Douglas Todd: Generous Canada now No. 1 country for foreign students

Of note, along with some of the factors, some justified, some more questionable that made Canada relatively more attractive than other destinations. Focus on increasing international students predates current government. Interesting comment by Chris Friesen regarding preference given to international students with respect to permanent residency. :

Canada has become the most popular country in the world for international students, says a survey conducted in more than 50 countries.

Two in five international students rate Canada as their first choice for higher education, according to IDP Connect’s fall poll of 3,600 study-visa holders. That’s more than double the proportion that picked the next highest-ranked nations — Britain, the U.S. or Australia.

A majority of students who choose Canada as their top option said a key reason was being allowed to work while studying, says IDP, as well as the relative affordability of tuition fees, given most of the country’s universities and colleges are subsidized by taxpayers.

The Canadian Bureau for International Education adds that 60 per cent of foreign students in Canada, more than half of whom come from India or China, want to apply to become permanent residents — an option not available in most countries.

Given the competition in the West for foreign students, some specialists are skeptical about Ottawa’s increasingly eye-catching efforts to appeal to the estimated six million students in the world who are going abroad for their educations.

Higher education experts question why Canada appears to be the only nation that has given foreign students social-assistance payments during COVID. They also ask about Canada’s unusual decision to allow students almost unlimited opportunities to work while ostensibly studying.

Canada’s foreign-student numbers have almost doubled since the Liberals were elected in 2015. Their numbers are returning to the 600,000 a year range despite COVID border restrictions. During the pandemic, many offshore students studied remotely, but most are physically back on Canadian campuses.

Foreign students make up about 20 per cent post-secondary students in Canada, which along with Australia and Britain, has the highest ratios in the world. In the U.S., foreign nationals on study visas account for only seven per cent of students. In the European Union, they’re just six per cent.

Ottawa, which now considers foreign students prime candidates for immigration, has gone the opposite direction of other countries during COVID and allowed study visa holders to apply for taxpayer-funded programs such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has also given international students almost unlimited access to full-time jobs, including for at least three years after graduation. And the Liberal government has made it possible for them to keep their long-term work opportunities even if they have not been in the country. In addition, unlike elsewhere, many provinces, such as B.C., offer almost-free medical coverage.

British Columbia, which normally has about 22 per cent of all of Canada’s foreign students, has the strongest concentration, focused mostly in Metro Vancouver where their presence affects the rental and housing markets. B.C. has four times as many foreign students per capita as Alberta.

The Vancouver campus of the University of B.C., similar to previous years, has almost 17,000 international students this fall, accounting for about one third of all graduate students and one quarter of undergrads. More than one third are from China and one fifth from India. The rest hail from scores of countries, particularly the U.S., Korea and Iran.

Simon Fraser University has almost 7,000 foreign students, 26 per cent of undergrads and 34 per cent of grad students. About two in five are from China and one in five from India, with smaller cohorts from Korea, Iran and Hong Kong. The proportion of foreign students at Capilano University and Vancouver Island University is lower.

In addition to the Liberal government boasting foreign students bring more than $21 billion a year into the economy, Canadian higher education specialist Alex Usher says the country’s post-secondary institutions now rely on foreign students for 45 per cent of fee revenue. That’s up from 15 per cent in the 2000s. Usher cautions against such a heavy reliance on foreign students.

When COVID first hit, both Australia and the U.S. brought in far more rules about foreign students than Canada; directing many back to their homelands.

The two English-language nations wanted to protect the health of residents and, unlike Canada, were not prepared to provide social-assistance, health benefits and jobs to foreign nationals while the domestic population struggled. As a result about 10 per cent of post-secondary staff and faculty in the U.S. and Australia was laid off.

Canada began allowing study-visa holders into the country in October 2020, despite the border being then shut to almost everyone except essential workers. But Australia only decided this week to welcome back more than 200,000 foreign students. There had been fears that many Asian students would opt to study in person in Canada and the U.S. rather than pay for online courses from Australia.

University of Sydney Prof. Salvatore Babones, who has studied international student policy in Canada and around the world, said this week: “I’m surprised Canada has extended welfare (CERB) benefits to international students. It’s a strange decision, since most such students must demonstrate the ability to support themselves financially before being granted a study visa.”

The international education specialist finds it “sad” that Canada has lifted the normal 20-hour-a-week cap on how much each foreign student is permitted to work. “The cap serves an important purpose: It ensures that students are in the country to study, not on an exploitive fake study program in order to get a work permit.”

