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

Ukrainians fleeing war can stay in Canada for three years, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says

Including for some of the messaging and commentary:

The federal government has extended the amount of time Ukrainians fleeing the war with Russia can stay in Canada through a streamlined visa program.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser had previously said Ukrainians would be allowed to stay for two years. But in announcing the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel on Thursday, he said Ukrainians and their immediate family members of any nationality will be able to stay in Canada for three years.

“The stay was increased from two years to three, to give Ukrainian nationals the flexibility to stay longer, should they choose to do so,” Aidan Strickland, a spokesperson for the Immigration Minister, said in a statement.

Under the visa program, Ukrainians can leave and return to Canada any time while their visa is valid, Ms. Strickland said.

Overseas applicants will have to apply online for a Canadian visitor visa and provide their biometric data – which includes fingerprints and a photo.

Ukrainian workers, students and visitors, as well as their family members already in Canada, can either apply to extend their visitor status or work permit for three years, apply for a new work or study permit, or extend their existing permit.

All application fees are being waived.

On the shift to three years, Ihor Michalchyshyn, executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said in a statement, “We view it positively.”

But Mr. Michalchyshyn said there’s a need for additional funding and support to make the transition to Canada work.

“Our community is committed to working with the government to welcome and support these Ukrainians,” he said.

The UN refugee agency says three million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion.

This week, Canada’s border agency said 3,368 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada in that time.

Meanwhile, the federal government is under pressure to lower barriers for Ukrainians coming to Canada via such measures as lifting visa requirements and co-ordinating a special airlift from the region.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not ruled out the airlift option. “If there is sufficient demand that requires us to do more like sending airlifts, we will look at that,” Mr. Trudeau said during a news conference this week.

Earlier this month, Mr. Fraser said the government has looked at waiving visa requirements, but decided against the option because it would take 12 to 14 weeks to make the change.

Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan, the party’s opposition critic, said he was happy for the people of Ukraine that the minister was able to deliver on his timeline announcing the launch of a new temporary resident pathway.

“However, I continue to share the frustration I hear from far too many immigrants facing our broken immigration system’s endless backlogs, red tape and inflexibility; including Afghan refugees who are still waiting on previous special immigration programs promised by this government to fast track them into Canada,” Mr. Hallan said in a statement.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the extension of the program to three years is a positive development.

“I would welcome that change so that people would have a longer time to contemplate their plans, and whether or not they want to stay in Canada or return to Ukraine when the conflict is over,” Ms. Kwan said in an interview.

However, Ms. Kwan said she is concerned that the government still requires people to go through a visa process, with the challenge of securing access to sites to provide their biometric data.

She said visa-free travel would be the best approach for the government to pursue because it would allow Ukrainians to fly to Canada without going through this process.

Ms. Kwan noted that, for example, Ireland implemented visa-free travel for Ukrainians within a few days.

Source: Ukrainians fleeing war can stay in Canada for three years, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says

Immigration Minister Fraser takes heat for ‘short-sighted’ approach to processing backlogs

Informative account and opposition right to hold government to account on processing times and the choices and trade-offs they made in order to meet the higher levels in 2021:

Opposition MPs accused Immigration Minister Sean Fraser of being “misleading” about processing times for Canada’s considerable immigration backlog, with the department’s timeline to address the 1.8 million applications still “opaque.”

Fraser (Central Nova, N.S.) fielded questions and took heat from some MPs on the House Immigration and Citizenship Committee during his Feb. 15 briefing on immigration timelines and acceptance rates.

The government’s fall economic statement promised to inject $85-million into Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to reduce the backlog of 1.8 million applications that continues to grow. The funding is being specifically directed towards reducing processing times for work and study permits, permanent residency applications, and visitor visas. Much of the money is being used to automate aspects of the application review process, as well as introducing electronic systems for immigration applicants to review the status of their applications.

In response to a question from NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) about the processing times for family reunification applications, Fraser enthusiastically shared that immigration processing times were back to the service standard of 12 months.

Fraser acknowledged there were some “real frustrations” for some whose family reunification applications got stuck in limbo while Canada’s borders were closed due to the pandemic.

