Falconer: Why Joe Biden should emulate Canada and go big on private refugee resettlement

Unlikely that it will happen given current polarization but agree with the potential:

As attention turns from the evacuation of Afghanistan to the arrival of refugees, U.S. President Joe Biden has an opportunity for large-scale engagement of the American public in a deeply personal fashion. 

If Canada’s history is any indicator, the capacity of private American citizens to resettle refugees is large and untapped. It may even bridge the divide over immigration in the United States.

In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saigon in 1975, some 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were lifted by sea and air to Guam and military bases in the southern United States. They were quickly resettled in the U.S., Canada and other countries, and were soon followed by an even larger exodus of refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. 

Another three million refugees would flee these countries as communist regimes were consolidating power. Many fled on ramshackle boats where almost one in three were lost at sea. Others died of abuse and neglect in camps, where they were preyed upon by unfriendly governments. 

Despite the situation, the international community was slow to respond — only 8,500 refugees were resettled in the four years between the fall of Saigon and May 1979. In Canada, the government of Pierre Trudeau had committed to resettle 5,000 Indochinese refugees, but only 1,100 had arrived. Then, something remarkable happened.

Canada steps up

On the eve of a United Nations conference in Geneva to discuss the issue, Canada announced its intention to resettle 50,000 refugees by the end of 1980, which was just 18 months away. This would later be revised to 60,000. 

Just as astounding was its intention resettle half of these through its new private refugee sponsorship program. Canadians from all walks of life, from rural Manitoba to urban Toronto, could respond to the situation by volunteering their homes, funds and time to receive and resettle Indochinese refugees.

This announcement coincided with swelling Canadian support for refugee resettlement. In February 1979, 89 per cent of Canadians were opposed to inviting more refugees; only seven per cent wanted more. Within months, opposition had tumbled to 38 per cent, while 52 per cent supported increased resettlement. 

Groups ranging from churches to bowling clubs signed up to sponsor individuals and families, while kids sold lemonade at $50 a glass ($175 in 2021 dollars) to fund new arrivals. Rural townships called into Ottawa to ask when they would receive their family, and townhalls that had been convened to debate the topic of refugees turned into spontaneous sponsorship drives.

Pairing sponsors with refugees

In Ottawa, the government was busy matching sponsors to refugees. An enterprising policy officer drew inspiration from the Berlin Airlift to avoid overcrowding at arrival points. In the late 1940s during a Soviet blockade of Berlin, western allies flew continuous supplies to airports in Berlin. 

Thirty years later, the policy officer obtained one of Ottawa’s first computers that matched refugees to sponsors or immediately placed them in a government-assisted stream. This was aimed at ensuring the smooth transition of Indochinese refugees to their new homes.

Despite some hiccups, more than 80 per cent of eligible refugees were matched with sponsors before the planes landed, and by the end of 1980, all 60,000 had arrived. Adjusted to 2020 U.S. population terms, that’s an equivalent of almost 890,000 people resettled in just 18 months.

Subsequent generations of Canadians have responded with equal enthusiasm to new arrivals from the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia and Syria, among others. Private sponsorship continues at a steady, moderate level during years between crises, spurred by cultural groups and family members of refugees, but when sudden large displacements capture public attention a large pool of first-time sponsors step forward. 

Roughly five per cent of the Canadian population has sponsored a refugee, while millions more have donated couches, cash or labour.

Bridging American divides

Perhaps this large constituency of people with experience resettling refugees is one explanation for positive Canadian attitudes towards immigration. If so, private refugee resettlement is a policy that could bridge American divides on migration. 

It would also fill the gap left by drastic cuts to the government-funded resettlement sector under the previous Donald Trump administration. Evidence suggests that those sponsored under a private resettlement program do just as well, if not better.

Contrary to their perceptions, polling suggests the answer is yes — support for resettling Afghan interpreters and other allies sits at around 81 per cent and is unusually consistent across party affiliation. 

Sixty-five per cent support expanding resettlement to other Afghans, and 61 per cent are in favour of hosting refugees in their home state.

While the U.S. State Department has announced its intention to start a private sponsorship program, its size or scope isn’t clear yet. Lessons from history teach us that a limited pilot program risks drastically under-utilizing the American capacity for resettlement.

Now is the time for Biden to ask the American people to invite homeless and war-ravaged Afghan refugees into their homes and their communities. Experience has taught us that, like the Statue of Liberty, many will raise their hand in enthusiastic response.

Source: https://theconversationcanada.cmail19.com/t/r-l-trjluyll-kyldjlthkt-a/

Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

The Star’s take on the party platforms:

Jhoey Dulaca isn’t eligible to vote in the upcoming election, but the migrant worker from the Philippines is keeping an eye out for the political parties’ immigration plans.

The Toronto woman says she feels migrants’ voices have once again been muted and lost as the issue that matters most to them — ballooning backlogs and endless processing times as a result of the pandemic — have drawn little attention or debate from party leaders.

