Canadian Government to accomplished and educated immigrants: Keep Out!

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Instead of discouraging “Canadian Experience” discrimination, the federal Conservative government entrenches it.  (See my May 2013 update below.)

As part of the Federal Budget announced Friday  — a “politically crazy” budget as Toronto Sun columnist Warren Kinsella called it — Ottawa effectively wiped out a visa waiting list of more than 280,000 educated and qualified foreign workers and their families, and is returning $130 million they paid in processing fees.  Any professional fees these prospective new Canadians paid to lawyers or immigration consultants — often a substantial sum — will, of course, not be reimbursed.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney telegraphed this change three weeks ago, and followed through in the budget.  The government has placed the blame on the bureaucracy being unable to process the applications.  Never mind that most of this problem occurred under the Conservative Party’s watch as a minority government.  So, the obvious solution, at least to Mr. Kenney and his boss, was to take a leaf blower to the top of the application processing desk and start anew.  Sure, that’s what everybody does when they have too much work…  We all just throw this stuff in the garbage, right?  In the same budget, he cut funding for the Immigration department.  So, potential immigrants shouldn’t worry at all about the government’s next plan to process their applications in a timely manner, and that history won’t repeat.  Yeah.  Right.

According to the March 30 Toronto Star newspaper: “Hopeful immigrants who applied before Feb. 27, 2008 to come to Canada as skilled workers will have their fees returned and be told to apply again under new programs that put greater emphasis on their work skills.”  Many of these people have been waiting up to 8 years.  Now, it’s back to the end of the line with everybody else who hasn’t even applied yet.  Of course, Ottawa spun it to say Canada owes new applicants expedited service.  Maybe so, but by killing the dreams of  more than a quarter million people who have been patiently waiting for years is not exactly playing nice, nor “being Canadian” for that matter.  Instead of processing the existing backlog — even under new government admittance rules for whatever system it comes up with (which it hasn’t yet) — and giving applicants the opportunity to fit into that new mold by providing necessary relevant information, it is throwing every previous applicant under the bus.

From The Star: “lawyer Robin Seligman said the government should have first stopped the intake to clear the backlog. Prospective migrants might now think twice before applying to Canada, she added. ‘How can you trust this government?’

This action is a huge insult to immigrants, anti-business, self-defeating and an international black eye for Canada.

This does absolutely nothing about the real immigration issues in Canada, three of which are:

  • widespread professional discrimination by “old boy licensing networks” that often bars professionals from working in their profession for close to a decade following arrival (doctors, nurses, and engineers, for example).
  • the veiled ethnic discrimination “Canadian experience” excuse used by many Canadian businesses that keeps newly arrived immigrants unemployed or underemployed for many months or years; the current new-immigrant unemployment rate is over 14% compared to 3.5% for individuals born in Canada.  In fact, according to Ottawa on Friday, Canada is intending to put more emphasis on bringing in those with “Canadian work experience,” which will only serve to entrench this practice.
  • non-citizen “landed immigrants” (known as “resident aliens” in the US) continue to be allowed to petition for retired or uneducated parents and siblings who add nothing to the economy; in the US, only citizens can do this, but any permanent resident in Canada can petition for mom, dad and siblings, whatever their ages, as soon as he or she steps foot on Canadian soil.  In the US, only a spouse and children under 21 can accompany the immigrant until he or she becomes a citizen.

In fact, even US Republicans say they want to fix the illegal immigrant issue so that the US Immigration agency can concentrate more on legal immigration and even streamline entry for credentialed professionals, unlike what Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wishes to do, apparently.

The only message to successful and credentialed foreign professionals Ottawa is sending with this utter stupidity: Canada does not want educated and successful immigrants.

Apparently, family immigration for those who are uneducated and unqualified except for menial labour — and perhaps a drain on the economy — is just fine, because that was not addressed in the budget.

In February, I wrote the following response that appears on University of Ottawa economics prof Miles Corak’s article about the challenges immigrants face in Canada:

If I may put on my purely analytical and fiscally logical economic hat for a while, the situation in Canada on many fronts related to immigration would improve if politicians had the courage to implement the following systems (which may be pie in the sky thinking).