While Canada’s unusually magnanimous benefits for foreign students might sound humane, Babones said, they in effect turn study visas into work visas, “that require recipients to pay ‘protection money’ to educational institutions in exchange for permission to work.”

Vancouver’s Chris Friesen, who chairs the umbrella body overseeing settlement services for immigrants and refugees in Canada, has said the Canadian public is in the dark about how policy has been changed to give preference to international students.

Ottawa, he said, should set up a royal commission to look into issues such as whether Canadians agree that foreign students, who tend to come from the “cream of the crop” in their homelands, should go to the front of the line for permanent residence status.

Source: Douglas Todd: Generous Canada now No. 1 country for foreign students

Daphne Bramham: ‘Political Drano’ needed to unclog Canada’s refugee system

Of note:

Canada’s refugee system is in chaos, a victim of its own success and Canadians’ eagerness to help.

Even before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, it struggled with a backlog of close to 65,000 refugees with permanent resident cards languishing in over-crowded United Nations camps and in countries eager to move them along.

Many are Syrians, who were promised a Canadian home during the 2015 federal election that resulted in an extraordinary effort to settle 25,000 within 100 days.

Also among those waiting are people on Canada’s priority list to help — torture victims, members of persecuted minority groups, people with disabilities, single mothers, and unaccompanied minors.

Afghanistan’s rapid descent has bumped their arrival here even further back, making what was an untenable situation worse. The only solution to unclogging it is “political Drano,” says Chris Friesen.

Friesen is the chief operating officer of Immigrant Services Society of B.C. who helped coordinate Operation Syria in 2015. He says that, as difficult as that was, “this is much worse.”

What he means by political Drano is not just an immediate infusion of money for the processing and settlement of Afghans. It’s more money to fulfill promises of safe haven already made.

It means enhancing the highly successful Group of Five program where citizens can privately sponsor and support the full cost for refugee families’ resettlement for the first year, including rent, shelter, transportation, spending money, food, clothing and household essentials.

There are so many applications already in that queue that — like the refugee queue itself — Friesen said it would take “upwards of two years” for an application filed today to sponsor an Afghan family to make it to the top of the pile.

Like health-care during a pandemic, refugees are triaged. And, right now, few people are at more risk than Afghan human rights activists, judges, journalists and translators who worked with the Canadian military. They are being hunted by the Taliban doing door-to-door searches.

So far, the Canadian response has been muddied because of the federal election.

The immigration minister is still able to sign special permits for Afghans to use as exit visas, but it was impossible for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to get extra money to match the Liberals’ campaign promise to evacuate and settle 20,000 Afghans. The resources have had to come from other programs.

Emergency evacuations have unique problems and costs. Normally, refugees are screened by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees before joining the queue for Canada. Even before now, the Canadian process was taking up to two years, with some of that due to COVID restrictions.

There has been no time for that process now. Instead, Afghans are fleeing using special permits issued on the recommendations of various trusted sources and being processed for permanent residency in hotels in Toronto and Calgary, while they quarantine for two weeks under pandemic protocols.

But even that has had unforeseen problems. A measles outbreak was discovered when the first group of Calgary-bound Afghans landed in the United States. They are now quarantined for 28 days and will have to quarantine another 14 days when they get to Canada.

“It’s all very intense,” said Friesen.

On any given day, there is no way to know when, let alone how many, Afghans might arrive. Some come on government-sponsored flights, while others arrive with the help of non-profit groups. 

No targets have been set for how many will go to each province. The working assumption is that it will follow the traditional patterns. For B.C., that’s 10 per cent of the total. But, as of this week, only 78 families and 300 individuals will have arrived.

The intense public glare is adding another layer of stress for those on the front lines. Public interest was high with the Syrians, but Friesen said interest in the Afghans is “astronomical”.

After 20 years of civil society engagement with Afghanistan, Canadians have made personal connections with the country and its people. They have engaged through non-profit groups supporting women, building schools and libraries, as well as through international professional organizations.

As well, deep loyalties were forged with Afghans who helped journalists and soldiers during Canada’s nearly 15 years of military presence. Plus, there are close to 125,000 Afghan-Canadians.

Many of these Canadians have been fielding desperate pleas for help from their friends and colleagues. In turn, they are asking what the government is doing to help.

Among the loudest voices are some of Canada’s 40,000 veterans — 540 live here, including the founders of Veterans Transition Network. It is raising money to shelter and support Afghan interpreters and their families as they await evacuation.

