Le grand virage de l’immigration

More Quebec coverage of the dramatic shift to temporary workers while the Legault government maintains stable levels of permanent residents, somewhat hypocritically:

Intégration, capacité d’accueil, résidents permanents : pendant que les débats sur l’immigration se focalisent sur la cible de 50 000, ce sont au moins trois fois plus de gens chaque année qui arrivent au Québec avec un permis temporaire ou qui le renouvellent. Les chiffres et les experts sont sans équivoque, c’est un véritable virage de l’immigration qui s’opère en silence.

« Parler des niveaux permanents est absurde et obsolète, puisque l’outil principal est devenu l’immigration temporaire », exprime Stephan Reichhold, directeur général de la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI). « Parler seulement de résidents permanents n’illustre pas réellement la réalité au Québec », poursuit-il.

« C’est un faux débat de parler du seuil [de 50 000], car ils viennent de toute façon sur des voies temporaires », affirme aussi Denis Hamel, vice-président des politiques de développement de la main-d’oeuvre au Conseil du patronat du Québec (CSQ).

Ce déséquilibre vers le temporaire est incontestable, dit-il, et les employeurs membres du CSQ le constatent sur le terrain. « Mettez-vous dans la peau de l’employeur qui doit pourvoir un poste vacant. Il a trouvé un candidat à l’étranger, qui arriverait idéalement comme résident permanent, mais c’est quasi impossible en ce moment. Alors il [l’employeur] prend une voie plus rapide, une voie de contournement », expose-t-il en détail.

C’est « l’arbre qui cache la forêt », affirme également Mireille Paquet, titulaire de la Chaire de recherche en politique de l’immigration de l’Université Concordia.

La professeure y voit une certaine contradiction : « Le gouvernement dit pouvoir régler nos problèmes sans avoir recours à l’immigration. Mais c’est du discours, pas la pratique réelle. »

La « pratique réelle » est que le nombre d’immigrants continue de grimper, mais en passant par des catégories temporaires, disent d’une seule voix ces trois observateurs d’horizons différents.

Qui en est responsable ?

Ce virage date de plusieurs années, mais il s’est considérablement accéléré depuis la venue de la Coalition avenir Québec au pouvoir.

En quoi le gouvernement de François Legault peut-il en être responsable ? Les travailleurs étrangers temporaires — autant en agriculture que ceux hautement qualifiés — sont recrutés par les entreprises elles-mêmes. Les étudiants étrangers veulent décrocher un diplôme québécois. Les demandeurs d’asile arrivent par leur propre volonté et leurs propres moyens sur le territoire.

L’immigration temporaire et celle permanente sont considérées comme des vases communicants. La pénurie de main-d’oeuvre s’est vraiment amorcée depuis 2016, situe M. Hamel. Mais c’est maintenant, « étant donné le plafond [de résidents permanents] imposé par le gouvernement, que les employeurs se tournent vers les [résidents] temporaires, de gré ou de force », précise-t-il ensuite.

Là où le discours converge aussi avec la pratique est que Québec s’est exclu de la création de voies d’accès vers la résidence permanente. Les réformes durant le premier mandat caquiste ont notamment restreint les possibilités d’accéder à ce statut pour les personnes sans formation collégiale ou universitaire. « On a autant besoin d’ingénieurs que de bons soudeurs, alors pourquoi discriminer selon les diplômes ? » demande Denis Hamel.

À la demande répétée des employeurs, Québec a aussi mis en place des mesures pour favoriser le recrutement des travailleurs étrangers temporaires, et donc affiché son intention de miser davantage sur ce type d’immigration plutôt que de toucher aux seuils. Le ministère provincial de l’Immigration note dans son plan pour 2022 qu’il souhaite « appuyer les employeurs » pour « augmenter le nombre » de travailleurs étrangers temporaires.

Dans le reste du Canada, l’immigration temporaire est en forte hausse, mais Ottawa a pris une voie différente en créant davantage de voies d’accès à la permanence pour puiser dans ce bassin plus rapidement.

« Le nombre de personnes qui deviennent résidents permanents en ayant déjà eu un statut temporaire est énorme », a ainsi résumé le ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, Sean Fraser, l’automne dernier.

Plusieurs catégories d’immigration

Le nombre de 50 000 résidents permanents est une cible annuelle. Pour la comparer, il faut donc utiliser les données pour chaque année et pour chaque catégorie de temporaires. Il y avait en tout plus de 145 000 titulaires de permis temporaires en 2021, et au moins 181 000 en 2022, selon les données disponibles jusqu’en octobre ou en novembre, selon les catégories.

Il peut s’agir de personnes qui entrent nouvellement sur le territoire, ou encore qui se trouvaient déjà ici et renouvellent leur permis temporaire.

La grande boîte des temporaires, telle qu’illustrée dans notre graphique, regroupe des situations diverses. Les possibilités de devenir résident permanent varient grandement d’une catégorie à l’autre. Ces différents programmes et catégories ont néanmoins une chose en commun : une date d’expiration sur le papier qui donne le droit d’être sur le territoire québécois.

