Recent changes to Canada’s investor immigration program have resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of Chinese immigrants.
New statistics confirm that the Canadian government’s decision to cancel the decades-old Immigrant Investor Program (IIP) and replace it with the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Program (IIVC) has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of wealthy Chinese immigrants to Canada. The new program’s stricter rules and higher financial requirements are being cited by industry experts as the primary reasons for the decline.
No Canadian city has felt the effects of wealthy Chinese immigration more than Vancouver. The largest city in Western Canada—and third largest in the nation—has seen an influx of tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants over the last three decades as a result of the now defunct IIP program; while the immigration of large numbers of wealthy Chinese citizens has pumped some capital into the province, statistics also indicate that the economic benefits to Canada were nowhere near what was promised when the program was initiated.
In addition, many long-time residents of British Columbia believe that the heavy influx of wealthy Chinese immigrants have helped to make Vancouver the single most expensive residential market in North America, with an average home price of near $1 million.
It’s estimated that just two of Canada’s wealth-based immigration programs—the Immigrant Investor Program and Quebec’s provincial version of that program—helped to bring more than 200,000 wealthy immigrants to Canada since 1986.
The Canadian government has touted the new IIVC program as one that will better meet the economic needs of the country; however, critics argue that its financial requirements are too high compared to similar immigration programs around the world,
Concurrent to the changes in the federal government’s program, the Quebec government—which is responsible for running it’s own investor immigrant program—also made substantial changes to its program that set a tougher standard for immigration documentation, demanding greater details about potential wealthy immigrants’ sources of income.
Larry Wang, one of the leading immigration Chinese immigration consultants and a leading critic of the changes to the Canadian and Quebec immigration programs, pointed out that under the new Quebec rules providing immigration documentation was “…just the beginning. After a review of the documentation, an interview may be required. Further documentation may be requested. A further review by the federal government is the final stage before visa issuance. At any step along the way, and it is a long way, three years at least, it may be refused.”
Statistics also indicate that even those wealthy Chinese investors who choose the Quebec immigration program quite often ended up moving to live in other areas of (English-speaking) Canada.
According to Wang, the Canadian investor program has been overtaken in popularity by similar immigration programs currently offered by the United States and several European nations.
After months of anticipation and speculation, it’s ‘game on’—as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called for a federal election to take place on October 19th, and immigration is set to be one of the most debated topics during the campaign.
For many months, Canadian political observers have expected that Conservative leader and prime minister Stephen Harper would make good on his promise to call a federal election upon completion of his fourth year in office. Unlike in the United States, the Canadian prime minister has some discretion as to when an election is called. However, some had thought that given the recent downturn in Canada’s economy, Harper may have wanted to stretch out his term into a fifth year.
That didn’t happen, but by calling the October election in early August, Harper has set the stage for the longest Canadian election campaign in many years. That’s likely to work to his party’s advantage, given the Conservative’s considerably larger bank account, and its ability to finance a longer campaign.
But recent polls have revealed that there is no clear front-runner heading into the Canadian election, and that places a greater importance on each of the three major federal parties securing as many undecided votes as possible. For Harper’s Conservatives, who have governed Canada since 2006, immigration has in the past been an issue that has worked in their favor. The Harper government has—until last year—been viewed as very much in favor of promoting immigration to Canada, and his government has overseen one of the largest influxes of immigrants of any recent government.
As a result, the Conservatives carried a considerable amount of the new immigrant voting block in the last two elections. However, the changes made to Canada’s immigration laws in last year’s overhaul of the nation’s immigration system have raised doubts as to whether the Conservatives will be able to hold onto the majority of the votes of new, or recent, Canadian citizens.
The much-discussed ‘Express Entry’ system is universally seen as a fundamental change in the way Canada decides who is allowed to enter into the country; both supporters and critics of Express Entry agree that by shifting the focus of Canada’s immigration to the country’s economic needs, the Conservatives undertook to fundamentally alter the traditional, more liberal immigration patterns of Canada.
Express Entry manages the permanent resident applications allowed under the three primary federal immigration programs—Federal Skilled Workers, Federal Skilled Trades and Canadian Experience Class.
In addition, last year’s immigration overhaul—Bill C-24—tightened the rules for Canadian citizenship, and gave the Immigration Minister the power to deny citizenship to any individual found to be unworthy under the law. Hotly contested, this new law is currently being challenged in Canadian courts.
