immigration system

Of note. Potential risk to absorptive capacity should they remain and should the two-thirds who have not used their visa arrive, in addition to the issues raised by stakeholders.

The increased numbers of temporary residents, students and temporary visas, all uncapped, makes a mockery of Canada’s claim to “manage” immigration, given that well over half are not part of the annual immigration plan and are demand driven as my quote below notes:

Ukrainians who have fled to Canada with an emergency visa find themselves in a “grey area” of the immigration system, and several settlement specialists are urging the government to make changes if the program is renewed.

Canada took a new approach to the crisis sparked by the Russian invasion last year, offering an unlimited number of temporary visas to Ukrainians to allow them to live, work and study in Canada while they figure out their next steps.

The idea was to offer refuge to people as quickly as possible, as millions of women, children and older adults fled the violence, without compromising the integrity of the immigration system.

But people who arrived in Canada under the emergency visa don’t qualify for the same supports as people who arrive with a refugee designation, even though most of them think of themselves as refugees, said Ihor Michalchyshyn, executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

They also don’t qualify for certain government assistance, benefits and student loans, as permanent residents would.

“The usual programs and funding aren’t available to these Ukrainians, and it’s not organized,” Michalchyshyn said in an interview Monday.

Nova Scotia immigration program director Simone Le Gendre described the confusion the province faced at the outset of the program because its usual immigration settlement guidelines did not apply to Ukrainians with emergency visas.

“What we had was a grey area – a group of people who had experienced trauma were coming to our province and needed to be connected to support very quickly,” said Le Gendre, who spoke at the Metropolis Canada conference in Ottawa Friday.

The new arrivals had “refugee-like” needs, she explained, which prompted the province to set up special committees aimed at connecting people with housing, health care and income support top-ups.

Their task was made even more difficult by the fact that there was no central registry with arrival information, as there would be for permanent residents or refugees.

Provinces and agencies had no idea when Ukrainians would arrive, said Katie Crocker, the CEO of the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies in British Columbia.

Instead, agencies like hers, the YMCA, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and others stood up booths at airports to try to flag down Ukrainian newcomers as they arrived in Canada and let them know what kind of help was available.

The temporary visa program is set to stop taking new applicants on March 31, giving the government two weeks to decide whether to extend it.

So far, 603,681 people have been approved for a visa under the program as of March 9, 2023, though only 184,908 have actually come to Canada.

When asked about the next iteration of the program last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said only that Canada would “continue to be there to support Ukrainian refugees in various ways, as necessary.”

Crocker said if the program continues, the government should consider a few key changes.

“If we’re not going to have them come as government-assisted refugees with a very clear pathway, then we do need to have some more concrete pre-arrival information (from) them about where they’re going, when they’re coming, who’s coming with them, what their English language levels are, what their credentials are,” said Crocker, who also spoke at the conference.

Those key details would allow settlement agencies to prepare for their arrival and connect them with jobs, housing and other resources they might need, she said.

She also suggested the government consider putting a cap on the number of applications it will approve.

The program was specifically designed without a cap as a way to bring people to Canada quickly, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said last week at a press conference.

“We made the decision at the time to try something new, to offer temporary protection by leveraging the strength … of Canada’s tourism program, where we’re not required to set a capped number of people that we can support, but we can process whatever applications come in,” he said.

The immigration department says approximately 373 staff have been specifically dedicated to processing applications from Ukrainians, in addition to existing staff who work on the files as part of their regular duties.

Whatever “hiccups” associated with the emergency visas that may have affected immigration processing times are “well worth the value,” said Fraser, who spoke last week at a press conference in Bridgewater, N.S.

The assumption at the time was that Ukrainians would likely return to their home country when the war ended. But increasingly, Ukrainians who come to Canada are showing an interest in staying, said Sarosh Rizvi, the executive director of the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies.

A post-arrival survey of Ukrainians who arrived under the program shows that 84 per cent would like to become permanent residents once their emergency visas expire, he said.

“What does that mean for our infrastructure sector?” he said. “What does that mean for immigration levels?”

It also leaves an open question about what kind of support will be available to people who decide to stay if they are denied permanent status in Canada, he said.

