Canada’s immigration minister leaves door open to extending Afghan resettlement programs

Of note:

As Canada reaches the halfway point of meeting its commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says he’s not ruling out lifting the current cap and welcoming more into this country.

But for the moment, he says, his main focus is the 8,500 people to whom Canada has already promised refuge who remain stuck in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

“When we hit that target (and) we have the ability to continue to support all of the people through additional pathways, then we’ll do what we can,” Fraser told the Star in an interview Thursday, on the eve of the arrival of the 20,000th resettled Afghan in Toronto on a charter flight from United Arab Emirates.

“What we have done is made the commitments to the 40,000. But we have not taken a decision never to do more for people from Afghanistan.”

Fraser’s softened tone was in contrast to how his office had previously underlined to media Canada’s commitment to meet the target it announced last October.

In June, the Star reported that Ottawa planned to stop taking in Afghans after it had enough applications to fill the announced spots, despite the fact that many who risked their lives to help the Canadian mission were still waiting for a response to their applications.

“The unfortunate reality is that not everyone who expressed interest in coming to Canada will be eligible. … We are doing everything we can to help Afghans inside and outside of Afghanistan,” Fraser’s press secretary told reporters at the time.

Fraser said there are currently 8,500 Canada-bound Afghans still inside Afghanistan who need to get to another country to complete the resettlement applications and meet requirements such as biometrics and health screening.

These applicants to whom Ottawa has already committed are his top priority and he is working with the international community to find ways to get them out of the country, he said.

He would not reveal the different options officials are investigating.

“I learned through my experience with this effort not to expect a smooth ride. We’re dealing with a territory that’s under the control of a group that’s listed as a terrorist entity in Canadian law. There is very little patience that the Taliban has for people who are eligible to come to Canada,” he explained.

“These 8,500 people who are already in the process are still inside Afghanistan. We are not wavering on our commitment to bring those individuals here. If it was a matter of bringing in any 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada, we could have done that.”

In terms of processing displaced Afghans who are now in a third country waiting to come to Canada, Fraser said the largest groups are in Pakistan and Tajikistan. But many of those are privately sponsored by community groups and their applications may fall outside the special resettlement programs.

This week, the Globe and Mail reported that a Manitoba senator’s office had issued an inauthentic Canadian government document to help facilitate an Afghan family’s travel.

Fraser said an internal investigation confirmed the document — known as “facilitation letter” to help eligible Afghans get through Taliban checkpoints — was inauthentic and that the matter has been referred to law enforcement.

“The integrity of the process has not been compromised because even the authentic letters that we did issue do not permit a person to enter Canada. An individual who used them to move through the airport still has to go through the application process and be issued an invitation to apply and complete the process and other steps required,” he said.

“To our knowledge, no one has been able to use an inauthentic facilitation letter to enter the program, but only to transit to and through the airport.”

Fraser said the Afghan resettlement project has been the most difficult but also rewarding task in his entire life and career as a parliamentarian.

He said it’s humbled him as he’s heard an Afghan woman arriving in Newfoundland saying “she finally has a home”; played soccers with the kids of a group of Afghan human rights defenders in Edmonton; and seen a new arrival kissing the ground of the tarmac in Toronto.

“It’s a great reminder of the lottery of birth that we win as Canadians, by virtue of being born in a country that is safe, where we take for granted that our communities will be peaceful places to grow up,” Fraser said.

“It’s not lost on me that we will have a lot of work ahead of us to make good on our commitment to hit 40,000.”

Source: Canada’s immigration minister leaves door open to extending Afghan resettlement programs

Airport, passport and immigration problems ‘should never have happened,’ minister admits

Refreshing admission by Minister Miller (he consistently one of the few ministers who is more candid with respect to government weaknesses and failures). And yes, the task force is more communications than substance as the main issues involve Service Canada and IRCC, which did not need a task force to address. (Airport issues are more complex given the different players involved):

The delays plaguing Canada’s airports, passport services and immigration processes “should never have happened in the first place,” the federal minister charged with co-leading Ottawa’s task force on slashing wait times admitted Monday.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller, providing an update on the government’s efforts to tackle pandemic-induced delays across a swath of operations and services, said that despite some improvements, officials were still working to prevent such issues from occurring again.

