Susan Delacourt: COVID-19 has made Canada wary of newcomers. So how can Ottawa make the case for the immigrants we so desperately need?

More on Minister Mendicino’s thinking:

On the fateful day in March that the COVID-19 virus officially became an international pandemic, Canada’s immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, was paying tribute to employers who hire newcomers to this country.

The ceremony was held at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on March 11 and, as the proceedings were getting under way, the host read aloud a bracing bulletin from German chancellor Angela Merkel. The virus, Merkel had just declared, could infect up to 70 per cent of Germans.

Mendicino was stopped in his tracks. A little over a week before, he had been sitting beside Merkel at an immigration-themed event in Berlin, where he had been invited to share stories of how Canada handled the integration of newcomers.

That event had been a big deal for a rookie minister, only sworn into cabinet a few months earlier. But this news from Merkel in Germany was suddenly a much bigger deal.

“That was the moment. That was enough to give me and everybody else in the room pause,” Mendicino said. “It was the moment that the world changed for me.”

What made this moment even more surreal is that it came only one day before Mendicino was due to make the annual announcement on how many immigrants would be welcomed to Canada in the years ahead — 341,00 for the coming year; 361,000 by 2022.

Even as Mendicino was gamely rolling out this plan on the Thursday of that week, however, the world was closing its doors. Donald Trump had shut down entry of all travellers from Europe the night before. Canada’s own prime minister, Justin Trudeau, went into isolation that day, after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mendicino was asked at his March 12 news conference about how he could possibly be talking about welcoming more immigrants to Canada while borders were slamming shut all over the planet.

“We are at a moment where we are responding to COVID-19, but we also are planning for the future,” he said. “The future of this country depends on immigration. We need to continue to grow because we have an aging population, an aging workforce.”

Making the case for immigration in an increasingly insular, inward-looking world was already a hard sell. Mendicino says that he and Trudeau talked about this candidly when he was asked to take on the job after the last election. Canada is a lot more polarized over immigration today than it was in the heady days for Trudeau after the 2015 election, when one of the first big gestures of the new Liberal government was to welcome floods of Syrian refugees to Canada.

Since then, Trump has become president; Britain has voted to leave the European Union; and repeated polls in this country show that sentiments about immigration are hardening.

In the midst of this, COVID-19 has very conveniently handed a big win to all those political forces looking for larger walls between nations and stricter limits on who gets into their countries. Add to that the record unemployment the pandemic is causing and, one assumes, accompanying resentment at anyone coming to this country to do jobs Canadians could do.

It didn’t help fans of immigration either that in the early days of the crisis almost all the cases of COVID-19 had come to this country from abroad. Xenophobia, meet germophobia.

Where has that put Canada’s immigration minister in this crisis? I joked to Mendicino before interviewing him this week about whether he is now the Maytag repairman of cabinet, on lonely call, but presiding over a system that has effectively been shut down until further notice.

Mendicino emphatically disagrees with the premise of that joke. For the past two months, he’s set up his office in the basement of his home in Toronto and he hasn’t been short of things to do. While he remains vague on what’s happened to that 341,000 immigrants target — “we’ll have more to say in the fall” — Mendicino would say that people are still arriving here.

According to rough counts from Mendicino’s department, about 3,000 permanent residents arrived in Canada in April — a massive decline from the usual 25,000 or so who arrive as permanent residents each month during normal times. In the first three months of this year, Canada took in nearly 70,000 permanent residents, but the numbers started to tail markedly downward in the last half of March, once the pandemic hit. In addition, the immigration department was busy in April welcoming a little more than 20,000 temporary foreign workers into the country.

Canada still needs immigrants, maybe more now than ever before, Mendicino says, as the pandemic exposes just how dependent this country is on those who come here from abroad to work in essential businesses.

“The notion that somehow immigration has stopped doesn’t square with the reality that we are continuing to welcome temporary workers, international students and continuing to land those who wish to come to Canada, and lend their experience, their hard work to our country,” Mendicino says.

It should be said that for all the help that COVID-19 has given to arguments for closed borders, the pandemic has also forced Canadians to look at how much the economy depends on welcoming workers from elsewhere.

