Federal government opening immigration options for Hong Kongers to come to Canada

Good:

The federal government is opening up new immigration options for Hong Kongers to make Canada their home as Beijing continues its unprecedented crackdown on the former British colony.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said two new immigration streams will now begin taking applications from Hong Kongers working in Canada or recent university graduates from Hong Kong now living in Canada. They will be offered a quicker and more efficient pathway to permanent residence.

“At this difficult moment, Canada continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Hong Kong. We are deeply concerned about China’s imposition of the National Security Law, and more broadly the deteriorating human rights situation in Hong Kong,” the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship department said in a statement.

This is on top of a program announced in February targeted at people living in Hong Kong who had graduated from a Canadian or foreign university. It offers them a three-year open work permit that would help pave the way for applying for permanent residency.

The work permit program opened in February and has so far attracted 3,481 applications, the department said on Monday.

An exodus from Hong Kong has been expected since the Chinese government imposed the national security law on Hong Kong in June, 2020, saying it was to target secession, subversion and terrorism. But it includes vaguely defined offences that critics say effectively criminalize dissent and opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

“With young Hong Kongers casting their eyes abroad, we want them to choose Canada,” Mr. Mendicino said in a statement.

“Skilled Hong Kongers will have a unique opportunity to both develop their careers and help accelerate our recovery. This landmark initiative will strengthen our economy and deepen the strong ties between Canada and the people of Hong Kong.”

Canada and Western allies have called China’s clampdown a violation of the international treaty it signed pledging to allow local autonomy and civil rights to continue for 50 years after the 1997 handover.

Records show Hong Kongers have already moved billions of dollars to Canada. Last year, capital flows out of Hong Kong banks and into Canada reached the highest level on record, with about $43.6-billion in electronic funds transfers recorded by FINTRAC, Canada’s anti-money-laundering agency.

A crackdown on civil rights in Hong Kong that accelerated in 2020 amid the global pandemic has steadily eroded the territory’s political and social freedoms that were unique in China, a legacy of the territory’s years under British control. Earlier this year, Chinese lawmakers approved changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system, further reducing democratic representation in the city’s institutions and introducing a mechanism to vet and screen politicians for loyalty to Beijing.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-federal-government-opening-immigration-options-for-hong-kongers-to/

La balle est dans le camp de Québec, dit le ministre Mendicino

This “blame game” has been going on for some time:

Le gouvernement fédéral a beau être celui qui a le pouvoir d’octroyer la résidence permanente, Québec a sa part de responsabilité dans les dizaines de milliers de dossiers de travailleurs qualifiés en attente, croit le ministre de l’Immigration, Marco Mendicino. En entrevue au Devoir, il s’est dit « encouragé » par le fait que Québec a légèrement augmenté ses seuils pour 2021, mais estime que la balle est toujours dans son camp.

« Il faut comprendre très clairement que Québec établit ses propres seuils d’immigration annuels, et nous recevons plus de demandes pour le PTQQ [Programme des travailleurs qualifiés du Québec] que les [places] permis [es] par Québec. C’est la raison pour laquelle il y a plus d’applications dans l’inventaire », a dit le ministre dans une entrevue accordée en français au Devoir.

Il rappelle que 50 000 travailleurs qualifiés sont en attente d’une résidence permanente, mais que les cibles du Québec ne permettent pas d’absorber toutes les demandes traitées. « Les seuils d’immigration de Québec en 2021, cette année, sont de maximum 26 000 personnes. Ça, c’est la réalité », a déclaré le ministre Mendicino, qui a succédé à Ahmed Hussen à ce poste à la fin 2019.

Il ne cache pas que cette « réalité », soit les seuils trop bas du Québec pour écouler les dossiers en attente, est à l’origine d’une demande de la ministre de l’Immigration, Nadine Girault, enjoignant au fédéral de traiter en priorité les dossiers de travailleurs qualifiés déjà ici. Or, cela n’est pas sans conséquence sur les autres catégories d’immigration, souligne M. Mendicino. « Quand nous faisons l’exercice de priorisation du PTQQ, la réalité est que les autres applications ne sont pas priorisées. […] Ça va rester comme ça tant et aussi longtemps que la demande sera plus grande que les niveaux d’immigration établis par le Québec. »

Regarder vers l’avenir

Il y a deux semaines, Le Devoir avait révélé qu’Ottawa avait reconnu avoir ralenti le traitement des dossiers de travailleurs qualifiés et que c’était attribuable « aux restrictions imposées par le gouvernement du Québec quant aux admissions en raison d’un nombre limité de places dans les niveaux annuels », pouvait-on lire dans des documents gouvernementaux. Ces déclarations avaient agacé Québec, qui a continué de rejeter la responsabilité des délais de traitement sur le gouvernement fédéral, le seul à pouvoir délivrer des résidences permanentes.

