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.”

Source: https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/canadas-immigration-minister-says-he-wants-to-look-into-issue-of-potential-discrimination-and-bias-within-department

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