Given those changes to immigration law, Canada’s two main opposition parties—the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberal Party—are both seeking to re-establish stronger ties with new and recent Canadian immigrants by opposing the Conservative’s Bill C-24, and pledging to revoke most of the immigration laws passed last year.
Both NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau are making extensive pushes to connect with Canada’s large immigrant population, especially in the critically important urban centers of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal—the nation’s three largest cities. While the NDP is strongest in Vancouver (where the party has previously governed provincially), all three federal parties are fighting it out for the three vote-rich cities, with polls showing that a large number of urban Canadians remain undecided as to who to support.
As Canada’s economy has slipped in recent months—statistics indicate that, unlike the US economy, it has shrunk for five straight months—Harper’s Conservative Party has faced strong criticism of its financial management of the country. As a result, polls show the election campaign may provide an opportunity for any of the three major parties to form the next government. The immigrant communities in Canada’s largest cities are sure to play a significant role in deciding which party will win the election.
Still, each opposition party also faces its own difficulties on the road to victory.
Questions remain whether Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, at only 43, brings with him sufficient experience to become Canada’s next prime minister. In addition, after three consecutive election losses, the traditionally strong Liberal party is weaker than it has been historically.
For the NDP, expectations are higher than ever in the wake of finishing second—for the very first time—in the last federal election. However, NDP leader Tom Mulcair is in his first national campaign, having inherited the leadership from his very popular predecessor, the late Jack Layton. Layton passed away soon after the last election, after leading the NDP to its largest victory ever. Whether or not Mulcair can build on that momentum and lead the democratic socialist NDP into power remains a question, with Harper warning Canadian voters against trusting the national economy to such an untested party.
Over the course of the next two months, all Canadians will be faced with a choice as to which party—and leader—they wish to see run their country for the next four years.
For Canada’s new and recent citizens, Election 2015 is certain to be a lesson they won’t soon forget in Canadian democracy.
Wealthy Chinese immigrant investors, along with wealthy immigrants worldwide, have shown virtually no interest in a highly touted new Canadian immigration program designed to attract wealthy investors from around the world.
In the wake of the cancellation of the prior Canadian Immigrant Investor Program (IIP), which even the government agreed failed to attract either long-term investments or immigrants willing to both permanently relocate or invest in Canada, the Canadian government introduced the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital program to attract wealthy immigrant investors—most of whom had in the past been Chinese.
Just how little interest has there been so far in the new Canadian immigrant investor program?
According to a report in the South China Morning Post, a request for information from the government confirmed the new program has garnered a grand total of only six applications worldwide since its inception earlier this year.
It’s also worth noting that the program’s predecessor, Canada’s IIP program, was among the world’s most popular immigration program for wealthy immigrants, as seen by the thousands of backlog applications the program had on file before it was ended.
Critics of the new immigration program were quick to pounce on the perceived flaws, with many pointing out that it called for wealthy immigrants to make long-term economic and personal commitments without appropriate promises of returns on their investments.
Hong Kong immigration lawyer Jean-Francois Harvey said the new Canadian immigration program was “ridiculous”, in that it required applicants with personal wealth of more than $10 million to invest at least $2 million in Canadian ‘start-up’ businesses in exchange for permanent residency in Canada. However, applicants would face strict audits of their personal wealth, as well as having to meet high standards for their education and language skills.
Harvey, whose immigration law firm works in various countries worldwide, said the new Canadian wealthy immigrant program failed to meet the standards of similar programs offered in other countries. He cited as one example the immigration program offered by Portugal, which offered permanent residency for immigrants willing to invest at least 500,000 Euros (approximately $700,000 US dollars) in Portuguese real estate that they retained for at least five years.
Under the previous Canadian program, immigrant investors had to invest $800,000 for five years, which was guaranteed to be returned in full. Under the new replacement program, the required $2 million investment is held by the Canadian government for up to 15 years, and no return is guaranteed.
In fact, Harvey said he believed the new Canadian immigration program was specifically designed to discourage Chinese immigrants from considering Canada as a destination, and that the program was a “not so-subtle way to block the Chinese applicant.”
According to government data, despite pushing the application date back until the end of the year, the number of applicants for the new Canadian wealthy immigrant investor program remains in the single digits.