But, through federal investments in the system, including hiring 500 staff, Fraser said IRCC now has “the capacity to process new applications and family reunification streams in 12 months in accordance with the service standard that has existed since before the pandemic.”

However, later in the meeting, officials from IRCC confirmed this standard processing time is only back in place for new applications—not for those applicants who are still pending in the backlog. After hearing this, Kwan said the minister’s comments were “misleading.”

The 12-month processing time only applies to people who are submitting applications starting this year, Daniel Mills, senior assistant deputy minister at IRCC, told MPs at committee.

“However we do have to work on the backlog or the inventory that we have, and that’s what we are doing,” he said.

In the Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 tabled in Parliament on Feb. 14, Fraser set new goals for immigration levels, raising this year’s goal of 411,000 new immigrants to 432,000, with the hope to reach immigration levels of 451,000 newcomers to Canada by 2024. One way the department plans to do this, he said, is by boosting departmental productivity due to a new digital platform in the works. For MPs at committee, however, questions still remained as to how the department will clear the existing backlog, rather than more quickly process new and future applications.

In an interview with The Hill Times, Kwan said she hears from constituents who have family who have applied through the family reunification stream that have been stuck in the system for two or three years “all of the time.”

“Those people have already missed the boat with respect to that processing standard,” Kwan concluded. “And they’re going to probably get another problem because soon people will come back and say, ‘how come the newer applicants got processed before me?’”

Kwan called it a “short-sighted way of dealing with the situation.”

“They’re trying to create this perception that they are somehow on top of things, when in fact, frankly, they’re not. And the system remains opaque. There’s a lack of transparency, and lack of accountability,” she said.

At committee, Conservative MP Rosemarie Falk (Battlefords-Lloydminster, Sask.) followed up on Kwan’s point.

“I’m actually very concerned with what MP Kwan had just brought up. What I had heard you as the official say is that applicants as of this month, February 2022, will have the service standard of 12 months. So what is happening to all of the backlogs previous to this? What is the timeframe to clean these backlogs up?”

The department’s answer: “it depends.” Family class applications, for instance, has 35,000 pending applications, Mills said, and the department processed 8,000 applications in January—above the average processing rate of about 6,000 applications per month the department saw in 2021.

Falk pressed officials during the same exchange to offer details on Fraser’s instructions to the department.

“What direction has the minister given the department to clean up these backlogs, that I’m hearing the excuse of the delayed processing times is because of COVID?”

Mills told Folk the department is trying to reduce the inventory and process them “as quickly as we can.” That is being sped up through digitization of files, which allows the department to process applications virtually, he said.

Off the bat, Fraser laid blame for the backlog at the feet of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the members of the committee know, the pandemic has caused applicants processing delays and backlogs,” he said in French. In English, “folks, it’s not lost on me that there are challenges when it comes to processing in the immigration system,” he stated.

Several members of the committee across parties did not accept that premise, and said the COVID-19 pandemic was being used as an “excuse.”

Kwan said “that excuse is running tired.”

“Let’s face it, there were backlogs pre-pandemic. There’s no question that COVID has exacerbated it. But you know, we’re more than two years into the pandemic,” said Kwan, who is her party’s immigration critic.

Fraser said the primary cause of the backlog was the fact that during the first year of the pandemic when borders were closed, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada stopped bringing in new immigrants, and instead processed the applications of newcomers and permanent residents who were already in Canada.

COVID-19 public health orders also resulted in the shut-down of a number of in-person immigration offices and services within an application process that requires some elements to be conducted in-person. Prior to the pandemic, for instance, citizenship ceremonies were only ever done in-person, and initially, the pandemic put these ceremonies on hold. Now, the minister said they are able to conduct them online, which should help expedite the clearing of that backlog.

“At the same time, when we were welcoming people who were located in Canada already, we continued to see a significant number of applications that were coming in from people who were overseas,” Fraser said.

He said he believed it was the right decision to make, and as a result of focusing on applications of people who were already here, Canada welcomed the most new permanent residents in any year.

“But we knew that that would come with certain consequences that we now need to deal with.”