Il y a d’abord les étudiants internationaux, qui détiennent aussi le droit de travailler, un droit sans limites d’heures depuis novembre dernier.

Il y a ensuite le vaste Programme de mobilité internationale (PMI), composé de 70 sous-catégories telles que l’Expérience internationale Canada ou la trentaine de programmes vacances-travail (PVT). Ces immigrants temporaires sont souvent diplômés ou « qualifiés », mais peuvent aussi avoir des permis fermés.

Et enfin, les deux catégories considérées comme les plus précaires : les demandeurs d’asile et les travailleurs étrangers temporaires. Les uns vivent dans l’incertitude de voir leur statut de réfugié reconnu, un processus qui prend actuellement deux ans. Les autres, les travailleurs étrangers temporaires, arrivent sur le territoire avec un permis portant le nom d’un seul employeur ; ils ne peuvent donc pas être embauchés ailleurs au terme de leur contrat.

Ce stock de nouveaux permis temporaires s’ajoute à un bassin de résidents temporaires déjà sur le territoire, grâce à des contrats ou à des permis d’études chevauchant plusieurs années par exemple. Résultat, le nombre de résidents non permanents (temporaires) comptabilisés par Statistique Canada a presque triplé en 10 ans.

Au 1er juillet 2022, l’effectif des résidents non permanents était de 290 000 personnes au Québec, soit plus de 3 % de la population totale de la province.

En posant l’hypothèse que ces « non permanents » veulent s’installer au Québec, il faudrait donc près de six ans pour leur octroyer un statut permanent avec le plafond actuel.

Goulot d’étranglement et conséquences

« On croit que la majorité des résidents temporaires souhaitent rester. Mais pour obtenir la résidence permanente, le nombre de “places” est limitée à 50 000. Ça veut donc dire que les délais s’allongent sans mesure, on s’en va vers une crise et on va perdre beaucoup de monde dans ce goulot d’étranglement », dit M. Reichhold.

Ce virage s’opère silencieusement puisqu’il « n’a jamais été discuté d’un point de vue politique », dit Mireille Paquet. Ces gens temporaires ne répondent peut-être pas « aux idéaux linguistiques et culturels du gouvernement », mais la professeure croit que le Québec « ne peut pas faire l’économie de cette discussion difficile ».

Au-delà des chiffres, « c’est un changement de paradigme », ajoute-t-elle : « L’approche historique du Canada est que les gens arrivaient avec la résidence permanente. C’est toujours comme ça qu’on a compris l’immigration. »

« On perd l’élément intégration et [le fait de pouvoir] dire que ces gens font partie de notre société, ce qui était à la base de notre philosophie », renchérit Stephan Reichhold.

Peu importe le programme utilisé, le statut temporaire induit davantage de vulnérabilité, disent-ils aussi. « Empêcher les gens de se projeter vers l’avenir est paradoxalement un frein majeur à l’intégration », affirme Stéphanie Arsenault, professeure de travail social à l’Université Laval.

« La précarité nuit aussi aux employeurs », note quant à lui M. Hamel, à cause du roulement de personnel et des démarches administratives très lourdes.

Ce virage remet aussi en question l’idée qu’une immigration trop rapide mettrait la cohésion sociale à risque, selon M. Reichhold. « Pour les dizaines de milliers, voire des centaines, de temporaires, ça se passe relativement bien. Ils ont déjà un travail ou font des études, ils occupent un logement et ils consomment. Il n’y a pas de signal de saturation », insiste-t-il.

« Si ce qui nous importe est de savoir si tous ces gens sont capables de trouver de l’emploi au Québec, on le sait, ils sont déjà ici », réitère Mireille Paquet.

La journaliste Sarah R. Champagne a participé au documentaire Essentiels, qui sera diffusé à Télé-Québec le mercredi 25 janvier à 20 h.

Source: Le grand virage de l’immigration

Quebec election: Immigration becomes political fodder as parties spar over ‘capacity’

More takes on the Quebec immigration election debates. Appears, however, that immigration has receded somewhat as a focus of the campaign. But the hope of the Conseil du patronat for discussions “in a calm, factual and rational way” is likely a stretch:

The head of a major employers’ group in Quebec says an election campaign is not the time to have a serious discussion about immigration.

Campaign slogans and political messages aren’t suited for rational conversations about how newcomers contribute positively to the economy, Karl Blackburn, president and CEO of the Conseil du patronat du Québec, said in a recent interview.

“And we are very much aware that these are sensitive issues, particularly around language,” Blackburn said.

But three weeks in, party leaders have not shied away from putting immigration front and centre in the Quebec campaign. The debate has so far been su

Blackburn, meanwhile, says Quebec has the capacity — and desperately needs — to accept up to 100,000 immigrants a year in order to address labour shortages that are negatively affecting the quality, price and availability of goods and services across Quebec. That number is a non-starter for Legault, whose party has a commanding lead in the polls and who wants to keep the level of immigrants at 50,000 per year — the maximum, he says, that Quebec can integrate properly and teach French.