As Canadians prepare for a federal election that’s all but certain to take place this fall, the three national parties vying for power offer up differing futures for the nation’s current and future immigrants.
Political experts agree that immigration will be among the top tier level issues confronting all three major federal parties in the upcoming election. There are many reasons for this, including high profile media coverage of several individual immigration cases, however the main reason is likely last year’s overall of Canada’s immigration system by the ruling Conservative government.
While Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have touted Bill C-24 as the most significant overall of Canada’s immigration laws in decades, opposition party critics have said it’s deeply flawed and promised to make major changes should they form the next Canadian government.
Each of Canada’s three national parties—Harper’s Conservatives, the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau, and the official Opposition Party, the New Democratic Party led by Tom Mulcair—have put forward immigration policies designed to strengthen their hand with the Canadian electorate.
For recent Canadian immigrants, and those seeking to immigrate to Canada in the near future, there is much riding on which party forms the next federal government. Each party envisions different priorities for Canada’s immigration future; but only the winning party will have the opportunity to govern and thereby pass immigration laws.
Heading into the election, here’s an examination of the overall immigration policies of each federal party:
The Conservative Party—Leader: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
It’s been 9 years since Harper was first elected prime minister, and his government is quick to remind immigrants that since 2006, Canada has enjoyed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history—an average of 250,000 immigrants each year.
Additionally, the Conservatives point out that demand for Canadian citizenship has increased by 30 percent during that same period.
Looking forward, it’s almost certain that if the Conservative government is re-elected in the upcoming federal election, they will staunchly defend Bill C-24 and continue to implement its various reforms to Canadian immigration laws. The bill is currently being challenged in court, and the outcome of those lawsuits may well impact whether the Conservatives will be able to maintain all the changes in last year’s immigration reform.
Among the more controversial elements of the new immigration law—and the aspects of it that are most vulnerable to change, even with a Conservative victory—include the ability of the Immigration Minister to revoke Canadian citizenship for those convicted of violent crime or terrorism, and the Express Entry program, which critics say shifted the focus of Canadian immigration from the needs of immigrants to the economic needs of Canada.
The Liberal Party of Canada—Leader: Justin Trudeau
Under Justin Trudeau (eldest son of late former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau), the Liberal Party has been harshly critical of the Conservative’s new immigration law. Trudeau has made it clear his party will make substantial changes to the country’s new immigration law, including:
- A Liberal government would revoke the regulation that takes away the 50 per cent credit for time spent in Canada for international students;
- It would also revoke the regulation that calls for new citizens to sign a declaration that they intend to reside in Canada
- The party has also pledged to increase the number of refugees accepted into Canada, particularly from war-torn regions such as Syria
- The Trudeau Liberals would also reduce the waiting time for sponsorships, visas and Canadian citizenship1
The New Democratic Party (NDP)—Leader: Thomas Mulcair
As the official Opposition Party for the last several years, the NDP have been strong opponents of the Conservative government’s immigration policies. Although the party remains fairly popular, some political observers remain uncertain if NDP leader Mulcair can replicate the populist message of his predecessor, the late Jack Layton who passed away not long after leading the party to its most successful political outcome ever.
Should Mulcair succeed and become Canada’s first NDP prime minister, his party has also promised to make substantial changes to the country’s immigration policies. These would include:
- A change to focusing on family reunification as the primary goal of immigration policy;
- The NDP would also modify the immigration policy’s strong focus on language skills and abilities
- Mulcair’s party would, similar to Trudeau’s Liberals, also increase the number of refugees Canada welcomes, with particular focus on troubled areas such as the Middle East2
Of course, under Canada’s parliamentary system, it is also possible that none of the three federal parties will be able to form a ‘majority’ government, in which case they will be required to govern with some degree of support from at least one of the opposing parties.
Regardless of the winning party, one thing is certain: recent and future immigrants to Canada will have a great deal riding on the outcome of the upcoming Canadian federal election.
As is the case with immigrants around the world, new immigrants to Canada face a multitude of challenges and choices in their efforts to adapt to their new homeland.
But as is also the case with immigrants worldwide, Canada’s immigrants face a unique set of challenges and choices in their efforts to select where to settle in their new country. As the second largest country in the world, stretching across ten provinces and an entire continent, there are a multitude of choices facing new immigrants to Canada.
