Making CIC better

The mission of Citizenship and immigration Canada is to build a stronger Canada by

“developing and implementing policies, programs and services that facilitate and integrate people so that can maximize their contribution to Canada, maintain Canada’s humanitarian tradition by protecting refugees, enhance the values and promote the rights and responsibilities of Citizens and finally to reach out to Canadians and foster intercultural understanding in an integrated society that has equal opportunities for all.”

The CIC has over 4,000 employees working in 46 points of service within Canada and in 90 points of service in 76 countries. It is responsible for Canada’s immigration, settlement, citizenship and multiculturalism programs and services.

In recent years CIC has been placed in the limelight because it is increasingly being asked to do more with less and less resources. This situation is the result of the global economic crisis affecting Canada and the identification of massive immigration as a cure to the country’s demographic issues.

In the interest of brevity I will be concentrating on the most important issues that is relevant to the CIC mandate. These are the backlog in applications for the different immigration streams and integration of new immigrants to enable them to maximize their contribution to Canadian economic and social life.

In the area of processing applications the CIC has a tremendous backlog that is hampering its ability to comply with its service delivery targets as well as its processing times. The immigration backlog is so huge that it has implemented several programs this issue. The “Super Visa” is a program that aims to buy the CIC more time by temporarily closing the application for Parents and Grandparents visa for at least 5 years. This will ensure that all the applications that are already in the queue will be processed without having to worry of an additional workload.

Aside from the “Super Visa” there are also plans to introduce a 10 year visa for applicants who are low risk and frequent applicants for this type of service. This is a welcome development since this will minimize the workload for repetitive or routine low security risk applicants therefore freeing CIC to do other important things.

In an attempt to help the government with its immigration backlog the Canadian chamber of commerce has drafted a position paper entitled “Improving Canada’s immigration process”. In this paper it identified several issues that CIC needs to address in order to streamline and focus its mission. One of the issues that it raised is the interface between CIC and other Canadian government agencies. One of the important immigration application services that eats up most of the time and resources of the CIC is the processing of temporary work permits. These work permits are dependent on a Labor Market Opinion that is provided by Human Resources Services Development Canada (HRSDC) that are taken from census figures or surveys that often do not reflect local geographic or industry specific conditions. It also takes too much time with a 6 week average application time period. An expedited (e-LMO) program was implemented on a pilot basis that proved to be quite effective in shortening the processing time unfortunately the program was discontinued and the CIC is stuck with the conventional LMO.

These three examples provide us with areas or issues where improvements can be made. These improvements were either copied from other countries or were formulated to address a particular Canadian situation. The point is the CIC if given enough freedom to pursue out of the box thinking can actually come up with solutions that can solve problems.

In the area of integration, CIC is in charge of integrating immigrants and refugees by either supporting organizations that provide these services or implementing the program by itself.

The biggest problem facing Federal skilled worker immigrants is the recognition of their educational or professional qualifications to practice their profession in Canada. The “Cardiologist taxi driver” we often laugh and hear about is a sad reflection of how the country has failed to recognize and properly integrate our new immigrants. Thus, there is a need to improve our Foreign Qualification Recognition programs.

Australia and New Zealand two of our most important competitors in the race to attract the best and the brightest have implemented a centralized assessment of credentials through the National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (NOOSR) and the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) essentially it aims to centralize the assessment of the credentials of foreign graduates or professionals rather than giving it to state or provincial professional regulatory bodies that have a vested interest in keeping others out of their province or profession.

The CIC needs to spearhead this move in order to improve its performance in integrating foreign trained professionals who we attract and approve based on their education and qualifications but refuse to recognize for what they can do for Canada.

Another area where the CIC can improve its performance is in the pre departure immigration seminars for Federal Skilled Workers. As it is a FSW applicant is given a pre departure orientation in-country before he leaves for Canada. This is available in Source countries such as the Philippines. Unfortunately the seminar has very little value because it does not give enough information to the immigrant. Most of the information provided is on how to avail of social services rather than the more important skill of applying for employment and being economically productive.

I believe it would be better if all immigrants will be oriented and taught all the things provided by settlement services in their country of origin rather than when they are already in Canada. This idea has several advantages, first, immigrants will have a better idea of how to survive and navigate the Canadian system even before they arrive in Canada. Second, this proposal saves time and money because immigrants can arrive in Canada with sufficient knowledge and practice and also the operational costs of conducting these settlement services are more cost efficient in source countries (China, India, Philippines) rather than in Canada.

Tony Santiago
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

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