Curry: New work rules may be too tempting for international students — and employers

Indeed. Bad policy and makes a mockery as study permits become an immigration stream for low-paid service jobs, pandering to student and business stakeholder groups:

New work rules for international students may be a boon to local employers, but a double-edged sword for the students.

To help address current labour shortages, the federal government says, as of November 15, international students will no longer be restricted to 20 hours of work a week. This will last until the end of 2023, when, presumably, it will be re-evaluated.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is reacting to the fact that nearly one million job vacancies were reported in the second quarter of this year.

I look back at my own undergraduate days at Carleton University when I worked 20 hours a week at the residence cafeteria, 20 hours or more on the student newspaper, and sat on the residence council.

That was a lot.

As the sports editor, I travelled with the Carleton Ravens basketball team, once on a long train trip through Quebec and New Brunswick to Antigonish, N.S., for the national basketball championships. Carleton was a power even back then, probably top five in Canada. Lately, they have won 16 of the last 19 national championships.

Although I was a varsity basketball player at Bell High School in Ottawa, when I got to Carleton the players were a lot better, and a lot taller.

Did those trips and all that work affect my grades? Certainly. I could have done a lot better.

When I was more mature and working only one full-time job, my grades for my master’s degree were much higher.

Local employers tell me they can’t get enough people to work in restaurants — as chefs, cooks, and servers. If you dine out you have probably seen that restaurant staffs are not up to their full complements.

Our latest restaurant foray was at Lot 88, where we had a wonderful meal and a university student server who really knew her stuff.

She is a Canadian student at Nipissing University and we could tell from her knowledge of the menu items, confident demeanour and sense of humour that she was likely working many hours there. There are no restrictions on how much Canadian post-secondary students can work.

She told us she was working on a second degree, so she obviously could handle working and studying at the same time.

Some aren’t so fortunate and need to study a lot to keep their grades up.

Blurring the lines

It will be tempting, for both students — and employers — to hike the hours now that they can. Some in the immigration industry are fearful that it will devalue study permits, and turn them into work permits.

Both employers and students have to be careful that it doesn’t turn out that way. Employers should not pressure international students to work long hours, and international students should not be eager to work 40-hour weeks while in school.

Study permits are a vehicle to permanent residence for the majority of international students in Canada. After a post-secondary program of two years or more they can apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit that is good for three years. They then use that work experience to apply for permanent residence a year or two later through the Canadian Experience Class Express Entry system.

Those fortunate enough to have studied in North Bay, or Timmins, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie or Thunder Bay in Northern Ontario, don’t have to wait that long to apply for permanent residence. They can do it immediately upon graduation, providing they have a year-round full-time job in the community.

That is the beauty of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program, which dozens of local graduates are using as their path to permanent residence, and, eventually, Canadian citizenship.

We need those students in the full-time labour force after they graduate. Let’s hope sanity prevails and they don’t use the lure of unlimited hours of work to become workers instead of students.

They came here to study, not work, and get a diploma or degree at the end of it that will help them start a satisfying career. They might have to have that conversation with their employer when pressure is exerted to work more hours.

Source: New work rules may be too tempting for international students — and employers

Curry: Permanent residents pay taxes but can’t vote

While Don and I disagree on municipal voting rights, he makes the case (given Canada’s relatively easy approach to citizenship, better to focus on all voting rights through citizenship). As municipalities are creations of provincial governments, the latter’s agreement would be required:

How would you like it if you paid your municipal and school taxes every year, your kids are in school, but you can’t vote for city council or the school board?

Hundreds of people in North Bay are in that situation.

They are permanent residents of Canada but are not entitled to vote because they are not yet Canadian citizens. If they would be any more motivated than the dismal 43 per cent of voters who bothered to cast a ballot in the recent Ontario election is beside the point. They don’t have the right to vote.

To become a citizen, you have to have lived in Canada for at least three of the past five years, with your time as a temporary resident only eligible for a half-day for every full day you were here. The government processing fee is $530 and the right of citizenship fee is $100.

You have to have filed taxes for each year you were in Canada, pass a citizenship test, which most Canadians would likely fail, and prove your language skills in either English or French.

The Liberal federal government said in the 2021 election campaign that it will eliminate citizenship fees. It said the same thing in the 2019 campaign, and the fees remain in place.