With that in mind, here are three of the most significant—and common—challenges and choices facing new immigrants as they attempt to adapt to the uniqueness of Canada.
3) Canadian Climate
A country as large as Canada traverses a wide cross-section of weather patterns. As one would expect from a country whose nickname is “The Great White North”, Canada—from coast to coast—is most widely known for its chilly weather. But in reality, Canada’s major cities have a wide variety of weather and—depending on the season—the local temperature can be quite different.
For immigrants from more temperate or hot climates, some of Canada’s major metropolitan areas offer up significantly different climates from their native lands. But even the differences between Canadian cities can be stark—for example, January is usually among the coldest months of the year.
But a review of the average January temperatures in five major Canadian cities illustrates the regional differences:
- Montreal, Quebec: -5.7 Celsius (22 F)
- Toronto, Ontario -2.1 (28 F)
- Winnipeg, Manitoba -12.7 (9 F)
- Calgary, Alberta -2.8 (27 F)
- Vancouver, British Columbia 6.1 (43 F)
As a result of the requirements of their immigration applications, immigrants to Canada already are aware that the nation has two “official languages”, French and English.
In most of Canada, the predominant language—taught, spoken and written—is English. However, immigrants settling in Quebec will find that the dominant language is French, although in some areas—such as Metropolitan Montreal—virtually all of the populace is bilingual, and speaks and writes both of Canada’s official languages.
Regionally, however, there are distinct differences even among the provinces that speak English. For example, in the Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, the residents speak with a distinct regional accent that could prove difficult to understand for those not originally from the region.
Although immigrants to Canada are required to be able to speak one of the two official languages, they should also consider the regional linguistic and cultural differences when deciding where to locate.
1. Regional Economies/Industries
Of course, immigrants to Canada will also require initial employment, as well as future employment opportunities for themselves and their families that are suited to their individual backgrounds.
For those immigrants arriving from more rural or agricultural homelands, there are several appropriate areas within Canada. Indeed, every province within Canada has large rural areas, although the Canadian farmland has shrunk over the course of the last several decades. The provinces with the largest agricultural industries are those in the Canadian prairies: Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. Of those three, Alberta has the most diverse economy, as in addition to its large ranching and farming communities, Northern Alberta is epicenter of Canada’s booming energy sector.
Until the recent collapse of the price of oil, Alberta’s immigrant population had been growing quite rapidly to meet the employment needs of the booming energy sector.
In British Columbia (BC), the dominant rural industry is lumber. However, the Metro Vancouver area is home to a very diverse economy, and has developed strong economic ties to the Asian-Pacific corridor over the last few decades.
In the Maritime Provinces, the fishing industry has historically been the dominant economic force, although efforts have been made in recent years to diversify their regional economy.
Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s two most populous provinces, are also home to Canada’s most diverse, industrialized economies. Southern Ontario and the Greater Montreal area have, historically, been—and remain—the country’s manufacturing hubs.
For many decades, Canada has welcomed immigrants from around the world. From its Western shores along the Pacific Ocean, right across to the Maritime provinces bordering the Atlantic Ocean, the country offers a diverse array of climates, languages and industries.
Immigrants choosing to resettle in the world’s second largest country should consider which of the many choices offered within Canada is best suited to their own unique needs and backgrounds.
As is the case every year, once again Canadians from coast to coast celebrated Canada Day, on July 1st—the nation’s birthday. However, this year, critics of the nation’s recent sweeping immigration law used the occasion of Canada Day to hammer home their arguments that the new law—Bill C-24, threatens to forever change what it means to be Canadian.
The immigration law, which is already facing a court challenge as being unconstitutional, as well as an online petition with over 100,000 people calling for its repeal, is shaping up to be a major issue in what is expected to be a federal election held later this year. The ruling Conservative government, which named the immigration law the ‘Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act’, believes that the new immigration rules are in keeping with the value of attaining Canadian citizenship and will help to meet the country’s economic needs.
Tightening the rules for immigration to Canada, the new law includes several measures such as
- Increasing the amount of time applicants for citizenship must live in Canada prior to attaining their citizenship
- No longer allowing applicants to use time spent residing in Canada as non-permanent residents towards their citizenship application and
- Requiring applicants to pay Canadian taxes to be eligible for citizenship.