“No one is talking about the immigration backlog and long wait times,” says Dulaca, who came as a live-in caregiver in 2016 and just received her permanent residence in Canada on Aug. 18 after two long years of processing.

The 41-year-old single mother is unsure how long it will now take to reunite with her two daughters, Tess, 19, and Thea, 16, whom she has not seen for five years.

“All these parties are making policies that affect us and our families, but our voices are not heard because we cannot vote and we don’t matter.”

In recent election campaigns, immigration has rarely made headlines. The major parties’ platforms generally have more elements in common than those that distinguish them. The outlier was the 2015 election, when the Syrian refugee crisis dominated the campaign.

Experts say immigration has been a non-issue because parties — with the exception of the People’s Party of Canada under former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier — recognize the importance of minority votes and don’t want to appear racist or xenophobic.

“The parties try to focus on issues that are going to make them look good and will help them move up in the polls,” said Kareem El-Assal, policy director for CanadaVisa.com, an immigration information site run by a Quebec-based law firm.

“Most people that are being affected by the backlogs are not voters. There aren’t many votes to be won.”

But there are major issues that will determine the future of immigration in this country — not least among them Canada’s plans to deal with applications that have been piling up during the pandemic.

Digging out of a major backlog

To El-Assal, one of the biggest issues missing in the parties’ platforms is how they plan to manage growing backlogs as Canada’s immigration system slowly returns to normal in the wake of the pandemic.

“Immigration is going to be one of the most formative government policy areas over the next decade and beyond, especially amid the damage that’s been caused by the pandemic,” he said.

As a result of the pandemic, Ottawa closed the border with the U.S. with few exemptions. That has greatly reduced this country’s refugee backlog.

However, between February 2020 and this past July, the backlog of permanent residence applications skyrocketed by 70 per cent to 375,137, with the number of applications for temporary residence currently sitting at 702,660 cases. The backlog of citizenship applications has also ballooned to 369,677 people in the queue from 208,069 before the pandemic.

Experts and advocates have said Ottawa must prioritize and bring in the migrants who have already been vetted and approved for permanent residence but have been kept outside of Canada during the pandemic, while expediting the transition to online processing and eliminating red tape to quickly reduce backlog as new applications continue to flood the system.

In its 2021 budget, the Liberal government announced plans to invest $429 million over five years to modernize its IT infrastructure to manage and process immigration applications, but its campaign platform mentions none of that or its plan to streamline processing.

The Conservatives vows to address “administrative backlogs” by simplifying and streamlining processes, investing in IT infrastructure and tech to speed up application vetting, letting applicants correct “simple and honest” mistakes instead of sending back their applications.

The New Democrats say they would “take on the backlogs that are keeping families apart.”

Both parties’ plans lack details and specifics.

Beyond the numbers

None of the parties mention what they plan to do with Canada’s annual immigrant intake of 401,000 for 2021; 411,000 for 2022; and 421,000 in 2023 — except for the People’s Party of Canada, which proposes to reduce the annual intake to between 100,000 and 150,000.

However Andrew Griffith, fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Environics Institute, says Canada is in need of a “more fundamental re-examination” of what the immigration level should be: “What the mix should be, how the integration process works, how do we actually reduce hate and racism, and all of those things.”

Griffith proposes the establishment of an immigration commission to investigate those issues and the related policies.

“They can’t really be addressed by Parliament in an effective way because of the partisan nature.”

While debates about immigration are important, some say they can also open the door for all sorts of racist views around newcomers, further polarizing public opinion.

Robert Falconer, a research associate at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy who focuses on immigration and refugee policies, said parties and voters need to discuss what objectives immigration is going to serve and what the composition should look like.

“Sometimes,” says Falconer, “we have dumbed immigration down to just immigrants as economic agents — all they do is contribute or detract from our economy; when there is cultural, spiritual, religious, demographic considerations that are very, very important.”

Trying to maintain a labour market growth amid an aging population and low birth rate is part of the challenge, he said, but how to manage the demographic makeup and ensure newcomers from diverse background are welcomed is often overlooked.

“What are the parties saying about issues not directly stemming from immigration, but (that) strongly relate to it, which is issues of anti-racism, hate and multiculturalism?” Falconer asked.

In tackling anti-racism and hate, the Liberals are committed to a national plan on combatting hate, new legislation to police online content and strengthening the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code against perpetrators.

The Conservatives say they will protect Canadians from online hate while “preserving free speech” and celebrating Canadian heritage, including a $75-million fund to municipalities for the repair and restoration of historical monuments, statues and heritage buildings.

The NDP would ensure all major cities have dedicated hate-crime units within local police forces, and convene a national working group to counter online hate.

The Bloc includes “Quebec bashing” in relation to its platform on racism.

New ideas from the Conservative party

While there is much in common when it comes to immigration policies of the major parties, Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives have some “innovative” ideas, Griffith said.

