Canada’s federal government is changing the definition of the term “dependent child” for all of its immigration programs.
As of August 1, 2014, the age at which a child will be considered as a “dependent” by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will drop from the current ‘under 22’ to ‘under 19’ years of age.
CIC is also removing the existing exception for full-time students. As a result, children of immigration applicants who are 19 or over—but are financially dependent on their parents and are studying full-time—will no longer be considered as dependents.
However, CIC will continue to allow a child, regardless of age, to be considered a ‘dependent’ if they rely on their parents due to a mental or physical condition.
The government’s rationalization for the change in dependent age is that lowering the age to 19 or under will help align the federal immigration programs with the provinces’ ‘age of majority’; across Canada, the provincial age of majority is evenly split between 18 and 19 years old.
The change to the dependent age for immigration programs will not be retroactive; all immigration applications submitted prior to August 1st will be processed under the existing dependent age—that being, 22 or under.
CIC will also allow for “transitional measures” for those who are involved in the immigration application process, but may not have submitted their application prior to the August 1st change in dependent age.
According to the CIC, the transitional measures will permit certain immigration applicants involved in multi-step permanent resident programs as of August 1st—but who have not yet submitted their applications by that date—to have their applications completed based on the previous age definition for ‘dependents’.
The transitional measures for those affected by the change to a child’s ‘dependent’ age applies to the following immigration programs:
- Provincial Nominee Programs
- Applicants who have applied under Quebec’s economic programs
- Live-in caregivers
- Refugees abroad, and refugee claimants
- Quebec humanitarian cases
- Parents or grandparents whose sponsorship applications were received before November 5, 2011
- Privately sponsored refugees whose sponsorship applications were received before October 18, 2012
As part of its enforcement of the new dependent age for immigration programs. CIC says the government will “lock in” the dependent age for children in affected programs at the first formal step of the immigration process.
For example, the age of a dependent child of parents applying to a Provincial Nominee Program will be ‘locked in’ on their application on the exact date of the initial contact made with the province.
Canadian Government Tightens Rules, Raises Fees For Hiring Foreign Workers
After weeks of screaming headlines about alleged abuse of foreign workers, and debate within and outside of parliament regarding the TFW program, the Conservative government has announced substantial changes to the guidelines for hiring temporary foreign workers.
Calling the changes to the TFW program “bold, broad, ambitious and balanced”, Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced that, in light of the new TFW law, he was lifting the current freeze on the hiring of foreign workers by the food service sector.
However, along with the lifting of the hiring ban, came several measures that will further restrict Canadian employers’ ability to hire temporary foreign workers.
The most significant changes to the TFW program include:
- Barring employers from hiring foreign workers in regions with high unemployment
- Placing a cap on the number of foreign workers an employer can hire under the TFW program
- A more stringent screening process requiring employers prove they need to hire foreign workers over Canadians
- Increasing the number of unannounced workplace exams by federal officials to ensure compliance with TFW rules; and substantial increases in the fees levied for those found to be in breach of the TFW regulations
The structure of the TFW program is also changing, and will now be divided into two different programs. The first will retain the TFW program name, and will require employers prove their need to hire foreign workers; the second program, titled The International Mobility Program, will not have the same requirement of proof of the need to hire foreign workers.
Details of the reforms of the TFW program include:
- Restricting the hiring of foreign workers to areas with unemployment of 6 percent or more
- By 2016, a cap of 10 percent on the number of foreign workers hired at any given work site; the cap will be phased in, with an immediate 30 percent limit on foreign workers, and a 20 percent limit as of July 1, 2015
- Hiring of 20 additional federal workplace inspectors, with the goal of inspecting one in four workplaces with foreign workers each year
- Starting this fall, fines of up to $100,000 for employers found to be abusing the TFW program
- Posting the names of employers granted permission to hire foreign workers
- Making public the number of positions hired through the program, on a quarterly basis
In addition, perhaps the two most contentious changes to the TFW program will be a whopping hike in the TFW hiring fee, from the current $275 to $1,000 per application; the government is also reducing the amount of time TFW workers can be employed in Canada, from the current four years to only two years.
The overhaul of the TFW program comes amid the government’s acknowledgement of how deeply flawed the current program has become.
