Outdated Canadian immigration processes

At the present time, I believe that Canada is still a country worthy of immigrating to despite the fact that Canadian immigration processes are slow, biased, discriminatory and undemocratically reformed. For many years there has been little substantial change in immigration processes with respect to foreign credential recognition, the lengthy immigration processes for skilled workers and family sponsorships, and inadequate protections for human rights, especially with respect to refugees and temporary foreign workers. However, depending on countries of origin and personal circumstances, these immigration processes, offer hope and opportunity for some who cannot get ahead in their home countries. For many people, it is worth the risk to escape poverty, high levels of crime, job shortages, war and government corruption.

One of the most archaic and outdated immigration processes is the federal skilled worker program as it is based on a point system emphasizing work experience, post secondary schooling, age and language requirements in English and French. This immigration process is designed to select the most highly educated and experienced professionals from countries from around the world. The selection criteria that determines who can immigrate to Canada is poor, because without a solid commitment or framework tied to business sectors, professional licensing bodies, foreign credential recognition and bridging programs, it is next to impossible for many immigrants to attain employment in their trained professions. Most immigrants go to Canada only to realize their foreign credentials are worthless.

There are systemic barriers in current Canadian immigration process that disqualify highly skilled and talented people. For example, we have temporary foreign workers coming to Canada that are in low skilled jobs. They may be extremely educated individuals and have years of work experience in their home countries, but our immigration processes are inflexible to recognize their human capacity in other industry sectors and labour markets. Many people will never qualify or get an opportunity at permanent residence due to our current biased and discriminatory immigration policies and processes towards low skilled workers. The recent proposed changes to fast track skilled trades workers is encouraging, but I am concerned about trades people experiencing difficulties passing the trade industry exams for certification, losing their jobs, losing opportunities for permanent residence and being exploited by employers using them to work as helpers in the trades, paying them less wages and making them do the work of journeyman.

To date there has not been an effective system to process the backlog of Federal Skilled Worker applications or integrate highly skilled workers like trades people who are desperately needed to fill labour shortages in Canada. Below are the latest proposed changes by Minister Jason Kenney to the immigration system for skilled workers as outlined in the News Release of Friday, April 20th, 2012 from Government of Canada, Canada’s Economic Action Plan, “Economic Growth and Prosperity the Focus of Immigration Processes”:

Proposed changes to the economic immigration system include eliminating the backlog of old Federal Skilled Worker applications, modernizing how selection is done under that program to better reflect the importance of younger immigrants with Canadian work experience and better language skills, creating a new Federal Skilled Trades program, and modifying the Canadian Experience Class to better facilitate the transition to permanent residence by successful skilled temporary workers. (para. 3)

This is a small step in the right direction for opening up immigration on the merits of skill, but without licensing bodies and mechanisms in place to integrate skilled workers in industries, these people too will experience difficulties integrating into the Canadian work force.

Canada has always encouraged business growth and investment, but our immigration processes have not adequately changed or evolved in order for people who want to invest to easily immigrate. The latest changes to immigration also announced in the News Release from Government of Canada, Canada’s Economic Action Plan Friday, April 20th, 2012, hopefully will make it easier for immigrant business.

Economic Action Plan 2012 also announced changes to CIC’s Business Immigration Programs, which will target more active investment in Canadian growth companies and more innovative entrepreneurs. Under proposed legislative amendments, CIC intends to introduce new small-scale programs on a temporary basis to try innovative approaches to economic immigration. Improvements to the existing Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) could be rolled out over a longer timeframe, as any changes would require extensive consultations with provinces and territories, particularly the province of Quebec, which operates its own Investor program under provisions in the Canada-Quebec Accord. Furthermore, adjustments to the current IIP would have to go through the regulatory process. (para. 4)

With respect to Bill C-31 addressing balanced refugee reform, I am fearful about the direction our government is taking. In an article by Tobi Cohen, February 17th, 2012 in the Edmonton Journal entitled, “Tories beef up refugee legislation” it states that our immigration is moving forward without consideration for public opinion, briefing of government opposition, or attention to basic rights and freedoms. For a country with many resources and wealth, it is taking a very conservative and discriminatory approach to political processes involving people seeking asylum, determining a safe country list, detaining refugees and denying of appeals (p. A16). Canadian immigration has a long way to go to be considered fair.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada Statistics, Preliminary Tables – Permanent and Temporary Residents, 2011, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program reached peak levels in 2008 and 2009 with numbers surpassing those of landed immigrants. It is the most controversial immigration process of all. For the first time in our history the intake of the number of temporary foreign workers has surpassed that of landed immigrants. It is a Federal program. The provinces agreed they want it, but both governments lack the political will to change policy to create paths to permanent residency and create meaningful protections for workers. There has been a global shift towards addressing labor shortages with contract workers, but Canada needs be a leader and adhere to IRPA and its own immigration objectives of family reunification and protections of workers rights in Canada. For those people who are lucky enough to attain permanent residence through this program, I am grateful, but this is an extremely wasteful and ineffective program. An immigration process that focuses on keeping individuals working permanently temporarily with no solution to family reunification or settlement is a band aid solution and creates more political, social and economic problems than it is worth. It is a waste of human resources for economic gain. The price is too high.

Our immigration processes with respect to family sponsorship applications are desperately in need of an overhaul. In November, 2011 the newly released action plan by Jason Kenney, our Minister of Immigration, for faster family reunification has made it easier for parents and grandparents to spend some time with their children and grandchildren with the introduction of the 10 year super visa, but it is not a permanent residence solution and medical exams, insurance, travel costs and other basic financial supports will financially cripple newcomer families. Permanent extended family support is crucial and affordable sustainable healthcare options must be developed.

Times are changing and the cost of living is making it harder for newcomers, but Canada is a country with a strong work ethic, affordable education for children and social programs. The first couple of generations struggle, but future generations may have a chance. In my opinion, despite all of the above-noted immigration challenges, Canada is still a worthy immigration destination as immigrants will be safe, free and with hard work, will have hope for a brighter future.

Tereen Andriuk
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

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