“I do want to say that nobody should be congratulating themselves for having done their jobs. We are by no stretch of the imagination out of the woods yet. The focus will continue to be on Canadians and the results they expect and deserve from this or any other government,” Miller said at a joint news conference with other ministers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck a committee involving 13 cabinet members in late June to get started on reducing wait times at major airports and clear out backlogs that led to sluggish processing times for passport and immigration applications.

As COVID-19 restrictions eased, air passengers passing through Canadian travel hubs have contended with hours-long delays in security screening lines, delayed or cancelled flights, hiccups with the ArriveCAN app and the chaos of lost baggage.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Monday that between January and August, the number of air travellers jumped by more than 250 per cent just as the travel industry faced staffing shortages.

He pointed to the hiring of more than 1,800 new screening officers and weekly meetings with airlines, airports and travel-related government departments as evidence that delays were improving. According to the federal government, between Aug. 18 and Aug. 21, 85 per cent of passengers were screened within 15 minutes. The number of aircraft held at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport also dropped to 47 by the third week of August, down from 370 in May.

Monette Pasher, the interim president of the Canadian Airports Council, said there has been “marked progress” in reducing wait times and cancellations in the past few weeks.

But she told the Star in a statement that other measures, like modernizing screening procedures and reopening Nexus assessment centres amid a backlog of applications for the trusted traveller program, would improve the situation more.

The staffing increases don’t change the fact that airport screeners are “worn out,” said Catherine Cosgrove, the director of communications and public affairs for Teamsters Canada, which represents over 1,000 screeners across the country.

“We can expect to continue seeing difficulties in hiring and retaining screeners and delays throughout the fall,” she told the Star, adding that there still aren’t enough trainers to get new hires working at full capacity.

Addressing frustrations experienced by Canadians trying to renew or apply for passports, Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould acknowledged “the recent demand for passports far exceeded the government’s expectations.”

That was despite unions representing federal workers warning the government in 2021 that passport requests would rise, without the necessary staffing to take on the increased load.

Gould said Ottawa has boosted the number of staff handling the country’s passport program and that workers have implemented a “triage system” to better process applications. Passport services have also been expanded in a number of offices and Service Canada centres.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser also discussed application backlogs within his department, which have left international students and others hoping to immigrate to Canada in limbo.

“Though we have a welcoming nature towards newcomers, our immigration system has faced unprecedented challenges and obstacles that have become larger and have compounded on one another over the past few years,” Fraser said.

He said that owing in part to staffing changes, his department had returned to a “pre-pandemic service standard” in some areas and was on track to reaching its permanent residency and study permit goals.

“We could have sat here and blamed others. We could have blamed airlines, we could blame this, that and the other. But we realized quite quickly that a lot of responsibility did lie on our shoulders,” Miller told reporters.

“To some extent, we were slow in responding to a number of unprecedented … things that Canadians expect to see from their governments.”

Indeed, ministers said Monday that Ottawa has been “scrambling” to contend with a series of challenges outside its control, from the havoc the pandemic wrought on Canada’s travel sector to continuous humanitarian crises that hampered which immigration applications were prioritized.

“We’ve thrown bodies at the problem, which is not the most effective way of doing things. It’s important because it got people their passports in time so they could finally travel after sitting in their houses for two years,” Miller said. “That is not the most effective way … of doing things.”

Source: Airport, passport and immigration problems ‘should never have happened,’ minister admits

Immigration Minister says his department has shifted focus to international student visas as many await last-minute approval

Yet the latest example of management weaknesses at IRCC as it appears to lurch from one program backlog to another. The risk is, of course, that the shift in resources to address student visas will adversely impact other programs, leading to future negative headlines:

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says his department has shifted its focus toward tackling backlogs in student visa applications, as many students who have been accepted to attend Canadian universities and colleges this semester wait nervously for their immigration approvals.