In announcing the TFW reforms, Employment Minister Kenney confirmed the government has received over 1,000 complaints of TFW worker abuse through a tip line established by his ministry in April.
Hundreds of miles away from the bright lights of Canada’s biggest cities, immigration is spurring the growth in Canada’s prairie provinces.
Recent statistics reveal that the sparsely populated province of Saskatchewan saw its population grow by 5,000 people in the first quarter of 2014, and more than 3,000 of those individuals were immigrants from other countries. Saskatchewan’s growth mirrors that of its energy-rich neighbor, Alberta, where a booming natural resources sector has meant the hiring of thousands of foreign workers.
Though not growing at quite the rapid pace of Alberta, Saskatchewan is also undergoing an economic boom and as a result is also in need of a considerable number of foreign workers.
Bill Boyd, Saskatchewan’s Economy Minister, is predicting that his province will require as many as 75,000-80,000 more workers to fill the expected positions that will emerge as a result of fast-paced economic growth.
Boyd predicted that Saskatchewan’s thriving economy will continue to prosper for some time, and that his province will grow from its current population of 1.12 million to over 1.2 million in the near future.
“As a result of that, there will continue to be job growth in our province,” Boyd said.
Still, even though Saskatchewan’s economy is relatively healthy, it is also next door to its larger neighbor, Alberta, the booming oil-rich province and home to the renowned oil tar sands. As a result, both provinces are in competition in attracting migration from both within, and outside, of Canada.
In the first quarter of 2014, 5,700 Canadian residents moved to Saskatchewan, while 4,900 moved away. A majority of those who chose to leave the province moved next door, to Alberta, with 2,650 people moving to that province.
With both Western provinces benefiting from booming natural resource sectors, Saskatchewan’s population growth in the first quarter of the year was second only to that of Alberta’s; during the first quarter, Saskatchewan experienced growth of 0.46 percent, while Alberta’s population grew by 71 percent.
The recent trend of foreign migration to the more rural sections of Western Canada—primarily as a result of the thousands of jobs generated by the booming energy sector—is a considerable departure from the historical migration trends in Canada. Until recent years, most foreign migration to Canada was directed to the nation’s urban centers—primarily Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, Canada’s three largest cities.
As Western nations compete to attract more foreign students to their universities, Canada needs to do a better job at promoting itself as the first choice for higher education.
That’s the finding of a new report released by the Council of Chief Executives and the Canadian International Council. The report states that Canada—as the only major Western nation without a national education department—is at a serious disadvantage in the fierce competition to attract more foreign students.
Despite its position as a member of the Group of Seven industrial leaders, Canada trails far behind other countries in the number of foreign students it attracts. According to a 2011 United Nations study, Canada had 120,000 international students, compared to 427,000 in England and 250,000 in Australia.
The report finds that one of the biggest obstacles to Canadian success in attracting foreign students is the fact that Canadian provinces have jurisdiction over their educational systems, leaving Canada without a national strategy or ‘brand’ to promote itself internationally.
“This puts Canada at a disadvantage,” said Bernard Simon, the report’s author. “People (from other nations) know about Canada, but they don’t know about Nova Scotia, they don’t know about the University of Manitoba.”
There certainly appears to be evidence that Canada has some work to do in polishing its image among foreign students. In a 2011 UNESCO (United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture) ranking of international students per country, Canada finished in 8th place.
That’s one of the main reasons the new report calls on the establishment of ‘Education Canada’, a federal ministry that would provide a clear educational vision—and image—for Canada to market to foreign students around the world. Education Canada would, according to the report, “go out there and promote Canada, because the individual (Canadian) universities aren’t going to do that and the provinces aren’t going to do that.”
International experts are also calling on the Canadian government to take a different approach to the entire issue of foreign education.
Jennifer Jeffs, president of the Canadian International Council, says international education should be part of the country’s foreign policy. Jeff’s organization argues that the Canadian government should also be encouraging Canadian students to study abroad, a move she believes would strengthen Canada’s educational image around the world.
Despite not having the highest educational standards or “competitive fees” with some other countries, Jeff argues that Canada still has a lot to offer foreign students, including a tolerant, multi-cultural and relatively safe environment.