There are other obstacles. The paperwork is daunting to many.

One client I had speaks English as his first language and works in a professional occupation. He asked me to do the paperwork.

Others say becoming a Canadian citizen could jeopardize travel to their home country to visit relatives because dual citizenship is not recognized.

The Ontario government controls municipalities and all indications are that it has no plan to eliminate the citizenship requirement for municipal and school board elections. This is despite the fact that some municipalities, including North Bay, Toronto, and Waterloo in Ontario, plus Vancouver, Halifax, and others, have voted to allow permanent residents voting rights.

New Brunswick is set to allow permanent residents to vote in the next municipal elections, scheduled for 2026.

North Bay City Council went on the record in support of a motion on May 11, 2015, after a presentation I gave in support of the concept. As I recall, voting against were Tanya Vrebosch and Mark King, and the motion passed easily.

That endorsement has earned the city positive press across Canada, as other cities are urged to support the movement. However, when I visit city hall I see no diversity whatsoever among the staff, and there is none at the city council level. Clearly, there is more to be done to make the city a welcoming place for newcomers.

There are dissenting views, of course. They centre on the argument that this will devalue Canadian citizenship. My response is that people should have the right to vote municipally, as it is the government closest to the people and who gets elected is important. Retain citizenship as a requirement for provincial and federal elections.

Take the announcement recently by MP Anthony Rota that the federal government will contribute almost $26 million to the arena project at the Omischl complex. It was wonderful to hear.

But, if we had more diversity at city hall and on the city council, and permanent residents could vote, the conversation might include a desire for more soccer fields and cricket pitches as well. When you don’t have diversity in decision-making, which includes voting, you keep doing everything the way you have always done it.

Myer Siemiatycki, professor emeritus at Toronto Metropolitan University, where my granddaughter begins studies in September, (if you haven’t heard of it, it’s the new name for Ryerson), says there are more than 50 countries that allow non-citizens the right to vote.

So, it’s not a novel concept. Other countries are way ahead of us.

He told the CBC recently that changes are long overdue, because there’s currently a “ludicrous” double standard where people who own property in Toronto but live elsewhere can vote, while permanent residents actually living in the city can’t.

In the U.S., non-citizens can vote municipally in many cities. New York recently came on board and Boston may be next. Near Boston, Cambridge and Amherst have extended the ability to vote.

Good on North Bay City Council for being an early adopter of a motion to extend municipal voting rights. The barrier is the Conservative government of Doug Ford.

Perhaps our MPP, Vic Fedeli, could bend his ear on the topic.

Source: Opinion: Permanent residents pay taxes but can’t vote

Curry: Sorry, lawyers, that ship has sailed [re consultants]

Of note:

As a full-time Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and part-time journalist/opinion writer, I have been following New Canadian Media’s stories regarding immigration lawyers vs. immigration consultants with interest.

Writer Fabian Dawson’s Nov. 26 article quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA), who attempted to make the argument that immigration consultants should work under the supervision of lawyers. 

I have to point out to lawyer Barbara Jo Caruso, that with legislation passed by the federal government creating the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC), that ship has sailed. It is so far out to sea, in fact, that it should not even be on lawyers’ radars. The battle is over, and lawyers did not get what they wanted.

The follow-up article by Dawson and Fernando Arce on Dec.1 did a good job explaining the role of the new College and quoting both its CEO, John Murray, as well as the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants(CAPIC) CEO, Dory Jade. The headline, “‘We are not subordinate to lawyers,’ say immigration consultants,” sums it up nicely.

Here’s my take:

More education?

Lawyers trumpet the fact that they went to law school. How many courses on immigration did they take? 

A lawyer in North Bay told me she took no courses on immigration in law school. That’s why she enlisted my assistance with a family court case with an immigration component. Of course, lawyers specializing in immigration law have taken courses — but how many?

I took seven with the University of British Columbia. With the new College, all new Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC) will have to graduate from the Queen’s University program operated by its School of Law or from the University of Montreal for French-speaking RCICs.

Prior to my UBC experience, I was the executive director for eight years of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, an immigrant settlement agency, which also has an office in Timmins. I chaired the board of directors for three years after that. Back in the 1990s, I was chair of the board of a previous immigrant settlement agency for six years.