At the meeting, Conservative MP Kyle Seeback (Dufferin-Caledon, Ont.) cited backlog figures including 548,000 Permanent Resident applications, 112,392 refugee applications, 775,000 temporary resident applications, including study permits and work permits, and; 468,000 Canadian citizenship applications.

Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan (Calgary Forest Lawn, Alta.) also took issue with the suggestion that COVID-19 was responsible for the delays and lack of communication he is hearing about from Afghan refugees and their families who are trying to come to Canada.

“You know, it’s easy for now to say, you know, it’s COVID, and we didn’t have time or IRCC wasn’t prepared, but I mean, [the government was] more prepared for an election plan than they were for an evacuation plan. And the same thing goes with IRCC… I don’t think we can use COVID as an excuse anymore for what’s going on,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

MP Hallan’s exchange with the minister became heated early in the meeting, with Hallan concluding his line of questioning with accusations of the election taking priority over Afghan refugees. Tensions were high at the meeting as Conservative MP Brad Redekopp (Saskatoon West, Sask.) accused immigration officials of “remarkable callousness” in their lack of response to applicants, citing an instance in which one of his constituents’ permanent residence card was 66 days overdue, meaning she could not travel home to visit her dying mother.

“Is this a systematic failure based upon incompetence or are you maliciously blocking PR cards for people who want to see their dying parents?” Redekopp asked. The minister said he would “pass on commenting” on malicious intent.

“I can reassure all members of this House that any challenges that we are facing are due to the circumstances tied to the pressures that COVID-19 has put on Canada’s immigration system, including on PR cards, which typically require somebody to show up for an in-person appointment when many of the offices have been closed down and there hasn’t been that opportunity for face to face engagement,” Fraser said.

Source: Immigration Minister Fraser takes heat for ‘short-sighted’ approach to processing backlogs

Le ministre fédéral attend le «go» de Québec pour accueillir plus d’immigrants

Of interest:

Il considère que son gouvernement est le plus ambitieux de tous les temps en matière d’immigration, et n’attend qu’une hausse des cibles du Québec pour y faire venir plus de nouveaux arrivants. Le nouveau ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, Sean Fraser, a partagé avec Le Devoir sa vision de ce qu’il compte faire avec le système d’immigration canadien.

Délais colossaux, accumulation de dossiers non traités, qualité des services décriée, règles changeantes : le ministère fédéral de l’Immigration, des Réfugiés et de la Citoyenneté (IRCC) a été l’un des plus critiqués depuis le début de la pandémie. C’est pourtant l’une des fiertés du gouvernement Trudeau, dit M. Fraser, qui convient que « faire croître le système au rythme et à l’envergure que nous souhaitons va créer certains défis ».

Jeune député de 37 ans, ministre depuis octobre, il a grandi dans une communauté rurale de la Nouvelle-Écosse, où le dépeuplement n’a pu être freiné que par un apport de nouveaux arrivants dont les familles regarnissent peu à peu les écoles. « L’immigration va toucher tous les aspects de la vie telle que nous la connaissons ici au Canada, pour tout avenir prévisible. »

Il y a rarement eu autant d’emplois disponibles dans notre histoire, note-t-il à propos de la pénurie de main-d’œuvre. Pour se remettre économiquement de ces derniers mois difficiles, sa solution est donc de miser sur davantage d’immigration.

Hausse des cibles québécoises

Qu’en est-il pour le Québec ? « Je crois que le Québec est conscient du besoin de recourir à l’immigration pour s’assurer que les entreprises trouvent des travailleurs », expose le nouveau responsable du dossier à Ottawa.

Le Québec a diminué ses cibles d’immigration depuis 2019, au moment où Ottawa ambitionne d’accueillir un nombre record de 1,2 million d’immigrants d’ici 2023. La province est en rattrapage après la diminution des arrivées en 2020 à cause de la pandémie, mais accueille quand même moins que sa part démographique.

Sean Fraser se garde de critiquer la province, mais formule quelques encouragements à faire plus. « S’ils veulent augmenter ce nombre, croyez-moi, je suis plus que prêt à collaborer avec eux », dit M. Fraser, qui rappelle que c’est la province qui transmet ses cibles au gouvernement fédéral.