Among them:

  • The introduction of a fee for those who would like to have their immigration applications expedited, with the revenues directed toward hiring additional staff to streamline processing time;
  • Replacing the current lottery system for immigration sponsorship of parents and grandparents with a first-come, first-served model that prioritizes applicants on criteria such as providing child care or family support, and language proficiency;
  • Replacing government-assisted refugee spots with private and joint sponsorship places, so all refugees resettling in Canada will do so under private or joint sponsorship programs, with exceptions in cases of emergency or specific programs.

“There are some interesting ideas in the Conservative platform that merits some discussion and debate. I mean, some I don’t think will go anywhere, but others may,” said Griffith, who has studied and compared the immigration platforms of all six parties in this election.

The proposed expedited processing fee, for instance, could create a two-tiered system between rich and poor applicants. A sponsorship of parents and grandparents based on an applicant’s ability to babysit may not sit well with the spirit of family reunification.

What to do with the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement?

In the 2019 federal election, a major issue was the surge in asylum seekers via the U.S. land border as a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-migrant policies. The development prompted a fierce debate over the so-called Safe Third Country Agreement.

The bilateral pact, which has been in place between Ottawa and Washington since 2004, is not mentioned in either the Liberal or the New Democrat platform.

That accord allows Canada to turn back potential refugees who arrive at land ports of entry on the basis they should pursue their claims in the U.S.

Like the People’s Party, the Conservatives propose a complete ban on migrants from the U.S. seeking asylum in Canada and recommends joint Canada-U.S. border patrols similar to what’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Green Party and Bloc Québécois, meanwhile, want the pact revoked altogether.

Refugee claimants and advocates have taken Ottawa to court over the constitutionality of the bilateral pact and the case is now before the Supreme Court of Canada, after the Liberal government successfully challenged a lower-court decision that found claimants’ charter rights were being breached.

Critics say the agreement, implemented under both the Liberal and Conservative governments, has not helped deter would be refugee claimants from crossing through unguarded parts of the border.

“I don’t know why the Liberals don’t take a position on it, but everything I’ve seen the Liberals do tells me that they actually align with the Conservatives’ position,” Falconer said.

“There are much more humane ways to address concerns in surges of asylum seekers that would again address the backlog that the Liberals and Conservatives tear their hair out over.”

Queen’s University immigration law professor Sharry Aiken said both parties understand patrolling the world’s longest shared border requires massive government resources. It would also likely encourage people to seek help from traffickers to sneak through the border and move underground for lack of access for asylum once inside Canada.

“That’s the exact problem in the United States, where there’s millions of undocumented people because there hasn’t been a way for them to actually make a claim through legal channels because of all of the different barriers in place that preclude access,” Aiken noted.

Temporary resident to permanent resident pathway

During the pandemic, the recognition of migrant workers doing essential work on farms, in nursing homes and driving food-delivery trucks prompted Ottawa to introduce one-time immigration programs for migrant workers and international students to become permanent residents.

The Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats all are in favour of expanding those pathways.

The Liberals categorically said the party would expand the pathways to permanent residence for migrant workers and former international students while the Conservatives would do it by offering a path for “low-skilled workers,” whose demand is “justified by concrete labour market data.”

All the NDP has to say about this issue is: “If someone is good enough to come and work here, then there should be a path for them to stay permanently.”

Expanding these temporary-to-permanent pathways, say migrants’ advocates, is wrong-headed because they reinforce, legitimize and justify Canada’s increasingly two-tiered immigration system, which exploits vulnerable temporary residents by dangling before them the prospects of permanent residency in the country down the road.

Political parties can’t adopt a Band-Aid approach and create a new pathway each time a group is falling through the cracks — Canada currently has more than 100 different skilled worker immigration programs, said Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Leaders and policymakers need to be bold and ensure equality and equity for migrants from the get-go, which can only be achieved by granting them permanent residence in Canada upon arrival, he noted.

“The term pathway to permanent residence misrepresents what it is,” said Hussan. “It’s really a pathway to precariousness.”

His group estimated there are half a million work permits issued in Canada today, up from 60,000 two decades ago, but only a fraction of the migrant workers will get a chance to become permanent residents.

“The entire immigration system has been turned into a system of temporariness. It has created a fundamentally divided society. The natural progression of a system of temporary migration, which we now have, is more people who are undocumented and more people who are being even more exploited,” Hussan said.

“We have turned this country’s immigration system into a revolving door temp agency run by employers that profits from it. Instead, we want to ensure equal rights for everyone in the country. And to do that, we must ensure that everyone has the same citizenship rights.”

‘More migrants are falling through the cracks’

Dulaca said she has had her share of owed wages and unpaid overtime from her Canadian employers, and she put up with it because she needed the jobs to support her daughters back home and, more importantly, to meet the employment requirement for her permanent residence.

