On March 14, 2008 Canada’s Conservative government tabled a bill that proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). Under the current law, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is required to assess every Permanent Resident application received at a visa office, in a particular immigration category, on a “first come, first served” basis. The proposed legislative change provides the Immigration Minister with the authority to regulate the backlog of applicants. It allows CIC to select among the new applications received and choose those that it determines are best suited for Canada’s labour market needs.
Archives for March 2008
Young, educated, and attuned to life in Canada, foreign students are Canadian immigrants of choice, with no settlement-integration cost and strong potential to contribute to the Canadian labour force. In December 2006 there were 157,000 foreign students in Canada – many from China, Korea, and the United States. The Canadian Bureau for International Education reports that the pool of international students in Canada could add as many as 30,000 skilled immigrants annually. They have called on the Canadian government to create a national strategy for international students.Canada needs to attract more foreign students to its educational institutions and put systems in place to convince them to stay in Canada upon graduation. International students have an advantage over internationally-trained immigrants in that they do not need to go through the foreign credential recognition process. Amid Canada’s current chronic labour shortages, quick integration into the job market is becoming an increasingly important aspect of Canadian immigration.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Canadian Experience Class, scheduled for implementation later this summer, responds to the need to retain international graduates. It will allow international students with Canadian degrees to apply for Permanent Residency from within Canada, instead of having to leave after their studies end to apply from outside the country.
“International students are highly skilled, have Canadian credentials and are familiar with Canadian society. Our province will benefit from their talents for years to come,” stated Ontario Citizenship and Immigration Minister Michael Chan. There are over 35,000 international students currently enrolled in Ontario universities and colleges. Minister Chan recently announced a new development in the Ontario Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) that removes obstacles for international students who wish to become Canadian Permanent Residents. The Ontario Pilot PNP is now open to international students who have graduated from post-secondary institutions across Canada, rather than from only those in Ontario. Candidates must be graduates of eligible publicly-funded Canadian universities or colleges and have a job offer from an Ontario employer. Successful nominees will have their Permanent Residency applications fast-tracked through Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Stakeholders like the Certified Management Accountants of Canada are urging the Canadian government to review its policies on attracting and retaining talented foreign students. It is recommending an expansion of the post graduate work permit beyond the current maximum of two years to encourage foreign students to stay and work in Canada to help fuel the economy.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been working with new EU countries in an effort to establish visa-exempt status for all EU member states. Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Lithuania, are the most recent countries for which citizens traveling to Canada are no longer required to obtain Temporary Resident (Visitor) Visas.
Twelve countries joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. Initially, Canada required visitor visas for citizens of seven of the new Member States, who planned to visit Canada for up to three months. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has been reviewing visitor visa requirements for those new Member States on a country-by-country basis. With the latest announcement of visa-free status for Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Lithuania, there are only two EU countries for whom citizens are still required to obtain a visitor visa; Bulgaria and Romania.
“Canada enjoys strong ties with these countries,” stated CIC Minister Diane Finley. “We are committed to the free and secure movement of people between the EU and Canada. We are also committed to the objective of visa-exempt status for all EU member states.”
Visa requirements were lifted for citizens of Estonia in 2006 and the Czech Republic and Latvia in 2007. The latter move was in response to the European Commission’s recent threats of retaliatory measures if Canada did not remove visa requirements on eight EU nations by the end of 2007. On March 1, 2008, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Lithuania were latest European Union Member States to be granted visa-free status for travel to Canada
In 2006, Canada issued over 33,000 visitor visas to citizens of Poland, over 6,000 to citizens of Hungary, nearly 4,000 to citizens of Slovakia, and almost 1,000 to citizens of Lithuania. 7,300 went to Czech citizens and 1,100 to Latvian citizens. The processing and issuance of these visas is now no longer required. The flow of visitors from these countries will be monitored in order to assess the visa-free decision. In 1997, a year after Canada and the Czech Republic had mutually abolished visas, Canada re-imposed visa restrictions on the Czech Republic because of a flood of asylum seekers.
“We look at the risks and benefits of visa-free travel to Canada, to see if a country warrants having the visa requirement removed,” explained Minister Finley when announcing visa-free status for the Czech Republic and Latvia. “Canada enjoys strong ties with both of these countries, and lifting the visa requirement will help us build on those relationships to the benefit of Canadians and the citizens of the Republic of Latvia and the Czech Republic.”
In all, about 50 countries are exempt from Canadian Temporary Resident Visa requirements.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has been pumping funds into the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program, supporting English and French language training providers across Canada as they help newcomers transition into life in Canada. Additionally, the Quebec government has recently introduced new measures to improve and extend French language classes to immigrants. But is it enough? The latest Statistics Canada census figures show that a large number of Canada’s new immigrants are working in a native tongue that is neither of the country’s official languages.
Based on data from the 2006 census, there are more than 200 languages spoken by Canadian residents. The most recent Statistics Canada report focused on languages used in the workplace. The language used most often or regularly at work in 2006 was English for 85 percent of respondents, followed by French for 26 per cent of respondents, and some other language for five percent of respondents. Reflecting the multitude of languages in Canadian society, the study explains that a “language used most often at work” is used predominantly or equally with one or more other languages.
However, in cities where there is a high concentration of newcomers, many immigrants routinely switch at work between their mother tongue and English or French. In Vancouver, 33 per cent of allophones (those whose mother tongue is neither English nor French) regularly speak something other than English or French in the workplace. Figures are even higher for particular groups: 53 per cent for Chinese speakers in Vancouver, 50 per cent for Koreans, and 40 per cent for Punjabis. In Montreal, 34 per cent of people whose mother tongue is Chinese and 27 per cent of those whose mother tongue is Spanish reported using a non-official language at least regularly at work. In Toronto, this applies to 39 per cent of people whose mother tongue is Chinese and 31 per cent of those whose mother tongue is Punjabi.
Nevertheless, the importance of being able to work in English and/or French in Canada is central to successful integration into the job market for newcomers, as most Canadian businesses operate predominantly in one of the official languages. Under the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada Program (LINC), the Government of Canada, along with provincial governments, school boards, community colleges, and immigrant and community organizations, offers free language training services across the country for adult Permanent Residents.
Immigrants who are selected by the province of Quebec will now have access to French training even before they land in Canada. As part of an agreement with the French government’s Alliance Française network of cultural centres in 17 countries, Quebec selected immigrants will be able to access French language training online with tutors, or in classes before they land in Canada. Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James recently announced this new measure as part of a $22.7 million investment to improve and extend French language classes for immigrants over three years to help newcomers integrate.
Since it’s inception in 2002, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) has stood for the principle that anyone is entitled to apply for permission to live in Canada and to have his or her admissibility considered fairly, according to purely objective criteria. This core value is now threatened.