‘Brought down to my knees:’ Restaurateur slams changes to New Brunswick immigration

To govern is to choose, and hard to argue that healthcare and more highly skilled international students were not a valid policy choice:

When Michael Petrovici posts a job opening for one of his northern New Brunswick restaurants, he’s lucky if he gets one application.

“It’s very, very challenging to recruit people locally,” said the entrepreneur who owns a fast-food restaurant, a coffee shop and a full-service eatery in Bathurst.

The small city on the Chaleur Bay is quickly becoming the epicentre of Canada’s restaurant industry labour shortage after the province paused a popular immigration stream used by businesses to attract workers to the area.

“We were already struggling before. Now it’s just impossible for us,” Petrovici said. “I’m not sure how we’ll get through the summer.”

At issue is a decision by the New Brunswick government to suspend the province’s express entry stream, part of the provincial nominee program.

Arlene Dunn, the province’s minister responsible for immigration, said the application process was temporarily paused to ensure the needs of all sectors are met after a significant increase in demand.

“If it was allowed to continue, under the current circumstances, the large demand on our existing programming would jeopardize access to immigration for certain sectors … such as internationally educated nurses or international students who are currently in New Brunswick,” she said in a letter to Petrovici in response to his concerns.

The Canadian Press reached out to New Brunswick government departments that oversee immigration, economic development and business for comment but did not receive a response.

Restaurants across the country are confronting a worker shortfall.

The sector was slammed by two years of pandemic shutdowns, repeated layoffs and strict capacity limits. About 13,000 eateries across the country closed permanently and many workers left the industry altogether.

“The food service industry has been the hardest hit in terms of job losses as a result of COVID,” Restaurants Canada’s Atlantic Canada vice-president Richard Alexander said.

“The impact is even more significant in Atlantic Canada because of our unique labour challenges.”

Bathurst, for example, has a median age of 53 — more than a decade older than Canada’s median age of 40.4, according to Statistics Canada.

“The aging demographic makes it tough to find workers,” Petrovici said. “Rural areas are at an ever bigger disadvantage.”

Still, New Brunswick recorded a mini population boom during the pandemic.

The province added 15,000 newcomers in just 12 months — the fastest rate of population growth since 1976 — reaching 800,000 people, the province said in March.

Yet Petrovici, who owns a Pita Pit franchise, the coffee shop Kaffeine and the full-service restaurant Au Bootlegger, said he still can’t find enough workers to staff his eateries.

“We’re in crisis mode and it’s going to get worse,” he said. “The labour shortage is a really dire situation.”

Given the recent changes to the province’s immigration program, he said four of his employees will be leaving New Brunswick.

“I am brought down to my knees,” he said in a letter to Dunn. “We already have a mountain ahead of us in small rural communities just to attract newcomers.”

The changes to the immigration program have paused applications for food service supervisors, food counter attendants and food and beverage services indefinitely, he said.

“It feels like we’re being treated like a second-class business,” said Petrovici.

In her letter to Petrovici, Dunn suggested he consider the federal temporary foreign worker program.

But Petrovici said he doesn’t have the resources required to pursue other immigration streams, which are more complicated to navigate and require labour market assessments.

“Maybe if you’re a big business owner with 20 franchise locations and can afford to pay consultants it could be worth it,” he said. “But we’re just a mom and pop shop.”

Petrovici said he was told one of the issues is a delay with the federal allocation of candidates _ the number of foreign workers the province is able to welcome each year.

Remi Lariviere, a spokesperson for the federal Immigration Department, said allocations for 2022 were delayed due to the 2021 federal election, the conflict in Ukraine and ongoing challenges related to the pandemic.

Still, he said all provinces and territories participating in these immigration programs were told they could expect, at a minimum, the same number of allocations that they received in 2021.

“They’ve sort of passed the buck to the federal immigration (department),” Petrovici said. “I don’t know what the problem really is but we need a solution.”

He added: “All we need and want is to be able to keep our doors open.”

Source: ‘Brought down to my knees:’ Restaurateur slams changes to New Brunswick immigration

New Brunswick appoints independent systemic racism commissioner


The New Brunswick government has appointed its first commissioner on systemic racism.

The government said today in a statement Manju Varma’s office will operate independently from the government.

Among other things, Varma will consult the public on the nature and impact of systemic racism on marginalized groups, including newcomers, First Nations and Black people.

As well, she will review previous recommendations, establish a dedicated website, hold virtual meetings and receive presentations and written submissions.

Varma, who was appointed by the provincial cabinet, is expected to produce a final report by the end of September 2022.

It is expected to include recommendations on the development of a provincial strategy to address barriers to opportunity, equitable access to programs and services and systemic racism in health care, education, social development, housing, employment and criminal justice.

