‘Extraordinary initiative’: Canada’s private refugee sponsorship system exported as model for the world 

While I am always cautious in exporting any Canadian “model,” as local conditions, history, geographies and identities vary, nevertheless good to share our experience and lessons learned with others (and likewise, learn from them):

The world could make strides in resolving the global refugee crisis by adopting Canada’s private sponsorship model, says Immigration Minister John McCallum.

Speaking at a news conference to officially launch the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, which will train and advise other countries on how to establish programs that allow private individuals and groups to finance, facilitate and support refugees coming to the country, McCallum urged other countries to do more.

“I think one aspect of this crisis today is that there are not enough countries receiving enough refugees to solve the problem, to put it mildly,” he said. “So I do believe this initiative, which is essentially to export to interested countries in the rest of the world our privately sponsored refugees [program], could make a significant impact on the refugee crisis.”

Participants from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. are in Ottawa for a three-day session on how Canada’s program could be replicated in their own countries. About 90 international delegates are attending.

Canada is dedicating six staff to spearhead the initiative to get the greatest “buy in” from other countries.

McCallum said the world is seeing the worst refugee crisis in decades, and a growing number of countries are keen to embrace Canada’s project as a way to help. Engaging citizens will boost public support for newcomers, and help refugees integrate with greater ease and success.

According to the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the private refugee sponsorship program has helped resettle more than 288,000 refugees since the late 1970s.

More than 13,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Canada through private sponsorship since November 2015.

1.2 million refugees in life-threatening situations

In March, Canada’s government-assisted and private sponsorship of refugees was hailed as a model for the world by Filippo Grandi, the head of the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Johannes Van Der Klaauw, the agency’s representative in Canada, said today there are now 1.2 million refugees who are in life-threatening situations. He urged other countries to follow Canada’s lead to encourage private sponsors to complement government-assisted programs.

Gregory Maniatis, an international resettlement expert with Open Society Foundations, called Canada’s program an extraordinary initiative.

While there are many obstacles, including many governments around the world, he said there is a groundswell of grassroots support from citizens.

“If you look at what’s happening on the ground, amongst citizens….we think and we have seen, a tremendous desire to help,” he said.

McCallum said while Canada is a very welcoming country compared to others, it is not universally so. He said to stem potential resentment, the government is always careful to ensure refugees are not seen to be treated better than other Canadians when it comes to social housing, health or other benefits.

“We have to ensure that the way we behave is fair. Fair to refugees, but also to Canadians,” he said.

The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative is led by the federal government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the University of Ottawa, the Radcliffe Foundation and the Open Society Foundations

Source: ‘Extraordinary initiative’: Canada’s private refugee sponsorship system exported as model for the world – Politics – CBC News

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McCallum doesn’t want to let fraudsters ‘off the hook’ through moratorium on citizenship revocation

There is a distinction between fraud cases investigated by the RCMP and those investigated by IRCC. The Minister seems to be referring to only the latter. In general, if I recall correctly, the RCMP cases deal more with massive fraud (e.g., consultants submitted multiple fraudulent applications) whereas IRCC deal more with individual cases.

IRCC data shows the vast majority of fraud cases are a result of IRCC internal investigations, not RCMP, as the chart below indicates:

citizenship-data-slides-2015-026

The federal government is trying to revoke the citizenship of fraudsters, and that’s why it won’t agree to a moratorium on citizenship revocation, says Immigration Minister John McCallum.

“We have large numbers of a criminal element unveiled by the RCMP, and reported on by the auditor general. It was actually under the previous government that [investigations began that] we are now dealing with…and those people have really, truly abused our citizenship. So it would not be right to have a moratorium, and let them off the hook,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

…. He [immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman] is part of a group bringing a constitutional challenge against a law brought in by the previous Conservative government, known as it was as C-24, that means a person who’s received notice of citizenship revocation doesn’t have a right to an appeal or court hearing.

 Mr. Waldman and another lawyer said they’re representing clients in similar circumstances to Ms. Monsef where their citizenship is in jeopardy because another family member is accused of misrepresentation.