“The politicians are creating more and more pathways, but these pathways are not the solutions and more migrants are falling through the cracks,” said Dulaca, who runs a support group on Facebook to help other migrant caregivers.

“We all come to Canada so we can give our children a better life, a better future. I can’t vote now and you bet I will exercise my voting rights when I become a Canadian citizen three years from now.”

Source: Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Needed modernization:

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process immigration applications more quickly after the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a new system.

The federal government pledged in the 2021 budget to spend $428.9 million over the next five years to deliver the platform that would gradually replace the existing case management system.

The new platform will launch in 2023 to improve application processing and provide more support for applicants, the government said.

Alexander Cohen, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said the new system is part of a wider shift towards digital platforms across the department and government.

“Alberta for a long time — my home province here — their provincial nomination system was purely paper-based. But then, in the past couple years, they decided to integrate their provincial nominee system with the Canadian federal government system.”

He said almost half of all immigrants who arrive in Canada under economic class programs come through sub-provincial programs.

“The actual larger issue here, I would say, is actually federalism, and maybe to align the provincial and federal governments on the issue of immigration,” he said.

Andrew Griffith, a former director of citizenship and multiculturalism at the Immigration Department, said it has tried to simplify the process recently by allowing more online transmission of documents.

“These changes are not that easy to implement overnight,” he said.

Griffith said Ottawa’s promise to spend close to a half billion dollars to put in place a new immigration application processing system will be an interesting one to watch because implementing big IT projects presents challenges for the government.

The department should find ways to get rid of any duplication and overlap that may exist in the current immigration system, he said.

“Do we need all those steps? Can some of these steps be automated? Can we use (artificial intelligence) to make determinations?”

Cohen said the immigration department launched in 2018 two pilot projects using computer analytics to help immigration officers triage some online visa applications.

“This computer analytics technology analyzes data and recognizes patterns in applications to help identify routine and complex cases,” he said.

“The goal is to help officers to identify applications that are routine and straightforward for thorough but faster processing, and to triage files that are more complex for a more extensive review.”

He said all decisions on every application are made by a visa officer in all cases and the department’s artificial intelligence tools are not used to render decisions.

“We’re always looking to leverage technology to improve the process for Canadians and those who wish to come here.”

Source: Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

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

ICYMI: Canada’s schools draw fewer international students due to pandemic travel rules

Seeing this in the monthly stats:

Many international students have postponed or cancelled their plans to study in Canada since Ottawa decided last month to limit entry options to the country to just four airports and require international travellers to pay for a mandatory hotel quarantine.

Denise Amyot, the chief executive officer of Colleges and Institutes Canada, said a $2,000 hotel bill is the cost of half of a semester for many students.

“(They) don’t have that kind of means,” she said.

If a group of international students are heading to New Brunswick, for example, Amyot said they might arrive in Toronto, where they would go to a hotel for three days as part of a 14-day quarantine.

Then, because they will be moving to another province with its own rules, they will have to quarantine again for 14 days when they arrive in New Brunswick.

“This is nonsense. It just doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It means that for the spring and summer, we have a large number of deferrals.”

Amyot said the number of international students at Canadian colleges has declined by 20 to 30 per cent in the 2020-21 academic year compared to 2019-20.

“It has varied across the country, and we had larger declines in smaller cities and rural and remote areas.”

She said many international students are deferring their plans to study in Canada since the federal government funnelled all international flights to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver and began requiring travellers to quarantine at government-approved hotels.

“Those two measures that the government has put in place are jeopardizing the number of students arriving,” she said.

Amyot called on the government to exempt international students from the three-day stopover requirement.

The office of Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement that any decision to ease or modify border measures in Canada will be based on scientific evidence.

“Entry prohibitions, coupled with mandatory isolation and quarantine, continue to be the most effective means of limiting the introduction of new cases of COVID-19 into Canada at this time,” the statement said.

Even before the new entry restrictions were imposed, the total number of all international students in Canada had already declined by about 17 per cent last year, to 531,000 students at the end of 2020 from 639,000 in 2019, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada data.

Paul Davidson, the chief executive officer of Universities Canada, said the overall enrolment of international students at Canadian universities has declined by 2.1 per cent this year compared to last.

“It’s against a backdrop where typically the number of international students at universities has grown at over 10 per cent in each of the last five years, so it is quite a setback,” he said.

“We have 96 universities at Universities Canada, and 51 of those institutions saw a decline in the international students … Overall, 26 institutions saw a loss of over 10 per cent of their international students.”

Fewer international students in Canadian post-secondary schools means less revenue for these institutions, which will affect domestic students, said Amyot.

“It means that there will be less programs that can be offered,” she said.

“It’s not only a matter of dollars … There are some programs that are very popular with international students, but not so much for domestic students, and that’s especially in more technical areas linked to engineering or mining … Now (these programs) won’t be offered, because there’s not enough students.”