“I am incredibly honoured to take part in this important undertaking,” Varma said in a statement. “Having been an immigrant and having experienced racism growing up in this province, I personally know there is systemic racism here that must be addressed.”

Since 2020, Varma has led the Office of Inclusion, Equity and Anti-Racism for the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency.

She has a doctorate in anti-racist education from the University of Toronto and was an assistant professor from 2000 to 2008 with the University of New Brunswick’s faculty of education.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-new-brunswick-appoints-independent-systemic-racism-commissioner/

New Brunswick: Some immigrants should get to vote in civic elections, group says

Personally, question how urgent a need this is when the path to Canadian citizenship is relatively easy and straightforward, one that will become more affordable when the government implements its election commitment to waive fees (or even if it does so partially):

A growing chorus of New Brunswickers is calling for giving some voting rights to immigrants who have obtained permanent resident status.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council is leading the campaign to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections.

Moncef Lakouas, the council’s president, said he’s talked to municipal leaders and to many other citizens across the province and has found enthusiasm for the change.

“It’s not just permanent residents calling for this,” said Lakouas. “Many New Brunswickers, including elected officials, are saying, let’s do this.”

Permanent residents have many of the responsibilities and rights citizens enjoy, such as paying taxes and access to some social programs, but voting rights are not extended until citizenship is obtained.

Som Somaditya Das, a permanent resident living in Saint John, said permanent residents contribute so much to their communities, it only makes sense to extend voting rights.

“We are living here,” said Das.

“We are paying taxes. We are contributing to the growth and development of the economy of this region. We are contributing to the cultural landscape, to the social landscape. But we do not have any avenue so that our voice is heard, at least politically.”

But Lakouas said permanent residents can begin to contribute to the community politically before citizenship.

The council is focusing on an extension of voting rights in local elections, rather than provincial or federal ones, because of how direct the involvement of municipal governments are in newcomers’ lives.

Das said allowing permanent residents to vote could help increase diversity in municipal governments.

“We have different perspectives of people coming from different parts of the world,” said Das.

“They are different in their cultural background in their ethnic background. So we may not recognize their needs or the necessities in their lives unless we have a diverse representation in the government.”

The ball is now in the province’s court, as municipalities fall under provincial jurisdiction, so any change to voting rights would have to come from the province.

CBC News has reached out to the Department of Local Government and Local Governance Reform but has not heard back.

Lakouas said this is an opportunity for the province to lead the way.

“This is something that has not happened in Canada,” said Lakouas.

“We could lead first on it. We don’t have to wait for somebody else to do it and then learn from the process. We can lead the way and lead also all the marketing and the economic benefits that will come from it.”

Source: Some immigrants should get to vote in civic elections, group says

Elizabeth May says there’s ‘no room’ for racism in Green Party after NDP defector’s comments

Let’s not kid ourselves by denying that racist attitudes don’t exist and that the comments by Richardson were more in that line than himself endorsing those views.

The question is more whether the “undertone” is more on the discomfort side or more xenophobic and racist.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May issued a statement Wednesday saying “there is no room for any kind of racism” in her party after a recent convert made comments about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen former New Brunswick NDP candidates threw their support behind the provincial and federal Greens. One of the defectors — Jonathan Richardson, the former federal NDP executive member for Atlantic Canada — said racism was one of the reasons for the party’s lack of success in finding candidates with an election call imminent.

He said he travelled around the province to meet NDP members and found there’s “a bit of racism undertone,” particularly in the northern part of the province.

“From when I was up in the [Acadian] peninsula, I would say that a lot of that region that most people would be a bit worried about somebody who wasn’t, you know, wasn’t Caucasian, and that’s going to take some time to show people that, you know, Canadians come in all cultures and diversities,” he said. “But for right now I think that that racism still exists.”

Singh is a practising Sikh and wears a turban.

Singh said all national party leaders should be celebrating Canadian diversity and that May needs to explain why she has let the former New Democrats into her party.

“She’s taking in candidates that have kind of openly expressed their concern around someone looking differently and that being a challenge,” Singh said in Toronto on Wednesday evening. “If she is accepting people that are suggesting things that are not accepting of people’s diversity, then the Green Party has a lot to answer for.”

“I think our political leaders should embrace the diversity of our country and should be willing to say you can look like whatever you are as long as you share the values and beliefs that are going to make peoples’ lives better.”

NDP MP Charlie Angus tweeted that “the fact that some N.B. NDP jumped ship because they wouldn’t run under a progressive leader who comes from another religion is sickening.”

Karl Belanger, a former national director of the NDP, also weighed in, tweeting that it’s “not a good look, New Greens.”

May issued a statement Wednesday saying Richardson’s comments “were taken out of context and have led to accusations of racism against the party.”

“One of the core values of Greens around the world is respect for diversity and human rights,” she said.