Unlike the previous law that only barred those with certain domestic criminal histories from attaining citizenship, under the new immigration law foreigners with convictions in other countries can be barred from Canadian citizenship. The government also now has the power to revoke Canadian citizenship for those charged with terrorism, espionage or treason, a power it did not previously have.
Critics of the new Canadian immigration law say that it will ultimately establish different levels of citizenship. Calgary-based immigration lawyer Raj Sharma said the new law creates “two tiers or maybe even three tiers of Canadian citizenship, with massive amounts of discretion to the (immigration) minister.”
In its online petition, Change.org accuses the Canadian government of seeking to establish a two-tier citizenship. The petitioners accuse the government’s new immigration law of treating Canadian citizens who were born elsewhere as ‘second class citizens’, who will not have the same equal rights as native-born Canadians.
The petition cites as an example of the alleged second-class citizenship established by the new law “those Canadians who were born in another country, who could be at risk of losing their Canadian citizenship if they move overseas to be with a loved one, to take a job, or to go to school.”
For its part, the government has touted the new law—along with the recently-introduced ‘Express Entry’ system—as a means of expediting the processing of immigration applications. It’s still too early to assess just how accurate that projection will be, though some critics point out that the personnel required to process immigration applications is still lacking in numbers.
Since assuming power in 2006, the Conservative government has welcomed a record number of new Canadians, with more than 1.3 million attaining citizenship during that period.
While there continues to be a good deal of paperwork involved in the application process for those seeking to immigrate to Canada, the days of using actual paper to complete the immigration process are rapidly coming to an end.
The advent of the Internet has, of course, changed the way business is conducted around the world—including the business of governments. That is especially true when it comes to immigrating to Canada, given the recent changes to Canadian immigration law, and most notably the Express Entry immigration system.
Under Express Entry—from the very outset—the immigration process begins online. Would-be immigrants to Canada create an Express Entry online ‘profile’, outlining their personal history, including education, employment, language ability as well as other abilities. If the candidate meets the government’s criteria, then the immigration applicant’s name is placed in an—online—pool of candidates.
In keeping with the computerized immigration process, applicants without a Canadian job offer or a nomination from a province or territory must then register—online—with the federal government’s job bank; that web site offers an online search tool designed to match candidates with jobs in Canada based on their skills, knowledge and experience.
In addition, those selected from the pool applying for permanent residence in Canada, will also be using their computer to proceed in the application process. Those chosen to proceed will be asked to submit an electronic application in order to move forward in the permanent residence process.
The most recent example of how critically important the Internet has become to the immigration procedures in Canada is Saskatchewan’s move to online applications for its new “Saskatchewan Express Entry” program.
The new Saskatchewan immigration category is expected to add 775 immigrant positions to the province’s immigrant nominee program. Instead of utilizing the previous ‘first come, first served’ system, the new online program is designed to try and match immigrants to the current job openings in the province.
Much like the federal Express Entry system, the online applications of Saskatchewan’s new program are expected to be processed much faster than applications were in the past.
However, online immigration applications do not necessarily guarantee rapid processing.
One of the more prominent examples of this continues to be Canadian immigration officials’ slow processing of visa applications from international students seeking to study in Canada. A recent Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) report found that international student visas are taking weeks longer to process in Canada than in other Western countries such as the United States or Great Britain.
The CIC report cites a lack of available federal resources needed to meet the growing demand for international student visas to Canada; critics point out that rapid processing of student visa applications is seen as a critical element in order to attract the top tier of international students.
Coming on the heels of the introduction of the Express Entry program, the CIC report appears to indicate that while online, computerized applications—such as Express Entry’s–can help to cut processing times, it may all be for naught if additional resources aren’t delegated to immigration programs.
A new report accuses Canadian immigration authorities of violating the civil rights of immigrants held in detention. The report alleges that Canadian immigration officials are also sending those with mental medical problems to provincial jails instead of providing proper care.
The report, conducted by University of Toronto researchers, also alleges that having a health condition can directly affect an individual’s immigration case and result in the immigrant being detained for longer periods of time in higher security facilities.
Compounding the problem, the report finds that detained immigrants in provincial jails frequently become even sicker, due in part to the fact that provincial prisons are often overwhelmed and unable to cope with the number of sick prisoners.