Andrew Griffith, Canada’s former director-general of citizenship and multiculturalism, said the government should consider creating targets for the number of temporary residents in the country each year, as it does for other kinds of immigration.

“There are those people that come on a temporary basis but then they transition to permanent resident, and because they’re here, they also need housing, and public services and everything like that,” Griffith said in an interview.

Michalchyshyn, who the government has consulted on the next phase of the emergency visa, said he is hopeful the government will announce more details of its plan this week.

Source: Ukrainians who fled to Canada in ‘grey area’ of immigration system

‘Scumbag’ Ontario employers to be slapped with hefty new fines for withholding workers’ passports, vows labour minister

Good, but the proof will lie with enforcement or lack thereof. The decline in inspections over the last five years is not an encouraging sign:

Ontario employers who withhold vulnerable foreign workers’ passports will face stiff penalties under proposed new labour laws that aim to introduce the highest maximum fines in the country.

If passed, the legislation to be introduced Monday would result in penalties of $100,000 to $200,000 for each passport withheld from a worker — a significant leap from the current fines, which range from just $250 to $1000.

“It’s totally disgusting that any human being would ever be treated the way we see sometimes,” Labour Minister Monte McNaughton told the Star. “Which is why I’ve made this a top priority for myself and for our ministry.”

The proposed reforms would mean if employers are convicted of retaining documents for multiple workers, they could face cumulative fines ranging into the millions.

Withholding foreign nationals’ travel documents is already illegal under provincial employment laws, but heftier fines are “one piece of the puzzle” in a ministry crackdown on labour trafficking, McNaughton said.

Withholding workers’ travel documents is illegal — and widespread, advocates say

The new legislation comes in the wake of several recent labour exploitation cases that have resulted in criminal prosecutions. Earlier this month, York Regional Police announced it had identified 64 Mexican nationals who had been forced to live and work in “deplorable” conditions. Police have laid charges against the workers’ alleged abusers under human trafficking laws.

In that example, the labour ministry’s new penalty framework would also allow inspectors to slap recruiters with fines of up to $6.4 million for withholding passports, said McNaughton.

While retaining workers’ travel documents is coercive and illegal, advocates have long said the practice is widespread — and called for more proactive inspections to prevent violations of the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act (EPFNA).

“The profound weakness of the legislation is that it depends upon individual workers to bring forward complaints,” notes a 2016 report authored by lawyer and migrant labour expert Fay Faraday.

Last year, the ministry investigated 189 claims under EPFNA, uncovered 25 violations and identified more than $100,000 of unpaid entitlements owed to workers.

Inspections down dramatically since 2017

Ministry of Labour data shows the number of inspections conducted to identifyoverall workplace violations such as wage theft has dropped significantly in recent years, from 3,500 in 2017 to 215 last year.

The number of prosecutions for employment standards violations also dropped to 34 from 233 over the same time period.

In a statement, the ministry said its employment standards officers have supported the government’s pandemic response over the past two years, including “providing essential businesses with compliance assistance” and enforcing lockdown regulations.

“While the number of inspections the ministry has been able to complete has been impacted by the pandemic, we have continued to investigate every claim and review every complaint reported to us.”

Labour minister’s focus is on cracking down on ‘scumbags’

McNaughton said the proposed new fines will complement the ministry’s new anti-trafficking unit that has so far initiated 45 investigations and recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars for over 3,500 workers.

“I know the changes will only work if you catch these scumbags,” he said. “My focus is cracking down on the bad guys who are breaking the law, and my goal is to fine them as much as possible.”

In addition to facing so-called administrative penalties for withholding travel documents, individuals who are prosecuted in court under the proposed labour reforms could face additional penalties of up to $500,000 or a year of jail — up from the current maximum fine of $50,000. Corporations would be liable for penalties of up to $1 million.

With labour exploitation attracting growing attention, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change has said it believes the labour ministry is the right body to lead enforcement activities. The advocacy group has raised concern about the involvement of police and border authorities, particularly where vulnerable workers are at risk of deportation.

Proposed legislation includes higher fines, expanded worker protections

Other changes to be introduced Monday include higher fines for corporations convicted of health and safety violations, raising fines to $2 million from $1.5 million.