Mais le ministre canadien dit qu’il ne souhaite pas « débattre du passé », mais plutôt assainir le climat entre lui et le Québec. « Je vais me concentrer sur aujourd’hui et l’avenir, et je vais livrer tous les travailleurs dont le Québec a besoin pour appuyer sa relance économique. C’est la chose la plus importante pour moi et mon gouvernement », a-t-il dit, en ajoutant qu’Ottawa est un « partenaire de bonne foi » dans cette affaire.

Marco Mendicino rappelle que son ministère a déjà octroyé une résidence permanente à plus de 7000 travailleurs qualifiés du Québec, soit une augmentation de 54 % par rapport à l’an dernier. Il aurait également contribué à fournir au Québec plus de 7000 travailleurs temporaires.

Plus d’anges gardiens

Quant au programme des « anges gardiens », qui vise à régulariser le statut des demandeurs d’asile ayant travaillé en soins directs aux patients pendant la première vague, le ministre fédéral de l’Immigration a dit continuer de talonner son homologue québécoise pour qu’elle élargisse le programme. « J’ai répété que la porte restait ouverte de notre côté pour revisiter les paramètres de programme », a-t-il indiqué, en évoquant une rencontre avec Nadine Girault il y a exactement deux semaines. « Je pense que le Québec veut attendre un peu plus pour regarder le progrès. Mais s’[il] veut élargir le programme, nous sommes prêts. »

En date du 10 avril, seulement 3200 dossiers (représentant 7500 personnes au total) avaient été reçus dans le cadre de ce programme, dont 1400 au Québec. Soucieux d’atteindre sa cible historique de 401 000 immigrants en 2021, le gouvernement fédéral a également lancé le mois dernier un programme permettant à plus de 90 000 étudiants et travailleurs temporaires d’obtenir la résidence permanente.

Source: La balle est dans le camp de Québec, dit le ministre Mendicino

Minister Mendicino marks Citizenship Week

Of note is what was not said or announced: the elimination of citizenship fees that was part of the 2019 election platform, the long delayed release of a revised citizenship study guide (Discover Canada) and the limited recovery in citizenship numbers following the program’s complete shutdown in April 2020.

Citizenship Week would have been an appropriate time for the release of the revised guide:

The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, today issued the following statement to mark Citizenship Week:

“Today, Canadians celebrate the start of Citizenship Week, a time to express pride in our shared history, our diverse heritage, and our collective achievements. It is also an opportunity to highlight the tremendous contributions of immigrants to their communities and the Canadian economy.

“Canadian citizenship is both highly valued and sought after around the world. Without a doubt, one of our greatest achievements is the shared recognition that Canada is stronger and more prosperous because of its diversity.

“While we are by no means perfect, Canadians share a profound commitment to equality, inclusion, and respect for our differences – this includes our ethnicities, our gender identities and expressions, and our beliefs.

“As Canadian citizens, we all have a responsibility to help others in our communities, and that has never been more important than during the global COVID-19 pandemic we’ve faced together this past year. We will forever be grateful to the front line workers, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and all Canadians who have worked tirelessly to help Canada throughout the pandemic.’’

“The hopes, the commitment, and the energy that newcomers and new citizens bring to Canada are expressed in countless positive contributions, and that has never been truer than over the past year.”

“As Canadians, we share a profound commitment to be there for one another. It is one of our defining attributes, and time and time again, newcomers and new citizens have embraced this spirit. I encourage all Canadians to take the time to find ways to be active in your communities, to do some volunteer work, and to help welcome new Canadians in your community.

“Throughout Citizenship Week, I encourage all Canadians to reflect on what it means to be Canadian, and the many rights, freedoms, and responsibilities we all share as citizens.”

Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2021/05/minister-mendicino-marks-citizenship-week.html

Immigration Minister open to raise permanent residency caps

Of note, more signs of government determination to meet 2021 levels target of 401,000 (January-March 2021, 70,425 permanent resident admissions, or an annualized rate of about 280,000). Modernization remarks also of note:

Canada’s Immigration Minister says he’s not ruling out expanding a new program that would grant permanent residency to 90,000 temporary foreign workers and international student graduates as part of the country’s annual immigration goal.