That is in addition to its ongoing work supporting veterans — some of whom already have post-traumatic stress that may have been triggered by the Taliban’s resurgence.

Every day, already over-stretched staff of settlement services across the country and at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada are diverted from their primary roles to field calls from corporations and individuals offering help.

It is more than most can deal with since among the things that IRCC hasn’t been able to do is hire more staff or provide money for the provincial welcome centres.

For now, Friesen said what ISSofBC urgently needs is help finding affordable housing so that refugee families already here can move out of its Welcome House to make room for new arrivals.

It all sounds like a dreadful mess until you realize that what is driving it is something quite rare and precious — Canadians’ desire to be good global citizens and provide safe haven to desperate strangers.

It is goodwill that could easily be frustrated and squandered unless the government acts quickly to unclog the pipeline. And that can only happen with both strong leadership and cooperation within the new minority parliament.

Source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjoyvvN757zAhVDtTEKHU22CK4QFnoECAIQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fvancouversun.com%2Fnews%2Fdaphne-bramham-political-drano-needed-to-unclog-canadas-refugee-system&usg=AOvVaw03EOafEVuCfVr5H-M_VvkB

Douglas Todd: Quebec to get 10 times more than B.C. and Ontario to settle immigrants

Almost an annual event, criticism of the Canada-Quebec immigration accord’s unbalanced funding arrangement, one that becomes more unbalanced as immigration to the rest of Canada continues to outstrip immigration to Quebec:

Quebec will be handed roughly 10 times more taxpayer dollars from Ottawa to settle each one of its immigrants than B.C., Ontario, Alberta and the other provinces.

The pandemic is further distorting an already lopsided and increasingly bizarre three-decade-old accord with Ottawa that this year will provide Quebec with roughly $20,000 to support each new permanent resident to the province.

Meanwhile, each new permanent resident set to move to B.C. will be allocated only about $1,800 in settlement services, which include language training, assistance with housing and job counselling.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada settlement allocations show, in addition, that Ontario will be handed about $2,000 this year to support each of its new immigrants.

“If I were the other provinces, I would be really, really angry about it,” says Stephan Reichhold, who heads the umbrella organization that oversees 150 settlement agencies in Quebec.

“The other provinces can complain. They can make public statements that it’s not fair,” Reichhold said, explaining that the ever-widening transfer disparity is rooted in a funding formula embedded in the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration accord.

The upshot of the accord is that Quebec, despite reducing its immigration levels two years ago, will nevertheless be handed a whopping $650 million to help settle the 30,000 to 35,000 new permanent residents it expects in 2021.

Meanwhile, the settlement allocations show all the other provinces and territories combined are this year scheduled to receive $741 million to help integrate about 370,000 new permanent residents, based on Ottawa’s target, which is a record 401,000 immigrants for 2021.

B.C. is set to receive only about $109 million, even while it is projected to take in more than 65,000 new permanent residents, about twice as many as Quebec.

Ontario, which normally takes in 45 per cent of all immigrants to Canada, will be transferred just $372 million, far less than Quebec.

It all adds up to mean, said Reichhold, that Quebec, which accepts only one-tenth of the country’s new immigrants, will receive almost as much transfer money as the other nine provinces and three territories combined.

Vancouver-based Chris Friesen, chair of a national umbrella association that represents immigrant serving agencies across the country, said the gross imbalance in immigrant-support payments is yet another reason he and others are calling for a national dialogue, possibly a royal commission, into the country’s immigration policies.

Friesen, who is also director of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. that supports refugees, said the Quebec-Canada formula constantly escalates the proportion of transfer funds going to Quebec. As a result the province will actually receive $58 million more to settle permanent residents this year than last year — despite taking in fewer  immigrants than it did in 2019 and 2020.

Even though the provinces have a moral right to protest their poor treatment, Quebec’s Reichhold doubted it would do much good.

That’s because the Canada-Quebec immigration accord, which prime minister Brian Mulroney signed in 1991, gave unique immigration powers and generous transfer payments to the province, mainly to appease a then-surging sovereigntist movement. The other provinces do not have anywhere near the same level of influence over immigration, which is constitutionally in the hands of Ottawa.

Quebec, because of the accord, has long raked in more money per immigrant from Ottawa than the other provinces. In 2019, Quebec received about $11,000 for each of the roughly 40,000 permanent residents it accepted. That compared to about $2,400 each for immigrants to B.C. and Ontario.