The move follows an increase in maximum fines for individuals who break workplace safety laws, brought in last year.

The proposed new legislation will also contain a number of other initiatives recently announced by the ministry, including expanded cancer coverage for firefighters at the workers’ compensation board and protections for remote workers during mass terminations.

Source: ‘Scumbag’ Ontario employers to be slapped with hefty new fines for withholding workers’ passports, vows labour minister

Dicko: Is the uncertain economic climate a threat to Canada’s immigration targets?

More promotion than neutral and objective analysis:

The federal government plans to welcome 1.4 million immigrants by the year 2025. These ambitious targets reflect a national consensus on immigration’s long-term economic value. With one million job vacancies and an estimated 40 per cent of small- to medium-sized businesses reporting staff shortages, Canada needs immigrants.

Since setting these targets, inflation in Canada has spiralled and the rising cost of living has stretched the finances of many Canadian households. A recent report reveals that 64 per cent of Canadians is concerned about their ability to pay off debts, while 59 per cent state that further increases will lead them to financial difficulties. 

Financial planning and budgeting are accompanied, for many people, by apprehension and anxiety— especially when the person in question is a newcomer to Canada.

An immigrant’s skills and experience earn them enough points for permanent residency in Canada. However, they soon find that the reality of living and working in Canada is different from what they anticipated. 

Immigrants compete for jobs and housing with an average of 10 per cent less pay than Canadian-born workers. If they are skilled and university-educated, they receive an estimated 20 per cent less than their Canadian counterparts each month. 

This immigrant wage gap costs our economy $50-billion each year.

Seventy-two per cent of immigrants recently surveyed by Léger for the Institute for Canadian Citizenship said that “Canadians don’t understand the challenges immigrants face.” Thirty per cent of young newcomers, aged between 18-34, revealed that they are likely to leave Canada in the next two years. 

It’s understandable, in the current climate, why many young newcomers would want to take their skills and experience elsewhere. Far too many immigrants arrive to find that their experience and credentials are not recognized in Canada. If they need a license, the cost of getting licensed could cost tens of thousands of dollars. 

Immigrants also come up against another barrier—lack of Canadian experience—which is not something they can control or overcome. Some find themselves in low-skilled survival jobs because of these barriers. 

It’s a vicious cycle: they arrive in Canada with no credit history and without it, they are not eligible for a career loan from a financial institution. This keeps them stuck in the survival job, moving further and further away from the career they once had in their home country. 

Navigating life in a new country can induce stress and anxiety. Research shows that immigrants and refugees are more susceptible to mental health challenges. 

Our client Elda experienced anxiety as a newcomer to Canada. As a skilled psychotherapist with years of experience back home in the Philippines, she was unable to practice as a psychotherapist in Canada unless she got re-licensed. Elda wanted to continue her career but it came at a significant cost. With a young family to feed, she needed financial support. She wasn’t sure how she could pay her bills and also return to what she loved to do. 

One of these solutions is microloans offered through national charities, like Windmill Microlending. A microloan makes it possible for someone like Elda to get re-licensed while covering living expenses during the process. 

Today, Elda is a licensed psychotherapist who helps others manage their mental health struggles. Internationally-trained mental health professionals like Elda are in high demand.  

Helping immigrants contribute at the level that our economy needs could help ease pressures on our health-care system.

The Windmill team supports over thousand immigrants like Elda every year as they transition into careers that align with their skills and experience. We recognize that the current economic climate could deter newcomers from applying for a career loan, so we recently introduced a fixed-rate interest loan of 5.95 percent for a limited time. 

Offering loans at this below-prime rate ensures that funds remain accessible and affordable to newcomers. We hope that this measure will help newcomers fulfill their career goals and utilize their full potential while also reducing Canada’s labour shortage. 

As we welcome more immigrants in the coming years, Canada must remain a desirable destination for skilled workers around the world. We have much to gain by getting the best and brightest skilled immigrants into roles where they can make a difference. 

When skilled immigrants are allowed to leverage their skills and experience, Canada reaps the benefits. 

