Will the removal of the Canadian citizenship preference in the public service make a difference

My latest:

In recent employment equity reports, the federal government has provided disaggregated representation for visible minorities, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities to help assess how well the public service represents the public it serves. Previously, disaggregated data for visible minority and Indigenous groups in public administration was available only through census data every five years.

The 2020 speech from the throne included a commitment to implementing an action plan “to increase representation in hiring and appointments, and leadership development” within the public service, which was later confirmed in changes to the Public Service Employment Act.

The changes include longer-term and more-complex policies to address “bias and barriers” that impact all equity-seeking groups, as well as one change that will have an early impact for visible minorities  ̶  removing the preference for Canadian citizens: “Permanent residents now have the same preference as Canadian Citizens when appointments are made through external advertised hiring processes.”

There was no debate on this change when the legislation was considered by the House of Commons finance committee  ̶  despite its impact  ̶  because it was included in an omnibus budget bill.

A recent Public Service Commission study on the “citizenship of applicants and external appointments” highlighted the impact of this policy: while visible minority citizens were 17.2 per cent of all applicants and 19.5 per cent of all hires, visible minorities who are only permanent residents formed 5.1 per cent of all applicants and only 1.2 per cent of all hires in 2018-19.

The former preference for citizens was subject to criticism by some visible minority groups because it effectively reduced the opportunities for non-citizen visible minorities. Its removal should ensure more equitable opportunities for all visible minorities at all stages of selection, although other barriers  ̶  such as education, official language knowledge and possible bias  ̶  may remain. Whether this change represents a theoretical or practical change will be known only after a few years when we can compare pre- and post-change hiring numbers.

Table 1 (below) looks at overall visible minority representation, contrasting the total visible minority population, the older citizenship-based benchmark, the 2019-20 employment equity report numbers, and the degree to which there is over-representation or under-representation, compared to the new and old benchmarks.

By way of comparison, the government estimates that the visible minority workforce availability (WFA)  ̶  the share of the Canadian workforce eligible for public service work  ̶  based on the 2016 census is 15.3 per cent based upon the citizenship preference. The removal of the citizenship preference and the inclusion of permanent residents will result in WFA being revised upward closer to the overall visible minority population number following its recalculation in the 2021 census.

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The representation of most groups is relatively close to their share of the citizenship population and greater than WFA for all employees, with larger gaps for executives. The population benchmark shows larger gaps, particularly with respect to executives. Non-identified and mixed-origin visible minorities are relatively over-represented for all employees and executives.

Table 2 takes the same approach with respect to Indigenous representation with the exception that total and citizenship-based populations are identical. It shows relative over-representation of Métis, and under-representation of First Nations and Inuit for all employees, with all groups under-represented at the executive level. The government Indigenous workforce availability estimate, based on the 2016 census, is 4 per cent.

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Table 3 compares the representation of each visible minority by occupational group, expressed as the percentage difference with employees who are not a visible minority and not Indigenous for 2020. Visible minorities are slightly under-represented among executives, more so among technical, with the greatest gap in operational groups. Visible minorities are over-represented in scientific and professional with some exceptions, and in administration and foreign service, although there is a mixed pattern with respect to admin support.

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Table 4 highlights the change in representation from 2017 to 2020, comparing the percentage change in representation for each visible minority group with the percentage of all public servants who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous for each occupational category. Overall, visible minority representation has increased by 35.9 per cent compared with only 11.8 per cent for those who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous. This applies to virtually all groups and categories, with Japanese being the exception and Chinese having a relatively lower increase.

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Table 5 similarly compares the representation of each Indigenous group by occupational categories expressed as the percentage difference with employees who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous for 2020 (for the executive and technical occupational groups, there are fewer than five Inuit and Other public servants and thus no reporting). All Indigenous groups are under-represented among executives, with the largest gap in scientific and professional categories, but are relatively over-represented in the admin and foreign service, and admin support areas.

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Table 6 highlights the change in representation from 2017 to 2020. Overall, the growth in Indigenous representation has been comparable to the growth of not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous public servants, 11.9 per cent compared to 11.8 per cent. However, Inuit representation has increased significantly, as has that of Métis executives, with First Nations declining relative to not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous employees.

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While this analysis highlights the differences in visible minority and Indigenous representation among the different occupational categories, it does not break it down by level or salary. Census data for the federal public service shows, however, that Black, Filipino and Latin American workers had the lowest median incomes compared to not-a-visible minority. Among Indigenous Peoples, First Nations have the lowest median incomes compared to non-Indigenous.

Given political and public service focus on Black representation, Blacks are the visible minority group with the strongest representation compared to their share of the population with respect to all public servants, and Blacks have stronger representation than South Asian, Chinese and Filipinos in the EX category. Moreover, the percentage increase over the past four years has been comparable or stronger than that of most other visible minority groups. Representation of visible minority groups has increased at three times the rate of not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous public servants. In contrast, Indigenous representation has matched only the rate of increase, suggesting more effort is needed.

The public service is clearly making significant progress with respect to visible minority representation. The removal of the citizenship preference will likely accelerate this trend toward increased representation.

Given the expected upward revision of the WFA, the gap between actual representation and WFA will increase despite the public service already hiring and promoting more visible minorities. The degree to which the removal of the citizenship preference results in greater increases in representation will be known only after a few years and further public service analysis of citizenship status of visible minority hires and promotions.

Ironically, advocates for this change and greater representation will likely focus more on the larger gap due to the benchmark change, rather than the progress in representation.

Methodology

Data was provided by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) for visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples and persons with disabilities, based upon self-identification for the fiscal years 2016-17 to 2019-20 by occupational group. 2020 data was compared to 2017 data to indicate changes over this period, with visible minority and Indigenous Peoples being compared against the not-visible minority and not-Indigenous for the different occupation categories on a percentage basis. The formula used: (2020 number of public servants minus 2017 number of public servants) divided by 2017 number of public servants. 

For example, in 2020, there were 99 Black executives compared with 73 in 2017 or an increase of 26. That is a (26 ÷ 73 =) 35.6 per cent increase. The overall increase in the number of executives who were neither a visible minority nor Indigenous was 5,244 – 4,592 or 652; 652 ÷ 4,592 = 14.2 per cent. Subtracting the percentage increase of all executives from the percentage increase of Black executives: 35.6 per cent – 14.2 per cent = 21.4 percentage points.

While the visible minority group definitions are similar to those used by Statistics Canada, TBS groups Arab and West Asians together under “Non-White West Asian, North African or Arab.” “Mixed Origin” refers to those with one visible minority parent. By contrast, Statistics Canada uses a “multiple visible minorities” category to include persons with more than one visible minority response.