Mr. McCallum (Markham-Thornhill, Ont.) acknowledged that the lack of an appeals mechanism needs to be fixed, but wouldn’t go as far as to instruct his department to stop revoking citizenships until one is set up, preferring instead to allow it to be developed through a change to a citizenship bill, C-6, currently at second reading in the Senate.

The bill aims to reverse parts of the Conservative legislation, C-24, that allowed the government to pull citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism, expanded the age range of immigrants subject to language testing, and more.

Mr. McCallum told the Senate during an appearance Oct. 4 for Question Period that he would welcome a Senate amendment to C-6 to put in place an appeals process for new Canadians who had their citizenship revoked for providing false information on their citizenship application.

However, he wavered on whether he would pause revocations while C-6 went through Parliament when asked by Senate Liberal Art Eggleton, saying “no,” then saying he would “consider” it. The federal Justice Department confirmed the government would not impose such a moratorium in a letter to the Federal Court last week, the Canadian Press reported.

The government has increased the rate of citizenship revocations for fraud since the Liberals took power. That includes 104 revocations in the first eight months of this year, compared with 132 in all of last year and just 30 in the previous two years combined, the CBC reported.

‘Never entitled’ to citizenship

Mr. McCallum said the government is not trying to revoke the citizenship of the alleged fraudsters before an amended C-6 could bring in an appeals mechanism.

“Those two are not linked,” he said.

“As a result of that RCMP investigation, they are pursuing cases, which we fully support. It takes a while to pursue those cases, and some of them are just coming to the revocation point now. It wasn’t an effort for any particular reason, except that they were ready. And we are definitely supporting efforts to go after the criminal element and remove citizenship where it was clearly done for fraudulent or criminal reasons,” he said.

In a written statement provided to The Hill Times, Mr. McCallum’s office said “the recent increase in citizenship revocations is the result of large-scale fraud investigations led by our RCMP and [Canada Border Services Agency] partners that began under the former Conservative government.

“These investigations led to criminal convictions of several immigration consultants, and notices of intent to revoke citizenship were sent to their clients who had provided fraudulent documents to suggest they were living in Canada when they were living abroad, in order to gain citizenship. Others changed their identity in order to hide criminal backgrounds.

Source: McCallum doesn’t want to let fraudsters ‘off the hook’ through moratorium on citizenship revocation – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

Citizenship Week Statement from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Hard to disagree with the message.

The good news about citizenship is that IRCC has addressed the previous backlog of over 300,000 through granting citizenship to some 500,000 people during 2014 and 2015.

The bad news is the sharp decline in those applying to become citizens, from a previous average of 200,000 per year to 130,000 in 2015 and only 36,000 in the first half of this year.

The steep increase in fees from $100 to $530 in 2015 largely responsible. More to come later this week:

“Every year Citizenship Week gives Canadians the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be Canadian: the rights we enjoy, the responsibilities we share, and the diversity that makes us strong.

“Canada is respected around the world for our success at reaching out to newcomers and embracing them into our great nation. This makes our citizenship both valued and sought-after. And one of the strongest pillars of success and integration is the act of becoming a citizen, which is why we encourage newcomers to take the path to citizenship.

“I am proud to say that the citizenship processing backlog has been reduced by more than 80%, and as such, most new citizenship applications are being processed within 12 months.

“As the Prime Minister has said many times, we are a strong country because of our diversity and not in spite of it. During Citizenship Week, let us join together and celebrate that diversity and the hundreds of cultures that make up Canada.

“I encourage Canadians to reaffirm their citizenship this week as a sign of pride in our traditions, history, and institutions. And I encourage you to share what your citizenship means to you on social media using #MyCitizenship and #CitizenshipWeek.”

Source: Statement from the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship – Canada News Centre

 

Ottawa softens stand on stripping citizenship over false papers

More on revocation for fraud and misrepresentation, and the Minister’s openness to suspend revocation pending changes to the Citizenship Act that restore some measure of greater procedural protections to those accused of fraud:

Immigration Minister John McCallum says he is open to granting a moratorium on the revocation of citizenship from Canadians who misrepresented themselves in their applications, an issue that has been thrust into the spotlight by the circumstances of cabinet minister Maryam Monsef’s citizenship.