The minister made the comments Monday as part of the first news conference by the task force to improve government services. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the team of cabinet ministers in June when the federal government was facing heavy public criticism for failing to provide basic services, such as timely passport delivery or efficient traveller processing at Canadian airports.

Mr. Fraser said his department recently shifted its focus away from work permits to tackle the demand for student visas.

“We had been focusing over the course of the summer on processing as many work permits as possible to help address the labour shortage. We’ve made a pivot, and through the month of August, we expect that we’re going to process a little more than 104,000 additional study permits,” he said. “There has been an absolute explosion in demand when it comes to Canada’s International Student Program in recent years.”

The student visa delays recently prompted a complaint from the Indian High Commission in Ottawa. India is the largest source country for international postsecondary students.

In addition to Mr. Fraser’s update, Monday’s news conference included assurances from Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould that passport wait times had improved and an update from Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, who said delays and cancelled flights have been dramatically reduced.

Opposition MPs said the task force is little more than a public relations exercise. They also say some of the improvements in areas such as passports and travel delays can be attributed to the fact that the summer travel season is coming to an end.

As for the Immigration Minister’s comments about student visas, Conservative and NDP MPs said this is part of a continuing pattern of shifting focus from one crisis to another, which they say ultimately creates bigger problems for the system as a whole.

Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan said the students awaiting visas are expecting to start classes shortly.

“There are many students that are still left in limbo in this immigration backlog,” he said. As for the task force, he said many of the members are the same ministers who are ultimately responsible for the service issues.

“This task force really hasn’t shown or done anything yet,” he said.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan said Canada’s immigration system, including student visa applications, is in a state of chaos. She said operating in a constant state of “crisis management mode” is not sustainable.

Ms. Kwan said there should be independent reviews of the key departments to determine why services are failing.

“The task force was established as a political cover-up,” she said.

International students from outside Canada pay tuition that is often more than two or three times higher than those paid by domestic students.

Naman Gupta, a 22-year-old student in New Delhi, India, was planning to attend York University this fall to pursue a postgraduate certificate.

His study permit has not come through and he said unless something changes in a matter of days, he’ll defer coming to Canada until the start of the January term. However the $17,000 in tuition he paid won’t be returned in the meantime, he said.

“It’s going to be tough. All my plans are held up,” Mr. Gupta said. “I’m pretty stressed.”

He said he expected the visa processing would have been expedited to ensure that students could arrive in time for the start of their courses.

“I would’ve appreciated if they could apply more compassion to the situation,” Mr. Gupta said. “The response is slow.”

Pallavi Dang, who lives in New Delhi, applied for her study permit in March. She’s disappointed that more than five months later she still hasn’t heard whether she will be approved. Department guidelines said respondents can normally expect an answer in eight weeks, and that current average processing times are about 12 weeks.

She said she had made plans to hand over her business while she was away, but now she’ll need to change course.

“All that planning is on hold,” Ms. Dang said. “I’m not able to take another step.”

Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, an umbrella group that lobbies on behalf of nearly 100 Canadian universities, said Canada trails countries such as Britain and Australia in visa processing.

He said there has to be more federal government investment in IT capacity to speed up processing.

“I think that’s really the solution,” Mr. Davidson said. “There’s all-party support for international students, there’s a good policy climate, but it’s the operational reality that needs to improve.”

Source: Immigration Minister says his department has shifted focus to international student visas as many await last-minute approval

More than 1.3 million immigration applications still in backlog

Will see what the data shows in coming months, as well as the various media coverage of specific cases. Usual approach of throwing money and people rather than fundamental policy and program changes.

In one sense, almost the “citizenshipization” of immigration programs, as the citizenship program has a history of growing backlogs that are addressed, when too politically embarrassing, by an injection of funds (happened under Liberal Minister Volpe and Conservative Minister Alexander):

Canada’s immigration minister now projects it will only take a few months longer than originally hoped to get application wait times back on track, even though the crisis in Ukraine and other “external” events have worsened the backlogs.