“I am open to discussing whether or not to revisit the current caps,” Marco Mendicino said in an interview Wednesday.

He made his comment after delivering a speech on modernizing immigration earlier in the day. He said in the speech to the Canadian Club that more than 50,000 people have expressed interest in the spaces since last Thursday’s opening for applications.

He said the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship department needs to carefully assess the early results of the program, including the quality of applications, and see how quickly the department hits the 90,000 target.

“At that point, I will certainly have a much greater line of sight on whether or not there may be a need to revisit the caps.”

Asked if he could secure cabinet approval for such a shift, Mr. Mendicino said, “Well, we got this far, didn’t we? I am open to revisiting the caps.”

In mid-April, the minister announced the plan to allow 20,000 temporary foreign workers in health care, 30,000 workers in other occupations deemed essential and 40,000 international students who have graduated from a university or college to apply to become permanent residents.

However, migrant groups have criticized the program, saying program exclusions and requirements shut out many refugees, undocumented people and thousands of migrants, with caps in application streams meaning few will be able to get their applications in before spots are filled.

In a statement, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said Wednesday that the rollout of the new pathways to permanent residency for the 90,000 applicants has been problematic, adding it excludes many essential workers and does not recognize those who have lost status.

Also Wednesday, Mr. Mendicino called for moving toward a paperless immigration system that would offer prospective new Canadians more opportunities to file claims online and even be sworn in virtually.

“The reality is that our immigration system is one that has been bogged down by paper. We need to change that,” Mr. Mendicino said in the speech to the Canadian Club. “The technology is behind the times.”

As Canada has raised levels of immigration – the goal is 401,000 new permanent residents this year – Mr. Mendicino said there have been challenges in capacity and processing times exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We need to retire our systems that are long past their best-before date,” he said.

Mr. Mendicino said the recent federal budget commits more than $800-million to create a new digital platform to replace the existing Global Case Management System, which the department uses to process citizenship and immigration services applications.

In the interview, Mr. Mendicino said there is an online component to immigration now. “But what I would like to do is transform the entirety of our system,” he said.

“We still have many aspects of the system that have to be done in person or through paper-based applications. Transforming the system means that every aspect of that process will be an online application process with in-person meetings being substituted and replaced by digital and virtual meetings.”

He said he expects there will be a dedicated department team to look at the issue and drive it forward. “I think it’s a safe thing to say this will be a multiyear project, but not that long,” he said.

Ms. Kwan said that while digitizing the immigration application process is “long overdue,” the Liberals have been using this as an excuse to avoid talking about current delays.

“The process to move to a new system could take years and the government has failed to present a plan or provide resources to address current backlogs in a reasonable timeline,” she said.

But Mr. Mendicino said the department is well-advanced on its goals of meeting its target of 401,000 new permanent residents this year.

Jasraj Singh Hallan, the Conservative immigration critic, echoed Ms. Kwan’s concerns, saying the Tories have long called for the modernization of the immigration system. But he said Mr. Mendicino’s announcement does nothing to address thousands of applicants caught in backlogs.

“Because of the Liberal government’s poor management of the immigration system, outdated systems, and paper applications, families who have been trying to reunite with their loved ones have been stuck in massive backlogs and delayed processing times causing hardship,” he said in a statement.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-immigration-minister-open-to-raise-permanent-residency-caps/

Immigration Minister promises to address concerns over new federal immigration program

Lots of commentary regarding the barriers encountered by temporary workers in “other essential sectors” given language proof requirements, computer skills and accessibility and the like (likely less significant for healthcare workers not clear, and not barriers to international students).

The initial application numbers, as of about 5:30 this morning, highlight the barriers:

  • Healthcare workers: 644 applications out of 20,000 slots;
  • Essential non-healthcare workers: 4,460 out of 30,000;
  • International graduates: 37,778 out of 40,000 (almost completely subscribed).

The federal Immigration Minister says he is working to address concerns about a program launching this week that is aimed at creating a pathway to permanent residency for 90,000 people.

Marco Mendicino said he is committed to working with stakeholders and that he is open to the criticisms of various migrant groups as the program begins Thursday.

Announced in April, the program is designed to grant permanent residency to thousands of temporary foreign workers and graduated international students.

Under the measures, 20,000 temporary foreign workers in health care, 30,000 workers in other occupations deemed essential and 40,000 international students who have graduated from a university or college will be able to apply to become permanent residents.