Amyot said the decrease in international student numbers will eventually create a gap in the labour force in Canada.

“(International students) also come with skills,” she said. “It means that there will be a gap because we won’t be able to count on those students, and who will suffer? The industry, because there will be a labor shortage.”

She said Canadian colleges and universities have used innovation to allow international students to complete their studies online.

Robert Falconer, a researcher at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, said international students studying online at Canadian schools from their home countries might lose interest in immigrating to Canada.

“They might decide, after getting their Canadian degree, that they’re not going to really bother coming to Canada because they’ve never been, they don’t have prospects here and no social network or job opportunities.”

Amyot said education institutions had quarantine plans in the fall for their international students, letting them go to their quarantine locations safely. Local public health authorities and the provincial and federal governments approved.

“It was working very well for the fall intake, but now with this new measure that was taken in place, everything is in the air,” she said.

Davidson said all international students, from kindergartners to PhDs, contribute about $22 billion a year to Canada’s economy.

“It’s a major contributor to Canada’s economic growth,” he said. “The decline in international student numbers is having a widespread economic impact in Canada.”

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the government has encouraged international students to stay in Canada during the pandemic.

“While other countries told international students to go home during the pandemic, we went to great lengths to support them and create a system that allowed them to continue their studies,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

The department has tried to make it easier for international students to apply for work permits after they graduate, including counting the time they spend studying online toward the period of time needed to make them eligible, for instance.

Davidson said the United States is reducing barriers to immigration for international students and the government of the United Kingdom is marketing to international students and expediting visa processing for them.

“This is a competitive landscape we’re working in,” he said. “The government of the U.K. is offering guaranteed visa approvals (for international students) in about three weeks, which is much faster than Canada.”

Source: Canada’s schools draw fewer international students due to pandemic travel rules

COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

Data on departures less accurate than arrivals. But a decline in permanent residents of 41,000 in 2020 compared to 2019 using labour force data is much smaller than the drop in new permanent residents, which fell by 156,000, so I think the significance is over-stated:

The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and family connections.

The number of permanent residents who have been in Canada for less than five years declined by four per cent to 1,019,000 by the end of 2020 from 1,060,000 the year before, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada’s labour force survey that measures the number of workers between 15 and 65 years old by their immigration status.

The number had grown three per cent a year, on average, in the previous 10 years.

The data show that the number of permanent residents who have been in Canada for five to 10 years also dropped from 1,170,000 in 2019 to 1,146,000 in 2020.

“It’s actually not uncommon to have immigrants go back to their home country during the recessionary periods,” said Robert Falconer, a researcher at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.

“If they’ve lost their job, they can go and live with their family and not pay rent. They can maybe find some social connections and work back home.”

He said the number of new immigrants fell by about three per cent between 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis and the recession that followed.

He said many of those who have left in the past year might not come back if the economy doesn’t recover quickly.

“The longer they stay at home in their home countries, the less likely they are to come back to Canada.”

A study by Statistics Canada released in August showed that in the early months of the pandemic, recent immigrants to Canada were more likely than Canadian-born workers to lose their jobs, mainly because they had held them for less time and, as a whole, are overrepresented in lower-wage employment. That includes in service-sector jobs.

Julien Bérard-Chagnon, an analyst with Statistics Canada, said the agency doesn’t keep a monthly count of immigrants who leave the country but a group of its analysts are now working on a paper to examine the issue during COVID-19 pandemic.

“The literature signals that immigrants, especially recent immigrants, are more likely to emigrate than the Canadian-born population,” he said.

While the pandemic has also driven down immigration to Canada by about 40 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, the Liberal government announced in October that Canada is seeking to admit upwards of 1.2 million new permanent residents in the next three years, including 401,000 this year.

But this number seems optimistic as travel restrictions and the sharp economic downtown remain.

“I doubt they will hit their target this year,” Falconer said.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the government is very confident it will meet it immigration targets in the next three years.

“In January 2021, we welcomed more new permanent residents than in January 2020, when there was no pandemic,” Alexander Cohen said in a statement.

“We’re already ahead of schedule, welcoming new permanent residents at a rate 37 per cent higher than our projections.”

Falconer said the government is focusing on transitioning temporary residents in Canada to permanent status.

“It’s the best thing to do for people who are living here,” he said. “But in terms of this population growth, it’s a wash, meaning that we’re not actually increasing our population.”

He said this policy is necessary but not sufficient to help the government meet its high immigration target this year.

“Not every temporary resident wants to become a Canadian permanent resident or Canadian citizen. Some of them are here to work, to study and they are perfectly happy to go back home.”

He said the incentive for the government is still to try to increase immigration numbers, especially in jobs related to health care and technology because having fewer immigrants will harm these two sectors more than others.

Andrew Griffith, a former director of citizenship and multiculturalism at the Immigration Department, says immigrants who arrive during an economic downturns tend to suffer economically, at least in the short term, more than those who arrive when the economy is growing.