Oumar Dicko is national director, Stakeholder Relations of Windmill Microlending, a national charity that empowers skilled immigrants to achieve economic prosperity through microloans and supports.

Source: Is the uncertain economic climate a threat to Canada’s immigration targets?

Managing asylum claims in a federal system with lessons from Germany

Useful, balanced and realistic analysis, highlighting the difficulties of adopting the German model :

Quebec Premier Francois Legault took to the media to call for changes in how Canada manages asylum claims. With 64 per cent being processed in Quebec in 2022, one of his demands was that asylum-seekers be distributed across the provinces to even out the additional demands on health care, housing and other public resources required to support the new arrivals.

In contrast to his problematic call to close the Roxham Road crossing, the interprovincial redistribution of asylum seekers may be viewed as a feasible policy with precedents in several European countries, including Germany, that could provide inspiration.

However, there are concerns that would have to be addressed before considering such a policy, including a workable funding solution between Ottawa and the provinces, how to provide the necessary infrastructure and human-rights issues.

How are asylum claims managed in Canada?

Currently there is no mechanism for assigning a place of residence to individuals who file an asylum claim in Canada. Claims are filed in the province in which someone arrives. If an initial review determines that the claimant is eligible for consideration, that province provides access to services such as emergency housing, health care, education and social and legal assistance. Municipalities and non-governmental organizations may also contribute to this support. Claimants are free to move to another province and have their claims assessed there.

The federal government supports some of the costs of hosting asylum-seekers during the process, through the Canada Social Transfer, the same block payment that provides provinces and territories funding on a per-capita basis for programs like post-secondary education.

The German model: Efficient and effective at redistributing costs

Since the Second World War, Germany has managed steady inflows of asylum-seekers, with big peaks in the early 1990s and mid-2010s. Over 1.2 million asylum applications were submitted from 1990 to 1993, and another 1.2 million were filed in 2014-2015 alone.

Germany manages a substantially higher volume of asylum applications than Canada, as a comparison of the years 2011 to 2022 shows. In that period, Germany processed over 2.8 millionasylum applicationswhile Canada had just over 417,000. In peak years, Germany received 745,545 (in 2016), while Canada received 92,100 (in 2022). On average, the number of applications received annually was almost seven times higher in Germany than it was in Canada, while Germany’s overall population is roughly two times larger.

Germany has long distributed asylum-seekers across its federal states. Its current mechanism for doing this was first integrated into West Germany’s 1982 Asylum Procedure Act and later modified to include the former East German states. Asylum claimants are distributed across the 16 federal states according to what is known as the Königstein Key (Königsteiner Schlüssel).

The key calculates quotas for asylum seekers based on each state’s tax revenue and population. More populated and economically powerful states are assigned proportionally more asylum seekers than those with fewer inhabitants and smaller economies. In 2023, North Rhine-Westphalia, a large state in western Germany, is responsible for just over 21 per cent of asylum-seekers while the small city-state of Bremen is responsible for slightly fewer than one per cent of them.

As soon as an asylum seeker launches a claim, regardless of where they do so, an electronic system automatically determines which state will handle their case, and they are immediately sent onwards (at the cost of the first state they arrived in).

Once they reach their assigned state, asylum seekers are distributed across reception centres in that state, and the state pays for benefits like food, housing, clothing and health care. In order to receive these benefits, asylum-seekers need to remain registered and resident in the municipality they were assigned to for at least the first three months after arrival.

The German model is widely regarded as one of the most effective systems of dispersing asylum-seekers geographically. Yet, like all such systems, it has its downsides. Also, the features that make it highly effective require certain political conditions that are not easy to replicate in other countries. There are certain human and social costs.

While it may be desirable from the perspective of the state to distribute asylum seekers geographically, doing so requires that the freedom of movement of individuals be restricted, at least for an initial period.

This has two main downsides. First, new arrivals cannot choose to take up residence in a place where they have family, friends and/or a community. This means that they lack the network connections that are sources of information, support and well being. If asylum-seekers gain permanent residence, the absence of networks can hinder their social and economic integration. Some scholars argue that the disruptive effects of dispersal on asylum-seeker’s networks are welcomed by states like Germany, as means of deterring new arrivals. 