The havoc that the pandemic has been wreaking in long-term-care homes, for instance, has shone a light on how that whole sector is highly dependent on immigrants. Hospitals are similarly reliant. According to StatsCan, one in every four health-care workers in this country is a newcomer to Canada. More than a third of family physicians are immigrants; roughly the same proportions are seen in the fields of nursing, nursing aides and other related occupations.

Then there are the temporary workers in agriculture, urgently needed this spring when planting season was under way across Canada. Universities are already worrying about what will happen if they lose international students, whose high tuition costs account for about half of universities’ tuition revenue by some estimates.

Mendicino believes that all these facts are going to help make the case for immigration, once it’s safe to open the borders again. “Immigration has been a lifeline during the pandemic by safeguarding our food supply, recruiting additional support for our essential services on the front lines of our hospitals,” he says.

But here’s the blunt question: how do you get Canadians feeling good about opening up borders when they’re still extremely cautious about what’s going in and out of their own front doors? Two months of isolationism is going to be a hard habit to break, especially when it comes to envisioning thousands once again at Canada’s gates.

“We’ve adapted our immigration processes so that everyone is screened at the border, not only immigrants but returning Canadians too,” Mendicino says.

This still relatively new immigration minister refuses to be drawn into any questions about whether his job is tougher now or how he’s going to modify his arguments in favour of immigration in a world that has been locked down for two months.

“I have faith that Canadians believe in immigration,” he says. “That’s because they relate to it. It’s part of who we are. At its core, immigration is about people coming together to build a stronger country, which is what we’ve seen throughout our history, throughout this pandemic and, I’m confident, what we will see in the future.”

As with everything around this pandemic, though, no one knows whether this experience will make Canada more closed, or more aware of how much this country is connected to the world. Attitudes to immigration — and Mendicino — will be at the centre of that debate.

Source: Susan Delacourt: COVID-19 has made Canada wary of newcomers. So how can Ottawa make the case for the immigrants we so desperately need?

Feds hint at scaling back immigration due to pandemic fallout

Preliminary signals but we will only know when. the immigration plan is released in the fall:

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting unemployment could lead to immigration to Canada being cut for the first time in a decade.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino hinted as much in testimony to the Commons human resources committee, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

Mendicino said cabinet will be “taking a look at our levels and what is our operational capacity.”

The review “is of course going to be driven by the context,” he said. “As we all know, we are in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

In an Immigration Levels Plan tabled in the Commons on March 12, cabinet proposed raising immigration by about 1% of the population a year, from 331,000 immigrants in 2019 to 341,000 in 2020 and 351,000 in 2021.

But since then, Canada’s unemployment rate has risen to 13%.

“Given Canada’s massive unemployment for the foreseeable future, what is the government’s scale-back planning for economic migrants and refugees for the next two years?” asked Conservative MP Peter Kent.

“Given that the economic crisis will linger after the health crisis has passed, can Canada accommodate an additional 1% of immigrants and refugees added to our population in the foreseeable future?”

Mendicino said the feds will continue to look “at the circumstances including the surrounding context of Canada’s response to COVID-19 as we plan for the future,” and will provide an update in the fall.

Source: Feds hint at scaling back immigration due to pandemic fallout

Canada shares expertise with Germany on successfully integrating immigrants

Over the years, there has been a steady stream of German politicians and officials coming to Canada to learn about Canadian immigration policies and programs.

Environics and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung did an interesting comparison of public attitudes between the two countries: Public sentiment toward immigrants and refugees: Current perspectives in Canada and Germany

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino was in Germany this week to share what Canada has learned from an immigration program that helps newcomers find jobs and learn about life in Canada before they arrive.

At the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mendicino took part in a summit looking at best practices for integrating migrants. Canada was the only foreign country the Germans invited to take part in the summit.

“Our friends in Germany see Canada as a role model, as a country that has achieved success,” Mendicino told CBC News.

Canada’s pre-arrival settlement services provide newcomers with information and supports, including employment assistance, while they’re still overseas. The goal of the program is to better prepare immigrants to ease into Canadian society by educating them about life in Canada and navigating roadblocks they could encounter.