The report’s author agrees.
“The overriding concern is that Canada is not getting what it deserves from international education,” Bernard Simon explains. “All the building blocks are there to make Canada a real powerhouse in international education, and yet, it hasn’t happened.”
As one of the most contentious political debates in recent Canadian history rages on—and threats of legal challenges grow—the Conservative government is moving towards final passage of its sweeping new immigration bill.
Bill C-24, the government’s reform of Canada’s immigration laws, is near passage in parliament, and concurrently under review by the Canadian Senate; political watchers believe that, barring any unforeseen event, the bill could become law within a few weeks.
However, despite the bill’s rapid advance through parliament, the voices of opposition to the new immigration law remain loud and threatening.
One of the loudest voices opposing the bill is Toronto lawyer, Rocco Galati, who recently was successful in a lawsuit against a Conservative government appointment to Canada’s Supreme Court. Writing on behalf of the Constitutional Rights Center, Galati recently sent a letter to members of parliament, questioning the immigration law’s constitutionality and warning that his group may take “every judicial proceeding possible against Bill C-24.”
In addition, the Canadian Bar Association—representing Canada’s legal community—has also expressed concern that the provision in Bill C-24 allowing the government to revoke dual citizenship could be a “slippery slope that may well be beyond the constitutional framework.”
Both the Liberal and New Democratic opposition parties have signaled their intent to vote against the immigration law, however the Conservative government’s large parliamentary majority means that the law is almost certain to pass; despite strong opposition, it is also expected to pass the Canadian Senate.
Given that political reality, it appears as though a legal challenge—most likely in Canada’s Supreme Court—may be the only venue available to those standing in opposition to the new immigration law.
One of the strongest objections to the immigration law is the power given to the Immigration Minister to revoke dual Canadian citizenship of anyone convicted of certain criminal offences—even by foreign courts–or found to have taken arms against Canada. Critics believe that it provides too much subjective power to one person—the immigration minister—and politicizes a legal decision that should be left entirely to the Canadian courts.
In an editorial in Canada’s largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, Abbas Kassam of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, strenuously objected to the revocation power given the immigration minister in the new law.
Kassam pointed out that, once it’s obtained, Canadian citizenship is a “right, not a privilege”, and that the bill’s reliance on the legal convictions from foreign courts means that the decisions made by foreign “kangaroo courts” could result in the unfair revocation of dual Canadian citizenships. His group is calling on the government to rethink that provision to “maintain a commitment to the rule of law, and not lead us down a path towards authoritarian-style leadership.”
With the belief that information is power, the Canadian government is planning to conduct two new workplace-related studies, with the goal of using the information from those studies to fix its troubled Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program.
Citing sources, the Toronto Star reported that Employment Minister Jason Kenney will ask Statistics Canada to conduct two national workplace studies—a quarterly job vacancy survey and an annual wage report—with the goal of finding out where Canadian workers are in short supply, and the average wages for those positions.
The government would then use that information to help decide which TFW applications it would approve, and under what conditions.
In recent weeks, the TFW program has rocketed to the top of Canada’s national immigration debate after several allegations of worker abuse arose, involving national food retailers such as McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s Donuts. In reaction to the allegations, the federal government froze the approval of any additional TFW visas in the food service sector.
With a federal election likely only a few months away, the government also has considerable incentive to try and contain any controversy regarding its immigration policies.
The parliamentary opposition parties have been quick to pounce on the TFW problems, citing them as an example of the Conservative government’s failures in the area of immigration.
For the proposed job vacancy survey, Statistics Canada would examine both the type of work that is in demand, as well as the skill level needed for each position; the workplace information will be derived from about 100,000 Canadian employers nationwide.
Separately, the proposed annual wage report would be based on both the economic region of the employment, as well as the specific occupation. That would mark a change from Statistics Canada’s current wage survey model, which surveys only at the provincial level and by industry. The annual wage report would also be based on information from about 100,000 employers.
While both parliamentary opposition parties welcomed the idea of compiling more workplace data, they also remain critical of the Conservative government’s overall handling of the TFW program.