He said maintaining high levels of immigration at a time when the economy is weak and sectors such as hospitality, retail and tourism are devastated has an element of irresponsibility.

Griffith said immigrants leaving Canada can reflect a failure of Canadian integration policies.

He said the government needs to put more focus on immigrants who are already here as we face structural change in sectors including hospitality, travel and service industries that will affect mostly women, visible minorities and recent immigrants.

“We may be in a fairly structural shift that will eliminate some jobs or dramatically reduce some jobs, and then what kind of retraining programs or other programs we need to support people as they transition.”

Cohen said the government has invested in settlement services during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing funding to help boost wages by 15 per cent. It has helped buy personal protective equipment to keep staff safe, as well as cellphones and laptops to ensure services, including language training and job-search help, can be offered remotely.

Falconer said the government should address problems with licensing and professional development that many newcomers face in Canada.

“We make it very, very difficult for somebody who worked in a profession in their home country to come here and work in the same profession.”

“Immigrants come here with aspirations or hopes of being able to work and earn a much better living here in Canada than they did in their home country and they discover that they’re actually going to be working in an unpaid, underemployed job.”

Source: COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

Canada urged to offer safe haven to Hongkongers

Needed:

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole is calling on the Canadian government to urgently adopt special measures that provide a safe haven for Hong Kong residents facing persecution under a harsh national security law imposed by China on the former British colony.

Mr. O’Toole said Canada must also be prepared to support the 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong. This would include evacuation assistance if it becomes necessary for Canadian citizens to flee the Asian financial hub as Chinese security forces continue their crackdown on civil rights.

Special immigration and refugee measures are also needed to provide a “lifeboat” for non-Canadian Hongkongers who are being harassed by Chinese security forces and Hong Kong police, he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

“We have to have special provisions,” Mr. O’Toole said. “There is a need for us to provide a refugee route for pro-democracy activists who are now living in a police state and cannot access the process of satisfying the requirements, when dealing with Canadian consular services, to use Express Entry or any other way they can visit Canada.”

It’s been more than three months since Beijing enacted the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security, which criminalizes opposition and dissent in Hong Kong. Western countries including Canada have accused the Chinese government of breaking a treaty with Britain that pledged to leave human and civil rights in Hong Kong untouched for 50 years after the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.

This new law spells trouble for the multitude of Hongkongers who have opposed Beijing’s efforts to erode rights in the Asian city, including the more than 7,000 charged in connection with past protests or those under surveillance by Hong Kong police.

Canada’s arm’s-length Immigration and Refugee Board recently granted asylum to two Hong Kong activists, as The Globe first reported, but their case was unusual in that they came to Canada in late 2019, and neither face charges back home for taking part in pro-democracy protests. More than 45 other activists who arrived before the coronavirus pandemic have also applied to be accepted as refugees.

Mr. O’Toole’s call for immediate action to help Hongkongers comes days after the House of Commons committee on citizenship and immigration voted unanimously to investigate measures to provide a haven for them.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan, who put forward the motion, said the Trudeau government is doing nothing, and Hongkongers are growing desperate.

“It’s been all talk and no action,” she said. “The Liberals always find the right words to say but they never follow up with action.”

There are several hundred thousand Canadians of Hong Kong origin living in Canada and 300,000 Canadian citizens living there now.

Mr. O’Toole said action is needed especially after China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, recently warned Ottawa against granting asylum to pro-democracy dissidents from Hong Kong. Mr. Cong said last week that such action could jeopardize the “health and safety” of 300,000 Canadians living there.

“I have actually met a few people in Canada who cannot return to Hong Kong because they fear for their lives, and knowing what we know about the situation there, I think we have to offer them safe haven,” Mr. O’Toole said.

One problem facing Hongkongers trying to flee now is pandemic travel restrictions that prevent them from boarding an aircraft bound for Canada. Before COVID-19, they could travel to Canada as a tourist and ask for asylum upon arrival – but not any more. They are fearful of declaring their intention to seek asylum while in Hong Kong, where they could be monitored, or are being watched by police, or already face charges for pro-democracy demonstrations.

Another option is for them to apply as economic immigrants through Ottawa’s Express Entry program, but that is a difficult route. Express Entry is for high-talent immigrants and it also requires a certificate from Hong Kong’s police, who are under the thumb of Beijing’s Ministry of Security.

The NDP’s Ms. Kwan hopes Ottawa could set up a system similar to that established by successive governments to help persecuted gay Iranians and Chechens reach Canada. Such a process would allow designate non-governmental organizations to play a role in helping arrange documents for Hongkongers’ passage out of the Asian city, perhaps via a third country.

She also recommends that Ottawa loosen family reunification rules so that a greater number of family relations in Canada could easily sponsor arrivals from Hong Kong. It’s harder for Canadians to sponsor relatives to immigrate to Canada if they are not a spouse, partner or children.