While the employment equity reports also provide disaggregated data regarding persons with disabilities, the totals do not match with the disability total (10,622 persons) in the annual reports because one person can have multiple disabilities, making it difficult to perform a similar analysis by particular disability.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/septembe-2021/will-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference/

Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

The Star’s take on the party platforms:

Jhoey Dulaca isn’t eligible to vote in the upcoming election, but the migrant worker from the Philippines is keeping an eye out for the political parties’ immigration plans.

The Toronto woman says she feels migrants’ voices have once again been muted and lost as the issue that matters most to them — ballooning backlogs and endless processing times as a result of the pandemic — have drawn little attention or debate from party leaders.

“No one is talking about the immigration backlog and long wait times,” says Dulaca, who came as a live-in caregiver in 2016 and just received her permanent residence in Canada on Aug. 18 after two long years of processing.

The 41-year-old single mother is unsure how long it will now take to reunite with her two daughters, Tess, 19, and Thea, 16, whom she has not seen for five years.

“All these parties are making policies that affect us and our families, but our voices are not heard because we cannot vote and we don’t matter.”

In recent election campaigns, immigration has rarely made headlines. The major parties’ platforms generally have more elements in common than those that distinguish them. The outlier was the 2015 election, when the Syrian refugee crisis dominated the campaign.

Experts say immigration has been a non-issue because parties — with the exception of the People’s Party of Canada under former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier — recognize the importance of minority votes and don’t want to appear racist or xenophobic.

“The parties try to focus on issues that are going to make them look good and will help them move up in the polls,” said Kareem El-Assal, policy director for CanadaVisa.com, an immigration information site run by a Quebec-based law firm.

“Most people that are being affected by the backlogs are not voters. There aren’t many votes to be won.”

But there are major issues that will determine the future of immigration in this country — not least among them Canada’s plans to deal with applications that have been piling up during the pandemic.

Digging out of a major backlog

To El-Assal, one of the biggest issues missing in the parties’ platforms is how they plan to manage growing backlogs as Canada’s immigration system slowly returns to normal in the wake of the pandemic.

“Immigration is going to be one of the most formative government policy areas over the next decade and beyond, especially amid the damage that’s been caused by the pandemic,” he said.

As a result of the pandemic, Ottawa closed the border with the U.S. with few exemptions. That has greatly reduced this country’s refugee backlog.

However, between February 2020 and this past July, the backlog of permanent residence applications skyrocketed by 70 per cent to 375,137, with the number of applications for temporary residence currently sitting at 702,660 cases. The backlog of citizenship applications has also ballooned to 369,677 people in the queue from 208,069 before the pandemic.

Experts and advocates have said Ottawa must prioritize and bring in the migrants who have already been vetted and approved for permanent residence but have been kept outside of Canada during the pandemic, while expediting the transition to online processing and eliminating red tape to quickly reduce backlog as new applications continue to flood the system.

In its 2021 budget, the Liberal government announced plans to invest $429 million over five years to modernize its IT infrastructure to manage and process immigration applications, but its campaign platform mentions none of that or its plan to streamline processing.

The Conservatives vows to address “administrative backlogs” by simplifying and streamlining processes, investing in IT infrastructure and tech to speed up application vetting, letting applicants correct “simple and honest” mistakes instead of sending back their applications.

The New Democrats say they would “take on the backlogs that are keeping families apart.”

Both parties’ plans lack details and specifics.

Beyond the numbers

None of the parties mention what they plan to do with Canada’s annual immigrant intake of 401,000 for 2021; 411,000 for 2022; and 421,000 in 2023 — except for the People’s Party of Canada, which proposes to reduce the annual intake to between 100,000 and 150,000.

However Andrew Griffith, fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Environics Institute, says Canada is in need of a “more fundamental re-examination” of what the immigration level should be: “What the mix should be, how the integration process works, how do we actually reduce hate and racism, and all of those things.”

Griffith proposes the establishment of an immigration commission to investigate those issues and the related policies.

“They can’t really be addressed by Parliament in an effective way because of the partisan nature.”

While debates about immigration are important, some say they can also open the door for all sorts of racist views around newcomers, further polarizing public opinion.

Robert Falconer, a research associate at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy who focuses on immigration and refugee policies, said parties and voters need to discuss what objectives immigration is going to serve and what the composition should look like.

“Sometimes,” says Falconer, “we have dumbed immigration down to just immigrants as economic agents — all they do is contribute or detract from our economy; when there is cultural, spiritual, religious, demographic considerations that are very, very important.”

Trying to maintain a labour market growth amid an aging population and low birth rate is part of the challenge, he said, but how to manage the demographic makeup and ensure newcomers from diverse background are welcomed is often overlooked.

“What are the parties saying about issues not directly stemming from immigration, but (that) strongly relate to it, which is issues of anti-racism, hate and multiculturalism?” Falconer asked.

In tackling anti-racism and hate, the Liberals are committed to a national plan on combatting hate, new legislation to police online content and strengthening the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code against perpetrators.

The Conservatives say they will protect Canadians from online hate while “preserving free speech” and celebrating Canadian heritage, including a $75-million fund to municipalities for the repair and restoration of historical monuments, statues and heritage buildings.

The NDP would ensure all major cities have dedicated hate-crime units within local police forces, and convene a national working group to counter online hate.

The Bloc includes “Quebec bashing” in relation to its platform on racism.

New ideas from the Conservative party

While there is much in common when it comes to immigration policies of the major parties, Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives have some “innovative” ideas, Griffith said.

Among them:

  • The introduction of a fee for those who would like to have their immigration applications expedited, with the revenues directed toward hiring additional staff to streamline processing time;
  • Replacing the current lottery system for immigration sponsorship of parents and grandparents with a first-come, first-served model that prioritizes applicants on criteria such as providing child care or family support, and language proficiency;
  • Replacing government-assisted refugee spots with private and joint sponsorship places, so all refugees resettling in Canada will do so under private or joint sponsorship programs, with exceptions in cases of emergency or specific programs.

“There are some interesting ideas in the Conservative platform that merits some discussion and debate. I mean, some I don’t think will go anywhere, but others may,” said Griffith, who has studied and compared the immigration platforms of all six parties in this election.

The proposed expedited processing fee, for instance, could create a two-tiered system between rich and poor applicants. A sponsorship of parents and grandparents based on an applicant’s ability to babysit may not sit well with the spirit of family reunification.

What to do with the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement?

In the 2019 federal election, a major issue was the surge in asylum seekers via the U.S. land border as a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-migrant policies. The development prompted a fierce debate over the so-called Safe Third Country Agreement.

The bilateral pact, which has been in place between Ottawa and Washington since 2004, is not mentioned in either the Liberal or the New Democrat platform.