The report also find that as a result of being jailed while they are detained, a number of immigrants experience anxiety, depression and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The lengthy prison stays are possible because Canada, unlike some other countries, does not have a maximum limit on the amount of time that immigrant detainees can be held in captivity.
In keeping with a growing chorus of recent complaints about clerical mistakes made by immigration officials–and the toll those mistakes take on immigrants–the report cited the example of one female immigrant detainee who was held two months longer than expected solely as a result of a clerical error. According to the report, the stress from her extended detention was so bad the woman considered committing suicide.
Another case cited in the report is that of Masoud Ajiivand, who has been held in an Ontario jail for over a year. An Iranian expatriate, Ajiivand has not been charged with any crime, and he has said he fears returning to his native Iran given his conversion to Christianity. His wife has told Canadian media that he is suffering physical and mental consequences—including loss of memory–as a result of his prolonged captivity.
Critics of the Canadian immigration detentions say that one of the prime reasons for the problems is the broad detention power that is given to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). Under Canadian law, the CBSA can detain anyone if they believe they pose a danger to the Canadian public, are unlikely to attend a hearing or even if there are questions about their identity; the broad nature of the law means that some immigrants with mental disorders could fall into one or more of those categories.
The report’s Executive Editor, Renu Mandhane, who is also the Director of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto, said “we find that people who have serious mental health issues are routinely, and almost presumptively, transferred to the jails because CBSA believes they will access treatment in the jails.”
For its part, the CBSA issued a statement saying that it “takes the issue of mental health seriously.” In addition, the CBSA added that holding facilities often contract with with medical professionals, and that detainees in prisons have full access to the health care that is provided at those institutions.
In an effort to increase awareness of the issue, the researchers at the University of Toronto say they intend to present their findings next month to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Mandhane said his research team will argue that the Canadian government’s treatment of detained immigrants constitutes “cruel and unusual” treatment; the researchers will also recommend independent oversight of the CBSA, and that limits are placed on how long immigrants can be detained by Canadian authorities.
For immigrants from across the globe, Canada remains a very attractive destinations.
Spanning an entire continent, and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on its east coast and the Pacific Ocean on its west, Canada offers immigrants a diverse choice of regional climates, economies and even languages.
Immigration patterns in Canada have changed in recent years, with an increasing number of immigrants relocating to the nation’s more rural and Western areas. Driving a great deal of that immigration has been Canada’s booming natural resources industry, and in particular its oil and gas industries that are centered in those regions.
Here are the nation’s top five immigration destinations, as well as a little background on each location’s defining and unique characteristics based on a 2013 Canadian government report:
5. Manitoba-13,100 immigrants
Largest City: Winnipeg—11,114 immigrants
Winnipeg, by far Manitoba’s largest urban center, is located in exactly the center of Canada. Not only is Winnipeg the capital city of the province of Manitoba, it is often considered in Canadian culture as being the capital of Canada’s prairie provinces. Not unlike its American neighbors directly south of the province, Manitoba’s economy is mostly driven by agriculture.
In addition to farming, perhaps the most defining characteristic of both Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba is its climate. Prairie winters are legendarily harsh, with temperatures dipping below zero for weeks at a time during the winter months; however, Winnipeg is also one of Canada’s safest urban centers and has long had a thriving cultural community.
4. British Columbia (BC)—36,210 Immigrants
Largest City: Vancouver—29,506 immigrants
British Columbia (more commonly referred to as BC) is Canada’s most western province, bordered by the American states of Alaska to its north and Washington State on its southern border. With only two major population centers, Metropolitan Vancouver and Victoria, the provincial capital, BC’s rural economies are mostly driven by natural resources, especially lumber and more recently, natural gas exploration.
Vancouver is a very multicultural city, with a strong Asian presence that has seen high levels of migration from Mainland China and Hong Kong over the last two decades. However, with limited land (the city is bordered by the ocean and mountains) in recent years Vancouver has also evolved into one of the world’s most expensive cities, and was recently rated as having the highest cost of living of any North American city, even surpassing New York and San Francisco.
3. Alberta—36.636 immigrants
Largest City: Calgary—17.602 immigrants
With its Western culture, and vast oil resources, Alberta is often referred to as ‘Canada’s Texas’. Long the center of Canada’s energy industry, Calgary—Alberta’s largest metropolitan center—is a cosmopolitan city that still retains much of Alberta’s unique Western cultural history.