Second, true geographic dispersion means placing them in communities that have little or no history of receiving immigrants. In Germany, asylum-seekers placed in more rural areas have been vulnerable to xenophobia and even racist violence.

Asylum seekers and refugee housing centres have regularly been subjected to xenophobic attacks in Germany since the early 1990s. The most infamous of these occurred in a suburb of Rostock in 1992.

Isolation from networks and potentially hostile environments are not just detrimental to asylum-seekers. They can also create costs for society, in the form of poor social and economic integration and increased ethnic and racial tensions, both of which can be mobilized by far-right politicians.

Could Canada adopt the German model?

Due to growing exposure to global forces and refugee flows, Canada will undoubtedly receive increasing numbers of asylum seekers in the future. Designing and implementing an effective, German-style system could lead to better outcomes than more ad-hoc arrangements, as the comparison between Germany and the United Kingdom shows. However, that assumes that Canadians are prepared to pay for the human and social costs to distribute expenditures on asylum-seeker support across provinces. But first, there needs to be at least two key components put in place.

A legitimate means of determining quotas

One thing that made it relatively easy for German states to commit to a refugee quota system was the agreed-upon distribution mechanism – the Königstein Key. This was originally created in 1949 to fund research and science and had long been considered a fair and legitimate means of sharing costs. Its application to a new policy area was thus relatively uncontroversial.

In Canada’s current fraught state of executive federalism, creating a similar mechanism would likely lead to additional intergovernmental conflict.

Language politics could also complicate negotiations, as Quebec might request to only retain and host francophone asylum seekers on its territory. That would have to be factored into the distribution mechanism and, perhaps, make it harder to build political consensus around it in that province and in the rest of the country.


All residents of Germany, including citizens, are required to register with their city or municipal authority within two weeks of taking up residence. Local registration is recorded on national identity cards (the most common form of personal identification in the country) and determines access to myriad social services. It is also used to determine the amount of funding a municipality receives from the state, including the number of school and kindergarten slots that are needed.

This system makes it possible to tie asylum seekers’ social and financial support to maintaining residency in a particular municipality. In other words, there is an effective infrastructure in place to enforce the quota system and to easily monitor asylum-seeker distribution and financial transfers between states and municipalities.

Canada has no such infrastructure. Nor is most of its immigrant support designed to maintain geographic distribution. One exception are the provincial nominee programs (PNPs) and – within those – collaborations with municipalities to get immigrants and refugees to settle outside of metropolitan centres. Yet, immigrants self-select into these, suggesting a willingness on the part of participants to settle in a particular region of the country.

If Canada chose to adopt a program for distributing asylum seekers across provinces and territories, it would be following established practices in Germany and other European countries. Doing this effectively and with minimal friction between jurisdictions requires careful planning and adequate population-management infrastructure, however. There are also human and social costs that need to be considered – costs Canada has not yet been willing to pay. These include curtailing the freedom of movement of asylum-seekers and creating living conditions that could be detrimental to them and Canada’s social fabric.

Source: Managing asylum claims in a federal system with lessons from Germany

ICYMI:Canada extends international students’ work permits for 18 months. ‘We’re seeing that the same crisis is repeating over and over,’ critics say

Of note, side effect of backlogs:

International graduates with expired or expiring work permits will be able to extend their work authorization in Canada for another 18 months, under a new immigration measure announced Friday.

Postgraduate work permit (PGWP) holders who qualify for the program will soon be contacted with information about logging into their online account to opt in and update their file, starting April 6.

A PGWP is typically not extendable, but similar policies have been implemented twice during the pandemic to allow international graduates to stay and work in Canada as many ran out of status and were unable to pursue permanent residence amid significant immigration backlogs.

Those with expired work permits both in 2022 and 2023 will be able to restore their status, even if they are beyond the 90-day restoration period, and will receive an interim work authorization while awaiting processing of their new work permit application.

“We need to use every tool in our toolbox to support employers who continue to face challenges in hiring the workers they need to grow,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said.

“We want to continue to hang on to that talent in Canada, not just to fill gaps in the short term in the labour force, but to ensure that we’re meeting the long-term needs of the economy.”