An internal government audit in 2018 found that while the program was valuable in helping newcomers, it had a low uptake due to a lack of widespread awareness about the services available. It concluded there was a “missed opportunity.”In response to that finding, the government set aside $113 million to raise the profile of the program. Mendicino said a recent survey showed that 85 per cent of people who used the services said the program helped them find them a job, and about 88 per cent said the program helped them get foreign credentials recognized in Canada.

Boost for productivity, growth

“If we are able to facilitate integration by speeding up the processes and helping immigrants to land a job, then that will contribute to productivity and growth. It will mean that one more job vacancy is filled and that will contribute to a stronger economy as a whole,” Mendicino said.

The minister said Canada’s pre-arrival settlement services program has been around for about 20 years, undergoing various refinements and adjustments over that period.

Describing Canada and Germany as “like-minded countries,” Mendicino said the two nations have shared values and an understanding that solid integration of immigrants leads to better outcomes for both the newcomers and the country’s economy.

Canada has been praised in past on the world stage for programs that attract and retain workers to communities outside large urban centres, and that link immigration to labour gaps.”What we’re discovering is that some of our strongest G7 partners like Germany are starting to look at Canada as a role model, so that tells me that we certainly have been recognized for having a specific expertise in this area,” he said.

Last year, the OECD praised Canada’s economic migration system as one of the most successful in the world. It said Canada is widely seen as a “benchmark” for other countries.

Programs that assist in successful immigration and attract skilled workers are key to meeting the economic challenges of the future, Mendicino said.

“We will really benefit from continuing to grow our country and our economy through immigration, and that’s part of the narrative that I shared with our friends in Germany,” he said.

IRCC Minister commends Richmond council for tackling birth tourism

No signalling of change or new studies or initiatives as expected (need to await the results of the IRCC, CIHI, StatsCan analysis of those non-resident self-pay on visitor visas compared to other temporary residents):

Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, told the Richmond News the federal government wants to “weed out” abuses of the immigration system, but he added the principle of “jus soli” – birthright citizenship – has served Canada well.

Birthright citizenship has been in existence in Canada since 1947 and it is also a common practise in other countries, like the U.S. and some Commonwealth countries, Mendicino pointed out.

“There are families who do come to Canada and do avail themselves of this principle and they’re able to bestow upon their children Canadian citizenship as a result of this principle – along with that a number of rights and privileges,” he said, adding “it’s a principle that has absolutely served the country well.”

But Richmond has become known as the “epicentre” of birth tourism, attracting people who come to give birth here in order to secure Canadian citizenship for their baby. In the past year, 23 per cent of babies born at Richmond Hospital were born to non-residents.

Several businesses advertise – exclusively in the Chinese language – for birth tourism services, saying they will provide accommodations for pregnant women and help with after-care and paperwork.

Richmond council passed a motion on Monday to push the minister to end automatic citizenship for babies born to non-residents.

Mendicino said he “commends” the mayor and council of Richmond for having a discussion about the birth tourism and he will reflect on the motion that was passed. The issue needs to be monitored and tracked “very closely,” he said.

“I think we should express some gratitude to the City of Richmond and the council for examining the issue and advocating what the issues are within the context of the concern,” he said. “It’s more about determining and finding where the abuses are within the system rather than getting rid of the principle.”

Mendicino said the federal government is taking “concrete steps” to strengthen the oversight of immigration consultants “to really hold accountable any individuals who are trying to backdoor or take advantage of the system.”

He added the federal government wants to work with provincial partners and municipalities like Richmond to “weed out any abuse of our immigration system.”

There was a level of frustration at Richmond council on Monday – directed somewhat at Vancouver Coastal Health, the provincial government and the federal government – as councillors debated the merits and wording of a letter to push the federal minister of immigration to tackle birth tourism.

Voting against the motion were Couns. Alexa Loo, Kelly Greene and Michael Wolfe.

While Greene said she’s 100 per cent against birth tourism, she felt the motion was worded so that it could cause “disproportionate harm” to “vulnerable people such as refugees and stateless people.”

She said the harm would be exclusively to people of colour and she didn’t want to see at-risk people further marginalized.