This year, because of both COVID-19 border restrictions and Premier Francois Legault’s campaign promise to further reduce immigration levels, the money gap continues to grow wider than ever. Quebec expects only about 30,000 to 35,000 new permanent residents in the province this year, said Reichhold, who noted that Legault’s government announced Wednesday it is considering upping its target to 50,000 in 2022.

Despite the unfairness of the transfer system, Reichhold said Quebec can always use the federal money. And he was pleased to see that Legault is directing two to three times more of Ottawa’s funding into immigration services than the previous Liberal premier, Philippe Couillard, who mostly shovelled it into general revenue.

“Legault has really raised the amount that goes into language training and other resources,” said Reichhold. Asked if he thought other provinces should get as much money per capita as Quebec for settlement services, Reichhold laughed and said, “Can you imagine the amount? It would cost three to four billion dollars.”

Quebec’s immigration program is unique in the world in the way it gives so much control to a regional jurisdiction, Reichhold said.

Quebec also has its own distinct immigrant-investor program, which had for years been bringing in about 4,000 rich newcomers from around the world, mostly Asia. Nine out of 10 don’t stay in Quebec, but instead move to Toronto or Vancouver. Reichold said the program, which critics call a “cash-for-passport scheme,” is not taking new applicants, as it deals with a backlog.

The media outside Quebec don’t often look at how the immigration system works, or its dramatic anomalies, because most English-language journalists show little interest in francophone Quebec, said Reichhold. For that matter, he said, most Quebeckers don’t understand immigration policy either.

The public’s overall ignorance is one of the reasons Friesen, along with Jean McRae of Victoria, B.C., and Victoria Esses of London, Ont., are calling for a national inquiry into Canada’s convoluted immigration policies, which are produced closed doors. That includes Ottawa’s announcement in October that its objective is to admit over 1.2 million new permanent residents between 2021 and 2023, the most ever.

Although a recent poll found Canadians are among the most welcoming people in the world to immigrants, Friesen, MacRae and Esses said the public’s “lack of control and generalized uncertainty can easily stoke anti-immigrant and anti-immigration sentiments. Involving Canadians in an informed consideration of how Canada’s  future immigration programs and policies should be structured will work to dampen these effects.”

It may be possible to forgive Canadians for not comprehending what’s actually going on in Quebec or elsewhere in regard to immigration policy. Still, it would be prudent to avoid being naive.

Source: https://vancouversun.com/business/douglas-todd-quebec-to-get-10-times-more-than-b-c-and-ontario-to-settle-immigrants

Douglas Todd: Canada’s foreign-student policy needs public review, say experts

Noteworthy from who the call is coming from, the generally pro-immigration experts. Royal commissions appear to have fallen out of  favour given the time involved but nevertheless Canada benefits from those more in-depth reviews:

The public is in the dark about how Canadian immigration policy has been changed to give preference to international students, say experts.

Ottawa should set up a royal commission to look into issues such as whether Canadians agree that foreign students, who tend to come from the “cream of the crop” in their homelands, should go to the front of the line for permanent residence status, says Chris Friesen, who chairs the umbrella body overseeing settlement services in Canada.

Most Canadians have no idea that roughly one in three people approved each year as immigrants — especially during COVID-19-battered 2020 — were already living in the country as either foreign students or temporary workers, says Friesen, who also directs the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., which has provided support to tens of thousands of newcomers.

Source: Douglas Todd: Canada’s foreign-student policy needs public review, say experts

Douglas Todd: Quebec gets four times as much as B.C. to settle immigrants

A perennial but untouchable issue. Makes it difficult to have sympathy for the costs incurred by the irregular asylum seekers:

It’s one of the most lopsided distributions of federal money in memory.

Quebec gets roughly four times as many taxpayer dollars from Ottawa to settle each of its immigrants as B.C., Ontario and several other provinces get.

What’s worse, the one-sided gap is growing bigger each year.

That’s because of a deal called the Canada-Quebec immigration accord, which prime minister Brian Mulroney signed in 1991 to give unique immigration powers to francophone provinces, mainly to appease a surging sovereigntist movement.

As a result, Quebec this year is receiving more than $11,600 for each immigrant and refugee it takes in, with the money meant to provide settlements services such as language and job training.

B.C. receives only about $2,400 for each new immigrant or refugee. Saskatchewan gets about $2,500, Ontario receives about $2,600 and Alberta gets about $3,300.