That accord allows Canada to turn back potential refugees who arrive at land ports of entry on the basis they should pursue their claims in the U.S.

Like the People’s Party, the Conservatives propose a complete ban on migrants from the U.S. seeking asylum in Canada and recommends joint Canada-U.S. border patrols similar to what’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Green Party and Bloc Québécois, meanwhile, want the pact revoked altogether.

Refugee claimants and advocates have taken Ottawa to court over the constitutionality of the bilateral pact and the case is now before the Supreme Court of Canada, after the Liberal government successfully challenged a lower-court decision that found claimants’ charter rights were being breached.

Critics say the agreement, implemented under both the Liberal and Conservative governments, has not helped deter would be refugee claimants from crossing through unguarded parts of the border.

“I don’t know why the Liberals don’t take a position on it, but everything I’ve seen the Liberals do tells me that they actually align with the Conservatives’ position,” Falconer said.

“There are much more humane ways to address concerns in surges of asylum seekers that would again address the backlog that the Liberals and Conservatives tear their hair out over.”

Queen’s University immigration law professor Sharry Aiken said both parties understand patrolling the world’s longest shared border requires massive government resources. It would also likely encourage people to seek help from traffickers to sneak through the border and move underground for lack of access for asylum once inside Canada.

“That’s the exact problem in the United States, where there’s millions of undocumented people because there hasn’t been a way for them to actually make a claim through legal channels because of all of the different barriers in place that preclude access,” Aiken noted.

Temporary resident to permanent resident pathway

During the pandemic, the recognition of migrant workers doing essential work on farms, in nursing homes and driving food-delivery trucks prompted Ottawa to introduce one-time immigration programs for migrant workers and international students to become permanent residents.

The Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats all are in favour of expanding those pathways.

The Liberals categorically said the party would expand the pathways to permanent residence for migrant workers and former international students while the Conservatives would do it by offering a path for “low-skilled workers,” whose demand is “justified by concrete labour market data.”

All the NDP has to say about this issue is: “If someone is good enough to come and work here, then there should be a path for them to stay permanently.”

Expanding these temporary-to-permanent pathways, say migrants’ advocates, is wrong-headed because they reinforce, legitimize and justify Canada’s increasingly two-tiered immigration system, which exploits vulnerable temporary residents by dangling before them the prospects of permanent residency in the country down the road.

Political parties can’t adopt a Band-Aid approach and create a new pathway each time a group is falling through the cracks — Canada currently has more than 100 different skilled worker immigration programs, said Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Leaders and policymakers need to be bold and ensure equality and equity for migrants from the get-go, which can only be achieved by granting them permanent residence in Canada upon arrival, he noted.

“The term pathway to permanent residence misrepresents what it is,” said Hussan. “It’s really a pathway to precariousness.”

His group estimated there are half a million work permits issued in Canada today, up from 60,000 two decades ago, but only a fraction of the migrant workers will get a chance to become permanent residents.

“The entire immigration system has been turned into a system of temporariness. It has created a fundamentally divided society. The natural progression of a system of temporary migration, which we now have, is more people who are undocumented and more people who are being even more exploited,” Hussan said.

“We have turned this country’s immigration system into a revolving door temp agency run by employers that profits from it. Instead, we want to ensure equal rights for everyone in the country. And to do that, we must ensure that everyone has the same citizenship rights.”

‘More migrants are falling through the cracks’

Dulaca said she has had her share of owed wages and unpaid overtime from her Canadian employers, and she put up with it because she needed the jobs to support her daughters back home and, more importantly, to meet the employment requirement for her permanent residence.

“The politicians are creating more and more pathways, but these pathways are not the solutions and more migrants are falling through the cracks,” said Dulaca, who runs a support group on Facebook to help other migrant caregivers.

“We all come to Canada so we can give our children a better life, a better future. I can’t vote now and you bet I will exercise my voting rights when I become a Canadian citizen three years from now.”

Source: Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

Racism and the need for a national integration commission

My latest, complements my earlier Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast.

Protests by communities affected by prejudice, discrimination and racism appear to be on the rise, as evidenced by the Black Lives Matter, and the Indigenous-led Cancel Canada Day and Land Back advocacy movements. These are in response to deaths by Black people and Indigenous youth in police custody, and anti-Muslim, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic hate incidents and crimes in both Canada and the United States.

At the same time, there has been greater understanding amongst most Canadians regarding systemic issues and broader support of individuals and groups most affected. But government and societal responses have been largely reactive, involving symbolic measures such as summits, funding and communications initiatives.

The 2021 summits on Islamophobia in response to the London killings and on antisemitism, following increased tensions between Israel and Palestine, are examples that did little to reduce hate incidents. The most current evaluations of the multiculturalism program by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Canadian Heritage (2017) highlight the limited evidence as to the effectiveness of government programming.

Why aren’t current approaches working? These types of targeted initiatives generally preach to the converted, and thus have limited reach and impact. They often understate the diverse experience within communities, and how racism intersects with gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic ancestry, mixed identities and class. The problems are complex and multi-faceted, and there are no easy or quick solutions. Summits, conferences and even parliamentary hearings are designed for the short-term, and do not commit the time and resources for in-depth examination and discussion of fundamental issues.

While these approaches respond to the community and political needs, a deeper examination of the common issues across all groups and a more integrated approach is needed.

Racism is a concern in Canada, present and future, given the rapidly increasing Indigenous and immigrant-origin population. An in-depth and independent examination of the issues, challenges and possible solutions is needed, and there must be broad consultations and engagement with all affected groups.

What would be some of the requirements for such an enquiry?

The overall approach should be akin to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, held between 1963 and 1969. At that time immigrants formed about 16 per cent of the population, compared with 21.9 per cent in 2016.

Canada has changed dramatically since 1963, and an enquiry would have to address the impact of today’s increased and more varied diversity. Immigrant source countries have shifted away from Europe, which was the source of 61.6 per cent of recent immigrants in 1971, compared with 11.6 per cent in 2016. Christian affiliation declined from 78 per cent of immigrants who arrived prior to 1971 to 47.5 per cent of those who arrived between 2006 and 2011. One-third of those arriving between 2001 and 2011 identified as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist. LGBTTQ issues were not discussed in the 1960s, and the major gap in employment equity legislation and reports is an indication of this silence, even though these groups have become more visible and accepted. And more Canadians have complex, mixed identities, reflecting this increased diversity within and between different groups.

Essential aspects of an enquiry

While it should be established by the government, the enquiry’s deliberations and recommendations should also be independent and nonpartisan.

It needs to have a broad mandate that includes research, independent studies and public consultations on barriers to inclusion. We have more than enough research and data by sociologists, political scientists and economists regarding the socio-economic, education and health disparities of different groups.

