The province of Alberta, with its booming economy and expanding cities, has been working to make it as easy as possible to bring in foreign workers to contribute to the provincial labour force. The Strategic Recruitment Stream, a new pilot project by the Alberta Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) can fast-track the issuance of Canada Permanent Resident visas to people who are in the United States on temporary work visas. No job offer required.
Archives for May 2008
Attorney David Cohen has been vocal about his opposition to the Conservative government’s proposed legislative changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. At the request of the House of Commons Finance Committee and the Citizenship and Immigration Committee, he delivered an address outlining his legal perspective on the implications of the amendments. Video highlights of his address are available.
Since the proposed amendments to IRPA were announced in Parliament in March, David Cohen has been actively working with government authorities to educate stakeholders about the finer points of IRPA. At the end of April, the matter was taken to the Finance Committee and the Citizenship and Immigration Committee for further review and debate. On May 12th, David Cohen presented his perspective to these committees as to how to proceed. Watch the web video of his address here.
As a result of its review, the Citizenship and Immigration Committee is urging the federal government to withdraw the controversial immigration amendments from the budget bill to ensure that the matter receive proper debate. The Finance Committee has not yet presented its recommendations.
The Conservatives were hoping to have the matter back before the House of Commons before mid-May – an objective that has come and gone. Once the Finance Committee reveals its recommendations, the budget implementation bill (which contains the immigration amendments) will be voted on for the third and final time. If the bill passes, it will go Senate, who will determine whether it will become law. If it does not pass, a federal election will be triggered, as the budget implementation bill is considered a matter of confidence.
Attorney Cohen delivered his presentation to the National Finance Committee of the Senate on May 28th.
British Columbia (BC) is making immigration work. The provincial government has been in immigration headlines quite often over the past few months, with new initiatives and solutions to help newcomers make BC their home. From credential recognition services, to refugee settlement, programs for international students, better access to employment information and job-finding services, the BC government has been exceeding program targets and delivering exceptional service to newcomers.
The British Columbia (BC) Provincial Nominee Program ushered 1,881 skilled and business immigrants into the province this past year, exceeding provincial targets with a 41 per cent increase over last year.
“The PNP continues to do its job of making it easier and quicker for people who have the skills or who want to start businesses to come to B.C.,” stated Economic Development Minister for BC, Colin Hansen. He has set targets even higher for next year, planning to welcome 3,000 skilled and business immigrants through the PNP program.
Provincial nominees are an important source of labour in the province, which has seen persisting skills shortages for some time.
WorkBC, the provincial action plan to address these skills shortages, focuses primarily on the integration of newcomers into the workforce – providing credential recognition and training services, access to BC employer information, and guidance to help immigrants transition into the workplace. The Skills Connect for Immigrants Program, an employment bridging program and a key component of WorkBC, has already exceeded its 2007/2008 fiscal targets of helping over 1,500 immigrants find work in the province.
Several other announcements for immigrant job-seekers were recently made by Minister Hansen. One is a $1 million allocation to further improve credential recognition programs in BC – part of a $3.1 million contribution from the Government of Canada’s Foreign Credential Recognition Program. Another is a new pilot project at the Vancouver Public Library, which will provide newcomers with customized employment information to help them find work in their field. There has also been a pilot expansion of the Off-Campus Work Permit Program for international students in BC. The program has now opened up to include students at eligible private post-secondary institutions in the province.
But for the British Columbia government, immigration is not only about skilled labour. The province is also aware of the importance of helping refugees and newcomers who face multiple barriers. Between 2002 and 2006, over 10,000 refugees settled in BC.
The Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia recently received over $1.3 million to help refugees with temporary accommodations, food and incidentals, orientation sessions, and counseling services. In addition, a new pilot project through a group of immigrant-serving organizations in BC will provide outreach services to isolated immigrants who are not actively seeking integration help. Mobile, interdisciplinary teams will provide counsel and services to immigrants in their homes. The $1.6 million project is targeted primarily at newcomers “who have endured lengthy stays in refugee camps or are victims of torture or war [….and also] immigrants from rural areas who are now coping with living in highly urbanized areas,” explained Wally Oppal, Minister responsible for Multiculturalism.
