After canceling its previous Investor Immigration Program last year due to complaints that it brought little benefit to both Canada and its citizenry, the Conservative government has now begun to accept applications from up to 500 foreign millionaires interested in investing—and relocating—to Canada.
The Conservative government claims that the replacement for the previous immigrant investor program—titled the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital program—will bring greater benefits to Canada while welcoming needed foreign investment capital. The initial applications for this program will be accepted between January 28th and February 11th, or until the government receives 500 applicants.
In making the announcement, Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that—unlike the prior immigrant investor program—the new initiative will help ensure that immigrant investors coming to Canada will both benefit the larger Canadian economy and better integrate into Canadian society.
Although the government will be accepting up to 500 applicants under this program, Alexander said that—at least initially—Canada will provide permanent residency to only 60 millionaire investors. The reason for this is that the government hopes to evaluate how well the initial 60 millionaire investors benefit the country’s economy, and integrate into the society before expanding it to hundreds of other applicants.
Under the new program, foreign investors seeking to immigrate to Canada will be required to have a minimum net worth of at least $10 million; in addition, they will be required to make a non-guaranteed investment in Canada of at least $2 million over the course of about 15 years. The funds will be managed by BDC Capital, the business investment arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada.
According to the government, another distinct difference between the new immigrant investor program and its predecessor is that the funds from this program will be primarily distributed to “innovative Canadian startups with high growth potentials.”
At its core, the government believes, the primary objective for this program is to generate jobs within Canada. It remains to be seen if this new immigration program, unlike its predecessor, will accomplish that goal.
For their part, the opposition parties in Canada’s parliament remain skeptical that this new program can or will achieve its goals. In addition, some critics of the new policy –who have deemed this initiative as “cash for citizenship”–say this program gives unfair preference to wealthy immigrants at the expense of poorer immigrants.
New Democratic Party multiculturalism critic Andrew Cash said that this new immigration program is particularly unfair to hundreds of live-in caregiver immigrants who have been unable to attain permanent residency in Canada, some waiting for up to three years for decisions on their immigration applications.4
Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil confirmed that devising such a policy will mean striking a balance between two priorities: the need for Quebeckers to find gainful employment, and recognizing the need for immigrants to “integrate” into the provincial workforce.
Weil also acknowledged that a major challenge facing immigrants to Quebec—Canada’s only predominantly French-speaking province—is recognition of their foreign credentials.
Speaking to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Weil admitted that lack of recognition of immigrants’ foreign credentials “remains a huge frustration for people who come from other countries with quality baggage, and we have to find way a for people to contribute.”
Weil added that, given the critical importance of immigrants to Quebec finding gainful employment, the province’s employers will also play an important role in helping to shape the province’s future immigration policies. Weil explained that if new immigrants to Quebec are unable to find gainful employment, they feel isolated and often excluded from society.
Quebec has a long history of promoting policies—including immigration laws– that are unique to its French Canadian culture and history. Over the last few decades, the province has introduced several unique laws designed to preserve and promote the French language, and these policies often result in making it even more difficult for non-French speaking immigrants to assimilate into Quebec culture and business.
Weil also told the CBC that her government understands the challenges many minority immigrants face in assimilating into Quebec culture. “The second generation of immigrants are not finding jobs at the level of their competencies, because they may be from visible minorities or their names may not resonate as French speakers,” she said.
Those challenges have resulted in a very noticeable decline in the number of immigrants to Canada’s French-speaking province. Recent statistics confirm there was a significant drop in new immigrants to Quebec over the past few years, ultimately having a direct effect on the province’s overall population growth.
According to The Institut de la Statistique Quebec, the provincial population grew by 63,000 in 2013, a decline of about 10,000 from the previous year and a continuation of recent trends; that same year, the province also welcomed 3,000 fewer new immigrants. The majority of new immigrants to Quebec were from three countries: China, France and Algeria.
Commencing in the 1970s, with the rise of the province’s separatist movement, Quebec has wrestled with the challenge of people—mostly non-French speaking—leaving the province to move to other areas within English Canada.
Although there has not been a provincial vote on Quebec separation for two decades, the province’s opposition political party—the Parti Quebecois—continues to advocate on behalf of separating Quebec from Canada.
Through his AIDS Foundation, Elton John—one of the world’s most famous pop stars—will fund a study to examine how recent changes to Canada’s immigration laws affect Canadian refugees living with HIV/AIDS.
John, who’s married to Canadian-born David Furnish, established the Elton John AIDS Foundation to provide funding for AIDS and HIV-related studies and research. Through his foundation, John will provide $75,000 in funding for the Canadian refugee study.
The study will be conducted by the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program. In announcing the program, Furnish said the Human Rights Program would “take the lead in advocating on behalf of HIV-positive refugee claimants seeking a better life in Canada.”
There has been a great deal of recent controversy about Canada’s immigration policies in the wake of the overhaul of the country’s immigration laws last year. Critics of the changes to the country’s immigration policies have accused the Conservative government of shifting the emphasis of Canadian immigration from reuniting families and personal histories to the economic needs of the country. They point to the introduction of the new Canadian Express Entry immigration program—which began on January 1st—in which immigrants are judged based on how well their skills and educational histories meet the current economic needs of Canada.
The University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program has been a long-time advocate for people afflicted with HIV and AIDS, particularly Africans who have been affected by the disease. The Program’s Director, Renu Mandhane, was among those voicing criticism of the Canadian government’s recent changes to immigration and refugee policies.