However, more interdisciplinary research and analysis by social psychologists, neuroscientists and policy-makers is needed on how bias and prejudice form, which groups are most vulnerable and why, and the most effective ways to counter prejudice, discrimination and hate.

It would need to have an adequate budget and resources to fulfill its mandate, comparable to other major commissions.

It would have to adopt a broad intersectional lens, not looking at individual groups in isolation but at the inter-relationships among gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic ancestry, mixed identities and class. It would have to look at minorities and majorities within each group and the degrees of inclusion and exclusion within and between them.

The consultations would have to be designed to go beyond the normal advocacy groups, and include more diverse and marginal voices to help break down the silos and identify commonalities. It is important to recognize that Canadians are affected by immigration and diversity in different ways, depending in part on their socio-economic status, workplace and education. And while this is not without risk, the consultations need to include individuals and groups that have some discomfort with increased diversity or have been negatively affected by immigration.

The enquiry must look not just at bias, discrimination and racism between the “mainstream” majority and minority groups, but also at that between visible, religious and gender minority groups. In other words, it must break away from the simplistic dichotomy that has mostly characterized the current diversity and inclusion discourse, which does not adequately reflect Canada’s present and projected diversity.

Practical solutions and approaches should be the focus; ones that can be implemented by governments and organizations over time; and where progress can be tracked, measured and reported. The tracking of the progress of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action could provide a model.

Canadians, long-established and newcomers alike, are increasingly coming to terms with our legacies of injustice against Indigenous peoples, as well as against racialized, religious, LGBTTQ, and other minorities. Despite considerable progress in removing legislative and other barriers to inclusion, the effects of these legacies linger in ongoing inequalities and inequities.

While many Canadians are reaching out and supporting communities that experience hate, the increase in hate crimes and incidents against individuals and groups indicates we cannot be complacent.

Reducing the influence of the more extreme groups that undermine social inclusion and cohesion would be a key aim. Developing practical recommendations to do this would be an important first step.

As we saw with Quebec’s Bouchard-Taylor Commission, there is a risk that a broad enquiry will provide space for those with more xenophobic views. However, not allowing any space for those with immigration and diversity concerns would mean missing those who need to be reached.

Canada depends on immigration to address an aging population, and it also needs to provide better opportunities for younger Indigenous populations, so a comprehensive national enquiry is needed to ensure that we have the evidence-based knowledge to reduce bias, prejudice and discrimination so all Canadians, whatever their origin, ancestry or religion, can fully participate and contribute.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/august-2021/racism-and-the-need-for-a-national-integration-commission/

Plaidoyers pour plus de juges issus de la diversité

Of note (diversity has increased significantly under the current government):

Plusieurs postes de juges étant à pourvoir, le gouvernement Trudeau devra faire plus de place à la diversité dans la magistrature, plaident deux associations d’avocats en immigration au Canada. Le manque de diversité est particulièrement criant à la Cour fédérale, où à peine le tiers des 43 juges, y compris le juge en chef et la juge en chef adjointe, sont des femmes et où les minorités visibles se comptent sur les doigts d’une seule main.

« C’est étonnant. D’autant plus que 85 % des dossiers de la Cour fédérale sont en lien avec l’immigration », dit Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, président sortant de l’Association québécoise des avocats et avocates en droit de l’immigration (AQAADI).

Pour lui, il est indéniable que ces dossiers d’immigration « sont imprégnés du bagage culturel, personnel et historique des personnes qui se présentent devant la justice » et que les tribunaux doivent être plus « représentatifs de la société canadienne moderne ». « C’est pourquoi l’AQAADI croit aussi que la myriade de postes vacants de juges des cours fédérales devraient être pourvus par des personnes appartenant à ces groupes minoritaires », lit-on dans la lettre qu’elle a envoyée au ministère canadien de la Justice.

Cet avis est partagé par l’Association canadienne des avocats et avocates en droit des réfugiés, qui a également enjoint par écrit au ministre de la Justice, David Lametti, de faire une plus grande place à la diversité au sein de la magistrature. À l’automne dernier, des dizaines d’associations juridiques et de groupes de défense des droits des minorités ont aussi envoyé une lettre au procureur général du Canada appelant à ce que les postes judiciaires actuellement vacants à la Cour fédérale soient pourvus par des juges de couleur.

Depuis 2016, et par souci de transparence, le Commissariat à la magistrature fédérale est tenu de publier des données sur les nominations et les candidatures ventilées en fonction du genre, de la diversité et des compétences linguistiques. Entre les dernières élections d’octobre 2019, où le gouvernement Trudeau a été reconduit, et octobre 2020, 60 nouveaux juges ont été nommés, dont 65 % (39) étaient des femmes et 43 % (26) étaient autochtones, issus de minorités visibles, de groupes ethniques ou culturels ou de la communauté LGBTQ. Le quart (15) des juges disaient maîtriser les deux langues.

Même s’il est toujours possible de faire mieux, Andrew Griffith, ex-directeur de ce qui est aujourd’hui Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada, qui s’est intéressé à la question dans des articles pour l’Institut de recherche en politiques publiques, souligne cette amélioration. Il appelle à constater tout le chemin parcouru depuis 2016, où les femmes et les minorités visibles étaient encore bien moins présentes.

Toutefois, ce chercheur à l’Institut canadien des affaires mondiales reconnaît qu’il y a peu de diversité à la Cour fédérale, une situation qu’il n’arrive pas à expliquer. En 2016, à peine 30 % des juges de la Cour fédérale étaient des femmes, mais depuis que le gouvernement Trudeau est au pouvoir, la majorité (52,6 %) des juges qui ont été nommées sont des femmes, selon sa propre compilation mise à jour en avril 2021.

Ce progrès est moins notable pour les minorités visibles et les Autochtones. Le pourcentage de minorité visible était d’à peine 2 % en 2016 et, depuis, environ 8 % des juges nommés appartenaient à cette catégorie. Paul Favel est le seul juge autochtone, sur 43 au total, à la Cour fédérale, et le deuxième dans l’histoire de cette cour.

« Entre diversité et francophonie »

Guillaume Cliche-Rivard soutient que cette ouverture à la diversité ne devrait toutefois pas se faire au détriment de la langue française. « La petite tension qu’on a, c’est qu’on est pris entre diversité et francophonie. On veut favoriser l’accès à des minorités, mais pas au détriment du français, c’est une position difficile. Et on sait qu’un faible pourcentage des juges fédéraux maîtrisent suffisamment le français pour tenir des audiences », dit-il.