“Before we prematurely rush to make any judgments about the train being on the tracks, let’s see it pick up steam, and ensure it stays on track and gets to its final destination,” Mr. Mendicino said Wednesday, “which is to welcome 90,000 newcomers in a way that is unprecedented.”

In a news conference this week, the Migrant Rights Network, representing organizations across Canada, said current requirements for this program, the short timeframe and the arbitrary caps ensure that only those in the best situations will be able to apply.

Opposition parties have called for a broader opening to welcome many more than 90,000 people.

On Wednesday, the minister was asked about specific problems with the program. They included application guides only now being available, many people scrambling to get language tests required to apply, and essential workers facing challenges applying.

In response, Mr. Mendicino said the program is “unprecedented” and ambitious. It was not a forgone conclusion that the government would proceed with the effort during a pandemic, he said, but that it was launched because of feedback from economists and the immigrant and migrant-workers community.

“I also acknowledge that because it is a new program, we have a lot of legwork to do to make sure that it is communicated clearly and there will be access to the program,” he said.

He added that guidelines have now been posted online, clarifying application needs. and said language-instruction operations are working to meet the demand.

Despite the minister’s assurances, Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said in an interview that he remained concerned about what his group sees as flaws in the program

He said, based on the alliance’s research, that the 90,000 openings fall far short of meeting the needs of 1.6 million migrants and undocumented people in Canada. He also said only a estimated 470,000 people can apply for spaces under the current rules.

“This is a short-term window, which excludes most people. It prioritizes those with the highest earnings, the highest access, and excludes the essential, low-wage workers that the Prime Minister, the Immigration Minister and most of our society says we value.”

Source: Immigration Minister promises to address concerns over new federal immigration program

‘We want you to stay’: Canada opens door to permanent residence for 90,000 international graduates and temporary workers with one-time program

One-time or a pilot? Addressing some long-standing equity issues. Doing so during a downturn when some sectors are unlikely to recover soon (e.g.., hospitality, travel, in person retail) is risky. Will be interesting to follow the economic outcomes of Permanent Residents that are admitted under this policy:

Canada is rolling out a one-time special immigration program to grant permanent residence to 90,000 recent international graduates as well as temporary foreign workers with work experience in essential occupations.

International students will qualify for the new program if they have graduated from an eligible post-secondary program within the past four years, after January 2017, and if they are currently employed. They do not need to be in a specific occupation to meet the requirements.

The program is also open to temporary foreign workers with at least one year of work experience in one of the 40 health-care occupations, as well as 95 other essential jobs across a range of fields, such as caregiving and food production and distribution.

This time-limited immigration pathway will take effect on May 5 and remain open until Nov. 5 or until the target is reached.

“The pandemic has shone a bright light on the incredible contributions of newcomers. These new policies will help those with a temporary status to plan their future in Canada, play a key role in our economic recovery and help us build back better,” Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said on Wednesday.

“Our message to them is simple: Your status may be temporary, but your contributions are lasting — and we want you to stay.”

The Liberal government has made immigration a critical part of Canada’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery with plans to welcome 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, after the annual intake of immigrants nosedived by 45.7 per cent last year to just 185,130.

The 90,000 intake under the new program will account for almost a quarter of this year’s overall immigration goal.

With the border remaining closed to non-essential travel, many would-be immigrants who have already been granted permanent residence have been unable to come to Canada. 

It has prompted officials to shift gears and focus more on prospective candidates who are already in Canada and normally would face a lengthier process to qualify.

In February, Ottawa raised eyebrows when it issued 27,332 invitations — five times more than its previous high of 5,000 people — to hopeful candidates already living in this country.

Mendicino said these are unprecedented steps taken to create “the fastest and broadest pathways” for permanent residency and toward achieving the 2021 immigration level plan through a series of “smart choices.”

“We need workers who possess a range of skills in a range of sectors within our economy to keep it going forward and accelerate our economic recovery,” he said.

“We value those who are highly educated, those who are highly skilled, but we also need people who work in the agriculture sector and in trades and construction sector who provide manual labour to build our communities. For too long, we haven’t been able to provide these pathways.”

Among the 90,000 spots of the program, 20,000 will be dedicated for temporary foreign workers in health care; 30,000 for those in other selected essential occupations; and the remaining 40,000 for international students who graduated from a Canadian institution.

All candidates must have proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages, meet general admissibility requirements; be authorized to work and be working in Canada at the time of their application to qualify. Migrants who are already out of legal status won’t be eligible.