In recent years, the energy boom generated by the oil sands—located in the northern section of the province, near its capital city of Edmonton—has been a strong magnet for immigration. Both skilled and unskilled foreign workers have been in much demand as a result of the energy boom; however, recent steep declines in oil prices have hit the energy industry hard and its unclear what long-term effect that change may have on the province’s immigration.
2. Quebec—51.983 immigrants
Largest City—Montreal—43,944 immigrants
Canada’s only French-speaking province, Quebec has had a rollercoaster history in terms of immigration. Historically, Montreal—Canada’s second largest city—competed with Toronto as the primary destination for immigrants from around the world. That began to change in the 1970s with the rise of Quebec separatism and the prospect of Quebec independence.
More recently, the Quebec separatist movement has subsided—although a sizeable minority of Quebecers still favor the idea—and as a result the province has seen a resurgence in immigration over the last decade. Montreal—without question, Canada’s most bilingual city where a majority of people speak both French and English—continues to attract the vast majority of immigrants, from a diverse array of regions including Africa, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.
1. Ontario—103,494 immigrants
Largest City—Toronto—81,691 immigrants
Ontario is Canada’s largest province by population, home to both the country’s largest city, Toronto, and the nation’s capital city, Ottawa. The province has also historically been the epicenter of Canadian immigration, making Toronto one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
In recent years, there’s been a shift in immigration away from Ontario to the western provinces as a result of the energy boom in that region. Still, despite the decline, Ontario remains the most popular destination for immigrants to Canada and—despite having a very high cost of living—Toronto remains the most popular city for immigrants looking to take up permanent residency in Canada.
It remains unclear what impact the dramatic changes in the world’s energy sector will have on Canadian immigration. What remains unchanged is that Canada is still one of the most desired—and desirable—destinations for immigrants from around the world.
A growing chorus of government critics and advocates of Canadian immigrants are calling on reforms to the country’s immigration bureaucracy that they accuse of making large mistakes in processing applications.
Recent internal government reviews of the Canadian Immigration & Citizenship (CIC) revealed what was described as a “high error rate” in processing permanent residency applications and refugee permits. The consequences of the CIC “human errors” is often quite severe, often resulting in preventing immigrants from successfully completing their immigration to Canada. Although there were multiple areas identified as problems, the most concerning were CIC immigration letters—many either not sent, or sent as incomplete—that have negatively impacted many immigration applications.
In a recent high-profile report, The Toronto Star—Canada’s largest newspaper—found that the recent casualties of CIC immigration errors included:
- A man facing deportation to China after his application for a spousal sponsorship was rejected because he hadn’t responded to requests for more documentation—both he and his lawyer insist they never received any letter
- A foreign student from India who received a new student visa that had already expired and
- A Jamaican man who received a notice of his application being processed, only to be told months later that no one knew where his file was located.
In the wake of these bureaucratic mistakes, many critics are calling on the Canadian government to introduce tighter controls on how immigration applications are processed; given the potential consequences of these errors, critics say that government needs to do all it can to minimize the number of mistakes that occur during the application process.
Critics point to the particular case of Chinese immigrant De Wei Gao as a classic example of the serious consequences resulting from bureaucratic error. Last November, Gao received an emailed rejection letter on his spousal sponsorship that said he had failed to respond to requests for his passport and police clearance documents. Gao’s attorney claims that he had never received the government request for information and therefore could not have been expected to respond.
As a result of this situation, Gao is now facing deportation back to China. After his attorney spoke to the press and raised the specter of taking his case to court, the government agreed to review his case one more time.
An internal examination of the immigration processing center in Vegreville, Alberta, revealed that of the 996 cases reviewed, officials found “human errors” by bureaucrats in 617 of the request letters sent to immigration applicants. The type of mistakes that were found ranged from failing to use the correct form letters, to missing documents, and providing immigration applicants with incorrect deadlines for their applications.
Yet, despite all the bureaucratic errors found by officials, a CIC representative still claimed that the department “has moved to a system of ensuring perfected applications are handed in at the beginning of the process”, and added that “with this practice, we have been able to identify missing or invalid information earlier.”