Political scientists and economists, however, say there isn’t any research that offers definitive answers to the question of how many immigrants a society — including Quebec — can welcome.

For Pierre Fortin, professor emeritus of economics at Université du Québec à Montréal, Blackburn’s number is “wacky” and would bring “administrative chaos” to society. Increasing immigration levels to more than 80,000 a year, he said, risks creating “xenophobia and racism” toward immigrants and pushing voters into the arms of people who would drastically cut the number of newcomers to the province.

But Mireille Paquet, political science professor at Concordia University, strongly challenged that theory, adding that the research is inconclusive.

“What we know for sure,” she said, “is that what causes the backlash (against immigrants) is not, per se, the number of immigrants but feelings of insecurity in the non-immigrant population, and that feeling can be brought up by public policies, such as cutting social services … it’s something politicians can address,” she said in a recent interview.

Paquet said the idea that there is a limited “capacity to integrate” is often touted by restrictionists and people on the right as a reason to curtail immigration. The debate, she said, should not be around the rate of arrival or the number of annual immigrants, but on what the government is going to do to ease feelings of insecurity in the local population.

“It also depends on what is our expectation of integration,” she said. “What is good integration? That has changed over time, and that will continue to change.”

The debate over immigration during the election campaign has also focused on whether more newcomers would help solve the labour shortages plaguing the province. 

Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon says it won’t, and he is promising to cut immigration to 35,000 a year and only accept people who already speak French. The Liberals’ number is 70,000 newcomers a year, and Québec solidaire says it wants to accept up to 80,000 immigrants a year in order to have enough people to help build its ambitious climate change projects.

Fortin is adamant that immigrants do not address labour shortages but could even exacerbate them. Even if a company solves its labour problems by hiring foreigners, he said, those newcomers will be looking to spend money, consume services and products, seek health care, and enrol their children in school.

That extra spending creates demand and requires more production from Quebec companies, Fortin said. “You solve a shortage in one area and it reappears in another.”

His solution, however, is not politically palatable — especially during an election campaign. The only way to solve labour shortages, he said, is to increase unemployment.

Blackburn, for his part, is calling on whichever party wins on Oct. 3 to convene a forum with stakeholders to discuss — in a calm, factual and rational way — the best way to address the labour shortages that he says are causing billions in dollars of losses to companies across the province.

“We should not see immigrants as consumers of public services,” Blackburn said. “They are here to contribute to the economic vitality of Quebec.”

Source: Quebec election: Immigration becomes political fodder as parties spar over ‘capacity’

Paquet et Beland: Le variant Omicron et les boucs émissaires de la CAQ

Good commentary:

Un peu avant Noël, le ministre Jean Boulet, qui est à la fois ministre du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale, et aussi ministre de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, a émis un gazouillis liant la montée des cas du variant Omicron au Québec aux demandeurs d’asile arrivant par le chemin Roxham, en Estrie :

« Le gouvernement fédéral doit prendre ses responsabilités. Il faut fermer le chemin #Roxham. Nous devons tous nous mobiliser devant la remontée des cas de #COVID19 #Ominicron[sic] afin de ne pas surcharger notre système de santé! 
La publication a notamment été reprise par la vice-première ministre et ministre de la Sécurité publique Geneviève Guilbault, et d’autres élus ou membres du personnel politique de la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ).

En plus de propager une fausse inférence selon laquelle les demandeurs d’asile – et, plus largement, les immigrants – sont à la source de la nouvelle vague de COVID-19 que traverse le Québec, ces propos donnent peut-être un avant-goût des stratégies caquistes de rejet du blâme auxquelles on peut s’attendre en cette année électorale.

Bien que cette stratégie fasse partie de la boite à outils de tous les acteurs politiques, le gazouillis du ministre Boulet illustre comment, lorsque la situation se détériore sur le terrain, le gouvernement de la CAQ aime bien mettre la faute sur deux boucs émissaires : les immigrants et le gouvernement fédéral.

Les immigrants : vieux comme le monde

L’utilisation des immigrants comme boucs émissaires, de même que leur représentation comme étant à la source de crises sanitaires, sociales, économiques et linguistiques, sont des constantes de l’histoire humaine. Dès le début de la crise de la COVID-19, des chefs d’état à travers le monde ont utilisé de telles stratégies à saveur xénophobe. Ce fut le cas aux États-Unis lorsqu’on a parlé du « virus chinois », par exemple.

Au Québec, on doit reconnaître que les élus de la CAQ n’ont pas véhiculé un tel discours pendant les premières vagues de la pandémie. La déclaration du ministre Boulet est-elle donc une aberration ? Un simple égarement ? La politisation stratégique et répétée des questions migratoires par le gouvernement caquiste permet d’en douter.

