Canadians will vote for a new government October 21

Canadians will head to the polls next month to vote for a new federal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today.

The election call kicks off a campaign period that will culminate with Canada’s 43rd general election on October 21.

Trudeau framed the coming vote as a choice between “moving forward” or going back to the “failed policies” of the Conservative Party of Canada, which the Trudeau-led Liberal Party of Canada ousted from power in 2015.

“That’s the choice,” Trudeau said. “It’s that clear and it’s that important.”

Polls have the two parties effectively tied as they hit the campaign trail.

It is widely believed that immigration could emerge as an issue in this election. While Canada’s main federal political parties all stand in favour of immigration, the past four years have seen them diverge on a number of related issues, such as asylum seekers and Canada’s immigration levels.

Canada’s 2019 federal election: How could it affect immigration and Express Entry?
Asylum seekers
Since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017, nearly 50,000 people — mostly non-Americans — have crossed into Canada from the United States via unofficial ports of entry to claim asylum.

Among other impacts, the sharp rise in asylum claims overwhelmed Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board and forced it to abandon its 60-day requirement for protection hearings, which now face an estimated wait time of nearly two years.

The Conservatives have frequently portrayed the situation as “a crisis” that has undermined public confidence in Canada’s borders and damaged public support for immigration more broadly.

The Liberals have fought back against the “crisis” label and accused the Conservatives of spreading misinformation about the situation and using it to stoke public fears for political gain.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has publicly questioned the legitimacy of many asylum seekers, telling one audience that “some are able to jump queues, exploit loopholes and skip the line.”

The “loopholes” that Scheer alluded to are found in Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) with the United States, which holds that both countries are safe for refugees and strictly limits who can claim asylum at ports of entry along the land border between the two countries. The agreement, however, only covers claims made at official border crossings, leading to the spike in so-called “irregular” crossings between recognized ports of entry.

The Liberals have explored closing this loophole, which Scheer is pledging to do if elected.

Canada’s left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), which is running a distant third in opinion polls, has called for the STCA to be suspended, saying the United States under Donald Trump is not a safe country for refugees.

Suspending the STCA, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said earlier this year, “will allow asylum claimants to make safe, orderly entries into Canada at authorized ports of entry to make an asylum claim.”

Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party, has opposed Liberal efforts to close the loophole and prevent irregular crossings, saying they “do not reflect Canadian values of hospitality and protection.”

“People who risk their lives to flee across a border in the middle of winter are desperate and out of options,” May said in a statement earlier this year.

Public opinion polls released over the course of this year have shown a growing partisan divide on refugees and immigration more generally, with Conservative voters expressing greater concerns than supporters of the Liberals and Canada’s other mainstream federal parties.

Immigration levels
The Liberals and Conservatives have also been at odds when it comes to Canada’s immigration levels, which the Liberals have raised significantly since coming to power in 2015.

In 2017, the Liberal government introduced a new approach to immigration levels planning that moved away from single-year plans to a three-year approach. The first so-called multi-year plan called for a gradual increase in the number of immigrants admitted to Canada in each of the three subsequent years, from 310,000 in 2018 to 340,000 in 2020.

This was followed last year with an updated plan through 2021 that could see the number of newcomers admitted to Canada reach 350,000, or nearly one per cent of the Canadian population.

The Conference Board of Canada says an immigration rate of one per cent is the baseline for mitigating the impacts of Canada’s declining birth rate and rising workforce retirements on the country’s social and economic development in the years to come.

The Conservatives, however, have compared the Liberal approach to immigration levels to “an auction” with little regard for whether those admitted find work or meet existing employer needs.

If elected, Scheer says a Conservative government will “set immigration levels consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests,” but he has not provided specific targets.

The NDP, meanwhile, has called for more ambitious immigration targets that reflect a more “balanced and diverse range” of newcomers, including a greater number of privately sponsored and government-assisted refugees.