The federal government’s 2022 PGWP extension program wasn’t without flaws. Permit holders were initially told their authorization would be processed automatically, without them having to do anything. However, many did not receive the needed documents and ran out of status to legally stay and work in the country.

“Lessons learned from that process have been applied as we implement a similar one. The new public policy will allow anyone who was eligible under the 2022 initiative to apply for an open work permit and to restore their status,” the immigration department said.

Yogesh Tulani, whose PGWP would expire this month, said some unscrupulous consultants and lawyers — and some employers — are taking advantage of students who are on the edge of losing status by charging them hefty fees for a job offer and the Labour Market Impact Assessment they would need to obtain a closed work permit and stay in this country.

“You’re asked to pay a large sum of money, which ranged from anywhere between $8,000 to $35,000, which is unethical and illegal,” said the 23-year-old, who graduated from Georgian College in 2019 and now works as a pest-control technician in London, Ont.

Advocates said Fraser needs to make the PGWP permanently renewable to better protect vulnerable students from abuse and exploitation.

“We’re seeing that the same crisis is repeating over and over again. How many more times are we going to have to fight for permanent renewability?” asked Sarom Rho, an organizer for Migrant Students United at the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Rho also urged Fraser to resume the Canadian Experience Class program, which most international graduates use to transition to permanent residence based on their work experience and education credentials acquired in the country.

The draws for the program have been suspended for nine months and the delay has contributed to international graduates’ immigration limbo, leaving some unable to get permanent residence while their legal status is running out, said Rho.

“Many current and former migrant student workers will be facing the same crisis in January of 2024,” she warned.

Canada, like most countries, has faced significant labour and skill shortages in the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the special measures are an attempt to keep current workers in the labour market.

International students and graduates have become a main source of temporary migrant workers in Canada. Those enrolled in a post-secondary program can work during their studies and are eligible for a PGWP that lasts for up to three years.

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, there were 807,750 international students in Canada at all levels of study last year, up 43 per cent from five years ago. Indian students accounted for 40 per cent of the overall international enrolment, followed by Chinese students, at 12 per cent.

At the end of 2022, more than 286,000 international graduates were in Canada with a valid post-graduation work permit, immigration officials say.

About 127,000 PGWPs expire this year, though about 67,000 PGWP holders have already applied for permanent residence and won’t need to extend their work permit through this initiative.

Source: Canada extends international students’ work permits for 18 months. ‘We’re seeing that the same crisis is repeating over and over,’ critics say

‘State of shock’: As Canada ramps up immigration, unsuspecting …

Of note, the reality vs the promise:

A year after hearing “welcome home” for the first time at the Canadian border, Shahzad Gidwani found himself questioning whether he and his wife made the right decision to start a new life here.

The timing wasn’t ideal, arriving in Toronto from India with their son just as the pandemic began sweeping the globe. Yet the 53-year-old held high hopes for his family’s future. He was bringing with him decades of international work experience in sales and marketing, and a master’s degree in business from the U.S.

But as inflation crept toward a 40-year high, eating away at the family’s savings, panic began to set in. Gidwani struggled to secure a permanent job with a living wage because employers didn’t want to hire someone without Canadian experience.

“We hadn’t prepared for inflation,” Gidwani said. He estimated they were spending nearly $6,000 a month on rent, furniture, food and basic necessities when they were first settling in. “We were in a state of shock.”

“We thought about whether we’d made the right decision because we were burning through money. What you spend here in one month would last you nine months back in India,” Gidwani said.

Many newcomers like Gidwani come to Canada dreaming of a better life, but lately they have found themselves pummelled by the highest inflation rate in four decades, unable to afford adequate housing, food and basic necessities. And as the federal government responds to historic labour shortages by ramping up immigration — targeting an unprecedented 1.5 million immigrants over the next three years and issuing work permits to non-Canadians at record highs — newcomers are arriving only to find mostly low-skill, low-paying jobs available to them.

Many Canadians are feeling the strain of exorbitant living costs, but those struggles can be more acute for recent immigrants and those trying to secure permanent residence. Newcomers can face discrimination and precarious work conditions while scrambling to fulfil convoluted immigration requirements. According to a recent RBC report, they earn less than the general population and are more likely to reside in inadequate housing.