Depuis son virage nationaliste, le parti a soutenu des positions plus restrictives que ses adversaires en matière d’immigration, une stratégie qui a réussi à faire des niveaux d’immigration la question de l’urne lors des élections de 2018. Après son assermentation, le gouvernement de François Legault a continué à mobiliser les enjeux migratoires et ceux liés, à tort ou à raison, aux questions identitaires et linguistiques, afin de consolider sa base électorale.

Si le geste de M. Boulet n’était pas prémédité, il s’inscrit à tout le moins dans la continuité d’une certaine rhétorique de son parti. En tous les cas, son gazouillis n’a pas été retiré à ce jour, malgré les centaines de commentaires négatifs qu’il a générés.

La faute d’Ottawa

L’autre bouc émissaire commode pour la CAQ, c’est le gouvernement fédéral. Ça n’a rien de nouveau dans le contexte du fédéralisme canadien, où les gouvernements provinciaux ont tendance à blâmer Ottawa pour leurs problèmes, même lorsque la responsabilité du fédéral est loin d’être démontrée.

Par contre, puisque l’immigration est maintenant une compétence partagée et que la vision de la CAQ et celle du Parti libéral du Canada sont aux antipodes en ce qui a trait à l’immigration et la diversité culturelle, la critique caquiste des politiques du gouvernement Trudeau est presque inévitable.

Elle l’est encore plus lorsqu’elle concerne le fameux chemin Roxham, qui est devenu le symbole d’une « menace » migratoire. Cependant, la nouvelle entente sur les tiers pays sûrs qu’Ottawa vient de signer avec son homologue américain pour « colmater cette brèche à la frontière » pourrait priver le gouvernement Legault d’une de ses sources habituelles de critique envers le fédéral.

Il y aura sans doute d’autres occasions de critiquer Ottawa, sur d’autres enjeux. Comme c’est le cas pour les immigrants, le gouvernement fédéral est en soi lui aussi considéré par de nombreux caquistes – et bien des Québécois – comme une menace potentielle envers les intérêts et les valeurs du Québec.

Un jeu dangereux pour faire oublier le manque de préparation

S’il est presque devenu une tradition pour chaque gouvernement québécois de critiquer le gouvernement fédéral, les propos du ministre Boulet en ce qui a trait à l’immigration sont particulièrement inquiétants.

Qu’elle ait été planifiée ou non, cette stratégie de rejeter de blâme sur les demandeurs d’asile reste dangereuse, puisqu’elle propage de fausses informations. Il n’y a en effet aucune preuve que les demandeurs d’asile soient responsables, même de façon partielle, de la hausse dramatique des cas de COVID-19 au Québec. En Amérique, en Europe et ailleurs, l’arrivée du variant Omicron est d’abord le fait de voyageurs détenant un passeport et arrivés de façon régulière, comme ce fut le cas pour la propagation des variants précédents ou encore d’autres virus au potentiel pandémique, comme le SRAS.

Le gouvernement Legault peut bien tenter de blâmer les migrants pour la venue d’Omicron, mais la réalité est qu’il s’y est mal préparé, malgré les nombreux signes avant-coureurs en Europe et ailleurs dans le monde.

En matière d’immigration, la stratégie récurrente de rejet du blâme de la CAQ risque aussi d’avoir des effets durables sur la teneur des débats publics. Les recherches sur la politisation de l’immigration ont documenté de façon abondante que les prises de position comme celles du ministre Boulet contribuent à polariser les discours de tous les partis politiques, ce qui peut modifier grandement l’offre politique disponible.

La réaction de Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon, chef du Parti Québécois, l’illustre bien : plutôt que de dénoncer l’inférence du ministre, M. St-Pierre Plamondon a renchéri en affirmant que seule l’indépendance permettrait au Québec de contrôler ses frontières.  Ce faisant, il se trouvait à légitimer les propos du ministre Boulet, même s’ils ne s’appuient sur aucune base factuelle.

Les travaux sur les stratégies partisanes de politisation montrent aussi comment la diffusion par les élus d’informations incorrectes sur l’immigration élargit la fenêtre des discours légitimes et peut valider des positions radicales. Cela contribue à la désinformation, et ultimement à l’érosion de la confiance des citoyens envers l’État.

À court terme, une telle stratégie, avant tout électoraliste, peut sembler une bonne façon pour la CAQ de s’assurer de remporter un nouveau mandat majoritaire en octobre 2022. Il faut pourtant s’inquiéter des conséquences à long terme sur la vie politique et la société québécoises.

Source: https://irpp.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=f538f283d07ef7057a628bed8&id=9829acadf7&e=86cabdc518

A lot is riding on how we manage asylum seekers

Good overview of the challenges regarding to the increased number of asylum seekers with an almost wistful plea for increased federal-Ontario-Quebec cooperation.