The disparity between Quebec and the other provinces is soon going to grow even more egregious.

That’s in part because the new premier of Quebec, Francois Legault, elected last year, is carrying through on his promise to cut immigration levels to his province by 10,000 newcomers annually. That means Quebec’s immigrant intake will drop to roughly the same as that of B.C. — about 40,000 a year.

Despite Quebec chopping its immigration levels by 20 per cent, the province will continue to get more money based on the generous financial mechanisms built into the Canada-Quebec accord.

It includes an escalator clause, which dictates that Canada is obliged in most years to give more money to Quebec to settle its new permanent residents, but never less than in a previous year.

What it adds up to is that Quebec will get $559 million for 2019-20, while B.C. will get a paltry $100 million — while needing to provide services to virtually the same number of new immigrants and refugees as Quebec.

Ontario, which accepts about 130,000 immigrants a year (by far the largest of any province), will get $340 million. Alberta, which usually takes about the same number as B.C., will receive $129 million.

It is an amazing sweetheart deal for Quebec. And few Canadians realize it, since the subject is virtually taboo among politicians.

“If Quebec takes in one immigrant or 50,000 immigrants, it still gets the same amount of money under the Canada-Quebec accord,” says Stephan Reichholt, who heads the umbrella organization that oversees 150 different settlement agencies in Quebec.

As one of Quebec’s foremost specialists on immigrants and refugees, Reichholt says the vast majority of Canadians have no idea the unbalanced funding is occurring — mainly because the federal government doesn’t want a fight with Quebec and its voters, and because it’s too embarrassed to draw attention to the huge gaps.

“It drives the feds crazy. But they can’t do anything about it. Most Canadians don’t understand the mechanism (of the accord). They don’t know what’s going on in Quebec,” said Reichhold, director general of the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes.

“Meanwhile, the federal government is ashamed. It’s basically a taboo subject.”

To put it mildly, Quebec has little incentive to call attention to its golden financial immigration goose.

“I’m happy Quebec gets all the money. Eighty per cent of it normally goes into general revenue,” said Reichholt, adding an undetermined portion, which may be about to increase, is distributed to settlement agencies.

The imbalanced payments go back more than 25 years, to when Mulroney was trying to get Quebec premier Robert Bourassa to sign the Meech Lake accord, which was intended to persuade Quebec and other provinces to adopt  constitutional changes. Quebec never signed the Meech Lake deal.

Instead, it agreed to the offer made by Mulroney and then-immigration minister Barbara McDougall to give Quebec more control of its own immigration policy, even as Ottawa promised to foot the bill for the costs.

Mulroney’s deal committed Canadian taxpayers to giving Quebec a proportion of all federal spending, which would escalate when spending rises — and would never go down.  That “incredible formula,” as Reichholt called it, continues no matter how many immigrants Quebec chooses to accept.

Vancouver-based Chris Friesen, who is chair of the umbrella body overseeing all settlement services in Canada, said the Canada-Quebec immigration accord is a “lopsided” agreement that basically cannot be renegotiated.

“What we have is the new premier of Quebec being elected by calling for 10,000 fewer immigrants. Meanwhile he gets more money to settle them. Where do you sign me up (for such a deal)?” said Friesen, who chairs the national Canadian Immigrant Sector Alliance and is also settlement director for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

The federal government was meant to encourage nation building, Friesen said, by equitably distributing money to the provinces to support their immigrant and refugee settlement programs, which help newcomers learn English or French, obtain jobs and access social services. But that goal has become skewed by the one-sided accord with Quebec.

This is not the only profitable arrangement Quebec has with Ottawa on immigration. There is also the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program, which attracts nine out of 10 of its millionaire applicants from Asia, mostly China. Each must inject a $1.2 million loan into Quebec’s coffers.

But only one in 10 of the well-to-do migrants who take advantage of Quebec’s investor program choose to live there. Instead, most of the roughly 5,000 migrants a year who exploit the buy-a-passport program immediately move to Metro Vancouver and Toronto.

Legault, the new premier of Quebec, was elected in part on his promise to make sure newcomers to the province better integrate. The premier will now have a chance to show that he intends to make that happen, said Reichholt, by funnelling more money from Ottawa into the province’s settlement programs for immigrants and refugees.

Since Reichholt is tasked with overseeing Quebec’s settlement programs, he expects each agency will receive double or triple the funding this year. He also expects the premier to direct some of the settlement money received through the Canada-Quebec immigration accord into public education, health care and to support temporary foreign workers and international students — something the other provinces are not allowed to do.