Canadian supporters of Hong Kong dissidents say the problem with using programs such as Express Entry is that applicants from Hong Kong do not generate sufficient points to merit acceptance.

Robert Falconer, a research associate at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy and an external adviser to Alliance Canada Hong Kong, said there could be a solution. If Canada is concerned about China seeing it grant asylum to many dissidents from Hong Kong, and would prefer to bring them in as economic migrants, he said, perhaps there could be a special code that applicants can add to their Express Entry applications. The code would artificially raise the point total so they can be accepted.

Mr. Falconer said groups such as Alliance Canada Hong Kong could be empowered to distribute these codes to dissidents in Hong Kong.

“For all appearance, they would come in as economic-stream immigrants,” he said.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-urged-to-offer-safe-haven-to-hongkongers/

Canada has an unused card up its sleeve against China: our immigration system

Valid suggestions by Robert Falconer and to focus on Hong Kong asylum seekers and others from mainland China:

Canada is limited in the ways it can respond to the bully tactics of larger countries such as the People’s Republic of China. Yet as it confronts China’s heavy-handed attempt to quash the autonomy it had promised Hong Kong, Ottawa is not without levers of influence. One policy tool that Canada should immediately deploy is our immigration, refugee and asylum system.

As governments worldwide closed their countries’ borders, and as the United Nations suspended its refugee program, a more subtle trend emerged: an uptick in the number of Hong Kongers claiming asylum. According to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 25 Hong Kongers have claimed asylum in the first three months of 2020; unofficial sources suggest the number may be as high as 46. While that’s still a relatively small number, it represents a six-year high for Canada in just three months. Regardless of the choices Canada makes, we are likely to see record-high levels of people from Hong Kong fleeing here to seek refuge when international travel fully resumes.

Our asylum system is particularly well-suited to receiving claims from Hong Kong. It includes the ability to streamline cases from countries with well-established human-rights abuses, where asylum seekers have reliable forms of identification, and where the evidence is not ambiguous regarding the risks they face for holding an adverse political opinion or for opposing the current government.

Choosing to welcome those seeking asylum is not only the right thing to do but has practical benefits as well. It might seem odd to make a utilitarian argument in favour of asylum, and indeed, if all policy-makers and politicians were angels, such a justification would not be necessary. But there is a compelling case to be made for a renewed Canadian foreign policy that considers the role immigration and refugee status plays in our national security and response to foreign competitors. As the People’s Republic seeks to impose its will on Hong Kong, an open refugee policy is one that permits Hong Kongers to vote with their feet between an oppressive China or an open Canada.

The decision to welcome Hong Kongers as part of a robust foreign policy is not without precedent. Conservative governments in the 1970s and ’80s understood that an open-door policy was one that would attract those with the greatest levels of dissatisfaction in the Soviet bloc. The arrival of refugees and immigrants during that time strengthened our economies and added linguistic diversity and cultural understanding to our law enforcement, military and intelligence communities.

The same applies to Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese fleeing oppression. Indeed, combatting the possibility of intellectual-property theft and industrial espionage is far more likely to be aided, rather than hampered, by recruiting from a population that shares similar cultural and linguistic characteristics and understands the methods of potential competitors. Above all, welcoming Hong Kongers aligns with Canadian democratic traditions – standing against tyranny and welcoming the oppressed.

Granting asylum to Hong Kongers fleeing persecution from Beijing should not be a difficult task for this government, either. While the Trudeau government has shifted its tone regarding Canada’s relationship with China, it has faltered when asked whether Canada will accept refugee claimants from Hong Kong. In contrast, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that Britain will allow 2.8 million Hong Kongers to live and work in Britain if China implements its national-security law on the former British colony. In response, the Chinese Communist Party regime has threatened Britain with vague consequences if it continues to meddle in an “internal affair.”

Granting asylum to Hong Kongers will force the federal government to recognize the well-established truth that China is a hostile actor, and doing so will signal to both the international community and China that Canada acknowledges that hard truth. Dealing with China is not a risk- or cost-free interaction. There are no other options, aside from total silence, that will not draw retaliation from Beijing, and it should be expected if Canada decides to grant asylum to claimants from Hong Kong. But the government needs to accept this reality, recognize the risks and rethink how to move forward. Granting asylum to Hong Kongers seeking to flee persecution is not only the right thing to do – it is the Canadian thing to do.

For a government that prides itself on the principles of championing human rights, our inaction on Hong Kong remains a persistent dark stain.

Ripple effect on Canadian immigration likely from Trump’s new visa restrictions

We shall see but agree with Falconer that it could go either way:

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to slap visa restrictions on six new countries could affect immigration flows to Canada.

Past moves by his administration on immigration policy for Haiti and Iran saw asylum claims and student visa applications in Canada jump.