No real discussion of what “workable solutions” to address the flow would entail or what form a greater formal provincial role in asylum seekers would entail apart from a “considerable injection of cash” (beyond what already provided in the Budget):

The next federal election is just eight months away. Immigration, and particularly asylum seekers and irregular border crossers coming from the US, is sure to be a thorny issue for the current federal government. These crossings, following on the heels of large numbers of Syrians seeking asylum in Europe, have stoked fears among many Canadians that the country is facing its own refugee “crisis.” Opponents have been quick to criticize the federal government, saying it is not doing enough to stem the flow of irregular border crossings. The Prime Minister’s rivals have repeatedly pointed to his January 2017 tweet saying that Canada will welcome those seeking refuge as the instigator of this increase in asylum claims. The Prime Minister faces stiff opposition from both his federal rivals and his provincial counterparts.

If Canada is to weather the inevitable ratcheting up of political rhetoric and the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in the Western world, the federal and provincial governments will need to work together to manage asylum seekers. It is a tall order to ask politicians to take the high road and to find common ground on such a tricky file. It is even harder when immigration politics mixes with intergovernmental relations and fiscal federalism. But the survival of Canada’s immigration system may very well depend on it, and this election presents an opportunity for political leadership.

In 2018, 19,419 persons crossed the border between Canada and the United States outside of regular ports of entry. A majority did so with the hope of claiming refugee status in Canada. These movements are a reflection of the increasingly inhospitable global climate toward refugee resettlement and of the anti-immigration policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.

These border crossings are considered “irregular” because of Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, signed as part of a bigger package of reforms to coordinate border management policies after 9/11. Under the agreement, both countries are designated “safe third countries” because they allow and process refugee protection claims according to international standards and obligations. The core principle of the agreement is that persons should seek protection and asylum in the first safe country they arrive in. So, migrants who land first in the United States cannot claim asylum at a regular port of entry in Canada, and vice-versa. Significantly, the agreement does not apply outside of designated ports of entry. People crossing at locations that are not regular ports of entry, such as the now famous Roxham Road in Quebec, may therefore make asylum claims.

The well-publicized increase in total asylum claims over the past two years is not unprecedented in Canada: similar spikes occurred in the recent past. For example, there were 44,640 claims in 2001. But the numbers in the last two years are extraordinary: 50,390 claims in 2017 and 55,020 in 2018, a sharp rise from the recent low of 10,365 in 2013. The surge in crossings at non-designated ports has driven the increase: there were over 20,593 such crossings in 2017 and 19,419 in 2018. Arrivals are not distributed evenly across provinces; Quebec received more than 90 percent of “irregular” arrivals in 2017 and 2018, and Ontario is the destination of a large share of these individuals and families while they await status determination. In August 2017 alone, over 5,500 people crossed the border into Quebec. By 2018, though, the number of border crossers seemed to have levelled off to a more consistent flow of around 1,500 people a month.

The combination of drivers behind these arrivals means that there are no easy solutions to dealing with this new normal. Proposals range from making the entire border a port of entryto cancelling the Safe Third Country Agreement. Canada needs to find workable solutions that humanely manage the flow of asylum seekers crossing the Canada-US border without actively encouraging it.

While the focus is often on Ottawa’s response to asylum seekers, all three orders of government play critical roles. In addition to border security, the federal government is responsible for the initial intake and screening of asylum seekers, along with funding and managing their claims for refugee status. The provinces are responsible for providing housing and social services while people wait to hear if the Immigration and Refugee Board will approve their claims. Cities, particularly Toronto, face the significant challenge of having to find shelter space and provide on-the-ground services. For the system to work, the federal government has to take leadership and quickly process the claims to help resolve people’s status in Canada, while the provinces and municipalities provide the necessary support that allows them to settle into their new life and thrive in their communities. The sharp increase in asylum seekers in the past two years has exposed the weak points in the system and led to considerable federal-provincial conflict.

Conflict between the three main players — Ottawa, Quebec and Ontario — has largely defined the federal-provincial relationship in responding to the asylum issue. Quebec has been vocal in calling for support from Ottawa to help it deal with the costs associated with being the main point where the crossings are happening. Ontario — where a large portion of the asylum seekers are landing, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area — has repeatedly asked the federal government to help cover the cost of housing and social services for these individuals. Ottawa has dedicated approximately $150 million to help provinces and municipalities with the costs of resettlement, in addition to the estimated $1 billion it plans to spend over the next three years on processing asylum claims. It is also taking steps like reopening a previously closed Immigration and Refugee Board office to speed up processing. But these first moves have not gone far enough to resolve the tensions. The spat got so heated that Ontario pulled out of discussions on how to deal with the entire issue, a move that also signals the provincial government’s lack of desire to fully engage to find a mutually agreeable solution. The lack of engagement has led mayors from Toronto and other big cities to make their case directly with Ottawa.

This period of conflict is unusual. As our past research shows, immigration is an area where the federal and provincial governments have increasingly cooperated to develop policy. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the provinces expanded their role in selecting and settling migrants. And, in recent years, federal-provincial-territorial collaboration has been a defining feature of immigration policy. So, what is the difference when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers?