Changes needed in immigration policy:

  • allow in only those with the credentials (education, experience, income) likely to improve the economy and Canadians’ quality of life, and utilizing demand-side economics to determine which professions are most valuable. Australia’s points system springs to mind. The only exceptions: tightly regulated refugee and family immigration programs.
  • allow concurrent co-sponsorships for only these immigrants’ immediate families (spouses and minor children).
  • allow only citizens to sponsor parents and other immediate family over 21 on an immediate basis. Allow extended family applications, but only allow a limited quota annually. In other words, a landed immigrant would not be able sponsor extended family (including parents) until he or she achieved citizenship (similar to what occurs in the US). And require all prospective citizens be fluent in at least one of the official languages (the lack of which directly affects an immigrant’s chance for economic success).
  • all sponsors must have the financial support to petition any immigration application so that sponsored family members will not become a burden on society (at least for 5 years), and be legally required to reimburse the country if this occurs.
  • establish extremely stringent rules for determination if a refugee petition is valid, and a much more streamlined approach — in other words, months not many years.
  • landed immigrants who arrive as the spouse of a citizen must not have the same rights as occurs now, and do not obtain these rights until they go through an adjustment of status process (this will largely reduce marriage fraud, which often leaves the Canadian citizen on the hook financially — many citizens have seen their “loved one” disappear into the crowd within months, or even at the airport!). Even better, offer a fiancé/fiancée visa, similar to the US (in that country, only idiots, the foolhardy or the ill-informed marry a spouse overseas when this visa option is available).

Changes needed in Canadian society:

  • equal employment laws with teeth (including regulatory fines and private litigation) to ensure companies employ the most deserved regardless of where they lived or were educated (perhaps designed along the lines of the US EEOC, but with the requirement of companies tracking and reporting immigration, expatriate, and foreign education status).Immigrating to Canada
  • provide governmental financial incentives such as tax breaks for companies bringing credentialed foreign workers on board, or perhaps voluntarily meeting standards.
  • legally abolish “Canadian experience” discrimination.
  • eliminate the “old boy” networks that are today keeping otherwise credentialed doctors, nurses, engineers, and other licensed professionals, out of the workforce often for close to a decade. For example, incorporate the American Medical Association requirements for foreign doctors (English proficiency, 3 exams and a residency — typically taking 3-4 years for the entire process, while it’s 8-9 years for a doctor to start practicing in Canada).

If these changes were made, I dare say much of the populist bigotry against legal immigrants would greatly diminish, as well, along with making Canada less risk-averse, and more innovative and productive with all this “new blood” from world-class educated, successful and satisfied new immigrants.

Unfortunately, I fear no politician would have the intestinal fortitude to even whisper such a plan, in fear of losing votes from the immigrant community, even if these or similar changes are a dire need for Canada’s future success, as they likely are.

Great questions were asked on a LinkedIn immigration forum — questions that the government likely won’t touch with a 10-foot hockey stick:

  • If 80% of jobs are “hidden” and not advertised, and to find a job you must be networking while physically in Canada, how would most people outside Canada find a job while they are overseas?  Short answer:  they can’t.
  • If resumes are mostly scanned by software according to key words matching the 20% of jobs that are advertised, how would people actually find jobs before moving here?  See answer above.
  • If the target is 25 year olds who just graduated from university with a couple of years experience, how would they have “Canadian Experience” to get the job here while they’re in their native country?  They won’t.

Yes, that last bullet point is the targeted “new immigrant” according to Kenney; all of this makes me wonder if this is actually a stealth Conservative Party anti-immigration policy.

Instead of temporarily closing the door and working on the backlog while developing a new system (as the US has done from time to time for various immigration segments), Canada now simply throws those who were going through the red tape in good faith to the back of the line.  This will only force these highly educated and qualified people — who otherwise could add strength to the Canadian economy and society — to look elsewhere.  And, indeed, they probably should.

UPDATE May 6 2013:  Apparently, my crystal ball was extremely clear a year ago when I wrote that the current Canadian government might have a “stealth anti-immigration policy.”  See my follow-up column at Canadian Government’s stealth anti-immigration policy endangering country’s economic future.”

Jonathan Blaine

I've always called myself a "Marketing Guy." If I had a brand and logo, perhaps that would be my slogan. Measuring ROI is huge. Just because you're now using "new media" does not mean marketing fundamentals should be discarded. Customers' desires do not change. I'm a "right-brained creative analytical" guy (if you can fathom such a thing) who looks at a project several different ways. My first instinct is usually the correct one. I'm a "doer," and often a "diplomatic fixer;" someone who gets things done and still gets a thrill out of customers actually buying something because of something I mailed to them, or an ad I placed. Most of my success has come from strategy, writing, how ideas are presented to the potential customer and the actual thoughts that somehow originate within the ether between my ears. As a fan of DM guru Denny Hatch, I believe that the brand should never outweigh the message, and that art should never win over copy. The mix has to be “just right.” And continually tested. I have solid ryttan, err, written and verbal communication skills, and a reputation for consistently producing cost-effective quality work.

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