“Quebec’s immigration program is unique in the world” in the way the province’s politicians can almost entirely call their own shots, while being generously supported by federal tax dollars, said Reichholt.

“But that’s not necessarily fair for you in B.C.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Quebec gets four times as much as B.C. to settle immigrants

Refugees crossing into B.C. on the rise, immigrant group says

Numbers small compared to Quebec but likely to increase:

On Nov. 18, 2017, Ribwar Omar, a 38-year-old Iraqi Kurd, arrived in Blaine, Wash., by bus. He stopped at a coffee shop, bought a hot chocolate and then, using the GPS on his phone, he made his way through a forest near the Peace Arch and crossed the border into Canada.

Omar is awaiting a refugee hearing, one of 1,277 new refugee claimants that made their way on foot from Washington state to B.C. in 2017. New numbers released by the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISS) show their group has tracked a 76-per-cent increase in individuals accessing their services that have applied for refugee status, and 90 per cent of those arrive the same way Omar did: by walking across the U.S./Canada border between Blaine and Surrey through Peace Arch Park.

Chris Friesen of the ISS calls it “the underground railroad.”

“We have seen single men, families of 12, 13, people in wheelchairs, pregnant women,” said Friesen, with the majority originating from Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, Iran and Colombia.

Friesen and other advocates are concerned that the spike in the number of asylum seekers could increase as the weather warms-up. Last summer, over 7,000 asylum seekers entered Quebec through irregular border crossings.

The reason many asylum seekers are using irregular border crossings — through farmers fields or border parks — is because of the Safe Third Country agreement between Canada and the U.S.

Under the deal, signed during the Harper government regime, refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for an exception.

“This means that a refugee claimant who came from the United States to Canada through an official border crossing could be detained and deported, or kept in the United States, forcibly impinging their ability to seek asylum in this country,” said Friesen.

Many of the refugee claimants are well-informed about their rights, and will phone the RCMP to be picked up once they arrive in Canada. “The RCMP will drive them to Hornby Street to file their refugee claim,” said Friesen.

“With the numbers that are coming in it is pushing us to the breaking point,” said Friesen, who called the situation “a bloody mess.”

Friesen said ISS is tracking two clear waves of refugee claimants. The first includes those, like Omar, who are able to obtain a legal visitor’s visa to the U.S., and use the United States as a transit point into Canada.

“This is quite new,” said Friesen.

The second stream of new asylum seekers is comprised of individuals who may have been in the U.S. for years, but are vulnerable to the Trump administration’s new policies, including accelerated deportations, the suspension of temporary protection agreements for Haitian and El Salvadoran immigrants, as well as Dreamers.

Friesen said he has been in contact with provincial officials who are planning consultations next month on contingency plans to deal with the continued influx of asylum seekers.

via Refugees crossing into B.C. on the rise, immigrant group says | Vancouver Sun

Canada to admit nearly 1 million immigrants over next 3 years

Good overview with some of the preliminary political reaction. Will be interesting to see how this plays out, but the Conservative focus on integration issues and border controls suggests that the increase itself is not a concern:

Canada will welcome nearly one million immigrants over the next three years, according to the multi-year strategy tabled by the Liberal government today in what it calls “the most ambitious immigration levels in recent history.”

Canadian immigration levels by year

The number of economic migrants, family reunifications and refugees will climb to 310,000 in 2018, up from 300,000 this year. That number will rise to 330,000 in 2019 then 340,000 in 2020.

The targets for economic migrants, refugees and family members was tabled in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.

Hussen said the new targets will bring Canada’s immigration to nearly one per cent of the population by 2020, which will help offset an aging demographic. He called it a historic and responsible plan and “the most ambitious” in recent history.

“Our government believes that newcomers play a vital role in our society,” Hussen said. “Five million Canadians are set to retire by 2035 and we have fewer people working to support seniors and retirees.”

In 1971 there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior, Hussen said, but by 2012 that ratio had gone to 4.2 to 1 and projections show it will be at 2 to 1 by 2036, when almost 100 per cent of population growth will be a result of immigration; it stands at about 75 per cent today.

Hussen said immigration drives innovation and strengthens the economy, rejecting some claims that newcomers drain Canada’s resources and become a burden on society.

He said the government is also working to reduce backlogs and speed up the processing of applications in order to reunite families and speed up citizenship applications.