In the past, the provinces and the federal government largely agreed on the basic objectives of the immigration program. Expanding the provincial role in selecting migrants helped achieve a shared goal of streaming migrants away from settling mainly in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. It also helped ensure that the skills of migrants matched labour market needs. In short, there was a measure of consensus that the provinces needed to play a role in the program to ensure that the benefits of immigration were shared equally across the country and for migrants to succeed in their new lives. This consensus generated cooperation.

No such consensus on how to manage asylum seekers seems to have emerged yet. The lack of consensus reflects the traditional lack of provincial engagement in asylum policy, where the federal government has long taken the lead. Quebec, Ontario and Ottawa also have competing interests at the moment. Quebec is on the front line, and is understandably concerned with stopping irregular border crossings into its territory. Ontario — Toronto in particular — is facing a major challenge housing the influx of people. Ottawa is focused on dealing with the mounting backlog of refugee claims while ensuring the process remains rigorous and fair.

Politics, of course, is also playing into the conflict. Doug Ford wants to score points battling the federal Liberals. François Legault’s newly elected government is requesting that Ottawa support its plan to lower immigration levels and is asking for more powers under the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration agreement. Justin Trudeau has built his brand on the value of pluralism and support for immigration, something that the Liberal Party has traditionally proposed must be achieved through centralization. These are difficult positions to reconcile. But political differences can be overcome to find workable solutions: the height of federal-provincial cooperation on immigration came when there was a Conservative federal government and Liberal governments in Ontario and Quebec.

The federal and provincial governments must work together once again. Their shared goal should be a balance between protecting the integrity of our immigration system and treating asylum seekers with compassion. Strong federal leadership is necessary to achieve this goal, along with a clear recognition of the interdependence of all three orders of government in successfully managing the file. The federal government needs to inject considerable cash into the entire system, chiefly focusing on speeding up the processing of asylum claims. Ottawa controls the principal levers, direct and indirect, to manage the influx of migrants — and so it needs to work with the provinces to find common ground on how it should wield these tools.

A federal-provincial agreement on the broader policy approach, as well as on funding the resettlement of claimants, would help establish this common ground. But this agreement needs to be more than a blank cheque from the federal government. The provinces must accept that they have a role and responsibility in supporting asylum seekers. If the benefits of economic migration are to be shared by all — as the provinces have fought hard for over the years — then the responsibility to assist humanitarian migration also needs to be shared by all.

Canada’s enviable immigration system relies on the public’s support. This backing is not the result of some unique Canadian openness to multiculturalism and pluralism — though these are important parts of our national identity. The public largely supports immigration because it is seen to be in the interests of the entire community. It is mainly a controlled process, bringing in skilled workers and family members.

Canada’s geopolitical position, with vast oceans on three sides and a relatively stable democracy to the south, means that the country has not been subjected to massive flows of asylum seekers. But this is a fragile situation. If the current and next governments don’t handle the new normal of consistent flows of asylum seekers properly, public support could erode, and the legitimacy of the entire Canadian immigration system could be put in jeopardy.

Source: A lot is riding on how we manage asylum seekers

Canada’s merit-based immigration system is no ‘magic bullet’ : Mireille Paquet

Very good overview:

President Donald Trump has made comprehensive immigration reform in the United States one of his key legislative goals.

He’s proposed bringing the U.S. immigration system “into the 21st century” by providing a path to citizenship for some undocumented migrants and by fully securing the country’s southern border.

Central to his plans is a merit-based, Canada-style immigration systemthat would replace the current American system that focuses on family reunification and a diversity lottery.

But is merit-based immigration the simple solution for the complex set of immigration-related issues facing the United States?

Canada’s “merit-based” system provides some lessons for the United States. Despite the relative success of the Canadian merit-based system, Canada’s experience shows there’s no magic bullet.

What does “merit-based” mean?

“Merit-based” immigration systems are based on the principle of selecting newcomers according to their skills, education, adaptability, language proficiency and overall human capital.

These metrics, proponents argue, allow immigrants to fill specific labour market needs. But they also act as predictors of how a newcomer might adapt to a new social, economic and cultural environment.

Yet the notion of merit is complex, contextual and highly politicized.

All immigration selection programs are rooted in implicit and explicit definitions of merit, whether they’re based on economic criteria, ideas of cultural compatibility or family relationships. From that standpoint, all immigration programs are “merit-based” systems.

Current U.S. political debates tend to pit the programs of some countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand against the U.S. system as it exists today.

As several analysts and researchers have shown, however, family ties and social links can also be considered a form of merit, and may have positive impacts on immigrants’ future contributions to their new home.

Consequently, when it comes to immigration, there is no objective definition of what “merit” really means.

Merit-based systems have also been criticized for reinforcing global human capital inequalities and for indirectly sorting candidates based on ethnic and cultural origins.

But proponents see merit-based systems as yielding better integration outcomes. They also argue that they allow for better management of immigration levels, build public trust and are more responsive to labour market dynamics.

Trump says the system will help ensure economic growth, economic mobility for both native-born Americans and immigrants and will close the door to unwanted immigrants.