To promote Canada’s official languages, three additional streams have also been created for French-speaking or bilingual candidates, with no intake caps.

The business community welcomed the new immigration pathways, saying the newcomers will strengthen Canada’s economy when they are needed most.

“They fill labour-market shortages, offset our aging population and broaden the tax base, thereby helping fund social and public services,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, whose members represent all major industries in the country.

“COVID-19-related restrictions have hit Canada’s immigration system hard, significantly reducing the number of newcomers entering the country. The (immigration) minister’s plan addresses this challenge by welcoming urgently needed talent.”

Although the program opens up a short-term window for thousands of migrants who are able to meet restrictive criteria, advocates say it still maintains the fundamentals of the temporary immigration system that will continue to keep many migrants in limbo.

“This announcement is a start, but without fundamental change through granting full and permanent immigration status for all, it will simply not be enough,” said Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change based in Ontario.

Mendicino said the immigration department has recently hired an additional 62 officers to boost its processing capacity and the new program will only accept applications online to allow remote processing by staff, most of whom are still working from home.

He said processing immigration applicants within and outside of the country are not mutually exclusive, and officials will continue to process applications of those who are abroad because Canada needs immigrants to fill labour market needs and replenish an aging population.

These special public policies, he said, will encourage essential temporary workers and international graduates to put down roots in Canada and help retain the talented workers in need in the country.

“Imagine you’ve been asked to bring in the greatest number of permanent residents in the history of the country. People could’ve said, ‘Put a pause on immigration.’ We said no, because we believed we need to continue to grow our economy through immigration,” said Mendicino.

“Newcomers create jobs. They create growth. They give back to their community. They are rolling up their sleeves and invested in Canada”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/04/14/we-want-you-to-stay-canada-opens-door-to-permanent-residence-for-90000-international-graduates-and-temporary-workers-with-one-time-program.html

IRCC requirements and eligible occupation list: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/mandate/policies-operational-instructions-agreements/public-policies/trpr-canadian-work-experience.html#annex-b

Fears that international student intake will keep falling

Not much new but nevertheless worth reading:

Canada suffered a year-on-year drop of between 20% and 30% in international student enrolment between the 2019-20 academic year and the 2020-21 academic year because of the COVID crisis.

The absence of 65,000 international students is already affecting local economies, university budgets and research in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

But university and college administrators, and non-governmental organisations involved with bringing international students to Canada are concerned that travel rules introduced in February 2021 to restrict the spread of COVID-19 will further depress the numbers of international students coming to Canada, both this spring and in September.  

Since this February, international flights to Canada can land only in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, and travellers have been required to be quarantined at designated hotels.  

According to Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada, these new regulations have disproportionately impacted colleges and universities in smaller cities and rural and remote areas because students must serve the entirety of their quarantine at the government-approved hotels.  

“There’s no designated airport in Atlantic Canada,” she notes. International students destined for universities in this region must first quarantine in a hotel at one of the hubs at a cost of CA$2,000 (US$1,600).

“This is very costly, especially for an international student,” Amyot says.  

In addition, once the student travels to their destination university in, say, Halifax, Nova Scotia, or Quebec City, they will have to quarantine again. While the final tallies are not in, Amyot says, because of these two layers of quarantine, we are seeing a large number of deferrals for the spring, summer and upcoming fall intakes.

International students whose universities are near one of the designated airports must quarantine in the government-approved hotels for at least three days, the period it normally takes to receive COVID-19 test results. If they test negative, and if their school has a plan approved by the local health authority and the federal government, the student can be taken to a quarantine centre on his or her school’s campus.  

In an effort to lessen the financial burden on international students, the University of Waterloo in southwestern Ontario picks up the cost for days four through to 14 for students who quarantine on its main campus in Kitchener, Ontario. 

“The cost,” says University of Waterloo Associate Vice Provost Chris Read, “is about CA$2,000 and includes transportation from the airport, accommodation and food”. This programme explains why the university’s year-over-year enrolment of international students has remained stable at 8,861 in 2020-21 compared with 8,897 the year before. 

Concerns about international students’ mental health has prompted the University of Calgary to include a Zoom-based buddy system in its quarantine programme. The buddies are not counsellors, says Dean and Vice-Provost Dr Robin Yates, but are peer volunteers, “a friendly face who will keep them company”.