BC is welcoming immigrants from around the world to contribute to provincial labour force and population growth. States Minister Hansen, “In inviting them here, we have the responsibility to ensure they are able to use their skills, knowledge and experience in their chosen field.”
With a recent string of apologies to various Canadian communities, the Government of Canada is recognizing the past wrongs of Canada’s former immigration policies. The Conservative government’s Historical Recognition Program has allotted $29 million to commemorate several of these important yet shameful events in Canada’s history.
“Like any country, our country is not perfect. We haven’t always lived up to our high ideals,” stated Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in August 2006, two months after the Government of Canada established the Community Historical Recognition Program. Established for Canadian communities that were affected by immigration restrictions and wartime measures, this program acknowledges the unpleasant chapters of Canada’s history in ways that are meaningful to the communities concerned.
The Honourable Jason Kenney, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity has recently announced that apologies would be made and commemorative grant money would be allocated to some of these communities.
He pledged that $5 million will be made available to the Chinese-Canadian community to go towards commemorative and educational projects about the Chinese immigration experience in Canada and wartime restrictions. Such community-based projects may include educational material, exhibits, monuments, or commemorative plaques. This is a follow-up to Prime Minister Harper’s June 2006 official apology to Chinese-Canadians, in which he pledged to give ex-gratia symbolic payments to living Head Tax payers.
Minister Kenney second big announcement was that the Government of Canada would soon issue a formal apology for the Komagata Maru tragedy. The Komagata Maru ship, which brought 376 Indians to Canada in 1914, was turned away by a discriminatory immigration policy that was in place at that time. Upon arrival back in India, at least 20 of the individuals on board were killed by British troops. The incident has long been a source of grievance for the Indo-Canadian community. Minister Kenney announced that $2.5 million would be made available to Canada’s Indian community for the building of a Komagata Maru memorial and that efforts would be made to integrate the incident into Canadian history textbooks.
“It’s not only a good day for the Indo-Canadian community – it tells you where we are as a society in Canada today. We have moved far, far away from those discriminatory policies of the early 20th century,” stated Jasbir Sandhu of the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation.
Following that announcement, a spokesperson for Minister Kenney confirmed that the Historical Recognition Program will also include funding to commemorate the St. Louis incident of 1939, which saw a boat of 900 Jewish refugees turned away from Canada, only to return to Europe as the Second World War broke out. It is estimated that at least a third of its passengers were ultimately killed by German forces. About $300,000 will go towards an education program and a monument to memorialize this incident.
The latest government announcement is a $10-million grant to the Ukrainian-Canadian community to “support initiatives related to the First World War internment experience that predominantly affected the Ukrainian and other East European ethnic communities in Canada.”
The timing and motivation of the announcements are the subject of debate among opposition parties, who claim that the Conservative’s announcements are politically motivated.
Regardless of the rationale, the affected communities are thrilled to have received this recent recognition.
“Acknowledging the past is an important step toward building a positive and constructive relationship between Canada and India, and Indo-Canadians and the wider Canadian community,” asserts Naresh Raghubeer, national policy director of the Canada India Foundation; a statement that can apply to all Canadian communities.
The Canadian government announced last week that it will create a 29 million dollar grant program as redress for various shameful incidents in Canada’s history, relating to the way Canada treated prospective and landed immigrants. For example, from 1885-1923 there was a Chinese head tax which was a fee charged for each person wishing to immigrate to Canada from China. There was also the Komagata Maru incident in 1914, when more than 350 prospective immigrants from India were held on a ship in Vancouver harbor because they would not be admitted to Canada. In addition, in 1939 more than 900 Jewish refugees trying to escape Nazi Germany on the steamship St. Louis were denied entry to Canada, among other countries, and were sent back to Nazi Germany, where it is estimated a third of the passengers were executed. Ten million dollars will go the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Schevchenko as compensation for discrimination and the internment of Ukrainians and other East European ethnic communities during the First World War.