In January, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser vowed to eliminate backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by the end of the year. That was before Canada launched a major response to the refugee crisis sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and approved hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and their families to come to Canada temporarily to escape the war.

Those efforts, combined with updates to the government’s aging technology, have led to longer waits for people who want to come to Canada, Fraser said.

As of the end of July, approximately 1.3 million immigration applications in the system have taken longer to process than the government’s service standards dictate they should. That’s about 54 per cent of all the pending applications in the system.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Fraser said the department may need a few extra months before all immigration streams are back to normal processing times.

“Based on what we’re looking at right now, we shouldn’t be too, too far off the projection of getting back to service standards for work and study permits by the end of this year, and I expect that within a few months of that the visitors visas will be back to service standards,” Fraser said.

That’s barring any new international disasters, he said.

New hiring spree to address backlog

While dealing with the backlogs and humanitarian crises, the Canadian immigration system is also fielding unprecedented demand, Fraser said.

As of July 31, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada issued more than 349,000 new work permits so far this year, compared to 199,000 in all of 2021.

At a news conference Wednesday, Fraser announced the Immigration Department is in the midst of a hiring spree to bring 1,250 new employees on board by the end of the fall to tackle the massive backlogs in processing applications and the increased demand.

Fraser said the new hires have so far allowed the government to get the waits back on track for new applicants to the express entry permanent residence program, which is the main economic stream for new permanent residents to Canada.

“In the weeks and months ahead there’s going to be a series of new measures that we’re going to be releasing that’s going to help bring workers here more quickly, make it simpler for families to be reunited with their loved ones, and to hold ourselves accountable by being transparent,” Fraser said at the news conference outside of the Vancouver Convention Centre.

The backlogs have been of growing concern since shortly after the pandemic began, when health restrictions made borders more difficult to cross and immigration slowed considerably.

At the end of last year, the government dedicated $85 million to reducing wait times. Another $187.3 million was set aside for the next five years in the 2022 budget.

In June, the prime minister announced ministers would form a task force to deal with growing delays for immigration applications and other government services.

Source: More than 1.3 million immigration applications still in backlog

Will Canada welcome over 500,000 new immigrants per year?

Real question is should Canada welcome over 500,000 new immigrants per year given the externalities involved (e.g., housing, transit, infrastructure, environmental impact etc):

Minister Sean Fraser believes Canada’s immigration levels will surpass 500,000 per year “sooner rather than later”, but the minister cautioned that future increases must be done in a careful manner that supports the needs of communities across the country.

The immigration minister was in Toronto last week to speak at Collision, a global technology conference. Following his speaking engagement, he sat down with CIC News for an in-depth conversation on the future of Canada’s immigration system.

Canada now seeking over 430,000 immigrants annually

Prior to the pandemic, Canada was seeking over 340,000 new immigrants per year but immigration fell in 2020 due to travel restrictions and Canadian government officials needing to work remotely. In October 2020, Canada announced it would seek over 400,000 immigrants annually beginning in 2021 to support its post-COVID economic recovery. Canada ended up exceeding its target by landing a record 405,000 new permanent residents last year.

In February, Fraser tabled Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024. Canada is now seeking over 430,000 immigrants per year and will target 450,000 by 2024.

Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025: Over 500,000 new permanent residents per year?

Fraser is due to announce updated targets yet again by this November 1st, when he announces the Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025.

Although it is still too early to finalize the 2023-2025 plan, CIC News asked Fraser to share his early thoughts on the plan, and more specifically, whether he was working towards getting the annual target to over 500,000 per year.

“Look, I wouldn’t put it on the clock. I think we will get there. We’re growing in excess of 1% of our population through the existing track. That trajectory is going to continue. I don’t know the exact year we’re going to cross that threshold [500,000 immigrants per year]. It’s going to be based on the needs of communities.”