For its part, in addition to providing quarantine space in its dormitories, the University of Toronto has established a CA$9.1 million (US$7.2 million) fund to help international students pay for the period of time they have to quarantine in a hotel.

The financial impact resulting from the absence of international students is being felt across the country and is affecting the bottom line of universities and colleges, according to Professor Robert Falconer of the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.

“Across the country, with a few exceptions, universities are relying more and more on international students as a primary source of revenue. British Columbia is most exposed with over 50% of its tuition revenue coming from international students,” he says. 

The differential rates charged to international students varies, but, Falconer told University World News, “it is quite significant”. At Falconer’s university, tuition and fees for international students in the sciences is CA$8,000 (US$6,400) a year, while it is CA$3,000 for domestic students. 

The figure is even greater at the University of Waterloo. Tuition fees for domestic students enrolled in graduate studies in architecture are CA$10,900 as compared to CA$59,700 (US$47,600) for international students. In the faculties of applied health sciences and art, the tuition fees for each group are CA$7,700 and CA$40,900, respectively. 

According to Yates of the University of Calgary, the differential paid by international students is vital. “It helps institutions to be able to offer programmes, especially smaller institutions, that they would not have been able to afford otherwise, either because the schools did not have enough money or enough domestic students to be able to offer that programme.”

Marco Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, could not have been blunter. “If we didn’t have international students, we would have a gaping hole in our economy. They contribute CA$21 billion [US$16.7 billion] to the Canadian economy as compared to CA$19 billion contributed by the automotive industry,” he says.

“This contribution might not be noticed in larger centres, but in small university towns like the University of Lethbridge [Alberta] or in Thunder Bay [Lakehead University], Ontario, they have a large impact through renting homes and buying goods and services,” says Falconer. 

Threat to STEM programmes

Falconer, Yates, Amyot and the other experts University World Newsinterviewed were especially concerned with how the decline in the number of international graduate students threatens Canada’s STEM programmes.

Of the 2,000 international graduate students at the University of Calgary, some 400 have requested deferrals and have remained in their home countries.  

According to Yates, about 200 are studying remotely. In his immunology lab, Yates told University World News that while certain tasks, such as data analysis, can be done remotely for a month or two, at some point you have to go back into the lab to generate more data.  

“Graduate students comprise a significant part of the workforce doing meaningful research that is pushing the research agenda forward for Canada. Anywhere between 20% and 80% of any given research group is composed of graduate students and on average a little more than one third of these students are international graduate students.”

Yates’ University of Calgary colleague, Falconer, is concerned that the brain drain in the STEM fields will hobble Canada’s post-COVID recovery. 

“The OECD countries are considering what a post-COVID industrial policy, and research and development policy looks like. We have to consider [whether without these students] we even have the staffing and personnel industrial base to facilitate a post-COVID industrial economy?” he asks.

To the question, especially in a pandemic, of why Canadian taxpayers should be funding graduate schools that educate international students, Yates answered: “To drive research agendas and move our research forward, we need the best and brightest from across the globe. The taxpayers deserve when they spend millions of dollars on research that that money be spent in the best way possible. And that is to get the best people here into Canada.”

It is important, Yates adds, that people understand that the pure or applied research that international graduate students undertake in labs like his undergirded the creation of the vaccines against COVID-19.  

“The PhDs that come out of these programmes are making and designing these vaccines. The workforces that are in AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer are sourced from graduate programmes and these include international students,” he says.

Corridor kept open

Minister Mendicino, Falconer and Amyot each emphasised that unlike similar countries such as Australia, Canada has kept the corridor for international students open because of the long-term importance of international students to the country.  

At present 25% of Canadians are older than 65, which means that for each retired person there are fewer than three working and paying into the social insurance system and taxes.  

“Canada needs immigration. We need people to decide to live here because we have such a low [1.5] fertility rate,” says Amyot.  

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic,” says Mendicino, “we have kept the international programme open, and we have improved it.” 

The four improvements, Mendicino explained to University World News, amount to a ladder, at the top of which international students can apply for permanent residency and, ultimately, citizenship.  

The first improvement allowed international students to start their studies online in their home country. 

The second changed the international students’ work permits to give them the right to work in fields other than their course of study. 

The third was keeping open the corridor, which required planning with universities and colleges, and, negotiating agreements with the provinces; this last always a fraught activity in the fractious Canadian federation. 

The fourth improvement provides additional work permit flexibility to postgraduate students so as not to penalise them for starting their programmes online. Once they have graduated and found jobs, thousands of (former) international students apply for permanent residency.