Le ministre Fraser s’apprête justement à rencontrer, jeudi, son homologue québécois, le ministre Jean Boulet, avec lequel il se dit prêt à discuter de « n’importe laquelle de ses priorités ».

Depuis son arrivée au pouvoir, le gouvernement de François Legault a énoncé à plusieurs reprises sa volonté de « rapatrier » la totalité du programme des travailleurs étrangers temporaires. Pour le ministre fédéral, les rôles seront « toujours partagés », mais il garde la possibilité pour Québec de « signaler les candidats prioritaires » pour les postes temporaires.

Réfugiés afghans

Autre dossier chaud dont hérite le ministre Fraser : l’accueil de 40 000 réfugiés afghans, une promesse électorale des libéraux déjà entachée de retards.

Actuellement, à peine 10 % des réfugiés promis sont bel et bien arrivés au Canada. « Aujourd’hui, c’est 4700 [réfugiés afghans arrivés]. D’ici la fin de la semaine, il y en aura 520 de plus », précise-t-il, en disant croire que le programme prendra sa vitesse de croisière.

Pas question, selon lui, de comparer l’opération afghane à celle de réinstallation des réfugiés syriens en 2015. « Nous n’avons pas de présence en Afghanistan », a rappelé le ministre, en évoquant la difficulté de composer avec les talibans. « Ils n’ont aucune expertise en logistique et en déplacement de personnes, ils ne savent pas comment gérer un aéroport de manière professionnelle, l’infrastructure sur le terrain n’est tout simplement pas là. »

Les 25 000 réfugiés syriens réinstallés par un gouvernement libéral précédent étaient pour la plupart dans des camps administrés par les Nations unies. Cette fois, « l’un des principaux goulots d’étranglement est la capacité de nos partenaires sur le terrain à référer des réfugiés ».

Une machine mal huilée ?

Toutes catégories confondues, 1,8 million de dossiers seraient toujours en attente de traitement, selon IRCC. Au Québec, environ 50 000 personnes attendent leur résidence permanente, et les délais sont de trois ans en moyenne, soit bien plus longs qu’ailleurs au Canada.

Ce problème de délais a été exacerbé par la pandémie, avance Sean Fraser. L’une des solutions est le virage numérique du système, qui traite encore des dossiers sur papier à l’heure actuelle. Il souhaite également embaucher encore plus de personnel pour traiter les dossiers.

« Mais on ne fait pas pivoter un navire de 90 degrés en 10 secondes », insiste le ministre. « Vous devez le prendre centimètre par centimètre et vous déplacer aussi rapidement que possible, de manière à maintenir la capacité de fonctionnement du système. »

Immigration francophone

Encore faut-il que le pays réussisse à faire venir des immigrants francophones. Plus de 75 000 d’entre eux auraient été nécessaires pour maintenir le poids des francophones hors du Québec, a récemment souligné le commissaire aux langues officielles.

Plusieurs politiciens québécois ont aussi vu une « discrimination » dans la hausse du taux de refus de permis des étudiants africains francophones, comme Le Devoir l’a révélé.

« Ce n’est certainement pas une décision délibérée de réduire l’immigration francophone, mais il est clair que nous avons un problème sur lequel nous devons travailler », concède le ministre Fraser. Avec l’énergie du nouveau venu dans ces dossiers, il dit cependant y voir « une opportunité » : les étudiants étrangers s’intègrent bien, tant sur les plans linguistique que professionnel, mentionne-t-il.

Une autre avenue pour augmenter cette immigration est de se tourner vers des bassins de réfugiés francophones, dit M. Fraser.

Le nouveau ministre refuse de brosser un portrait pessimiste du système d’immigration canadien. Il défend les critères « objectifs » utilisés pour juger les candidats à l’immigration, mais il convient que ceux-ci engendrent « un résultat systémique » envers les ressortissants des pays les plus pauvres. Il faut donc aller au-delà de ce résultat, dit-il, sans compromettre la protection du système en place.

« Il n’y a pas, à travers le monde, de pénurie de gens qui veulent devenir Canadiens, et nous restons une destination de choix », conclut-il.