“It’s not a point of pride that I have to be the minister that gets to 500,000…what’s important to me is that I’m meeting the needs of communities and giving them the opportunity to experience success through our immigration system. If that means we have to welcome 500,000 new permanent residents in a calendar year, then that’s great. And I’m very happy to advance that.”

“My sense is we’re going to get there sooner rather than later, because the needs and opportunities associated with welcoming newcomers are great. And if we can ensure we do not exceed our absorptive capacity of our communities on our way to getting there, then this is going to be a huge strategic advantage for Canada.”

Fraser is aware of the importance of providing enough supports to Canadians and newcomers alike

Among the major immigration levels considerations is Canada’s capacity to provide the necessary infrastructure and supports to its existing population as well as new arrivals.

While speaking on stage at Collision, the minister was asked whether he felt Canada had enough housing available to accommodate its rising immigrant population.

The minister replied this issue is top of mind with his federal colleagues in Ottawa. Our conversation on housing usually goes as follows. Ahmed, will you be able to build houses fast enough for Canada’s new immigrants? He replies, Sean, will you bring immigrant workers into Canada quickly enough to build the houses?”

Source: Will Canada welcome over 500,000 new immigrants per year?

No date set for IRCC to waive Canadian citizenship application fees

And so the platform commitment from the 2019 and 2021 election commitments remains unmet along with the earlier commitment to revise the Discover Canada citizenship study guide.

Will see whether the fee commitment is included in the next budget:

The Canadian government needs more time to fulfil its promise to waive citizenship fees for applicants.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser made this revelation in a recent sit-down interview with CIC News in Toronto.

The Canadian government announced shortly before the pandemic in late 2019 it would waive fees for new Canadian citizenship applicants. The pandemic delayed these plans and then Canada held a federal election last September. After the Liberal Party of Canada won their third straight election, Justin Trudeau asked his new immigration minister, Fraser, to follow through with the promise to waive citizenship fees. This is outlined in Fraser’s mandate letter, which contains his top immigration policy priorities.

When asked by CIC News on when this promise may be implemented, the minister responded “We don’t have a date for you, and I feel it’s best to be open.”

“The reason why is the decision to waive citizenship fees is not something that just exists within our [Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC] authorities.”

He explained that the authority to do so also exists within the federal budgetary process and no decisions have been made yet for the next federal fiscal year.

Canada has one of the highest citizenship uptake rates in the world with some 85% of permanent residents becoming citizens. Prior to the pandemic some 250,000 people became citizens each year. However, some advocates argued that Canadian citizenship fees created barriers for low-income individuals to go ahead and become citizens. This explains why the federal government went ahead and said it wanted to waive fees altogether. It appears the government believes this policy will prove popular. A 2019 policy document by the Liberals suggested the government expected Canadian citizenship applications to increase 40% by 2024.

The Canadian citizenship application backlog increased significantly during the pandemic, which Fraser explained is a function of factors such as IRCC employees needing to work remotely and the lack of in-person citizenship ceremonies at the start of the pandemic. In April 2020, the citizenship inventory stood at 240,000 persons but it grew to 468,000 persons by October 2021. Recent data suggests IRCC has been making progress, with the backlog now at 395,000 persons.

Permanent residents who which to become Canadian citizens must meet certain criteria, such as physically residing in Canada for at least 1,095 days during the five years before they sign their citizenship application. Canadian citizenship by descent is also available to the first generation born abroad to a Canadian parent.

Fraser provided assurances that he is committed to fulfilling the policy priorities in his mandate letter. “Once we have news on that [waiving citizenship fees], we will be broadcasting it as widely as possible so that people know what to expect and timing for it to actually come into effect.”

Source: No date set for IRCC to waive Canadian citizenship application fees

Immigration minister says he’s working on a faster path to permanence for temporary residents

Of note. Quoted in article as is CERC’s Rupa Banergee:

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says his government is preparing to reinstate a program that would help to speed up the process of turning newcomers in Canada under temporary permits into permanent residents.