Mr. McCallum’s comments come a week after the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers filed a legal action with the Federal Court asking the government to put a stop to all revocations until it could fix a law that allows citizenship to be stripped without a hearing.“I will consider that moratorium. I won’t rule it out unconditionally,” Mr. McCallum told Senate Question Period on Tuesday. “What I am saying is that we would welcome a reform to the system.”

The Federal Court application made headlines when lawyers on the case said that Ms. Monsef, Democratic Institutions Minister, could have her citizenship revoked under the current law for having an incorrect birthplace listed on her citizenship papers. Ms. Monsef said she only learned that she was born in Iran, not Afghanistan as she had believed, after an inquiry from The Globe and Mail last month. She said her mother never told her and her sisters they were born in Iran because she did not think it mattered.

While Ottawa is considering the moratorium on revocations, the government says it is committed to eventually reinstating the right to a hearing for Canadians who face losing their citizenship because they misrepresented themselves in their citizenship and permanent residency applications.

Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar said she is going to propose an amendment to the government’s citizenship Bill C-6 to reverse the Conservative law that took away the long-standing right.

“I am hopeful that they will allow this amendment to be tabled,” Ms. Omidvar said. “Everybody’s hoping they’re able to do it in this bill at the Senate. But if not, I’ve been told that it will be fixed through legislation.”

MPs tried to table the amendment to Bill C-6 at the House immigration committee earlier this year, but was it declared to be out of scope by the committee chair. Ms. Omidvar noted that the Senate procedure rules are different, so the amendment still has a chance in the Red Chamber.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-softens-stand-on-stripping-citizenship-over-false-papers/article32254296/

Canadians want to boost immigration, McCallum says after consultations

Will be interesting to see whether the Liberal government increases levels further or, as suggested in previous Globe article (Looming season of immigration politics puts Liberals, Tories on edge), shows more caution given possible public concern (IRCC’s public consultations may have drawn more from immigration advocates than those with concerns):

The Liberal government will announce Canada’s new immigration targets in November and the minister in charge said most people are telling him to boost the number of immigrants.

Speaking with reporters following a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill, Immigration Minister John McCallum summarized the results of his recent cross-country consultations on Canadian immigration.

“I have been hearing a lot of input, and all the hundreds of people I’ve spoken to across the country, most of them, almost all of them, have advocated [for] more immigrants, whether for demographic reasons or for job-shortage reasons,” Mr. McCallum said. “But we as a government will not decide our proposal until November.”

 Canada’s 2016 immigration-levels plan aims to bring in about 300,000 permanent residents this year. That includes targets of 80,000 under family reunification, between 51,000 and 57,000 refugees and protected persons, and between 151,200 and 162,400 economic immigrants.

Canada’s immigration levels have been roughly constant over the past two decades. Between 1994 and 2014, the yearly immigration levels represented either 0.7 per cent or 0.8 per cent of the population.

In 2014, Canada accepted 260,404 immigrants, representing 0.7 per cent of the population.

Mr. McCallum said he has received a “huge amount of input” on the topic of immigration over the summer.

Mr. McCallum’s assessment of public opinion is at odds with the results of a recent Nanos Research survey conducted for The Globe and Mail that was released on Sept. 1.

That survey of 1,000 Canadians found that 39 per cent said the government should accept fewer immigrants in 2017 than the previous year. Thirty-seven per cent said Canada should accept the same amount in 2017, while only 16 per cent said the target should be increased.

Source: Canadians want to boost immigration, McCallum says after consultations – The Globe and Mail

Looming season of immigration politics puts Liberals, Tories on edge

Good analysis by Campbell Clark (I think there is reason for the concerns within both parties):

Conservative Kellie Leitch is proposing a values test for immigrants. Liberal Immigration Minister John McCallum says he wants a substantial increase in the number of immigrants coming to Canada, including temporary foreign workers.