Me Cliche-Rivard souligne qu’il y a environ deux ans, il a plaidé devant la Cour suprême et qu’il l’a fait en français. Or, il n’a pas eu le sentiment que les juges anglophones pouvaient tout saisir de son argumentaire. « Je n’ai pas eu l’impression que j’avais été bien compris des juges anglophones. » La ministre responsable des langues officielles, Mélanie Joly, a promis de proposer une réforme de la loi sur les langues officielles d’ici la fin 2021 et s’est engagée à obliger le bilinguisme pour les juges de la Cour suprême.

Pour son dernier tour de piste, le président de l’AQAADI, qui tire sa révérence après un mandat de trois ans, n’a pas seulement voulu interpeller le gouvernement Trudeau sur la nécessité de diversifier la magistrature : il souhaite aussi lui rappeler ses devoirs en matière de protection des réfugiés.

Peu après le dépôt du budget de 2019, Justin Trudeau avait soulevé un tollé en donnant l’aval à une nouvelle stratégie frontalière visant à empêcher les demandeurs de chercher l’asile au Canada s’ils ont déjà présenté au moins une demande semblable dans certains pays, dont les États-Unis. « Même les conservateurs n’étaient pas allés jusque-là », souligne Me Cliche-Rivard, encore en colère à propos de cette mesure.

Soulignant certaines avancées, l’avocat rappelle néanmoins que c’est sous l’actuel gouvernement libéral que les délais pour obtenir une résidence permanente sont de plus de 27 mois, qu’un demandeur d’asile peut être entendu en audience plusieurs années après son arrivée au Canada et que des réfugiés peuvent attendre plus de trois ans avant d’être enfin réunis avec leurs enfants restés dans le pays d’origine. « Et que dire du nombre de dossiers de travailleurs qualifiés du Québec. Il y a encore beaucoup de gros problèmes », conclut Me Cliche-Rivard.

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/610629/justice-plaidoyers-pour-plus-de-juges-issus-de-la-diversite

‘It’s about time’ to update citizenship guide, Assembly of First Nations Alberta chief says

Of note:

Assembly of First Nations Alberta regional chief Marlene Poitras hopes newcomers to Canada will learn more about Indigenous history and culture once the federal government updates its citizenship guide.

The 68-page document, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, prepares newcomers for the citizenship test. It has not been updated since 2012.

In its 93rd call to action, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for revising the guide and citizenship test to “reflect a more inclusive history,” including material about treaties and residential schools.

Residential schools are mentioned briefly in the current guide.

“The schools were poorly funded and inflicted hardship on the students; some were physically abused,” one sentence reads.

The Liberal government promised in 2016 that changes to the guide were coming but they have not yet materialized.

“It’s about time — it should have happened a long time ago,” Poitras said Wednesday in an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.

Beyond consultations for the guide itself, Poitras said she has recommended that elders participate in the ceremonies for new citizens.

“We have been hard at work over the past few years crafting a new citizenship guide that reflects contemporary Canada,” said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Nancy Caron in an emailed statement.

Caron said the process has included “extensive collaboration ” with leaders of Indigenous organizations as well as historians, academics, parliamentarians and groups representing racialized communities, women, francophones, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.

The ministry hopes to share the new guide with Canadians later this year, Caron said.

“From what I understand, from talking to some people who know this better than I do, the new guide will have more extensive coverage of Indigenous history,” said Andrew Griffith, former director general of citizenship and multiculturalism for the IRCC.

On Thursday, the Senate passed Bill C-8, which would revise the citizenship oath newcomers take to include mention of treaties with Indigenous peoples.

“While getting the oath changed is really important, it will really be important to see how the next version of the guide — which apparently is fairly advanced — captures these issues,” Griffith said.

Source: ‘It’s about time’ to update citizenship guide, Assembly of First Nations Alberta chief says

My latest: Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast.

In Policy Options:

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney recently called for a government white paper on immigration to support the Century Initiative’s advocacy in favour of a Canada of 100 million people by 2100. Immigration is seen as the most likely way to address Canada’s aging population and ensure there are a sufficient number of working adults to pay for increased health care and other costs of seniors, with calls for more than 80 per cent of Canada’s population growth to be due to immigration.

In many ways, this has parallels with the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada initiated under a Liberal government in the early 1980s that paved the way for the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement under the Conservative Mulroney government.

While a comprehensive and independent look at our immigration policies and programs is merited, any such review should take a critical look at Canada’s current and future needs, what fundamental questions need to be asked and the realities of what an increase would entail across Canadian society.

In the short term, we need to consider what the experience of past economic downturns tells us about immigrant economic outcomes. Statistics Canada’s Feng Hou gave a presentation in January of this year regarding the labour market outcomes during the COVID-19 lockdown and recovery. That presentation pointed out that following the 1990-91 recession, many recent immigrants were unemployed and under-employed, leading to criticism that Canada was overselling immigration. In contrast, immigrants arriving around the time of the 2008-9 recession were largely unscathed. It is too early to tell whether immigrant outcomes will resemble the deep and prolonged impact of 1990-91 or the minimal impact of 2008-9.

However, given what we know about which sectors (hospitality, travel, retail) and which groups (women, immigrants and visible minorities) have been most affected during COVID-19, how confident should we be that these sectors and groups will bounce back quickly? Will increased immigration exacerbate the difficulties these sectors and groups face? How likely is increased immigration to result in improved working conditions and equality for those we now recognize as “essential workers?”

In the longer term, it is striking the relative lack of attention regarding what sectors and workers are more likely to be vulnerable to automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and remote work, particularly in the context of setting a target some 80 years from now. Will professionals such as accountants, lawyers and other white-collar occupations become increasingly replaced in whole or in part? Will increased automation and AI result in “creative destruction” and new industry and job creation, or a further hollowing out of manufacturing? Will improved remote working technology lead to more offshoring and reduce the interest of moving and immigrating?

Only 8.7 per cent of recent immigrants settle outside our major urban areas. How realistic is the call for more immigrants to settle outside our major cities and urban areas? While the Provincial Nominee Program has had some success as have the various pilots (e.g., Atlantic, Northern and Remote), most new immigrants tend to settle in the larger provinces and urban centres. Government efforts to encourage immigration to francophone communities in English Canada continue to fall short of targets.

There are a number of other medium- and longer-term issues that will need to be addressed to successfully manage such growth.

To start, will governments invest in the public and private infrastructure needed to accommodate such growth, ranging from roads, transit, housing, health care, utilities and parks? Doug Saunders, in Maximum Canada, makes the convincing case that large-scale immigration requires these investments, along with other measures such as zoning to increase population density. However, experience to date suggests that Canadian governments have not done so, hampering growth and quality of life.