“We are looking right now at the best path forward to create a permanent pathway for temporary residents,” he told CBC’s The House in an interview airing this weekend.

A previous program called the “temporary resident to permanent resident pathway” — or TR to PR — was put in place last year for eight months after COVID-19 lockdowns shut the border to newcomers to prevent the spread of the virus.

It gave 90,000 essential workers, front-line health care workers and international students like Kushdeep Singh an accelerated path to permanent status.

Singh arrived in 2019 to study business administration at Norquest College in Edmonton. The temporary TR to PR program was announced just as he was preparing to write his final exams.

“When I first came to Canada I thought, ‘It’s gonna take almost about four years.’ Two years of my studies then two years of waiting for my PR application,” he said.

Instead, the approval came through in less than a year.

“And I told my mom. She was so, so happy,” he said. “I think she was happy because I know how hard she also worked for me, like all my journey since I came here and … how she also sacrifices, like sending me away from her, so that was a good moment.”

Clock is ticking

Fraser said the new program won’t be identical to the old one. He said he’s working under a tight 120-day timeline established in a motion approved by the Commons last month.

“That actually puts me on a clock to come up with a framework to establish this new permanent residency pathway, not just for international students, but also for temporary foreign workers,” he said.

“We’re in the depths of planning the policy so we can have a policy that’s not driven by a need to respond urgently in the face of an emergency, but actually to have a permanent pathway that provides a clear path for those seeking permanent residency who can enter Canada.”

Rupa Banerjee is a Canada research chair focusing on immigration issues at Toronto Metropolitan University. She said continuing to fast-track some people to permanent resident status is good policy.

“Focusing on individuals who are already in the country, that was an essential move at the time, when we had border closures and a lot of the pandemic restrictions,” she said during a separate panel discussion on The House.

“It also is really beneficial because we know that those who already have Canadian work experience, Canadian education, they do tend to fare better once they become permanent residents relative to those who come in one step straight from abroad.”

The federal government set a goal of accepting 432,000 newcomers this year alone. Fraser said his department is ahead of schedule, despite the pandemic and the unexpected pressures of working to resettle thousands of people fleeing conflict in both Afghanistan and Ukraine.

“This week we actually resettled the 200,000th permanent resident, more than a month and a half ahead of any year on record in Canada,” he said. “We are seeing similar trends across other lines of business like citizenship, like work permits, which in many instances are double the usual rate of processing.”

Too many pathways?

Despite the higher numbers, concerns remain about processing backlogs and what Andrew Griffith — a former senior bureaucrat with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada — calls an overly complicated immigration system with too many programs.

There are just so many pathways to immigrate to Canada. And I’m not convinced that anybody applying to Canada — or even the people who try to manage the program — that they have a full grip in terms of the program,” he said. “So there’s a real case, I think, to be made for simplification.”

Griffith argued the number of newcomers being accepted is less important than who is coming to Canada — what skills they bring and whether they can help this country improve productivity and economic growth.

Banerjee agreed that the number of newcomers is less important than who they are and whether there are services available to help them adjust to life here.

“The question is, can we actually integrate these individuals so that they can really contribute to the Canadian economy and also to Canadian society, more importantly?” he said.

Source: Immigration minister says he’s working on a faster path to permanence for temporary residents

Minister Fraser celebrates Citizenship Week

Yet another missed opportunity to release the revised citizenship guide! Understand the guide has been ready and approved for some time.

No surprise on elimination of citizenship fees given not in Budget 2022.

Don’t understand the reference to “Most recently, these amendments include broadening the interpretation of “citizenship by descent” to be more inclusive for families.” as the first generation limit has not been change, although Bill S-245 has been approved in the Senate but has not reached first reading in the House:

The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today issued the following statement to mark the start of Citizenship Week, which runs from May 23 to 29, 2022:

“Today, I join Canadians from coast to coast to coast to mark the beginning of Citizenship Week. This week is a chance to celebrate what it means to be Canadian—from the rights we enjoy, to the responsibilities we share, to the diversity that makes us a strong and proud nation.