“What I see as minister is an opportunity to broaden and accelerate the pathways that not only allow international students to come and study but also to stay in Canada and build the next chapter of their lives in Canada,” says Mendicino, who himself is the child of Italian immigrants.

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20210402091353306

Ottawa to extend eligibility criteria for Yazidi refugees: Mendicino

Good:

Ottawa is adopting a new policy to help more Yazidis and other survivors of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant reunite with their families in Canada, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Tuesday.

Mendicino said it will allow more Yazidi refugees to join extended family members, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

The Yazidis and other groups who survived abuse, torture and even genocide at the hands of ISIL are among the most vulnerable refugees in the world, he said.

“Guided by compassion, we are now redoubling our efforts to reunite their families.”

The Immigration Department said the new policy will help Yazidis and members of other communities in Northern Iraq to start new lives in Canada.

These refugees were victims of threats or acts including sexual slavery, general enslavement, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, family separation and forced displacement, the department said.

Canada has welcomed more than 1,400 survivors of ISIL from Northern Iraq since 2017.

This includes 1,356 government-assisted refugees and 94 privately sponsored ones. Women and girls comprise the vast majority.

The Yazidi newcomers have been primarily resettled to Toronto, London, Ont., Winnipeg and Calgary where Yazidi communities existed and adequate support, including medical, social and interpretation services, was in place.

Source: Ottawa to extend eligibility criteria for Yazidi refugees: Mendicino

Canada’s immigration minister provides COVID-19 update

Helpful summary.

Striking that the government and Minister continue to maintain the current plan to accept some 400,000 immigrants this year, despite the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, unlikely to ease up quickly until most Canadians are vaccinated late summer or early fall.

Even if the government could meet this target level, highly questionable given that immigrants who arrive during downturns and recessions don’t do as well in the short-term, with some also not doing well in the longer term.

Citizenship, as always, remains a lessor priority for IRCC. While the government has tabled a bill to revise the citizenship oath, the new citizenship guide remains in limbo despite having been announced five years ago (and largely complete according to earlier press reports), and the 2019 commitment to eliminate the fees should have been relatively straightforward to implement quickly:

Canada’s Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino recently shared fresh insights on the state of the country’s immigration system on the Canadian television show, The Agenda.

In a 20-minute interview, Mendicino spoke on a broad range of immigration topics as he explained to viewers how the federal government aims to cope with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

Topics he discussed included:

  • Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023
  • Canadian citizenship
  • Municipal Nominee Program

Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023

Mendicino stated that the Canadian government had a choice to make following the outbreak of the pandemic. It could pause or reduce immigration. Instead, the country has chosen to welcome immigrants during and after the pandemic to support its prosperity. As such, Canada is aiming to welcome over 400,000 immigrants over the coming years which are the highest targets in its history. Mendicino said this is necessary since immigrants are key to job creation in Canada and also help fill vital labour market needs including in essential services.

When asked if he felt the new targets are realistic given COVID-19 travel restrictions and disruptions, the minister stated he thought they were since Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been innovating during the pandemic. In addition, the pandemic provides an opportunity for Canada to draw into its domestic population of temporary foreign workers and international students and facilitate their transition to permanent residence.

Canadian Citizenship

Discussing a new pilot program that is enabling eligible permanent residents to complete their Canadian citizenship application online, Mendicino said the process is going well and Canada is the only country to his knowledge offering online citizenship ceremonies.

Mendicino’s vision for the immigration system is for all processes to be virtual and contactless beyond the pandemic.

One of the priorities listed in Mendicino’s December 2019 mandate letter is to waive Canadian citizenship fees. Asked about the status of that pledge, Mendicino acknowledged he had hoped to make progress on this front by now. While he did not state this, the delay in fulfilling this promise is very likely a function of the pandemic. Mendicino said that he is enthusiastic about reducing barriers for newcomers and will have more to say on this issue in the future.

Municipal Nominee Program

Another one of the December 2019 mandate priorities is to launch a Municipal Nominee Program to further help encourage immigrants to settle in Canada’s smaller cities. Pointing to initiatives such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the minister said he believes the MNP will be another federal program that will allow newcomers to pursue fulfilling lives in smaller regions of Canada. IRCC is in the process of consulting with provincial, municipal, business, and other stakeholders on the design of the MNP.