Yet, my immigration background is not as fulsome as that of many of my 9,500 RCIC colleagues.

I am the only RCIC practicing in North Bay, Ontario. There are no immigration lawyers in North Bay, and I have clients here who abandoned high-priced Toronto lawyers because they were not getting their calls returned or they felt they were being gouged.

In general, lawyers charge more than RCICs for the same service, and that’s why clients come to us. 

I have a BA from Carleton University and an MA from Central Michigan in addition to my year-long certificate from UBC. Sometimes, I feel uneducated compared to many of my colleagues, some of whom have MBAs, PhDs, or were Chartered Accountants in their previous lives. Many previously worked with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

‘Get over it’

Ms. Caruso says lawyers have to keep up with changes in immigration law and case law. So do RCICs.

I also subscribe to Lexbase, a monthly newsletter compiled by Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland, that keeps us current. I read The Globe and Mail daily plus many other media sources, such as New Canadian Media. I read Andrew Griffith’s daily immigration blog. He is a former director-general with IRCC. His blog posts arrive while I am eating my breakfast.

I read the daily forum of emails by RCICs, operated by CAPIC, which is an invaluable source of information on cases and technical tips to survive the wonky online world of IRCC and its portals.

I have the third edition, and the second edition as well, of the excellent text by lawyers Chantal Desloges and Cathryn Sawicki — Canadian Immigration and Refugee Law, A Practitioner’s Handbook, published in 2021. 

I have current bound copies of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

Our regulatory body, the College, requires that we take 16 hours of approved professional development sessions each year. I chalk up more hours than that, as do most of my colleagues.

All this is to say to lawyers: we don’t need you looking over our shoulders. The federal government has decided that isn’t going to happen, so get over it.

No one is listening

Ms. Caruso says the new College is just a name change. It’s far more than that, as Jade pointed out in the follow-up article. A major change is that it now has the power to go after unlicensed consultants, also known as ‘ghost consultants’, who plague the industry. These people are the vermin of our industry and operate mainly in foreign countries.

I have had my own experience with them. A scam outfit calling itself “Burlington Associates” with a phony website and Edmonton address stole my full name and RCIC identifier number and used it on their website, claiming I was an immigration lawyer working for them. 

I received two phone calls from overseas skilled technical people who had lost thousands of dollars in the scam. They both had phony job interviews on a video app and were promised jobs that never materialized in Vancouver.

Since I called them out on my website, pointing out that the operation is a scam, I have had no further calls. Prior to that, I contacted the RCMP, Canada Border Services, and our former regulatory body — all to no avail. 

When I alerted others on the CAPIC forum about what happened to me, I was surprised to hear the many respondents who said it has happened to them too. 

The lawyers I have named in this article understand there is lots of immigration work to go around and RCICs are no threat to their livelihoods. They know RCICs cannot represent clients in court and they have that field to themselves.

The vocal minority of lawyers apparently wants to continue their fight. But no one is listening.


A Current Snapshot of Canadian Multiculturalism – Review of my book

From the first review of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, by Don Curry, Executive Director, North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, in New Canadian Media:

Griffith has the credentials for writing a comprehensive book of this nature. The author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism, he is the former director general for citizenship and multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

As someone leading an organization that is active in integration issues, I encourage anyone involved in citizenship, multiculturalism, immigration and integration issues to read this book to keep current with the latest available information, and perhaps alter some perceptions.

The only complaint I have about the depth of research is that it left out my corner of Canada – northern Ontario – and lumped it in with southern Ontario.

But I know why: it’s because, as Griffith notes, the National Household Survey of 2011 left a lot of gaps when it attempted to drill down to smaller census areas. He strengthens the argument for the return of the long-form census.

The evidence Griffith uses in the book is irrefutable, combining the best currently available data from Statistics Canada, employment equity, Citizenship and Immigration Canada operational statistics, and more to draw his conclusions.

As Griffith says, “My hope is that the evidence highlighted in this book will contribute to creating a more informed discourse as Canada – by most measures a remarkably successful, diverse and multicultural society – prepares for its 150th anniversary.”

Multiculturalism in Canada is an e-book modestly priced to reach a wide audience – and it deserves one.

A Current Snapshot of Canadian Multiculturalism – New Canadian Media.