Canadian immigration class levels by year

The federal government’s own Advisory Council on Economic Growth had recommended upping levels to reach 450,000 newcomers annually by 2021. Hussen said the government is taking a more gradual approach to ensure successful integration.

“At arriving at these numbers we listened very carefully to all stakeholders who told us they want to see an increase but they also want to make sure that each and every newcomer that we bring to Canada — bringing a newcomer to Canada is half of the job. We have to make sure that people are able to be given the tools that they need to succeed once they get here,” he said.

Focus on integration: Rempel

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel was critical of the plan, suggesting the government needs to do a better job of integrating newcomers.

“It is not enough for this government to table the number of people that they are bringing to this country. Frankly the Liberals need to stop using numbers of refugees, amount of money spent, feel-good tweets and photo ops for metrics of success in Canada’s immigration system.”

She said the Liberals need to bring Canada’s immigration system “back to order” by closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that has seen migrants cross into Canada at unofficial border crossings only to claim refugee status.

She also said the immigration system should focus on helping immigrants integrate through language efficiency and through mental health support plans for people who are victims of trauma.

Dory Jade, the CEO of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, welcomed the news although he suggested the numbers should be higher.

“Canada will greatly prosper and grow once the 350,000 threshold has been crossed,” he said. “Nevertheless, we are witnessing a very positive trend.”

The Canadian Council of Refugees also welcomed the news, but wanted more, saying the share for refugees was only increased slightly from 13 per cent this year to 14 per cent in each of the next three years.

Calls for longer-range forecast

In past, there has been a one-year figure for how many immigrants will be permitted into the country, but provinces and stakeholders have called for longer-range forecasts.

A statement from Ontario’s Immigration Minister Laura Albanese, before the announcement, said the province supports the introduction of multi-year levels plans “to provide more predictability to the immigration system and inform program planning.”

“Significant variation in year-to-year immigration levels can dramatically impact the requirement for provincial year-to-year resources. A longer term outlook would help in planning for appropriate service levels and use of resources.”

The statement said Ontario supports growth in immigration levels, particularly in economic immigration categories to support the growing economy.

Diversity drives innovation

During the government’s consultation period, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance presented “Vision 2020,” what it called a “bold” three-year plan to address growing demographic shifts underway in the country, calling for increased numbers in the economic, family and refugee categories.

It recommended a target of 350,000 people in 2018, which climbs to 400,000 in 2019 and 450,000 by 2020.

Chris Friesen, the organization’s director of settlement services, said it’s time for a white paper or royal commission on immigration to develop a comprehensive approach to future immigration.

“Nothing is going to impact this country [more] besides increased automation and technology than immigration will and this impact will grow in response to [the] declining birth rate, aging population and accelerated retirements,” he told CBC News.

Source: Canada to admit nearly 1 million immigrants over next 3 years – Politics – CBC News

‘Frustrating’ backlog of refugee applications will likely get longer as federal targets drop

Not terribly surprising, both the year-to-(exceptional)-year decline and the resulting frustration:

Spurred on by this year’s fast-tracking of displaced Syrians, nearly 30,000 more people are in line to come to Canada as refugees — but they may be in for a wait as the total number of refugees to be resettled in the coming year is much lower than this year’s target.

According to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada there are 4,264 Syrians with approved applications who are waiting to fly to Canada.

Another 25,756 applications are pending final processing.

Chris Friesen, director of settlement services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISSBC) calls the 2016 push to resettle tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by a bloody conflict a “bold humanitarian mission.”

“It captured the world’s attention, and, of course, captured Syrian’s interest in the region.”

But with reduced numbers for the refugees to be resettled next year, and the large inventory of applications already being processed by Canada’s immigration offices, Syrian families hoping to come here could be waiting for years.

“It’s something that we need to look at — there is a lot of pent up interest,” Friesen says. Based on current processing times and the already-existing backlog, Friesen says “it could take the government three years to address the private sponsorship applications on file.”

The federal government says 2017 numbers will be lower compared to what it calls the “extraordinary target” in 2016. In 2016, the target for refugees and protected persons was 55,800. In 2017, that number drops to 40,000. But that is for all refugees from across the world, not only from Syria.

As telling, the target number of government assisted refugees (GARS) drops to 7,500 next year, from more than 18,000 over the last 12 months.

….Some patterns emerged when ISSBC surveyed 300 Syrian households who arrived in B.C.