It looks like a season of immigration politics is coming. And it is making these politicians’ own parties, Liberals and Conservatives, nervous.

Some Conservatives worry that Ms. Leitch might undo years of party work to appeal to immigrants and minorities. But some Liberals think it might be foolish to assume Canada is immune to the resentments that fuelled Donald Trump’s campaign and Britons’ vote for Brexit: They fear greatly expanding immigration now is risky politics.

Look at Ms. Leitch: Her proposal to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values” has taken its roughest criticism from Conservatives. Interim leader Rona Ambrose panned it, every declared leadership aspirant except for Tony Clement has knocked it and Stephen Harper’s former policy director, Rachel Curran, called it “Orwellian.”

This, after all, is the kind of identity politics the Conservatives played with in the 2015 election campaign, when the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line announced by Ms. Leitch was a vote-loser.

There is fear that playing hot-button politics with immigrant screening threatens the gains Conservatives made under Mr. Harper, when former cabinet minister Jason Kenney led work to build support among immigrants and ethnic minorities. That was a winning formula: 40 per cent of Canadians are first- or second-generation Canadians, so if you can’t earn their votes, you can’t win enough ridings to take office.

For the most part, the Liberals have let Conservatives fight over Ms. Leitch. But Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary to Mr. McCallum, the Immigration Minister, said he didn’t buy Ms. Leitch’s argument that her proposal aims to promote tolerance. “It’s valid to be concerned about your nation. It’s valid to be concerned about gender equality,” Mr. Virani said. “I think it’s a bit ironic to describe screening people’s views and thoughts as promoting tolerance.”

And though he acknowledged that many Conservatives have opposed Ms. Leitch’s proposal, he argued it still suggests a political divide: “I do think there’s a big difference between the most recent inclination of the Conservative Party and what the Liberal government is doing now,” he said.

Not all Liberals are sanguine about their government’s immigration plans, however.

Canadians have generally approved of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s high-profile initiative to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees. But the Liberals have not only raised overall immigration targets, from 279,000 in 2015 to 300,000 this year; Mr. McCallum is talking about a big increase for the future – as well as increasing the number of temporary foreign workers.

If you think that’s traditional Liberal practice, it’s not. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien promised to expand immigration, to 1 per cent of the population, in 1993 – but when he took office in a postrecession economy, he actually cut it for years. It’s not the party in power, but the health of the economy, that has influenced immigration.

But Mr. McCallum is proposing something different – a major increase in a soft economy.

Some Liberal MPs worry it’s not wise. It’s not that they feel likely to be outflanked by proposals such as Ms. Leitch’s. It’s the bigger part of that Trump-Brexit brew: In an uneasy economy, they have economically anxious constituents who worry newcomers might take their jobs. Expanding immigration now, especially bringing in more temporary foreign workers, could be walking into a political storm.

Polls, including one conducted for the government in February, don’t suggest much support for expanding immigration. But Mr. Virani, who is taking part in public consultations, thinks it’s there – in particular when immigration is linked to economic growth strategy. “There’s an appetite for growth, and an appetite for immigration that’s geared toward growth,” he said. But in these times, that’s a political gamble.

Ms. Leitch has made some Conservatives worry they’ll be tarred with a nativist label. But immigration politics worries Liberals, too, who are nervous that embracing a big expansion means misreading the public mood.

Source: Looming season of immigration politics puts Liberals, Tories on edge – The Globe and Mail

Canada wants more Chinese workers, students and tourists, says immigration minister: Encouraging settlement outside of Vancouver, Toronto 

While there has been some increased immigration to smaller centres recently, the vast majority still go to major urban centres given that is where the jobs and support networks are.

And, given the mobility rights of the Charter, those that settle in smaller centres or regions are free to resettle elsewhere if circumstances or opportunities dictate:

In today’s scrum, reporters asked what the Liberal government would do to make sure its immigration push didn’t put more pressure on hot housing markets.

McCallum said the government’s intention is to encourage immigrants to settle outside of Vancouver and Toronto.

“We would like to spread the immigrants across the country relatively evenly,” said McCallum.