“The motion should be to stop birth tourism,” Greene said. “It’s not – it asks to stop birthright citizenship for a broad swath of people.”

Coun. Bill McNulty said he sees birth tourism in his neighbourhood and called on senior governments to take action.

“I think this is an issue that really has put us in a vulnerable position – the two levels of government are totally out of touch with what’s happening in the communities,” McNulty said.

He also suggested the city needs to push Vancouver Coastal Health into action, considering 66 per cent of non-resident births in B.C. take place at Richmond Hospital.

Au echoed the sentiment that VCH should look into the issue, saying the health authority is “not willing to touch this.”

However, VCH spokesperson Catherine Loiacono pointed out this is a federal issue and health care professionals have a duty to provide care to anyone who needs it.
“Care is always triaged according to the safety of the mother and baby – mothers needing immediate care are seen first,” she added.

Nursing baseline staffing is based on patient volumes – not on census data. A staffing review in 2019 found that Richmond Hospital is staffed “appropriately” for patient safety and quality care, Loiacono said. Because the nature of giving birth is unpredictable, if there are increased numbers of patients, more resources are brought in, she added.

Source: Minister commends Richmond council for tackling birth tourism

Liberal Platform and Mandate Letter Comparison: IRCC and Diversity, Inclusion and Youth

Now that the mandate letters are out, went through the letters for Ministers Mendicino and Chagger, supplementing with other Ministers as needed (e.g., Justice, Public Safety, Innovation). The following table contrasts the platform commitments with the mandate letters, with no major surprises or omissions.

The most striking point was the relatively large number of Minister Chaggar’s commitments, although many are shared with other Ministers.

Hope you find this helpful and welcome any comments.

Liberal Platform and Mandate Letters 2019 – Immigration and Diversity Related

Trudeau Turns the Page on #Immigration. About time! : Corriere Canadese

The Corriere Canadese and its editor, former Liberal immigration minister Joe Volpe (Martin government) has been advocating for Hussen’s ouster for some time (the criticisms are overblown IMO).

We will never know whether these concerns played a role in his replacement by an Italian Canadian, but as noted before, there has been tension for some time between traditional and newer immigrant groups supporting the Liberals. For example, the Saint Léonard-Saint Michel Liberal nomination contest between Italian Canadian and non-Italian Canadian candidates being a recent example.

The program actually plays little attention to citizenship or country of origin, contrary to what is asserted in the article. Moreover, Express Entry dramatically improved processing times for economic class immigrants. And visible minorities have formed close to 80 percent of all immigrants over the past 20 years.

But a good example of tension between historic and newer groups of new Canadians, and how they perceive their relative influence on Liberal immigration policies:

The first signs are positive. Justin Trudeau has decided to intervene in the immigration department chaos with the replacement of the now exminister Ahmed Hussen by promoting Marco Mendicino to the delicate post. During these last two years, Corriere Canadese has strongly denounced the systemic inconsistencies in the management of migration flows by the Executive – the Minister -responsible for those flaws, the contradictions and the endemic problems that have permeated the immigration sector in our country.

Our survey of the last two weeks has documented with numbers, data and statistics – all provided directly by the Ministry of Immigration – the poor state of health of the entire system, the absurdity of the results produced, the imbalances among geographic origins of the immigrants, the bizarre bureaucratic, linguistic and regulatory obstacles of the Express Entry.

The question was/is very simple: is the current system able to provide a trained and qualified workforce to meet the needs of the Canadian labour market in a timely fashion? The answer was/ is equally simple: absolutely not.

As it is structured, the system itself pays more attention to the citizenship of the newcomers than to their professional preparation, to their work experience or, above all, to the requirements requested by Canadian companies and businesses. It goes without saying that it is necessary to turn the page, intervening with significant structural changes – and not mere cosmetic operations. If that is not enough, then one should consider a complete repeal of the Express Entry program.

This program, envisioned by Harper conservatives, Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander, Conservative Cabinet Ministers, came into force in January 2015.

It has become quite clear that even the Current Prime Minister has not been overwhelmed with enthusiasm by Ahmed Hussen’s work in the two and a half years in offiŽce. His demotion from a key department of government to a previously non-existent Ministry without a portfolio is a clear signal that even Trudeau realized that the management of migration flows in the previous legislature represented a weak point in government action.