Canada already has difficulties meeting its climate change commitments. How likely is it that Canada will be able to do so with a significant increase in population creating further urban sprawl? Even if Canada manages to reduce emissions on a per-capita basis, a larger population will mean an overall increase in carbon emissions.

Will the general consensus among provincial governments in favour of more immigration increasingly confront the reality of Quebec’s reduced percentage of the Canadian population and the consequent increasing imbalance between population and representation in our various political and judicial institutions? How will Indigenous peoples, the fastest-growing group in Canada, perceive increased immigration, compared to addressing their socioeconomic and political issues?

The coalition that the Century Initiative is building in favour of increased immigration across the business community, non-governmental organizations, academics and others is impressive. The business community interest is clear: more immigrants mean more customers. But for any review or commission to be meaningful, it needs to engage with a broader group than those who already favour increased immigration and focus on per capita, rather than overall, growth.

Moreover, such a review has to question the fundamental premise that more immigration will “substantially alter Canada’s age structure and impending increase in the dependency ratio” when the available evidence suggests it will not.

A white paper that largely replicates the group think of the Century Initiative and related players rather than a much-needed more thoughtful and balanced discussion would be a disservice to Canadians.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/may-2021/increasing-immigration-to-boost-population-not-so-fast/

Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Needed modernization:

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process immigration applications more quickly after the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a new system.

The federal government pledged in the 2021 budget to spend $428.9 million over the next five years to deliver the platform that would gradually replace the existing case management system.

The new platform will launch in 2023 to improve application processing and provide more support for applicants, the government said.

Alexander Cohen, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said the new system is part of a wider shift towards digital platforms across the department and government.

“Alberta for a long time — my home province here — their provincial nomination system was purely paper-based. But then, in the past couple years, they decided to integrate their provincial nominee system with the Canadian federal government system.”

He said almost half of all immigrants who arrive in Canada under economic class programs come through sub-provincial programs.

“The actual larger issue here, I would say, is actually federalism, and maybe to align the provincial and federal governments on the issue of immigration,” he said.

Andrew Griffith, a former director of citizenship and multiculturalism at the Immigration Department, said it has tried to simplify the process recently by allowing more online transmission of documents.

“These changes are not that easy to implement overnight,” he said.

Griffith said Ottawa’s promise to spend close to a half billion dollars to put in place a new immigration application processing system will be an interesting one to watch because implementing big IT projects presents challenges for the government.

The department should find ways to get rid of any duplication and overlap that may exist in the current immigration system, he said.

“Do we need all those steps? Can some of these steps be automated? Can we use (artificial intelligence) to make determinations?”

Cohen said the immigration department launched in 2018 two pilot projects using computer analytics to help immigration officers triage some online visa applications.

“This computer analytics technology analyzes data and recognizes patterns in applications to help identify routine and complex cases,” he said.

“The goal is to help officers to identify applications that are routine and straightforward for thorough but faster processing, and to triage files that are more complex for a more extensive review.”

He said all decisions on every application are made by a visa officer in all cases and the department’s artificial intelligence tools are not used to render decisions.

“We’re always looking to leverage technology to improve the process for Canadians and those who wish to come here.”

Source: Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Amid languishing numbers, Canada’s #citizenship process needs to be modernized

My latest:

COVID-19 upended all aspects of immigration policy and programs, requiring government flexibility with respect to documentation, time limits and other requirements. In many ways, this has been beneficial as it required rethinking processes and procedures and adapting to a more online world.

Citizenship was no exception, exposing the underlying weaknesses of citizenship program management: extensive paper-based processes and a dated IT infrastructure.

While Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) consistently meets its immigration targets (with the exception of during the first pandemic year), the number of new citizens has fluctuated widely over time, reflecting resource and administrative weaknesses. This is in contrast to the steady increase in the number of new permanent residents (figure 1).

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For 2020, the number of citizenship applications declined 26.5 per cent (from 268,608 in 2019 to 197,472 in 2020). The number of new citizens dropped over twice that number – 55.9 per cent (from 250,083 to 110,214). Finally, new permanent resident applications declined by almost half at 45.9 per cent (from 341,175 to 184,615). Overall, as immigration numbers continued to grow, the naturalization rate of immigrants has declined.

Citizenship is simpler than the myriad immigration programs, and, unlike immigration, falls under exclusively federal jurisdiction. While changes to citizenship are more straightforward, it is a lower priority at both the political and bureaucratic levels than other IRCC programs.

While IRCC was quick to recognize the advantage of encouraging immigration from temporary residents already present in Canada during the pandemic, it initially shut down the citizenship program despite applicants already being in Canada and known to the department.

Modernization

The 2021-22 IRCC departmental plan notes how the department later responded through virtual citizenship ceremonies, piloting on-line knowledge testing and e-applications. Working with the citizenship program in 2008, during an orientation visit to the Sydney, N.S. processing centre, I was shown a large room of paper files that still had to be entered into the tracking system.

Budget 2021 includes $428.9 million over five years “to develop and deliver an enterprise-wide digital platform that would gradually replace the legacy Global Case Management System” to “enable improved application processing and support for applicants, beginning in 2023.” This would be a welcome change if my own experience is any example.

Modernization should result in more informative and timely citizenship information (currently, the government reports on the monthly number of new citizens by country of citizenship). However, there is no public reporting of monthly citizenship applications, province of residence or demographic data such as age, gender or immigration category, in contrast to most immigration datasets.

Modernization also needs to be accompanied by a meaningful citizenship performance standard, based upon the percentage of permanent residents who become Canadian citizens within five to nine years of arrival. This compares to the current and rather meaningless standard which uses the number of all immigrants, whether they arrived five or 50 years ago.

A more ambitious approach, albeit riskier, would help citizenship applicants by pre-populating their forms with permanent residence data and documentation (for example social insurance numbers and tax returns). With exit information now being collected from air carriers, determining whether an applicant has met residency requirements is more straightforward. Overall, applying for citizenship should become a largely automatic process. One could even go further and ensure invitations to apply are sent automatically to eligible applicants to encourage citizenship take-up.

Citizenship education

The IRCC also needs to deliver on existing commitments, including publishing the update to the citizenship guide, first promised  in 2016. A change to the citizenship oath to reflect Indigenous treaty rights is currently before Parliament. The government appears to have walked back from its 2019 election commitment to eliminate citizenship fees as this was not included in the 2021 budget.

The delay in releasing the revised citizenship study guide, Discover Canada, provides an opportunity to reflect on whether more efforts should be made with respect to citizenship education beyond the revising guide and holding high-profile citizenship ceremonies (e.g., at public locations such as a hockey arenas).

Given government plans to increase immigration and provide more pathways for less-educated and lower-skilled persons to become permanent residents, there is a greater need for citizenship education.