“The last thing we want is every immigrant goes to either Toronto or Vancouver.”

McCallum said he’s hearing appetite for more immigration at his consultation sessions across Canada, especially in the Maritimes with an aging population.

“There’s a significant feeling that Canada does need more immigrants, partly because we have an aging population, and so we need more young blood to keep our economies going.”

But McCallum admitted the government can’t require immigrants to live in certain places, as Quebec’s immigrant investor program has shown.

“That is against the Constitution of Canada. If they are permanent residents, we cannot require them to stay anywhere. They have the right to live anywhere in Canada they wish to live.”

Source: Canada wants more Chinese workers, students and tourists, says immigration minister – British Columbia – CBC News

John McCallum wants to ‘substantially increase’ immigration to fill Canada’s labour needs

Does suggest that the on-line consultations exercise, launched this summer, was more cosmetic than substantive.

I find the call for increased immigration levels has a bit of “field of dreams” quality, rather than being evidence-based:

If Immigration Minister John McCallum gets his way, Canada will significantly increase immigration beyond its current record level as a way to fill the country’s labour needs.

Pointing to an aging population and looming labour shortages, McCallum made the pitch in Manila during a speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines on Friday.

“So why not substantially increase the number of immigrants coming to Canada? And that is, I think, I hope, what we are about to do,” McCallum said, according to a transcript of his remarks obtained by CBC News.

Earlier in the week, McCallum was in Beijing, where he sought to open more offices where Chinese can apply for visas, in the hope of attracting more high-skilled workers.

The Trudeau government is already seeking to admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016 — a record increase from the 260,000 to 285,000 newcomers the previous Conservative government had planned to welcome by the end of 2015.

Key to the Liberal government’s larger plan to promote innovation and grow the economy is McCallum’s three-year immigration plan, which he plans to unveil this fall.

McCallum said no final decision on immigration has been made and that he has to get his cabinet colleagues on board with his new plan and convince Canadians it’s the right thing to do.

“But the direction in which I would like to go is to increase substantially the number of immigrants,” McCallum said Friday.

Reducing ‘barriers’ to immigration

The express entry system launched under the previous Conservative government promised transformative changes to Canada’s economic immigration policy.

McCallum will ease some of the rules to make it easier for international students to come to Canada and become permanent residents.

He is also going to eliminate what is known as a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) —  a document all employers need to hire foreign nationals over Canadian workers.

Businesses have said it is the biggest flaw with express entry, a requirement the previous government borrowed from the temporary foreign worker program.

The Liberal government also tasked a parliamentary committee with a review of the controversial foreign worker program, but Parliament adjourned before the report was tabled. It will now be made public in the fall.

“So we’re going to make it easier for international students, we’re going to reduce some of the barriers in our immigration system … we don’t think that every immigrant needs to go through what we call a labour market impact assessment process. We think it can be simplified. We think there are some rules which are no longer necessary,” McCallum said.

“Now, we have to convince Canadians of this. But I think it’s a good idea.”

Source: John McCallum wants to ‘substantially increase’ immigration to fill Canada’s labour needs – Politics – CBC News

ICYMI: Ottawa poised to ease rules for temporary foreign worker program

Getting rid of the LMIA, if followed through as the Minister indicated, is significant:

The federal government is setting the stage for a loosening of temporary foreign worker rules after vocal complaints from Canadian employers that recent Conservative changes went too far.

A Liberal-dominated House of Commons committee has completed a report on options for altering the controversial program and will make the recommendations public next month when Parliament resumes.

The report is expected to acknowledge the need for temporary foreign workers in specific sectors and will stress the importance of providing foreign workers with options to become permanent Canadian residents. The number of foreign-worker approvals has been on the decline in recent years in light of a softer jobs market in some regions and tighter rules brought in by the Conservatives after high-profile allegations of abuse in the program.

The report by the human-resources committee was completed in June but wasn’t made public in time for the summer recess. The government has said it is waiting on those recommendations before moving ahead later this year with changes to the program. However, Immigration Minister John McCallum tipped the government’s hand this week in an interview with The Globe and Mail in China when he said the Liberal government will make it easier for companies to bring in foreign workers.