“Because of competition and favouritism and racism, the Canadian dream of working your way up after you get here often doesn’t happen,” said Jim Stanford, economist and director of think tank Centre for Future Work.

Source: ‘State of shock’: As Canada ramps up immigration, unsuspecting …

Border crossings from Canada into New York, Vermont and N.H. are up tenfold. Local cops want help.

More on the southern flow at the border:

On the snowy border between New York and Canada, the local sheriff’s office is calling for the U.S. Border Patrol to put more manpower behind what the locals call a growing crisis: The number of illegal border crossings in the area over the last five months is nearly 10 times what it was over the same time last year, and the border crossers are in danger of freezing to death.

From Oct. 1 to Feb. 28, about 2,000 migrants crossed the border between Canada and New Hampshire, Vermont and New York south through the forests, compared to just 200 crossings in the same period the previous year.

The migrants are mainly from Mexico, and they can travel to Canada without visas before they cross illegally into the U.S., often to reunite with their families.

Last weekend, Clinton County, New York, Sheriff David Favro’s team assisted Border Patrol in rescuing 39 migrants, some whose clothes had frozen to their bodies.

“We are seeing more and more people, and it can be a deadly terrain if you’re not familiar with it,” Favro said.

He said responding to rescues like that has taxed the resources of his department, already stretched thin to cover the residents of his rural county, population 80,000, which shares about 30 miles of border with the Canadian province of Quebec.

“The only way to really be able to cover and protect [the northern border] is boots on the ground,” Favro said.

Just last week, Customs and Border Protection added 25 agents to the area, the Swanton Sector, to deter migration. But Favro and other locals who spoke to NBC News in Mooers, New York, said that’s not enough.

Mooers Fire Chief Todd Gumlaw said he recently helped rescue two Mexican women stuck in an icy swamp in the middle of the night. Gumlaw, along with Border Patrol, local police and EMS workers, was able to render first aid and get the women to a hospital to be treated for frostbite and mild hypothermia after they lost their shoes in the swamp, he said. “Preservation of human life is first and foremost with my department. We put [immigration status] to the back of our mind,” Gumlaw said.

The Mooers/Champlain region is a clump of small blue-collar residences and farms, where, according to locals, “everyone knows everyone” and properties can be several blocks apart, adding a sense of unease among some of the locals witnessing the mass migration in the region.

According to local first responders, southbound migrants often seek shelter in empty sheds and barns to shield themselves from the cold.

April Barcomb, a Mooers resident, said she has had migrants show up at her doorstep and is now saving up for security cameras.

“It’s not something I would usually do,” she said. “But it makes me think twice. And with the kids and the family, I gotta install cameras.”

While most locals who spoke to NBC News said they understood that most migrants crossing the region aren’t threats, neighbors are keeping their eyes open for unusual activity.

“People are scared,” a Champlain County resident said. “It’s the fear of the unknown. They’re [neighbors] worried about their safety, because they don’t know these people.”

Most of the migrants are Mexicans, who are frequently blocked from crossing the southern U.S. border and believe they will have an easier time if they fly to Canada and then cross into the U.S. from the north.

According to a CBP spokesperson, the Swanton Sector has been the site of more than 67% of all migrant crossings at the northern border across all eight sectors through February.

Unlike the southern border, where over 16,000 Border Patrol agents are responsible for staffing roughly 2,000 miles, about 2,000 border agents patrol the 5,000-mile border between the U.S. and Canada, which includes Alaska’s land boundaries, making it the longest international land border in the world.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, asked Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a letter Tuesday to step up enforcement along his state’s 51-mile border with Canada or allow his police forces more authority to do so.

“Over the last few months, the State of New Hampshire has attempted to assist the federal government in securing our northern border. These offers of assistance have been repeatedly rejected. The Biden administration has cut funding and hindered the state’s ability to assist in patrolling the northern border,” Sununu said.

A spokesperson for CBP said the additional agents who were just sent to the Swanton Sector will help deter migration.

Source: Border crossings from Canada into New York, Vermont and N.H. are up tenfold. Local cops want help.