“This year, we marked the 75th anniversary of the first Canadian Citizenship Act. The passage of the Act, which was later replaced with the Citizenship Act in 1977, was a monumental moment in Canadian history that shaped the identity we share today. In the days that followed, Canada held its first-ever citizenship ceremony, establishing a formalized rite of passage that millions of new Canadians have taken part in since.

“Canada is known around the world as a country that respects and celebrates our differences. As we have grown, we have amended our Citizenship Act so that it reflects our values and promotes an inclusive society. Most recently, these amendments include broadening the interpretation of “citizenship by descent” to be more inclusive for families. They also include establishing a new Oath of Citizenship that recognizes the inherent and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and the obligation that all citizens have to uphold the treaties between the Crown and Indigenous nations. We are committed to ensuring that the tragic parts of our history are not forgotten, as we continue on the path of reconciliation.

“Canadian citizenship holds so much significance and meaning. For some, it represents the achievement of a dream and the promise of a new life. For others, it is an innate and unbreakable bond to the beautiful country we call home.

“For all of us, citizenship remains a commitment not only to Canada, but to our fellow Canadians. Whether volunteering for a community project, helping out a neighbour in need or welcoming newcomers to our country, I encourage all Canadians to look for ways to take part in building a strong, inclusive and prosperous Canada—this week and every week.”

Source: Minister Fraser celebrates Citizenship Week

Canada expands settlement support for Ukrainians coming to Canada

Press release confirming these precedents, again drawing contrasts with other groups of refugees:

The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that Canada is offering temporary federal support to help Ukrainians settle in their new communities. Settlement Program services, which are typically only available to permanent residents, will soon be extended until March 31, 2023, for temporary residents in Canada eligible under the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET). This is an extraordinary temporary measure aimed at supporting Ukrainians arriving under this special, accelerated temporary residence pathway. Key services that will be available to Ukrainians as they settle into their new communities include

  • language training
  • information about and orientation to life in Canada, such as help with enrolling children in school
  • information and services to help access the labour market, including mentoring, networking, counselling, skills development and training
  • activities that promote connections with communities
  • assessments of other needs Ukrainians may have and referrals to appropriate agencies
  • services targeted to the needs of women, seniors, youth and LGBTQ2+ persons
  • other settlement supports available through the Settlement Program

Settlement services are delivered through more than 550 agencies across Canada. The Government of Canada will continue working closely with provinces and territories, which are mobilizing to support Ukrainians arriving in Canada. They play a key role in helping temporary residents through settlement and social services.

Starting early April 2022, the Canadian Red Cross, in support of the Government of Canada, will provide arrival services at the Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver international airports. This support includes providing translation services, as well as information in their language of choice to help connect Ukrainians with government and community services.

We have also created a Ukraine Cross-Sectoral Collaboration Governance Table, which will bring together settlement sector leadership, provincial and territorial representatives, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Canadian Red Cross, federal partners and other stakeholders. This table will facilitate communication and collaboration on the Ukraine response and will help to triage logistics for cash donations and volunteers.

IRCC is exempting certain individuals who are low-risk from providing biometrics on a case-by-case basis at the decision maker’s discretion. Biometrics are currently a requirement before arrival in Canada for the majority of Ukrainian nationals. IRCC relies on biometrics for identity management and to ensure the integrity of Canada’s visa programs. The collection of biometrics is an essential component of the security screening process to protect the safety and security of Canadians and Ukrainian nationals when they arrive on Canadian soil. The easing of biometrics requirements will ensure Ukrainian nationals arrive in Canada as quickly and as safely as possible.

Service Canada is working with service delivery partners to provide Ukrainian newcomers with information about Government of Canada programs and services, in particular the social insurance number (SIN), including through SIN clinics delivered at convenient locations. To help connect Ukrainian newcomers with available jobs, the government also launched Job Bank’s Jobs for Ukraine webpage, including a fact sheet in Ukrainian, on March 17, 2022. Since its launch, the site has been viewed close to 96,000 times.

