Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has publicly confirmed that the federal government has begun to revoke the passports of Canadians who have left the country to join extremist groups in Iraq and Syria; Alexander added that the government has also revoked the passports of several citizens who planned to—but had not as yet—left the country to join extremist groups.
Although Alexander was unwilling to reveal the exact number of Canadian passports revoked during these recent actions, he confirmed there are “multiple cases”, and that about 30 Canadians have joined extremist groups in Syria, and an additional 130 are fighting in other countries. The revocation of the passports means those Canadian citizens affected by the move will, in effect, be stranded in Syria as well as the other countries in which they are fighting along side extremist groups.
The revocation of the Canadian passports also means the affected Canadian citizens can neither return to Canada, nor use their passports to travel to other countries around the world.
This action comes in the wake of confirmation that some Canadians have joined the terrorist group Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), including a 23-year old Ontario man who bragged in online postings of “playing soccer with severed heads.”
The Canadian government had recently come under some criticism from civil liberty groups, as well as some immigration attorneys, for its revision to Canadian law extending its power to revoke the passports of citizens found to be supporting “extremist” groups. Still, Alexander and his government have vigorously defended the changes that provide the added powers of passport revocation, particularly in the wake of recent terrorist activities in the Middle East.
Speaking recently to the Security Council at the United Nations, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said that ISIS was a “terrorist army…with a medieval ideology” and that Canada and other nations must “reject their nihilistic world view wherever we find it.”
For his part, Canada’s immigration minister said his ministry sees the revocation of passports of those participating in terrorist activity as a means of protecting both Canadians, and the country’s reputation around the world.
“We want to ensure that Canada’s good name is not besmirched by these people any more than it already has been, and that Canadians are protected,” Chris Alexander said.
There have been many vocal opponents to the Canadian government’s recent changes in immigration law. Now, the government of Canada’s third-largest province is expressing its concern about the proposed federal crackdown on “birth tourism”—the practice of foreign women giving birth in Canada in order to obtain Canadian citizenship.
The provincial government of British Columbia (BC) publicly confirmed that its expressed concern to federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander about the financial and administrative costs that would be involved in the crackdown on “birth tourists.” BC Jobs Minister Shirley Bond sent a note to Alexander’s office saying the provincial government would, at a minimum, expect “adequate notice” of immigration policy changes the BC government would be required to pay for and administer.
The concern of the federal government over ‘birth tourism’ has been partly spurred on by maternity clinics in Toronto and Vancouver informing Chinese nationals that giving birth in Canada can ultimately result in that child receiving Canadian health care and education; the idea became so widespread that there was even a 2013 movie titled “Finding Mr. Right” based upon the premise of Chinese ‘birth tourism’.
As a result of this practice, the federal Conservative government is moving towards a citizenship policy similar to that of most European countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, that provides babies born in the country with automatic citizenship only if one parent is either already a citizen or permanent resident.
In order for that to happen, the federal government would require the provincial governments to acquire information that would confirm if at least one parent of a newborn baby qualifies for the child to receive citizenship; a provincially-issued birth certificate is required in order to receive Canadian social services such as health care and education.
However, critics of the idea are quick to point out that fewer than 500 of the annual 360,000 births in Canada could be considered “anchor babies.”
Even before the BC government expressed its reservations about the change in policy, the provincial government of Ontario—Canada’s largest province—has expressed its opposition to the proposed crackdown on birth tourism. In a 2012 letter to the federal government, the Ontario Liberal government stated that it believes “there is not enough evidence to justify the effort and expense” required to implement the federal government’s proposed change in policy.
In fact, Chris Alexander is not the first federal immigration minister to try to restrict “birth tourism”, only to run into strong provincial opposition.
Vancouver immigration attorney Richard Kurland said that at least four immigration ministers—two from each of the Liberal and Conservative parties—have attempted to crack down on birth tourism since the 1990s. However, Kurland warned that if successful, the effort could well backfire on the federal government.
“There is no issue here,” Kurland said, adding that stringent rules could result in a flood of lawsuits against the government by those denied Canadian citizenship as a result of this effort against birth tourism.
Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is holding a series of meetings with Francophone community leaders outside of Quebec as his government seeks advice on how to attract a greater number of francophone immigrants to Canada.
Alexander recently completed a series of consultation meetings with Francophone community leaders in Manitoba as part of a wider effort to draw up plans designed to promote French-speaking immigration to provinces outside of Quebec. Under his government’s Official Languages Policy, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) plans to spend $29.4 million to support immigration in to “Official Language Minority Communities”, essentially areas where one of the two official languages of Canada are in the minority; there are two ‘official languages’ in Canada—English and French.
The Canadian federal government currently funds 13 Francophone Immigration Networks across Canada, with the exceptions being in Quebec and Nunavut. Designed to promote Francophone culture outside Quebec, these networks gather key stakeholders in order to foster collaboration to increase Francophone immigration to their communities.
This effort comes at a time when immigration to Canada has been at historically high levels over the last few years. As recently as this month, Montreal was the site for the swearing in ceremony of 3,500 new Canadians from more than 70 countries around the globe.
Since the Conservative Party came to power in 2006, Canada has averaged about a quarter million new immigrants each year, a level the government refers to as “the highest sustained (immigration) levels in Canadian history.”
During that same period, the demand for immigration to Canada rose by an impressive 30 percent. In fact, 2014 is shaping up to be another year of high immigration levels to Canada; more than 150,000 people have already become new Canadians this year.
That figure represents double the number of new Canadians welcomed during the same period in 2013. The government attributes that dramatic increase largely due to the changes made to cut immigration backlogs, and expedite processing of immigrant applications.
In September alone, it’s expected that more 10,000 people will be sworn in as new Canadians in the greater Montreal region.
Since the Conservatives rose to power in 2006, more than 1.3 million new Canadians have become citizens.
However, earlier this year, the government introduced sweeping new immigration regulations that included some restrictions seen by many as making it more difficult for immigrants to attain Canadian citizenship.
There are currently several court challenges to some of those new immigration reforms, and it’s expected that immigration will be a major issue in the next federal election, which is widely anticipated to be called within the next several months.
A new survey finds that most Canadians are not aware of the number of immigrants and refugees admitted into their country each year.
In its annual survey, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) found that 43 percent of Canadian adults polled could not even hazard a guess as to the Canadian immigration numbers, although about one-third of those polled thought the number of immigrants admitted annually was less than 100,000.
In reality, over the past decade Canada has welcomed about 250,000 immigrants and refugees each year.
In the survey, only about nine percent of Canadians came close to estimating the actual number of immigrants and refugees admitted each year.
When asked about the level of immigration, despite their lack of information, most Canadians seemed satisfied with the current levels. Twenty six percent of those polled said immigration numbers were too high, 10 percent said it was too low, and 52 percent of Canadians said they thought current immigration levels were about right.
However, once those polled were informed as to the actual number of immigrants each year, the satisfaction level changed considerably. The number of respondents who said there were too many immigrants rose to 36 percent while the number of those satisfied with the real level of immigration dropped to 48 percent.
Looking to the future, about half of Canadians thought immigration levels should remain the same over the next few years, while about one-third said it should decrease; only 15 percent believed immigration should be allowed to increase in the near future.
According to Luc Turgeon, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa who studies immigration trends, Canadians are more welcoming of immigrants than most Western nations. Turegon said that Canada is one of the few Western nations where attitudes towards immigration have remained constant over the last 15 years, a stark contrast to European attitudes, which have hardened against immigration during that same period.
Turgeon explained that in the 1980s Canada admitted an average of 150,000 immigrants each year; at the time, Canadians were in favor of lowering that number. Yet, even though the annual admittance rate has risen to about 250,000 immigrants in recent years, Canadians are now more satisfied with the higher rate of annual immigration.
In fact, this year’s CIC survey found that 80 percent of Canadians agree that immigration is necessary for Canada to sustain its economic growth. Still, a clear majority of Canadians also said they strongly preferred that Canada “should be helping” unemployed Canadians, rather than recruiting skilled immigrants.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, that same view of the need to focus help on unemployed Canadians—rather than recruiting skilled foreigners–was shared between both native born Canadians as well as immigrants to Canada.