Trump is now targeting visas granted to citizens of Nigeria, Sudan and Eritrea, among the largest sources of refugee claims lodged by people crossing irregularly into Canada from the U.S.

Immigration policy researcher Robert Falconer says Trump’s move could have both positive and negative impacts on the Canadian immigration system.

He says the number of asylum seekers could rise, as people from those countries already in the U.S. realize they won’t be able to stay permanently and so follow others who’ve already come to seek refugee status here.

But on the other hand, he says Nigeria’s booming middle class could be the source of many new economic or student immigrants to Canada, now that the door to the U.S. is harder to get through.

Source: Ripple effect on Canadian immigration likely from Trump’s new visa restrictions

The U.S. might be about to send us these two immigration and refugee problems

Good insight on the next series of headaches:

Of the many files landing on the next government’s desk following this month’s election, at least two may give it an immigration headache. Both come from decisions made by our neighbour to the south: President Donald Trump’s reversal of his country’s post-Reagan refugee policy and his rewriting of “safe third country” rules. Addressing each will involve a difficult balance of humanitarian principles, foreign policy interests and our relationship with the U.S.

The first headache has to do with Canada’s unexpected surpassing of the United States in resettling the world’s greatest number of refugees. Resettlement is the organized transfer of refugees to countries like Canada, relocating them away from countries like Turkey and Lebanon that often host millions of refugees inside their borders. Canada’s newfound leadership has less to do with our natural benevolence, however, than with an unprecedented reduction in American refugee admissions under the Trump administration. In both Canada and the U.S., resettlement has generally enjoyed support from both conservatives and liberals. Since 1980, America has led the world both in resettling refugees and also in successfully encouraging other countries to increase their refugee intake, trends that continued until 2018. In that year, Canada resettled 28,000 refugees, up from an average of 11,000 annually in the years prior to 2015. By contrast, U.S. admissions dropped to a record low of just 23,000 in 2018, down from a 20-year average of 66,000 and a one-year record high of 96,000 in 2016.

Our Canadian moment, even if it is a moment by default, has global implications as the U.S. announces further cuts to refugee admissions in the coming year. Resettlement has acted as a fiscal and social pressure valve for countries hosting millions of refugees, some of them Canadian friends or allies, like Bangladesh and Turkey. It is also a foreign policy and national security instrument, facilitating the recruitment of translators in war zones and embarrassing strategic foes via the admission of citizens fleeing their countries. Canada must weigh these considerations, as well as humanitarian ones, against rising pressure on Canadian funds and a recent drop in public confidence in Canada’s overall immigration system. Nor do we have the same clout as the Americans in helping redistribute the refugee load more fairly throughout the world, especially now that, following the U.S. lead, more countries are reducing their resettlement programs than are expanding them.

In addition to formal resettlement, Canada faces a growing number of asylum claims. Over 170,000 asylum-seekers have sought protection here since the past federal election, 50,000 of whom crossed the border to do so — either “illegally” or “irregularly” depending on who you talk to. Both the Liberals and Conservatives have promised to staunch the flow of border crossings by renegotiating the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement and to return asylum-seekers walking across our southern border to the U.S. for processing. The current agreement applies only to official border crossings, however. A strengthened agreement could apply this arrangement to claimants crossing the border elsewhere, as well. Unfortunately, a strengthened agreement may not be in the cards. In fact, recent changes in U.S. asylum policy may hand the next prime minister a completely suspended agreement, rather than a renegotiated one, which will be bad news both for relations with the U.S. and for an already backed-up Canadian asylum system.

Under a new policy, the Americans will deport asylum-seekers if they passed through another country on their way to the U.S., even if they face a demonstrated risk of torture or persecution in their home country. This violates one of the founding principles of the Safe Third Country Agreement — namely, that countries not return asylum-seekers with credible fears to their home country. It also strengthens the possibility of a successful challenge of the agreement in a current case before the Federal Court of Canada. If the case were to result in the agreement’s suspension, asylum-seekers could make their claims directly at official border crossings without the risk of being turned back to the U.S. This would eliminate the incentive to cross the border to claim protection but it might also invite a correspondingly greater number of claims than before, as prospective claimants would have a more direct route into Canada from the U.S. Canada would not be obligated to approve their claims, but we would have to assess them, further impacting an already backlogged and beleaguered process. It would also risk offending the U.S. by in effect labelling it an unsafe country for refugees. That is not an outcome we want in a time of already tense trade relations.

The potential impact of these changes is hard to overstate. Canada has a proven track record when it comes to processing and integrating refugees. The next federal government may want to leverage our new position as the world’s number one resettlement destination to introduce its own model sponsorship program among like-minded partners on the international stage. It should also consider investing in a more rapid and flexible claim assessment system, one able to respond to large and sometimes unpredictable flows of claimants whatever agreements we do or don’t have with other countries and whatever choice they do or don’t make about re-electing mercurial leaders.

Source: The U.S. might be about to send us these two immigration and refugee problems