The 2018 evaluation of the IRCC’s settlement program indicated that while “Settlement clients reported having knowledge of Canadian laws, rights and responsibilities, …only employment-related services had a positive impact on the level of knowledge.” The 2020 evaluation of the citizenship program revealed that test “Pass rates are lower among applicants with less education and lower language proficiency.”

These evaluations, and census data on naturalization, confirm the need for greater citizenship preparation and training to help new Canadians better understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, particularly in the context of an increase in immigration numbers. Current training offered by settlement agencies and public institutions narrowly focuses on citizenship test preparation rather than a more fundamental understanding of Canada.

Consideration needs to be given to expand the current focus on early arrival integration to include citizenship preparation, either on a stand-alone basis or integrated into language training at intermediate levels, with the curriculum based on, but not limited to, the new citizenship study guide. This would facilitate civic integration, particularly those with less education and language proficiency, and should help address the decline in naturalization among recent arrivals.

COVID-19 continues to provide opportunities to rethink government programs and services, with immigration and citizenship being no exception. While existing government policies and processes make change complex and difficult, IRCC and other departments have been able to make some practical changes to improve existing processes and requirements to attenuate some of the impacts of COVID-19 and pave the way for further changes.

For citizenship, modernization of the IT infrastructure and related processes is key to addressing long-standing inefficiencies and deficiencies in the program. Broadening settlement programming to support more vulnerable groups becoming Canadian citizens should be viewed as part and parcel of increased immigration objectives.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2021/amid-languishing-numbers-canadas-citizenship-process-needs-to-be-modernized/

COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

Data on departures less accurate than arrivals. But a decline in permanent residents of 41,000 in 2020 compared to 2019 using labour force data is much smaller than the drop in new permanent residents, which fell by 156,000, so I think the significance is over-stated:

The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and family connections.

The number of permanent residents who have been in Canada for less than five years declined by four per cent to 1,019,000 by the end of 2020 from 1,060,000 the year before, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada’s labour force survey that measures the number of workers between 15 and 65 years old by their immigration status.

The number had grown three per cent a year, on average, in the previous 10 years.

The data show that the number of permanent residents who have been in Canada for five to 10 years also dropped from 1,170,000 in 2019 to 1,146,000 in 2020.

“It’s actually not uncommon to have immigrants go back to their home country during the recessionary periods,” said Robert Falconer, a researcher at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.

“If they’ve lost their job, they can go and live with their family and not pay rent. They can maybe find some social connections and work back home.”

He said the number of new immigrants fell by about three per cent between 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis and the recession that followed.

He said many of those who have left in the past year might not come back if the economy doesn’t recover quickly.

“The longer they stay at home in their home countries, the less likely they are to come back to Canada.”

A study by Statistics Canada released in August showed that in the early months of the pandemic, recent immigrants to Canada were more likely than Canadian-born workers to lose their jobs, mainly because they had held them for less time and, as a whole, are overrepresented in lower-wage employment. That includes in service-sector jobs.

Julien Bérard-Chagnon, an analyst with Statistics Canada, said the agency doesn’t keep a monthly count of immigrants who leave the country but a group of its analysts are now working on a paper to examine the issue during COVID-19 pandemic.

“The literature signals that immigrants, especially recent immigrants, are more likely to emigrate than the Canadian-born population,” he said.

While the pandemic has also driven down immigration to Canada by about 40 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, the Liberal government announced in October that Canada is seeking to admit upwards of 1.2 million new permanent residents in the next three years, including 401,000 this year.

But this number seems optimistic as travel restrictions and the sharp economic downtown remain.

“I doubt they will hit their target this year,” Falconer said.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the government is very confident it will meet it immigration targets in the next three years.

“In January 2021, we welcomed more new permanent residents than in January 2020, when there was no pandemic,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

“We’re already ahead of schedule, welcoming new permanent residents at a rate 37 per cent higher than our projections.”

Falconer said the government is focusing on transitioning temporary residents in Canada to permanent status.

“It’s the best thing to do for people who are living here,” he said. “But in terms of this population growth, it’s a wash, meaning that we’re not actually increasing our population.”

He said this policy is necessary but not sufficient to help the government meet its high immigration target this year.

“Not every temporary resident wants to become a Canadian permanent resident or Canadian citizen. Some of them are here to work, to study and they are perfectly happy to go back home.”

He said the incentive for the government is still to try to increase immigration numbers, especially in jobs related to health care and technology because having fewer immigrants will harm these two sectors more than others.

Andrew Griffith, a former director of citizenship and multiculturalism at the Immigration Department, says immigrants who arrive during an economic downturns tend to suffer economically, at least in the short term, more than those who arrive when the economy is growing.

He said maintaining high levels of immigration at a time when the economy is weak and sectors such as hospitality, retail and tourism are devastated has an element of irresponsibility.

Griffith said immigrants leaving Canada can reflect a failure of Canadian integration policies.

He said the government needs to put more focus on immigrants who are already here as we face structural change in sectors including hospitality, travel and service industries that will affect mostly women, visible minorities and recent immigrants.

“We may be in a fairly structural shift that will eliminate some jobs or dramatically reduce some jobs, and then what kind of retraining programs or other programs we need to support people as they transition.”

Cohen said the government has invested in settlement services during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing funding to help boost wages by 15 per cent. It has helped buy personal protective equipment to keep staff safe, as well as cellphones and laptops to ensure services, including language training and job-search help, can be offered remotely.

Falconer said the government should address problems with licensing and professional development that many newcomers face in Canada.

“We make it very, very difficult for somebody who worked in a profession in their home country to come here and work in the same profession.”

“Immigrants come here with aspirations or hopes of being able to work and earn a much better living here in Canada than they did in their home country and they discover that they’re actually going to be working in an unpaid, underemployed job.”

Source: COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

Saunders: How Canada learned what’s wrong with its immigration system – by slamming its borders shut

Usual thought provoking column by Doug Saunders, even if I am more sceptical regarding the government’s approach:

How do you find 401,000 immigrants to become new Canadians when nobody’s even allowed to enter the country? That was the puzzle Ottawa faced at the beginning of the year, after the federal government set admirably high annual immigration targets in 2020 that will bring in 1.2 million people over the next three years in a bold effort to build economic growth through population expansion.

Air and land borders have been shut tight because of the coronavirus pandemic, and neither immigrants nor refugees have been arriving – 2020′s immigration intake was the lowest since the 1990s. The new targets, representing more than 1 per cent of Canada’s population per year, would produce immigration rates Canada hasn’t seen since the 1960s – but begin during a border-closing pandemic. Opposition and business critics said our immigration bureaucrats could never meet that target.