Source: Le ministre fédéral attend le «go» de Québec pour accueillir plus d’immigrants

Canada’s immigration minister says he wants to look into ‘issue’ of discrimination and bias within department 

Immigration is essentially discriminatory in terms of who we select. The challenge is to ensure that the criteria are as objective and neutral as possible with respect to country of origin:

Canada’s immigration minister says he wants to look into the “issue” of discrimination and unconscious bias within the department tasked with triaging and approving immigration requests to Canada.

“Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve become aware of this issue, and it’s something that I personally want to look into,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told reporters Wednesday as he entered a Liberal caucus meeting.

“There’s no secret that over the course of Canada’s history, unconscious bias and systemic racism have been a shameful part of Canada’s history over different aspects of the government’s operations. One of the things that we want to do is make sure that … this kind of unconscious bias doesn’t discriminate against people who come from a particular part of the world.”

Fraser was responding to questions on a recent report in Montreal newspaper Le Devoir that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is increasingly refusing foreign student applications from francophone African countries to Quebec, whereas English-speaking applicants are increasingly approved.

Immigration lawyers quoted in the report stated that IRCC recently refused applications from nearly 100 per cent of students from Maghreb and Western African countries applying to study in Quebec.

Fraser says he’s certain that the department was not consciously discriminating against those countries, but he still wants to look into it to make sure no other factors than those set out in immigration legislation are being considered when assessing requests.

“I certainly don’t think that there’s been a decision actively to pick one country over another. I think there’s certain factors that IRCC officials assess when they’re trying to admit more newcomers to Canada,” Fraser said.

“But it would be silly if I were to stand here and say that in a department of 11,000 people, if you look at the different operations of IRCC, to say that there is no discrimination,” he added.

He also promised to look at ways to bring more, not less, French-speaking students into Canada.

“International students are one of the groups that successfully integrate more and more so than just about any other group of newcomers,” Fraser said. “That’s a good thing, not just for the newcomer to Canada, but for our economy as well.”

Reporters then asked the newly-minted minister if it was ironic that there would be issues of discrimination and conscious or unconscious bias in the department tasked with handling foreign immigration.

“I think there’s a big distinction between what should be and what is,” the minister responded. “I think we need to constantly be looking to make sure that the public has faith in the system.”

In a follow-up statement, Fraser’s press secretary noted that the minister intended to continue the work already launched by IRCC to “eradicate racism” within the department, including creating a task force dedicated to the task “full-time,” mandatory unconscious bias training for employees and executives and appointing an “anti-racism representative” within each sector of the department.

Earlier this year, IRCC published a report based on focus groups of its employees that revealed that there were multiple and repeated reports of racist incidents within the workplace.

“Experiences of racism at IRCC include microaggressions, biases in hiring and promotion as well as biases in the delivery of IRCCs programs, policies and client service,” reads a summary of the findings, which were first reported by CBC last month.

“In addition, employees paint a picture of an organization fraught with challenges at the level of workplace culture” and a “history of racism going unchecked.”

For example, the report notes that an IRCC team leader was said to have “loudly” declared that colonialism was “good” and that “if ‘the natives’ wanted the land they should have just stood up.

In another case, non-racialized employees and supervisors were notoriously known to refer to parts of the department employing a higher number of racialized employees as “the ghetto.”

Participants also noted “widespread” internal references to certain African nations as “the dirty 30.”


Soaring backlogs, disgruntled applicants — Canada’s immigration system has been upended by COVID-19. This is the man in charge of fixing it

Some initial messaging from the new minister of immigration. No major change from his predecessor, as expected:

Sean Fraser says he knew what he was getting into when he was tapped to be Canada’s next immigration minister.

“Things are at such a strained point as a result of COVID-19 that I see an opportunity to make an extraordinary difference coming from this particular starting point,” the Nova Scotia MP says.

“There are no shortage of challenges ahead of me.”

Few other federal services have seen so much disruption as the immigration system during the pandemic, with the operation grinding to a halt and staff working remotely with antiquated infrastructure and travel restricted for newcomers abroad due to border closures.

It’s laid bare the many existing problems with immigration operations, from out-of-date technologies that still relied on paper applications and processing, to administrative red tape built up over the years and a lack of resources to meet the insatiable demand for immigration to this country.