Liberal immigration critic John McCallum said he “could not speak against better (TFW) data,” but quickly added that “there’s evidence of systematic abuse of temporary foreign workers. The government has essentially done nothing to monitor or control that abuse, and better data will do nothing to address that issue.”
A petition sponsored by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) opposing the new Canadian immigration reform bill garnered more than 26,000 signatures, and was recently presented to the Vancouver offices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
However, the petition opposing the Conservative government’s immigration bill may just be the first shot fired by the BC organization, as representatives say they are not ruling out taking legal action in opposition to the immigration bill.
In their petition, the civil liberties group alleges that the government’s Bill C-24 (immigration reform) will create a second-class Canadian citizen with fewer civil rights; under the new law, those with dual citizenships can have their Canadian citizenship revoked if convicted of certain types of fraud or crimes. The law will also increase the waiting time for immigrants to achieve their Canadian citizenship.
Josh Peterson, executive director for the BC Civil Liberties Association, said the petition was prompted by the fact that the new immigration law “makes citizenship harder to get, and easier to lose.” Peterson delivered the 26,000 signatures in person to the CIC’s Vancouver office, and forwarded an additional copy via email to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s Ottawa office.
Peterson also warned that the petition might not be the last time the immigration minister hears from his organization on this matter.
“The BCCLA does take the government to court, from time to time, when laws are passed like this that are unconstitutional, it’s always something we think about,” Peterson said. He added no final decision has yet been made about future legal action.
Peterson explained that the thousands of signatures on the petition were gathered online, from across all of Canada and even from other countries.
In addition to the petition, the BCCLA is opposing the bill on other fronts; the association has also circulated a letter from 60 leading Canadian academics opposing the new immigration law. And despite acknowledging that the Conservative government has a large majority in parliament—and thus will most likely be able to overcome any opposition there—the BCCLA will also be lobbying the Canadian Senate to vote against the bill.
Under Canada’s parliamentary system, the Senate must also approve any major laws passed by the Canadian parliament.
Peterson conceded that the Conservative government—with its sizable parliamentary majority—has a history of passing laws that have widespread opposition. However, he added that measures such as the BCCLA’s petition against Bill C-24 represented a “meaningful, small act”, expressing a widely held view among many Canadians opposing the new immigration bill.
It’s a battle between the lawyers and the politicians as the fallout continues from the cancellation of Canada’s Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) earlier this year.
As predicted by many when the Conservative government canceled the IIP, several wealthy immigrant investors have filed lawsuits against the Canadian government claiming they were treated unfairly and that the government didn’t meet its legal obligations for a timely processing of their immigration applications.
Representing approximately 1,500 former IIP applicants-mostly from Mainland China, two Canadian attorneys recently presented their case before a Toronto court, arguing that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) failed to assess their clients’ immigration applications in a reasonable timeframe and that their rights under Canadian law had been breached.
One of the complainants’ lawyers, Tim Leahy, cited the experience of one of his clients as a typical example of the Canadian government’s failing to meet its IIP commitments. Although the government predicted IIP application processing time to be between 18-24 months, “one client sold her hairdressing salon (in China, in anticipation of moving to Canada) and has been waiting and waiting with no income.”
According to Leahy, as a result of the government’s broken IIP promises, his clients are entitled to $5 million per IIP applicant and his or her dependants. The lawsuit will be focused on 94 key complainants, but it’s expected that it will apply to all IIP applicants named in the suit. According to Leahy, non-Chinese investors included in the lawsuit had filed IIP applications in several other countries, including Turkey, England, South Africa and India.
Leahy conceded that the IIP program was unpopular among Canadians, who perceived it—critics would say correctly—as being a means for wealthy foreign nationals to buy, rather than earn, their Canadian citizenships. “The idea that millionaires are buying their (Canadian) residence sits very badly on the Canadian mentality, so the perception is negative,” Leahy told the New York Times.
The vast majority of both IIP applicants, and those included in the lawsuit, are wealthy Chinese nationals; a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) confirmed that “China has been among the top source countries for Canadian immigration for more than a decade, and it would continue to rank as such.”
However, the Canadian government remains convinced that canceling the IIP program was the right decision.