Roughly 17 per cent of the people surveyed say they have found part-time or full-time work. English classes have been popular, with 75 per cent of the respondents saying they had signed up.

Fifteen per cent of the people surveyed reflect symptoms of untreated trauma, ISSBC says.

And three quarters of the newly arrived refugees have family members left in the Middle East who want to come to Canada.

Canada’s immigration department said it’s in the process of finalizing a broad report called “Rapid Impact Evaluation” that will look at how the 26,000 refugees who came by March 2016 are adjusting in Canada but the department would not yet reveal its findings.

Not enough resources for Syrian refugees in Canada: poll

Encouraging high level of overall support despite funding concerns:

Canadians generally support the Liberal government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, but many think there are not enough resources in communities to support their resettlement, according to a new Nanos Research/Globe and Mail poll.

The poll of 1,000 Canadians found that 68 per cent support or somewhat support the government’s overall response to the Syrian refugee crisis, while 30 per cent oppose or somewhat oppose it. The government has resettled nearly 27,000 Syrian refugees since December of last year, with plans of welcoming thousands more throughout 2016.

“Canadians have given the Trudeau government a green light on this Syrian refugee crisis,” said pollster Nik Nanos. “The one thing that they are concerned about is whether we have the necessary resources to resettle these refugees in our communities.”

When asked if communities have all of the resources they need, such as housing, language training or social services, to resettle Syrian refugees, 61 per cent of Canadians disagreed or somewhat disagreed. On the other hand, 33 per cent agreed or somewhat agreed.

Chris Friesen, settlement services director of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., said he was not surprised by Canadians’ concerns about the lack of settlement resources at the local level.

“Here in British Columbia for example, we’ve had over the past two years a 15-per-cent cut in the immigrant settlement and language program funding,” said Mr. Friesen. “The types of programs and supports we are seeing that are in short supply range from settlement-informed trauma support programs, a diversity of language programs, [and] additional children and youth programming.”

Mr. Friesen said there is a particular need for youth support, as close to 60 per cent of recently arrived Syrian refugees are under the age of 18. He said many Syrians also have medical issues – physical and mental, including post-traumatic stress disorder – stemming from their experiences during the conflict that require support.

Previous housing problems appear to be nearly solved. For instance, Mr. Friesen said his organization knows of about only six or seven Syrian refugee families still in hotels. During the height of the government’s efforts to resettle 25,000 Syrians before the end of February, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver asked the government to stop sending more refugees there for a few days as they struggled to house the large number of people who had already arrived. As of this week, 97 per cent of government-assisted Syrian refugees had moved into permanent housing, according to a government official.

The official said refugees are using the government services available to them. For instance, language assessments have been done for close to 80 per cent of Syrian resettlement clients over the age of 18, and 34 per cent of those assessed have begun language training.

Settlement funding will be increasing for all jurisdictions this year, the official also said. In addition to a base settlement fund of $588.6-million this fiscal year (outside of Quebec), the federal government has provided $38.6-million as a supplement to help deal with the arrival of the Syrian refugees and will kick in another $19.3-million through the budget, for a total of $646.5-million.

Source: Not enough resources for Syrian refugees in Canada: poll – The Globe and Mail

Immigrant groups ask for more time to settle Syrian refugees

Provides political cover for the incoming government to deal with operational realities while still implementing change in policy and accepting more refugees:

A national association of immigrant and refugee service providers is asking prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau to extend the timeline on his pledge to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada to the end of 2016, rather than the end of this year.

Two months is not enough time to adequately support and settle this number of refugees, which would be over and above the thousands of refugees Canada has already committed to taking in, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance said in a news release Tuesday.

Canada took in more than 7,500 government-assisted refugees in 2014. About 40 per cent of those arrive between September and December, for reasons that range from overseas processing times, flight availability and foreign visa offices rushing to meet annual targets, said CISSA chairman Chris Friesen.

For B.C., Trudeau’s stated target would mean about 2,000 more refugees in the next two months, in addition to the 800-900 the province already receives, Friesen said.

Extending the timeline would still honour the UN refugee agency’s appeal asking countries including Canada to resettle 100,000 Syrians by the end of next year, he added.

The settlement workers also asked the incoming Liberal government to prioritize the reunification of refugees who are already in Canada with their families overseas, eliminate the issuance of interest-bearing transportation loans that refugees must repay within a year of arriving in Canada, and introduce a housing allowance to top up existing resettlement support assistance.

Source: Immigrant groups ask for more time to settle Syrian refugees