Pleas for civility and respect
Representatives of Canada’s business community and more than 140 civil society organizations have separately requested that Canada’s federal political leaders avoid making immigration an issue in the coming weeks, or tone it down significantly if they do.

Business Council of Canada President and CEO Goldy Hyder told Reuters this summer that he hopes immigration won’t be used as a “political weapon here like it has been in the United States.”

“The facts clearly demonstrate that Canada is going to need immigrants to help grow the economy,” he said.

An open letter signed by more than 140 civil society organizations makes a similar appeal.

Posted by the Canadian Council of Refugees and endorsed by organizations including Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Council of Churches and the Canadian Council of Imams, the letter calls on Canada’s political leaders to discuss refugees and migration in ways that will not contribute to xenophobia and racism or promote misinformation, among other concerns.

“We know Canadians value compassion, equality and safety for all,” the letter reads.

“In the upcoming federal election campaign, we call on you to demonstrate your leadership by respecting these principles and speaking out when they are undermined by others.”

Keep up with the latest immigration-related news from Canada’s 2019 federal election by subscribing to the Canada Immigration Newsletter.

David’s Blog | Admitted but Excluded— Trump Tightens Rules for Legal Immigrants

On Monday, August 12, 2019, the Trump Administration, through the Department of Homeland Security, announced a major and highly controversial policy directive regarding immigration to the United States.

The new regulation, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” spans 837 pages. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the main American statute governing immigration to the country, renders, per ss. 212 (a)(4), inadmissible to the country people deemed likely to become a “public charge.”

As the name of the new regulation suggests, its purpose is to define and expand the ambit of the public charge category; specifically, the regulation identifies people who receive designated benefits for twelve months (aggregate) over any 36-month period as falling into the public charge category. Designated benefits include many things such as any cash benefits for income maintenance, most forms of Medicaid, and food stamps.

Foreigners seeking to extend their stay or change their status in the country will have to prove they have not fallen into the public charge category.

The rule is scheduled to take effect in mid-October; it is not retroactive, and does not affect American citizens or designated exempted groups such as refugees.

The Trump Administration has framed the law as a needed clarification which will promote and reward immigrant self-sufficiency. A press release from United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (a division of the Department of Homeland Security) heralded the new regulation as:

…clearly defin[ing] long-standing law to better ensure that aliens seeking to enter and remain in the United States—either temporarily or permanently—are self-sufficient and rely on their own capabilities and the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations rather than on public resources.

However, opponents of the new regulation see it as a means of deliberately discouraging and limiting legal immigration to the United States through punitive and mean-spirited measures.

Thus, Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, condemned the regulation, saying:

The rule reflects a dark vision of the United States—as an unwelcoming nation that wants to keep out people who seek to join their family, work hard, and climb the economic ladder—based on the erroneous assumption that they won’t contribute to our communities, our economy, and our nation.

Observers have noted that while much of the Trump Administration’s rhetoric and actions have been directed at illegal immigration, this new regulation targets individuals who have arrived and remain in the country legally.

It bears noting that the American immigration system, unlike many other Western systems, prioritizes family reunification over economic potential; roughly two thirds of the permanent resident visas issued in FY 2017 went to individuals in the family and immediate relatives category.

It appears that undocumented migrants present (now or in the future) in the United States who would eventually fall into this category (i.e., people on track to receive green cards or citizenship) are the targets of this rule. This conclusion aligns with the Trump administration’s desire to reduce the family reunification category and increase the economic one.

Difficult questions arise with the workability of this proposal. Will people elect to starve or be homeless rather than avail themselves of government support? Will individuals be deterred from coming to the United States in the first place? Will a public movement arise to fill the void the denial of governmental services will ostensibly create?

It is difficult to quantify how many people will be affected by this new rule but it is clearly considerable. According to a New York Times piece, DHS officials estimate over 382,000 immigrants per year seeking adjustment to their status would be affected; more than 324,000 people would be estimated to either not enroll in, or actually drop out of, public benefit programs.