Moreover, it was a source of controversy and internal splits creating friction with many communities, starting with Italian Canadians.

The appointment of Mendicino, Eglinton-Lawrence’s MP of Italian origin, represents a clear and precise response to the complaints we have supported – by giving space – for Hussen’s work.

That said, we must point out that, in our opinion, the decision to appoint Mendicino Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is not the goal but a starting point.

He will face a huge amount of work and many problems to solve: the Express Entry, as we have said, but also the thorny issues of undocumented foreign workers – “resolved” by his predecessor with a cynical rise shrug of his shoulders – the inconsistencies of the family reunification system, those of the hasty deportations that violate any principle of common sense and the delicate relationship with the various Provinces on demographic matters.

That sometimes, it is right to point out, they also put their own. Just look at what happened in Ontario, where Prime Minister Doug Ford after the victory of 2018 had the “brilliant idea” – one of many, to tell the truth – to eliminate the Provincial Ministry of Immigration and to entrust its competencies to the Minister for Children and Community and Social Services, a position currently held by Lisa MacLeod.

So, in wishing the new minister good work, we also ask that the government have the strength to turn to ensure that Immigration returns to being one of the strengths of our country’s economic, social and demographic growth.

Source: Trudeau Turns the Page on Immigration. About time!

Marco Mendicino appointed new Canadian immigration minister: Backstory?

A possible backstory for this appointment is that there has been considerable discontent among some Italian Canadians over their relative under-representation in key posts (see the Saint-Léonard Saint-Michel Liberal nomination where a non-Italian, Hassan Guillet, won what was viewed as an Italian Canadian seat before his candidacy being revoked by the LPC and being replaced by Patricia Lattanzio).

More notably, former Liberal immigration minister in the Martin government and current editor of Corriere Canadese, Joe Volpe, has been particularly strident in his critique of Ahmed Hussen:

“Corriere publisher Joe Volpe exhorts Anne McLellan, advisor to Justin Trudeau, to tell the Prime Minister to get rid of those federal ministers who never should have been called to government, first among them Ahmed Hussen. As Immigration Minister, Hussen has been a complete disaster. Nonetheless, approximately 300,000 new entrants, as well as international student visa holders, refugees, and the more than one million undocumented workers (and their families), are at his mercy. Closer to home, he has not lifted a finger to make use of the human resources potential of Italian emigrants ‘young, educated and skilled’ who are leaving Italy each year, going everywhere except Canada. Dismiss him before he causes more damage to the country’s demographic fabric and the Liberal brand, Volpe says.” (1 November, Italian, Corriere Canadese)

—-

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named Marco Mendicino as Canada’s next Minister of Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada.

Mendicino has an extensive background in law. For nearly 10 years he worked as a federal prosecutor, during which time he put members of the “Toronto 18” terror group behind bars. He also worked at the Law Society of Upper Canada, and was the President of the Association of Justice Counsel, where he served for two terms. Mendicino has also advocated for better laws on organized crime and access to justice before the House of Commons and the Senate.

At the time of swearing-in on November 20, he was serving as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. He was involved in advancing government green infrastructure and social infrastructure in Toronto and across Canada.

He was re-elected as the Member of Parliament in the Eglinton-Lawrence riding on October 21, 2019 with 53 per cent of voter support. Before being elected in 2015 he developed a lunch program for families with children going into kindergarten or the installation of a new turf field at John Wanless Public School.

In 2017 he served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, where he helped to advance federal priorities such as Criminal Justice Reform, Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and Restorative Justice.

The new Minister of Immigration also sat on a number of boards and has been involved with the John Wanless Childcare Centre, John Wanless Public School, North Toronto Soccer Club, COSTI Immigration Services, the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee and Heart & Stroke Canada.

Mendicino will be replacing Ahmed Hussen who lead Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) since 2017. Hussen will be taking over the role of Minister of Families Children and Social Development.

Source: https://www.cicnews.com/2019/11/marco-mendicino-appointed-new-canadian-immigration-minister-1113215.html#gs.hcxcwg