“We’re also going to reduce some of the barriers and the silly rules … in order to give companies freedom to bring in the best and the brightest,” said Mr. McCallum. “We’ll get rid of many of these [required] labour-market impact assessments which slow things down enormously.”

A spokesperson in Mr. McCallum’s office said the minister’s reference to silly rules relates to some of the restrictions that apply to visiting professors. The spokesperson also noted that the minister has said the government is looking at waving labour-market impact assessments in certain cases where that would help attract top talent to come to Canada.

“What the minister wants to do is just find a middle ground,” said the spokesperson.

A labour-market impact assessment is a government screening process designed to ensure there is a legitimate need for a temporary foreign worker and that no Canadian is available to do the job. The minister said the Conservative changes went too far and the Liberals are trying to strike an “intermediate” position. Government officials stressed Wednesday that no final decisions have been made.

Opposition MPs on the committee said Wednesday that the minister’s comments reflect the view of the Liberal majority that worked on the report.

Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, the committee vice-chair, said Mr. McCallum’s comments are “absolutely” in line with the conclusions of the yet-to-be-released study.

“The government was wanting to go in one specific direction and wanted the report to back them up,” he said. Mr. Zimmer said he agrees with the Liberals that there are some legitimate industry needs for foreign workers, but that requests need to be constantly weighed against economic realities.

“The conditions in our economy simply have changed,” he said. “He can’t just say broadly that we need them absolutely. We always need to be looking at what our economy is doing.”

Source: Ottawa poised to ease rules for temporary foreign worker program – The Globe and Mail

Canadian tech firms want shorter visa wait times for foreign talent

Another file to watch in terms of how the government makes any changes to Express Entry and the requirement for labour market impact assessments (LMIAs):

Canada’s emerging tech sector is stepping up pressure on the federal government to speed up the immigration process so firms can more readily recruit top foreign talent.

The Council of Canadian Innovators – a lobby group that represents about 50 fast-growing Canadian tech firms – met last Friday with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains at the Toronto headquarters of Wattpad, an online publishing-platform firm.

The group pressed its case for shortening visa approval times for in-demand foreign tech programming and executive talent to as little as three weeks from what is now a drawn-out, bureaucratic process typically lasting six months to a year.

“CCI is advocating a made-for-Canada fast-track visa program for tech, ideally in a less than two-month time frame to keep Canada’s technology scale-ups competitive with other countries” that have such programs, including Britain, Australia and Ireland, CCI executive director Benjamin Bergen said. The CCI is set to deliver a similar message to Immigration Minister John McCallum during two round tables in September.

Several of the roughly three dozen attendees said they were pleased with the reception from Mr. Bains. “I have not seen this much note taking in a meeting with a federal cabinet minister listening to CEOs before, so that was quite encouraging,” said J. Paul Haynes, CEO of digital-security firm eSentire Inc., based in Cambridge, Ont.

“It was a very constructive and meaningful dialogue,” Wattpad CEO Allen Lau said. “I’m very positive that our voice will be heard and the government would be able to understand the challenges we are facing.”

In an e-mailed statement, Mr. Bains called the conversation “very candid and thoughtful.” He discussed immigration and other concerns raised by the group, including their difficulties in getting government contracts, “in depth with the goal of how we can best work together to address them.” In an interview with The Globe and Mail last week, Mr. Bains indicated that changes to immigration policy favouring domestic tech employers were coming. “To make Canada a global centre for innovation, immigration will be key,” he said.

Mr. McCallum’s department is reviewing what is known as the “express entry” system, which has been plagued with delays. Under current rules, employers must show, when seeking to hire a foreign worker, that they have first made every effort to fill the job with Canadians. Many tech employers say this is a waste of time, money and effort when those they are looking to hire come from a very small pool of experienced global talent.

“We are acutely concerned about our ability to attract the best and the brightest around the world,” Mr. McCallum said recently. “Those are the people we want to attract.”

Source: Canadian tech firms want shorter visa wait times for foreign talent – The Globe and Mail