Two weeks ago, those bureaucrats announced a solution that was surprising and potentially ingenious. But it also revealed some of the deep flaws in an outdated and overcomplicated immigration system that was designed for restriction rather than growth, and that leaves hundreds of thousands of families in Canada unable to participate fully in its economy.

In essence, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino recognized that most of those 401,000 immigrants are already living and working in Canada, and often have been for years – they just don’t have the right kind of visa, or haven’t accumulated right number of points along our Byzantine immigration pathway, to qualify for permanent-residency status and eventual citizenship.

On Valentine’s Day weekend, as it does every few weeks, the Immigration Department sent out invitations for selected temporary immigrants, all of whom have worked in Canada for at least a year, to apply for permanent-resident status. Instead of the usual 3,000 to 5,000 invitations, though, it sent out more than 27,000, and hinted that this high rate would continue for some time. In order to find enough current residents to invite, the number of points needed was lowered dramatically. (Canada’s long-established points system, properly known as the Comprehensive Ranking System, awards points toward permanent status for such things as work experience, education and language skills.)

Immigrants who expected to have to wait months or years longer, and to jump through dozens more bureaucratic hoops, suddenly learned they were on a pathway to become Canadians. Immigration lawyers, who found themselves deluged with clients last week, said the supply of qualified high-quality people was always here; it just took a crisis for the government to see it.

“Yes, they can hit the 400,000 target because there are half a million temporary foreign workers and international students in Canada right now,” says Raj Sharma, a Calgary-based immigration lawyer. “I think they’re going to meet the target, and it’s going to have repercussions on the way they do things – they always should have prioritized people already living in Canada.”

Drawing on immigrants with lower point scores is not a case of “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” as Mr. Sharma notes, because the great majority of those in Canada on a temporary basis (with only a few possible exceptions, such as seasonal agricultural workers) are able to be here, for study or work, precisely because they have skills and are fluent in a Canadian language. What has denied most of these people and their families access to citizenship is not a lack of actual skills or experience, but a complex and often self-contradictory set of rules and classifications.

For example, a temporary worker employed for a year as an accounts-receivable clerk does not earn enough points to qualify under normal rules; the same worker employed as a bookkeeper does. In some provinces, an immigrant employed caring for elderly and disabled people in their own homes is ineligible to apply for permanent residency, while an immigrant doing the same work in a long-term care facility is.

At root are two decades-old assumptions behind our immigration system, both of which have been challenged by the pandemic. The first is that highly skilled, educated and fluent immigrants are a comparative rarity and a lengthy weeding-out process is needed to find them. The second is that immigrants divide neatly into two groups of very different people: temporary and low-skilled, and permanent and high-skilled.

That hasn’t been true for decades. Not only are most “temporary” immigrants to Canada people who are educated and considered middle-class in their countries of origin, but temporary low-wage work is most often used as a stepping-stone to permanent work in professions or skilled trades, or to small-business ownership. A high proportion of temporary-immigrant women employed as live-in caregivers and nannies, for example, have postsecondary diplomas and degrees from their home countries.

These assumptions have exacted a high cost on Canada’s economic prospects, by leaving large numbers of newcomers in a limbo state, unable to invest in their communities, start legal businesses or set down family roots because they’re not eligible to become Canadians – even though they’re here because the economy needs them. In the early 2000s, under prime minister Stephen Harper’s earlier policies, a majority of immigrants in Canada were temporary foreign workers without access to permanent residency.

The later Harper years and early Trudeau years saw pathways to permanent residency created for most classes of temporary workers and students. In the prepandemic years, several thousand people per month were making this transition, though few of them were lower-wage immigrants from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, who face difficult bureaucratic hurdles regardless of their skill or education level.

The pandemic shone a light on this problem. The jobs deemed “essential” – and thus the jobs that expose employees to the greatest coronavirus risk – are very often the ones held by immigrants who have the least possibility of becoming Canadians.

“I do think that COVID-19 provides an opportunity to rethink our immigration policy, given what we have seen in terms of essential workers, traditionally undervalued and underpaid,” says Andrew Griffith, a former director-general of Canada’s immigration department. He doesn’t believe it will be necessary for the government to permanently lower its points-score requirements for permanent residency, especially during a pandemic recession. Even though there are many labour shortages in low-skill fields, much of that demand is filled not by primary immigrants but by their relatives – the family members who accompany them, and who they later sponsor.

This crisis may have come along at just the right time. If Canada wants to reach a level of population density that provides the most ecological, economic and cultural benefits – especially in a world whose borders and markets are becoming less open – it doesn’t have much time. As recent academic analyses have pointed out, Canada’s projected peak population this century (double its current level) may be difficult to reach because many of our chief countries of immigration are watching their own population growth levels collapse and are trying to hold onto their own populations.

What the pandemic has shown us is that newcomers are not guaranteed to be available when we need them, and might not always be willing to jump through all our hoops – not when other wealthy countries, including warmer ones, may be willing to make better offers.

An immigration policy designed for a growing, educated population needs to do three things.

First, it needs to keep families intact – an immigration system built on unaccompanied individuals is bad for immigrants and bad for Canada, as it leaves out the long-term population benefits of immigration.

Second, it needs to avoid leaving people stuck in Canada for a long time without a clear pathway to citizenship. This is true for both refugee applicants and immigrants – it is a huge wasted opportunity to have hundreds of thousands of ambiguous-status individuals knocking around the country, unsure if they should invest in this country or some other one, or when they’ll know for sure.

We wrongly think of our “points system” as assessing the intrinsic worth of an individual, but in fact most immigrants build up points during the time they spend in Canada. Might it make more sense to allow them to accumulate those points not before but after they earn permanent-resident status? That way, the earnings and savings they build up during that time will be used to build a stake in Canada’s society and economy.

But the flip side of a generous and large-scale controlled-immigration system is that removal of non-qualified people should be quick and decisive – ideally through economic incentives rather than far more expensive deportation. Immigration and citizenship should be valued and treated as precious accomplishments, and that means making decisions quickly and fairly.

And finally, the system should allow rapid movement between categories and classes of immigration – ideally without changing anything. Someone in Canada as a temporary medical-industry worker should be able to become a university student, or a permanent-residency applicant, without having to pay lawyers and questionable immigration agents to navigate a labyrinth of applications, waiting lists, lotteries and restrictions. The number of immigration categories, and steps, could easily be cut in half without any detriment to the system.

Canada will never be an open-borders country, and it will never need to return to the era of mass immigration, as we experienced a bit more than a century ago. We can double or triple our population this century within current immigration rates, and without lowering our standards – but we need to start taking advantage of the immigration assets we already have. If nothing else, the pandemic’s border closings have taught us that we need to do things differently.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-how-canada-learned-whats-wrong-with-its-immigration-system-by-slamming/