While acknowledging that Canada has “long been a leader” in protecting those fleeing persecution based on their HIV status or sexual orientation, Mandhane added that “the federal government’s new refugee policies are threatening to undermine our reputation. It’s critical that Canada continue to show leadership in terms of protecting these very vulnerable individuals.”
The Canadian government has also been subjected to criticism of how its refugee policies are impacting those affected by the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Iraq. In the wake of that criticism, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander recently announced that Canada would increase the number of Syrian refugees it permits to relocate to Canada. Still, some critics have accused the Conservative government of an unwillingness to open its doors to Muslim immigrants from Iraq and Syria.
The civil rights group Citizens For Public Justice says that internal government communications appears to indicate that the 1.300 Syrian refugees already selected for relocation in Canada came from a pool of 3,500 Christian Syrians.
However, a spokesman for the civil rights organization said it was difficult to be certain that religion was a deciding factor in which Syrian refugees are granted status in Canada, primarily because the government does not provide religious background information on refugee claimants it chooses to allow from Syria.
As part of its overall humanitarian efforts to aid those most affected by the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced that Canada will welcome an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees as well as 3,000 more Iraqi refugees.
In 2009, Alexander had originally announced that Canada would agree to resettle 20,000 Iraqi refugees; according to Alexander, Canada has already surpassed the commitment of those original numbers, with more than 1,075 Iraqis already resettled into Canada.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Canada has also granted protection to 2,480 Syrian nationals through the country’s resettlement and asylum programs. The United Nations Commission For Refugees has called for the resettlement of at least 100,000 Syrian refugees worldwide. The Canadian government says that with the announcement of its accepting additional Syrian refugees, Canada will have taken in about 10 percent of that UN total.
The Syrian refugees are expected to be resettled into Canada over the course of the next three years, while the additional Iraqi refugees should all be resettled into Canada by the end of this year.
Canada has played a very active role in the coalition efforts battling the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State Of Iraq & Syria), which is cited by most experts as being the driving force behind the growing refugee crisis in both Syria and Iraq. In addition to providing military support to the battle against ISIS, the Canadian military also continues to aid in the humanitarian relief efforts for the hundreds of thousands of affected refugees.
Canada has already committed more than $680 million of assistance to the crisis resulting from the Syrian civil war, including over $400 million in humanitarian assistance as well as over $210 million ‘developmental’ assistance to the general region, including Jordan—the country that has absorbed the majority of Syrian refugees.
Canada, however, is not the Western leader in providing protection for Syrian refugees, as both Germany and Sweden have taken in more refugees from that country; Germany has taken in 6,000 Syrians, with promises of an additional 20, 000, and Sweden has given residency to 30,000 Syrian war refugees.
The Canadian government says that, all told, Canada will be providing “protection” to over 35,000 Syrian—and Iraqi—refugees affected by the ongoing civil wars.
Still, while the Conservative government says that Canada is not only meeting—but exceeding—its commitment to take in Syrian and Iraqi refugees, there have been reports that Canada actually resettled less than 1,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2014, less than its original commitment of 1,300 by year’s end.
Martin Mark, a representative of the Office For Refugees at the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT)—a Catholic charity—said that Canadian government bureaucracy has hindered his organization’s ability to resettle Syrian refugees.
Mark says that, due entirely to government delays, his group was not able to sponsor as many Syrian refugees as it had hoped to, and that many refugee applications that were not processed in 2014 will likely have to be resubmitted yet again this year.
However, some Canadian immigration experts are cautioning not to pop too many champagne bottles in anticipation of sustained high immigration levels in the coming years; some experts warn that 2014 may turn out to be the exception—rather than the norm—for future Canadian immigration levels.
Warren Creates, a Canadian immigration lawyer based in Ottawa, is among those warning that recent changes to Canada’s immigration laws will result in less—rather than more—new immigrants to Canada.
Despite the record-breaking number of immigrants in 2014, Creates believes that the government’s new immigration laws will mean that fewer people will be eligible to immigrate to Canada in the future. Creates told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that he believes “the eligibility requirements (for Canadian immigration) is now going to be very, very high and a significant burden to many people who would have qualified for citizenship.”
Fellow immigration lawyer Lee Cohen agrees, and points out that as changes made in 2014 to Canada’s Immigration Act begin to take effect, stricter eligibility requirements will likely counter any gains made by reductions in immigration backlogs.
According to Cohen–and Creates–changes to Canada’s immigration laws that include longer residency requirements, requirements to file Canadian income taxes, and the need to show “intent” to gain Canadian citizenship will all serve to discourage potential immigrants.
Creates added that stricter immigration eligibility rules will ultimately mean that “it’s going to take them (immigrants) longer to clock the number of years of physical presence in Canada that the new law requires.”
Many among Canada’s legal community have been vocal in their opposition to the changes in the new Canadian immigration law, including the Canadian Bar Association; the national legal organization has stated that it believes many changes in the Immigration Act are unconstitutional, and as a result, court challenges to the law are ongoing.
Still, despite all the legal questions that linger about the new immigration law, the start of the new year also marks the beginning of Canada’s new Express Entry immigration system.
Under the new Express Entry program, skilled foreign workers who are seeking employment in Canada can create an online profile for consideration by Canadian authorities. Candidates for immigration who meet the minimum criteria are then placed into a pool of names, and ranked by various factors including education, language proficiency and personal work experience.
The Canadian government claims that new immigrants who are offered permanent residence in Canada under Express Entry can expect their applications to be processed in six months or less.
According to the government, the first group of Express Entry applications to be accepted will be announced in late January.