In his first major media interview since inheriting the job on Oct. 26. from Marco Mendicino, now the public safety minister, Fraser, a rising star within the Trudeau government, highlighted some of the priorities that call for his immediate attention.

As countries worldwide are all trying to reopen their economies at the same time and competing for the same pool of workers, he said Canada must stay competitive in the global search of talent.

Streamlining the system and digitalizing the application process will be crucial to boosting the processing capacity of the immigration system and improving user experience, he added.

“We have to make a decision of whether we’re going to increase the overall levels to accommodate the intense demand that we’re seeing from people who want to come to Canada,” Fraser said.

“If there’s going to be 400,000 people that are able to come to Canada in a given year and we have 700,000 applicants, it doesn’t take a PhD in mathematics to understand that that’s going to lead to a further buildup of the backlog. So we do have to take strategic decisions about how many people our communities can accommodate successfully.”

As of July 31, according to the immigration department, more than 561,700 people were in the queue for permanent residence and 748,381 had a pending temporary residence application as students, workers or visitors while the backlog for citizenship stood at 376,458 people.

Fraser says he doesn’t have a target timeline for how long it will take to eliminate the backlog, but there are numerous initiatives already in place toward that goal — and other changes will also be made.

“I don’t want to communicate to you today that in a short period of time, all of these problems will be fixed. They weren’t made overnight and they won’t be fixed overnight,” he said.

“I want to accelerate the work that’s going to help clear some of these backlogs. It’s going to make the process less painful for families that are trying to pursue a new life or reunite with their loved ones or find a job to contribute to our economy.”

Fraser said the digitalization of citizenship applications has already taken place and in the months ahead, there will be “serious reforms” on applications for spousal reunification.

There could also be legislative changes in order to remove what Fraser calls the system’s “choke points” as new policies are being developed.

For example, he said it just doesn’t make sense to deny entry of a foreign national with a pending family reunification application to be with their spouse or children in Canada because of their intent to stay in the country permanently. The provision in the law has set many families apart while their applications are in process, sometimes for years.

“It’s easy to get bogged down in a conversation about the number of cases and the inventory. But in my role, you will not succeed if you don’t realize that every one of these cases or numbers in the inventory represents a human being,” Fraser said.

“This will take longer than most people would like, longer than I would like. But if you want to change a system as large as Canada’s immigration regime, to do it right and to succeed, you have to put the time in.”

Born in Antigonish and raised in Merigomish, a small community in Nova’s Scotia’s Pictou County, Fraser is one of the rare immigration ministers from rural Canada.

Like many young people from small remote communities, he — and his five sisters — had to leave for larger urban centres for education and job opportunities. With an undergraduate degree in science from St. Francis Xavier University, the 37-year-old went on to study law at Dalhousie University and at Leiden University in the Netherlands before working at a large law firm in Calgary.

Many communities have struggled with an aging population and out-migration of young people, and immigration is a crucial part of the solution, he said.

“When you have more people around the world coming up, coming into your community, opening businesses, opening restaurants, creating a more dynamic place to live, you see more Canadians flocking to those communities to have that kind of dynamic culture and life experience as well,” said Fraser.

Fraser said the bulk of most of his days since his appointment as the immigration minister has evolved around the Afghan refugee resettlement. The Liberal government has made a commitment to bring in 40,000 Afghan newcomers and so far only 3,500 have made it to Canada.

“Canadians are right to be frustrated about what’s going on in Afghanistan,” he said. “The reality on the ground right now is that we don’t have access the way we did in Syria, and that’s the equation that a lot of Canadians I think are trying to make.”

The government’s strategy is to work with partners in Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and the United States — all struggling to resettle the Afghan refugees — to bring the Afghans to a permanent home. “Our commitment does not waver,” he said.

Although he was honoured by Maclean’s magazine as the “Best Orator” and a finalist for “Rising Star” in the last government, Fraser said he’s just a guy who cares deeply about people.

“I very much want to ensure that Canada treats people with a sense of dignity, respect and fairness.”

Source: Soaring backlogs, disgruntled applicants — Canada’s immigration system has been upended by COVID-19. This is the man in charge of fixing it