Canada’s “merit-based” system

Canada implemented a points system in 1967 in order to move away from origin-based selection of immigrants. Fifty years later, in 2017, Canada admitted 296,346 permanent legal immigrants. About 52 per cent of them entered through different categories of the “economic” class of the immigration program, Canada’s own version of a “merit-based” immigration system.

Under this system, economic immigration candidates are evaluated and ranked using a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). It’s a 100-point selection grid that considers factors such as age, education, work specialization, work experience in Canada and abroad as well as arranged employment in Canada.

Would-be immigrants to Canada are also evaluated for adaptability, measured by elements such as past experiences in Canada, but also by the presence of relatives in the country and their spouses’ language proficiency.

So even when measuring for “merit,” the Canadian immigration system does include a recognition of the importance of family ties and social networks.

What’s more, not all of the 159,125 individuals who entered Canada through the economic class in 2017 were selected using the economic criteria.

Between 2006 and 2015, only 41 to 49 per cent of these individuals were selected directly based on their potential for contributing to the Canadian economy. The rest of the economic class is comprised of close family members of the main applicant, like spouses and children.

Nonetheless, Canada’s experience overall with its immigration program has been positive. Among other benefits, it’s been credited with building the Canadian public’s support for relatively high immigration levels.

But merit-based immigration programs demand investment into the system, and they may have unintended consequences. Canada’s merit-based program provides three important lessons for U.S. policymakers and citizens:

Lesson 1: “Merit-based” is only the beginning

A central argument by proponents of merit-based immigration is that it will lead to better immigrant integration outcomes.

While that’s largely true, a constellation of social and state actions also affect how immigrants fare in their newly adopted homes.

Two are especially important: Immigrant integration services and efforts to find jobs for immigrants.

Canada funds immigrant integration programs that range from language training to information on jobs, bridging programs to jobs and job training. While Canada offers specific social programs for refugees, several services are also available to all classes of permanent immigrants.

Indeed, Canada plans to spend just over $1 billion on immigrant integration services in 2018.

Experience and research have shown these programs are critical to helping merit-based immigrants succeed economically and socially. They also increase immigrants’ overall sense of belonging to their new society and encourage social participation.

But integration services are not enough: Canada’s experience shows that while immigrants selected based on their economic criteria fare better in the labour market than others, many of them still endure economic difficulties.

Underemployment, trouble entering the labour market and the need to go back to school, despite having university degrees, are all too common experiences for Canadian immigrants even if they meet the “merit-based” criteria.Skills-based immigration programs can easily run amok if the labour market can’t accommodate foreign education and skills credentials. As a consequence, both Canada’s federal and provincial governments have had to invest in educating employers — and are still working to create and enforce standards for foreign skills recognition.

Canada’s experience proves that a merit-based system demands much more than simply choosing “the right” immigrants. Governments must invest in supporting them once they’ve been admitted.

Lesson 2: Immigrants & labour market needs

Matching the demands of the labour market to new immigrants is a challenge. That’s due in part to the difference between the speed at which labour markets evolve and how quickly an immigration system can operate to bring job-ready candidates to any given country and employer.

The challenge is compounded by popular and political ideas about who is an “ideal” economic immigrant — for example, a doctor or an engineer — and the actual labour needs of the country.

In the last 30 years, those types of disconnects have been a constant testin Canada but also in other countries.

In the early 1990s, the Canadian government’s preferred solution was to select immigrants based on predictions about their capacity to adapt to a changing labour market. To do so, they used human capital as the main merit criterion. That had several unintended effects, including the underemployment of many immigrants and labour shortages in several technical sectors.

Since then, the Canadian government has made a move towards a more demand-based model, and provides provinces and territories as well as employers with a bigger say in the selection system.

More recently, the system was again amended to reintroduce human capital factors because the immigrants selected by the demand-driven model were not considered skilled enough.

Canada’s experience is one of a tug of war between planning for long-term labour needs and short-term labour supply.

Despite these adjustments, current Canadian programs still struggle to address the needs of labour markets that are increasingly divided between the need for high-skilled versus low-skilled workers, like those in short supply in the service sector.

Consequently, Canada relies increasingly on temporary immigration to meet market demands. In the last 10 years, the number of so-called temporary foreign workers has grown tremendously, as have concerns about worker abuses and overall precarity.

And despite reforms aimed at providing temporary workers a path to permanent residency, the need for those low-skilled labourers runs counter to the long-term social and economic objective of Canada’s merit-based system.

What is “best” for the economy, and what types of immigrants are most needed, often eschews simple answers.

Lesson 3: The need for bureaucrats

Trust in the bureaucracy is critical to a successful merit-based system. Any immigrant-selection system relies on a comprehensive, technical method of assessing would-be newcomers, the gathering of information on the labour market and on global migration trends, as well as the monitoring and evaluation of programs.