Advocacy organizations, however, place the number exponentially higher, estimating 26 million legal immigrants will reconsider their use of government benefits.

The Trump Administration’s new regulation invites analysis of how Canada grapples—or doesn’t—with the issue of immigrant self-sufficiency.

In general, Canada struggles less with immigrant self-sufficiency, since its immigration system emphasizes: merit; objectivity; and quantifiable factors such as education and language ability.

Thus, in 2017, the numbers of permanent immigrants arriving to Canada under the economic category were nearly double those of individuals arriving under the family category.

Moreover, Canada also predicates family immigration on sponsorship—the individual(s) seeking to immigrate to Canada must have a relative already in Canada (the so-called sponsor) who is able and willing to sign an undertaking ensuring that the sponsor will financially take care of the individual(s) immigration.

Documentation of financial resources is required; the length of the undertaking varies on the type of relative sponsored and the location of the sponsorship (Quebec maintains different rules than the rest of Canada).

There are also financial requirements even if a person is applying under the Economic category (save for the Canadian Experience Class). Individuals must demonstrate adequate funds to support themselves and their families using a chart the government establishes or be authorized to work in Canada and have a valid Canadian job offer.

The Canadian sponsorship-undertaking system is generally considered fair and uncontroversial. It is prospective, so everyone understands what their responsibilities are before immigrating to Canada. It does not dangle the danger of deportation over immigrants who may, through no fault of their own, fall on hard times.

The American proposal, meanwhile, seems to reflect a punitive approach instead of ensuring financial stability is achieved beforehand.

In short, the Canadian system is fairer and more straightforward. It allows Canada to maintain its long-standing tradition of fostering family togetherness and immigration based on merit while ensuring adequate support is available, from some source, for immigrants in case it is needed.

This sentiment finds validation at the highest levels; a recent report of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has praised Canada’s immigration system as a model for other countries, describing the Canadian system as “the most carefully designed and longest-standing skilled migration system in the OECD … widely perceived as a benchmark for other countries … its success is evidenced by good integration outcomes.”

AIDE receives $1.5 million in funding for pre-arrival services

Action interculturelles de développement et d’éducation (AIDE) has been selected by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as one of four regional partners to deliver pre-arrival services to French-speaking newcomers.

The Quebec-based organization will receive $1.5 million towards research studies and training programs to help with the socio-economic and cultural integration of immigrants.

The announcement was made by Paul Lefebvre, Member of Parliament for Sudbury, and Marc Serré, Member of Parliament for Nickel Belt, on August 1, 2019.

The funding is part of an IRCC’s renewed pre-arrival service program that aims to facilitate the social integration of newcomers and prepare them to enter the job market.

“IRCC’s reviewed pre-arrival program will deliver consistent, high-quality client-centered services to people around the world,” said Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship in a press release.

The renewed program offer services such as: help with foreign education; work experience and Canadian credential recognition; job searches; and information about available settlement services in Canada.

In order to improve the delivery of these services in French and better inform newcomers about support available through Francophone and Acadian communities, Minister Hussen announced last November that four organizations will be forming a “unique collaborative partnership model.” They will also be offering personalized pre-arrival services to Francophone immigrants.

La Cité, The largest French-Language College in Ontario, and the primary point of contact for these newcomers, will be offering online and general information and then referring their Ontario-bound clients to AIDE for more individualized support.

“AIDE will be doing great work as part of Connexions Francophones, a unique partnership model that offers personalized pre-arrival services to French-speaking newcomers. This is part of the Government of Canada’s overall mission to reinforce what they’ve heard from the business and academic communities time and time again, for the need to promote immigration and to go one step further and offer support to ensure successful journeys and settlement,” stated Marc Serré.

Settlement approved in class-action lawsuit against Quebec Immigration Ministry

A settlement has been approved in a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of former Quebec Skilled Worker Program candidates against Quebec’s Immigration Ministry.