“There is absolutely no room for any form of discrimination in the Green Party. We have zero tolerance for sexism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia or hate speech of any kind. Canada’s strength lies in its diversity.”

New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon said he hasn’t had a chance to speak to Richardson since he made the comments, but he contends they’ve been “overblown” and “exploited” by people trying to “blunt the impact” of 14 NDP candidates joining the Greens all at once.

“What I heard him say basically was he ran into some people who had ignorant attitudes and held prejudices against people of colour or people of different religions,” he said.

“It’s not a news flash racism and prejudice exists in Canada, and it’s abhorrent and we need to work to stand up to it and stamp it out.”

Coon said he travels the province regularly and, in his experience, “most” New Brunswickers are “very accepting.”

The NDP hasn’t held a seat in the New Brunswick legislature since 2005. Its last MP in the province was Acadie-Bathurst’s Yvon Godin, who retired in 2015.

Richardson told CBC News Tuesday there are other factors behind NDP’s diminished standing in New Brunswick — including the fact that Singh hasn’t set foot in the province since winning the leadership in 2017, the election planning committee’s focus on “urban areas that are diverse,” and a lack of staffing.

Coon said he doesn’t believe racism has played a role in the NDP’s troubles in the province. He contends the NDP has been struggling in New Brunswick since Elizabeth Weir stepped down as provincial party leader in the mid-2000s.

“So it’s been a long process where they’ve found significant challenges in resonating with the people of our province. And so I think that it’s not just one issue,” he said.

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said he “couldn’t disagree more” with Richardson’s comments, which he said imply that New Brunswickers are “inherently racist.”

“The New Brunswick I know welcomes and embraces people of all backgrounds,” he said in a statement.

“These comments are wrong, embarrassing for the province and should be embarrassing for Green Party Leader David Coon.”

Coon, whose Green Party is enjoying a boom in support, securing three seats in the 2018 provincial election, said Richardson will have to take responsibility for his words. “It’s his point of view and he’s the one who’s going to have to defend that.”

Late Wednesday, Richardson posted the text of his speech on Facebook, “for those out there who are wondering and asking questions.”

Richardson said he will not be answering questions from the general public or media, but would be “happy to have a conversation” with any of his friends.

Source: Elizabeth May says there’s ‘no room’ for racism in Green Party after NDP defector’s comments

New Brunswick population growth strategy seeks big boost in immigration

Common to most Atlantic provinces along with the Atlantic Immigration Pilot:

New Brunswick is aiming to more than triple the number of immigrants to the province, hoping to reach 7,500 a year by 2024.

The goal of bringing the annual immigration intake to about one per cent of the province’s population is included in a new five-year provincial government population growth strategy and action plan released today.

In addition to attracting new immigrants, the strategy seeks to ensure newcomers remain in the province, targeting a one-year retention rate of 85 per cent by 2024.

The province will also seek a greater proportion of French-speaking immigrants.

The Progressive Conservative government says its goal is to attract skilled workers and entrepreneurs to align with New Brunswick’s labour market needs, while creating an environment in which newcomers can settle and succeed

Labour Minister Trevor Holder says population growth is crucial to the future success of the province.

“The attraction and retention of new Canadians is critical to helping us increase our province’s population and meet the needs of our employers,” Holder said in a news release.

Moncef Lakouas, president of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, said the strategy delivers ambitious goals that will lead to economic growth and prosperity.

“When newcomers are fully included in all aspects of society, they become partners in growing our economy and enriching the social and cultural life of our province,” Lakouas said.

Through a strategy released by the previous Liberal government, the number of immigrants who came to New Brunswick each year was increased from 625 to 2,291 between 2014 and 2017. The province’s target this year is 2,100.

With roughly 770,000 people, New Brunswick has the third smallest population in Canada. The new strategy points out that between 2013 and 2018, it was second last among the provinces and territories in population growth at 1.6 per cent.

It says significant interprovincial migration loss, particularly among youth, and low birth rates are restricting the province’s ability to grow.

“International migration is a key strategy to lessen the impact of this decline,” the strategy document says.

From 2018 to 2027, New Brunswick is forecast to have about 120,000 job openings, and approximately 13,000 of those will require workers from outside the province, because not all of the jobs can be filled by local labour.

Source: New Brunswick population growth strategy seeks big boost in immigration

Critics scoff as New Brunswick premier appoints minister of ‘Celtic Affairs’


New Brunswick has raised a few eyebrows by naming its first minister of Celtic Affairs, an appointment that even the province’s multicultural association called a surprise.

The appointment of Lisa Harris, an educator, former bakery owner and MLA for Miramichi, was widely seen as a sop to anglophone voters angry over bilingualism requirements.

But the largely white province has long sought immigrants as its population shrinks, and Alex LeBlanc, executive director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, said he would have rather seen the government name a minister for immigration and cultural affairs.