On the ground, considerable work is required to assess individual applications based on merit criteria. While technology makes these tasks easier than before, well-trained public servants and well-funded public infrastructure are needed.
In Canada and elsewhere, government workers use research, field expertise and discretion to assess applicants. The need for accurate data along with the complexity of these programs often make elected officials dependent on the expertise and advice of public servants.

Bureaucrats are uniquely positioned to see the negative consequences of selection programs, and to propose innovative solutions based on their hands-on experience.

What’s more, experiments that have involved employers in immigrant selection programs remain inconclusive. While they remain important partners, bureaucrats still have the advantage over employers in assessing immigrants.

The move to merit-based systems often politicize not only overall immigration levels, but also the very definition of “merit.”

The cacophony of partisan advice and political opinion on these often highly technical assessments of immigrants means it’s crucial to have reliable data on immigration and unbiased analysis. The trust of Canadian elected officials in the country’s immigration bureaucracy is one of the secret ingredients of its success.

Hardly a ‘magic bullet’

A merit-based immigration might address some of America’s immigration challenges.

But it could also have negative consequences, especially as long as state-funded integration services remain comparatively limited and not accessible to all immigrants in the U.S..

The U.S. government will also need work to ensure that the immigrants it selects will respond to the actual labour market needs of its diverse economy. The distrust the Trump administration clearly harbours towards the American federal bureaucracy might also create considerable challenges to the design and implementation of a merit-based system.

Canada’s experience shows that selecting immigrants based on economic merit is not a silver bullet. Finding the “right” immigrants is the only one step in a large group of government actions that support immigrants and the country overall.

via Canada’s merit-based immigration system is no ‘magic bullet’

MPs lobby to ease language rules for immigrants [citizenship]

More coverage on the issue of language assessment for citizenship applicants. Will see if this gets attention when Parliament resumes next week:

One critic said if McCallum agrees with the MPs to make the changes it’s a “retrograde” step.

Martin Collacott said the real goal is likely to boost the pool of Liberal voters, since the only key rights citizens have that permanent residents lack is the right to vote, obtain a passport, and obtain jobs that require a high-level security clearance.

“They’re more concerned with getting votes and not so concerned that they (new Canadians) will integrate socially and economically,” said Collacott, a former senior Canadian diplomat who writes on immigration and refugee issues for the Fraser Institute.

Griffith said says the MPs are sincerely reflecting the views of some constituents.

“Of course there is probably a political element there, of making sure they retain the ethnic vote they gained during the election, but I think they’re probably hearing those comments,” said Griffith, author of the 2015 book called Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote.

Griffith said he hopes McCallum doesn’t give in to the pressure and go back to the old system, which fell short of requiring citizens to speak basic English or French.

“If you really want to help people succeed, and if you really want an inclusive society, it means they have to participate in one of the official languages,” he said.

An alternative view was expressed in 2014 by the Canadian Bar Association, which opposed the tougher requirements.

“Many immigrants over the last century came to Canada and worked in areas that did not require them to read or write in English or French but have paid taxes, attended religious institutions, volunteered in their communities, raised children and have little or no ties to their country of birth,” the statement said. “They may lack the ability to complete a knowledge test in English or French, but still possess the language skills needed to be a long-term, contributing member of Canadian society.”

Successful citizenship applicants now have to prove they have an “adequate knowledge” of one of the languages, which is defined as someone “can understand someone speaking English or French and they can understand you,” according to the Citizenship and Immigration website. It lists several tests that it accepts as proof.

The government spells out four criteria applicants must provide evidence that they’ve reached level 4 of the “Canadian Language Benchmarks” system, which has 12 levels of proficiency, with one being the least fluent and 12 being an “advanced level of proficiency.”

To reach level four they must, according to the department, be able to:

• take part in short, everyday conversations about common topics.

• understand simple instructions, questions and directions.

• use basic grammar, including simple structures and tenses.

• show that you know enough common words and phrases to answer questions and express yourself.”

Canada has had a legislated requirement since 1947 that new citizens have an “adequate knowledge” of English or French, and until the mid-1990s that ability was assessed in oral citizenship tests done by citizenship judges.

Then the Liberal government, which at the time was engaged in an austerity program to slash the deficit, came up with a standardized, and much cheaper to administer, citizenship test.

The test involved 20 multiple choice questions testing knowledge in areas such as citizens’ rights and duties, and Canadian history, geography and the economy. It was assumed that passing the test would mean the applicant also had a reasonable grasp of the language.

But a successful applicant required only a 60-per-cent score to pass, resulting in 95 per cent of participants making the grade, according to a 2012 analysis by Montreal academic Mireille Paquet.

One of the problems with the tests, according to Griffith, is that they were uniform. That meant consultants could provide “cheat sheets” to help people who couldn’t function in English or French memorize the questions and visually recognize the correct answers.

The Conservatives made their first move in 2010 to make the test more challenging, bumping the passing grade to 75 per cent and offering different versions of the test in order to discourage cheating.

Then, in 2014, the new legislation came in requiring that applicants get third-party certification that they reached the level 4 proficiency.

Source: MPs lobby to ease language rules for immigrants