A spokesman for CIC said that the cancellation of the IIP program was justified as it “provided limited economic benefit to Canada”, and eliminating the backlog of applications associated with the IIP allows the government to “focus on attracting experienced business people and raising investment capital that is the maximum benefit to Canada’s economy.”
Only a few months after canceling a long-standing Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), Canada’s Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is consulting with business leaders in advance of introducing a replacement immigration program.
Alexander has held a series of meetings with business leaders in major Canadian cities, seeking their advice on what to include in the forthcoming Investor Venture Capital (IVC) pilot project. The government hopes the IVC will attract immigrant investors who might have otherwise been interested in the now-cancelled IIP program.
The immigration minister has been meeting with selected business leaders in several cities, including Toronto, Halifax, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.
In addition to replacing the now defunct IIP, the government hopes the proposed IVC program will help ease backlogs of investor immigrant applications, and create pilot investor programs targeted to Canada’s economic needs. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the previous IIP program had more than 62,000 backlog applicants, more than any other economic immigration program.
The CIC says that the new IVC program will be designed to be flexible enough to “deliver real benefits to the Canadian economy.”
By contrast, one of the loudest complaints about the prior IIP program was that—despite its popularity among wealthy immigrants, particularly those from Asia—there were minimal economic benefits derived by the program to the broader Canadian economy.
Commenting on the new IVC program, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that the government’s key objective with the new program is “to ensure that capital is available to help finance the creation and growth of Canada’s most promising enterprises.”
Alexander and his government are touting the forthcoming IVC program as part of the broader Economic Action Plan (EAP) 2014, the Conservative government’s overall economic plan that views immigration as an important tool in sparking economic growth. By replacing the old IIP program with the upcoming IVC plan, the government is also hoping to modernize its investor immigrant program to “remain competitive” in the modern global economy.
Once it’s completed and put into place, the new Canadian IVC program will complement the existing “Start-Up Visa” program, launched in April 2013, which was designed to attract entrepreneurs with new business ventures from around the globe.
Some experts who were invited to Ottawa to discuss Canada’s new immigration law with federal legislators say they were shut out of those immigration discussions, as part of a wider effort by the government to limit debate.
The immigration advocates, who were invited to testify to parliamentarians about the Conservative government’s sweeping new immigration law, Bill C-24, claim they were locked out of the parliamentary discussion at the last minute. Historians Melynda Jarratt and Don Chapman say they were angered and confused at the government’s actions, given that they were invited—at taxpayer’s expense—to provide expert advice during hearings about the new immigration law.
The two immigration experts say they were taken aback by the surprise decision not to allow them to be part of the Parliamentary discussion, especially given that they were invited to do so; Chapman had flown to Ottawa from Vancouver, while Jarratt had arrived from New Brunswick.
Still, after a Conservative member of parliament motioned to move the immigration law meeting “in camera”—meaning that it would take place in private without media or public attendance—that motion passed and Jarratt, Chapman, and members of the media and public were ushered out of the parliamentary conference room.
Critics pointed to the fact that although the immigration committee included some actual immigrants to Canada, the majority of its members were from the governing Conservative party.
For their part, opposition party members have also been critical of the government’s willingness to hold open discussions on the new immigration law. After the same meeting that excluded Jarratt and Chapman, Liberal Party immigration critic John McCallum left the conference room in frustration telling media that while he couldn’t discuss what happened in-camera, “as you can see by my actions, I’m not happy.”
Chapman was even more indignant about being locked out of the immigration debate, telling four Conservative members of parliament—who are themselves immigrants—as they left the immigration meeting “I’m glad Canada was accepting of you, when you needed help!”
Another complaint about the immigration hearings has to do with witnesses not called to testify about the new law’s impact on “lost Canadians”. The term “lost Canadians” refers to those Canadians who had legitimate claims to citizenship, but lost that right due to alleged discrimination, as well as earlier governments’ refusal to recognize certain citizenships prior to the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947.
The Conservative government has said the new immigration law seeks to rectify this problem, however critics say that actual “lost Canadians” haven’t been allowed to testify before Parliament.
“The term ‘lost Canadian’ comes up 20 times in the legislative summary (of the new immigration law),” said Don Chapman. “Yet they (the Conservative government) don’t have one ‘lost Canadian’ to speak before the committee. They’re not interested in the truth.”