“Quebec, Nova Scotia and Ontario have all done that. It could be a strong signal for New Brunswickers and for the federal government that we take those issues seriously,” he said.

He said the Celtic Affairs portfolio came as a surprise: “It wasn’t something that was coming up on our radar, but I don’t see any downside to having a minister responsible,” he said.

Political critics called it a waste of money, but Premier Brian Gallant said 40 per cent of New Brunswickers claim some link or ancestry that’s Celtic, and the ministry comes with no added cost.

“It’s a nice way for us to have a co-ordinated approach to the investments that we make in that realm,” Gallant said as he announced the new portfolio during a major cabinet shuffle Monday in Fredericton. “Many festivals are supported by the government, whether it’s the Irish festival in the Miramichi or whether it’s Scottish festivals that happen in many communities.”

Green Leader David Coon said the government is facing pressure on requirements for bilingual employees and the need for separate French and English school buses, and he thinks it is playing politics by adding Celtic Affairs.

“I think they’re trying to send a message that somehow they’re promoting at least one part of the anglophone side,” he said. “It would have been fair to have in the department, perhaps a culture section for Celtic Affairs with someone with that responsibility, but actually to appoint a minister of Celtic Affairs seems unnecessary.”

Tom Bateman, who teaches political science at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, called the appointment “laughable.”

“The only explanation I can think of is that the government has been sensitive to claims that it is too pro-French language, too pro-Acadian and it is doing this in some way to try to correct the balance. I don’t think that’s going to impress anybody,” Bateman said.

“I don’t think this will do anything to mollify peoples’ other concerns about language in the province.”

Source: Critics scoff as New Brunswick premier appoints minister of ‘Celtic Affairs’

Front commun contre les propos francophobes

More on the nature of on-line comments. My preference, rather than suppression, is requiring actual names and related authentication, as is done in letters to the editor:

Brodie Fenlon, le directeur des médias numériques pour le réseau CBC, a assuré au groupe par écrit vendredi que les commentaires identifiés seront supprimés. « Nous regrettons que ces commentaires se soient retrouvés sur notre site. Il s’agit d’une situation malencontreuse, mais inévitable lorsque l’on doit traiter un tel volume de commentaires. […] Dorénavant, nous nous assurerons que nos lignes directrices sont appliquées avec encore plus de rigueur et de jugement. » La politique de commentaires de CBC mentionne que les discours haineux, les attaques personnelles, les insultes ou encore les déclarations diffamatoires sont interdits.

En entrevue avec Le Devoir, l’instigateur de la lettre, Michel Doucet, n’est pas rassuré par cette réponse, tant s’en faut. Il exige que la CBC fasse preuve de vigilance en amont plutôt que de simplement retirer les commentaires litigieux après coup.

« Ils retirent les commentaires juste quand on les signale. Mais on ne va pas passer notre journée à surveiller le site de CBC ! C’est à CBC elle-même de veiller à la qualité du contenu », tonne-t-il. Selon l’avocat, il est inacceptable qu’une société d’État« permet[te] qu’on utilise son site de commentaires pour fomenter la division, l’incompréhension et l’intolérance vis-à-vis d’une communauté minoritaire ».

M. Doucet soutient que le phénomène existe « depuis que CBC a ouvert son site aux commentaires » et procède d’une tendance lourde. Chaque fois qu’il est question de sujets liés aux francophones au Nouveau-Brunswick, ces commentaires fusent. « L’autre jour, la ville de Dieppe a annoncé qu’elle aurait un anneau de glace et il y a eu des commentaires ! Un des commentaires qui revient souvent, c’est que les francophones ont tous les bénéfices alors que ce sont les anglophones qui payent tous les impôts. […] On mettrait une photo d’un beau petit chat portant un nom francophone que ces commentaires ressurgiraient », raille-t-il. Lui-même, un militant très en vue des droits linguistiques des francophones, est présenté dans certains commentaires comme un « individu radicalisé ».

Le sujet fait l’objet de conversations dans la communauté francophone néo-brunswickoise depuis très longtemps, raconte-t-il. Aussi, quand il a décidé de prendre la plume dimanche dernier, il a récolté ses 120 signatures prestigieuses en moins de 72 heures. C’est d’ailleurs un sénateur conservateur, Percy Mockler, outré et enflammé, qui a mis Le Devoir au parfum de la situation.

Les signataires demandent à ce que CBC ne permette plus les commentaires provenant de personnes anonymes, comme le font déjà plusieurs sites de médias. M. Fenlon rétorque dans sa lettre que cet anonymat est utile, quoiqu’il fasse l’objet d’un « examen ». « En autorisant l’utilisation de pseudonymes, on permet cependant à toutes les voix de participer au débat, y compris les victimes de crimes et les dénonciateurs d’abus, deux groupes qui, selon nous, ont de bonnes raisons de se cacher derrière l’anonymat. »