Canadians have been stepping up to help Ukrainians. Together, and with our partners, we will welcome Ukrainians into our communities and provide the supports they need to thrive, until they can safely return home.

Source: Canada expands settlement support for Ukrainians coming to Canada

Streamlined immigration program for Ukrainians creates a ‘two-tiered,’ ‘racialized’ system, opposition says

Interesting that a Conservative MP, Brad Redekopp, raised the issue, given the party’s close connection to Ukrainian Canadians and that 14 percent of his riding, Saskatoon West, is of Ukrainian ancestry:

Opposition parties says the Liberal government’s streamlined immigration program for Ukrainians creates a two-tiered, racialized system that prioritizes Ukrainian immigrants over refugees from other conflict zones, including Afghanistan.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser appeared before the House of Commons immigration committee Thursday, where he faced questions about the differences between the government’s new special program and its dedicated refugee resettlement initiatives. During the meeting, Conservative committee member Brad Redekopp accused the government of prioritizing Ukrainian immigrants over Afghan refugees.

“Under your watch, it seems like you’ve set up a racialized system, a two-tiered system, where white Europeans come in faster than people from Afghanistan. How do you explain that?” Mr. Redekopp asked the minister.

Mr. Fraser rejected Mr. Redekopp’s claim, saying the situation in Ukraine demands a different response. He noted that Ukrainians can find their way to other Western countries for Canadian processing and biometrics screening more easily than Afghans.

“It has more to do with their ability to leave Ukraine, compared to … those who don’t have that ability to leave Afghanistan, than it does a decision by the federal government to be more kind to one group of people than another,” Mr. Fraser said.

He added that the government opted to offer streamlined immigration measures to Ukrainians, rather than a dedicated refugee program, because European counterparts and the Ukrainian Canadian community have indicated that most Ukrainians who come to Canada will want to eventually return home. This is not the case with people coming from Afghanistan, he said, hence the need for a refugee program.

“With respect to Afghanistan, I wish the circumstances were the same. I don’t have the same hope that it will be safe for the people that we are welcoming permanently as refugees to return home one day, despite their potential desire to do so, and that’s allowed us to create difference responses for the unique circumstances.”

Jenny Kwan, NDP immigration critic, also said the government has made it easier for Ukrainians compared with refugees from other countries. She noted what witnesses have told the committee regarding the discrepancy.

“They all said that they support the special measures for Ukraine, but what they’re concerned about is that it’s not being applied elsewhere. All the witnesses agree that government should extend those special immigration measures to other regions also experiencing conflict, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Hong Kong, et cetera,” Ms. Kwan said during the committee meeting.

Mr. Fraser said he wants to see the impact of the special measures for Ukrainians first before considering any similar streamlined programs.

Last year, the government committed to resettling 40,000 refugees from Afghanistan, and so far more than 9,500 have arrived in Canada since August. Much like the Liberal government’s Syrian refugee resettlement program, Afghan refugees have access to federal services and the Resettlement Assistance Program.

More than 10,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since Jan. 1. Most travelled to Canada under their own devices before the government announced the special immigration measures last week, Mr. Fraser said.

The Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel eliminates most of the normal visa requirements and allows Ukrainians to stay in Canada for up to three years if they pass a background check and security screening. The measures are offered through the immigration stream; as a result, Ukrainians are not considered refugees and will not have access to the same support.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress recently called on the federal government to implement departure and arrival plans to assist Ukrainians with travel to Canada, provide financial support for a transitional period and encourage provincial governments to recruit and sponsor displaced people. The UCC is also urging the government to provide funding for settlement agencies, which could help Ukrainians co-ordinate transport, housing and health care and assist with work permit applications.

The government is in the process of setting up a family reunification program that would allow relatives in Canada to sponsor family members from Ukraine to move here permanently. Details are expected in the coming weeks.

Source: Streamlined immigration program for Ukrainians creates a ‘two-tiered,’ ‘racialized’ system, opposition says