One of the key takeaways of Mendicino’s interview is his assuredness that Canada’s current immigration targets are realistic. This strongly suggests IRCC has a plan in place to achieve the targets, which will likely be through a combination of tapping into the existing pool of immigration candidates with Canadian experience, continuing to select immigrants from abroad and processing their applications so they can arrive after the pandemic, as well as gradually reducing travel restrictions so that those with approvals will eventually be able to move to Canada.

Source: Canada’s immigration minister provides COVID-19 update

Updated IRCC ministerial mandate letter

While the bulk of the letter consists of standard government-wide priorities, the specific ones for IRCC Minister Mendicino are below.

No sign of recognizing the reality that 2021 levels are unlikely to be met given ongoing COVID waves and related travel restrictions, making the “modest and responsible” increases in the previous mandate letter increasingly out of date:

In addition to the priorities set out in my mandate letter to you in 2019, as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, you will implement on a priority basis the following commitments, as set out in the Speech from the Throne 2020 and building off the investments in the Fall Economic Statement 2020.

  • Continue to bring newcomers to Canada safely to drive economic growth and recovery, as recently set out in the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan, including by:
    • Expanding pilot programming to welcome skilled refugees through economic immigration streams;
    • Continuing to support expedited family reunification; and
    • Continuing work on sectoral and regional pilot programs.
  • Continue to implement measures that create pathways to permanent residency for those who have provided health care in long-term care homes or medical facilities or performed other essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Continue working with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Health to protect the health and safety of Canadians through safe, responsible and compassionate management of the border with the United States and other ports of entry into Canada.
  • Continue exploring pathways to permanent residency and citizenship for temporary foreign workers.
  • Support the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to continue to fully support and protect workers who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and secure labour to fill workforce gaps in farming and food processing.
  • Continue working with provinces and territories to support high-quality settlement services and facilitate the successful settlement and integration of new Canadians. This includes continuing to support French-language training, while respecting provincial jurisdiction and complementing existing measures, supported by the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages.
  • Support the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to implement recommendations and lessons learned from the report of the Special Advisor for Canada’s ongoing response to the Ukraine International Airlines tragedy, including commemorating the lives of the victims and supporting their families, pursuing truth and accountability from Iran, and preventing future disasters through the Safer Skies Initiative.

Source: https://pm.gc.ca/en/mandate-letters/2021/01/15/minister-immigration-refugees-and-citizenship-supplementary-mandate

For handy reference, the 2019 commitments are below:

I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities. In particular, you will:

  • Ensure the effective implementation of Canada’s increased annual Immigration Levels Plan for 2020-2022, attracting more than a million new permanent residents to Canada over that time. This continues our modest and responsible increases to immigration, with a focus on welcoming highly skilled people who can help build a stronger Canada.
  • Advance the full implementation of the new professional governance regime for immigration and citizenship consultants under the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act, bringing strengthened government oversight and new compliance and enforcement tools into effect.
  • Work with the provinces and territories to ensure a renewed focus on the delivery of high-quality settlement services to ensure the successful settlement and integration of new Canadians. This will require a rigorous approach to data in order to accurately measure outcomes.
  • Work on reducing application processing times, improving the department’s service delivery and client services to make them timelier and less complicated, and enhancing system efficiency, including in the asylum system.
  • Complete the legislative work on changes to the Canadian Oath of Citizenship to reflect the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
  • Introduce a dedicated refugee stream to provide safe haven for human rights advocates, journalists and humanitarian workers at risk, with a target of helping resettle as many as 250 people a year.
  • Introduce a Municipal Nominee Program that will allow local communities, chambers of commerce and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants. At least 5,000 new spaces will be dedicated for this program.
  • You will also take the steps required to make the Atlantic Immigration Pilot permanent. At least 5,000 new spaces will be dedicated for this program.
  • Bring forward a plan to eliminate fees for citizenship for those who have fulfilled the requirements needed to obtain it.
  • Support the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness on irregular migration, including the new Border Enforcement Strategy and continued work with the United States to modernize the Safe Third Country Agreement.
  • With the support of the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development and the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, work to implement pilot programing to encourage more newcomers to settle in rural Canada.
  • Work with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to continue to advance reforms and investments in the capacity of the asylum system to ensure it is efficient while meeting Canada’s international legal obligations.

These priorities draw heavily from our election platform commitments. As mentioned, you are encouraged to seek opportunities to work across Parliament in the fulfillment of these commitments and to identify additional priorities.

Source: https://pm.gc.ca/en/mandate-letters/2019/12/13/minister-immigration-refugees-and-citizenship-mandate-letter