The class action sought compensation for Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) candidates who paid the application fee for a Quebec Selection Certificate (Certificat de sélection du Québec, or CSQ) but were later disqualified by changes to the province’s selection criteria that came into effect on August 1, 2013, and March 8, 2017.

The lawsuit alleged that the Immigration Ministry and the Government of Quebec were “unjustly enriched, committed a fault and acted in bad faith by refusing to offer to reimburse the application fees,” a notice published on the ministry’s website reads.

The class action was authorized by the Superior Court of Quebec in February 2018 and a settlement was approved last month.

Who’s eligible?
Former QSWP candidates who fall in one of the following groups may now be eligible for compensation:

Group 1: Individuals whose CSQ applications were filed between February 1, 2012, and May 31, 2013; whose CSQ application contained an immigration form A-1520-AA or A-1520-AF indicating that their CSQ application would be processed in accordance with the regulations in force at the time of filing with Quebec’s Immigration Ministry or the language “Your application for a selection certificate will be processed based on the regulations in effect when it was submitted”; and whose CSQ application was refused subsequent to the entry into force of the selection grid on August 1, 2013.

Group 2: Individuals whose application for a CSQ was filed before February 1, 2012, or between June 1, 2013, and July 7, 2013, and whose CSQ application was refused subsequent to the entry into force of the selection grid on August 1, 2013.

Group 3: Individuals whose application for a CSQ was filed between July 8, 2013, and March 8, 2017, and whose CSQ application was refused subsequent to the entry into force of the selection grid on March 8, 2017.

Settlement terms
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, partial compensation would be issued as follows:

Group 1: 50 per cent of the fees paid to submit his or her CSQ application;

Group 2: 25 per cent of the fees paid to submit his or her CSQ application;

Group 3: 25 per cent of the fees paid to submit his or her CSQ application.

Eligible members of the class action now have until October 17, 2019, to fill out the Individual claim form pertaining to class action settlement 500-06-000669-193 .

More than 500,000 jobs went unfilled across Canada in first three months of 2019

The number of job vacancies in Canada rose again in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, with increases reported in six provinces and the territory of Nunavut. 

Job vacancies in the first quarter of 2019 hit 506,000, an increase of 44,000 over the same period in 2018, making it the tenth consecutive quarter to post a year-over-year increase in both the number of job vacancies and the job vacancy rate.

Statistics Canada said nearly 80 per cent of the openings were for permanent positions.

Employers across Canada are facing labour shortages linked to the country’s ageing population and the rising number of Canadians who are reaching retirement age.

A key component of the federal government’s response to this challenge is the decision to raise immigration levels over the next three years, with a majority of newcomers expected through economic-class immigration programs.

Vacancies up in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia

Quebec saw the greatest year-over-year increase in job vacancies in Canada in the first three months of 2019, which rose by 21,400 or 23 per cent.

Statistics Canada said nearly half of this increase was spread across three sectors: health care and social assistance, manufacturing and accommodation and food services.

Two Quebec economic regions — La Mauricie and Laurentides — placed first and third in Canada in terms of recorded increases in job vacancies compared to the first quarter of 2018.

La Mauricie experienced year-over-year growth in job vacancies of 89.4 per cent (+1,600) while the increase in Laurentides was 57.1 per cent (+2,100).

Ontario experienced the second-highest year-over-year increase at 12,400, with the greatest increases recorded in the health care and social assistance, retail trade, professional, scientific and technical services, and accommodation and food services sectors.

A year-over-year increase of 9,300 job vacancies was reported in British Columbia, led by growth in transportation and warehousing and professional, scientific and technical services.

British Columbia had a job vacancy rate of 4.4 per cent for the first quarter of 2019, which Statistics Canada said was the highest among Canada’s provinces and territories and made it the only province with a job vacancy rate above the national average of 3.1 per cent.