OCASI Response to National Consultations on Immigration
Strengthening our Canadian fabric
- How many newcomers should we welcome to Canada in 2017 and beyond?
- How can we best support newcomers to ensure they become successful members of our communities?
- Do we have the balance right among the immigration programs or streams? If not, what priorities should form the foundation of Canada's immigration planning?
- Yearly immigration levels should be 1% of the Canadian population, which at present would be a little over 360,000. The Minister has set this year’s immigration target at upto 305,000, an increase of 7.4% over last year. Increase target numbers over next few years so that the 1% target is achieved before the end of its current mandate.
- Increase share of family reunification to 40% of total immigration. In 2005-2014, family reunification was less than 30% of overall immigration (except in 2013
- Canada’s refugee numbers have gone from 13.6% of total immigration in 2005 to 8.9% (23,286 refugees) in 2014. Globally, more than a million refugees are in need of resettlement (Source: UNHCR). Canada can accept more refugees for resettlement than it does now – at least 20,000 Government Assisted Refugees annually, and as many privately sponsored refugees as there are willing sponsors – at a minimum match the GARs intake. In 2014 Canada accepted only 4,560 privately sponsored refugees.
- Given the desperate plight of African refugees, bring more refugees from this region through both resettlement programs, as well as those in need from regions outside Syria.
- Create an expedited process for vulnerable groups such as LGBTQ persons outside Canada and who are seeking protection from persecution.
- Remove the cap on sponsorship of parents and grandparents.
- Ensure government legislation and policies don’t create barriers to newcomer settlement and integration, including by:
- Faster family reunification, ideally within 6 months similar to Express Entry, increase resources for visa posts with the longest delays, use a broader definition of family to include adult siblings, remove the undue burden caused by demand for DNA testing, reduce processing fees, ensure that applicants are not over-scrutinized based on profiling (ie. ethnicity, faith, country of origin)
- Remove or at least reduce increased financial burden for those who want to sponsor parents and grandparents or bring them to visit (for example, the high health insurance costs for ‘Supervisa’ which can be prohibitive) and make the process more accessible
- Review and revisit the ‘excluded family members’ regulation 117(9)(d) of IRPA, which has led to many falling through the cracks and has resulted in family separation
- Remove barriers to citizenship including high processing fees, upfront proof of language ability, and higher language requirements
- Reduce loss of permanent residence, particularly the new cessation measures that target those who arrived as refugees
- Ensure secure pathways to permanent residence for all those with uncertain and/or irregular immigration status, including migrant workers, survivors of human trafficking, international students, long-term residents in limbo, and legacy refugee claimants
- Eliminate processing delays in migrant worker and international student applications for permanent residence since this has resulted in expiry of visa and subsequent removal/return before immigration status is granted
- End indefinite immigration detention and placing detainees in provincial jails; use detention only as a last resort and provide alternatives to detention; ensure no children are in detention alone or with their parents.
- Encourage provinces and territories to review and revisit legislation and policy barriers, including (but not limited to) 3- month wait for healthcare coverage in Ontario.
- Invest in immigrant and refugee settlement services and support including by:
- Remove eligibility restrictions and allow access to all who need it regardless of immigration status or length of time in Canada including migrant workers, international students, citizens and people without immigration status
- Revisit national funding formula for settlement services – which currently disadvantages a province such as Ontario (which has experienced funding cuts in the past as well as again this year because of the reduction in overall share of immigration, despite resettling the largest number of Syrian refugees of any province/territory)
- Implement recommendations of the federal Independent Blue Ribbon Panel on Grant and Contribution Programs (2006).
- Provide appropriate French language services to francophone newcomers, including funding community organizations that provide services to African and other racialized Francophone newcomers.
- Better pre-arrival services to meet a broader range of information and settlement needs, and make these services available more broadly and in more regions.
- Invest in mental health, trauma and other specialized services for newcomers, including for women, children and youth
- Build settlement agency capacity to deal with unique and evolving needs including by investing in ongoing sector professional development and training, and support to build and sustain partnerships and networks to appropriately refer newcomers for ‘mainstream’ services
- Invest in healthcare, affordable housing, and affordable childcare
- Invest in newcomer-centered employment programs - Bridge training, paid work placement, mentoring, skills building, grant and loans programs for credentials recognition and accreditation.
- Better collaboration between different levels of government
- Provide childcare to improve access to language classes
- Invest in more refugee resettlement services including GARs and PSRs, eliminate transportation loans for all refugees
- Better collaboration between
- Create a welcoming community
- Invest in Local Immigration Partnerships as a vehicle to build welcoming communities
- Address racism, Islamaphobia and xenophobia – including by emulating public education campaigns such as the one launched recently by OCASI, and by educating employers to address prejudice in hiring and retention and workplace practices that may discriminate against newcomers.
- Develop an Anti-Racism strategy for Canada that would also include addressing anti-refugee and anti-immigrant discrimination.
- Encourage municipalities to allow voting rights for permanent residents in municipal and school board elections
Unlocking Canada's diverse needs
- How can immigration play a role in supporting economic growth and innovation in Canada?
- Should there be more programs for businesses to permanently hire foreign workers if they can't find Canadians to fill the job?
- What is the right balance between attracting global talent for high-growth sectors, on the one hand, and ensuring affordable labour for businesses that have historically seen lower growth, on the other?
- How can immigration fill in the gaps in our demographics and economy?
- What Canadian values and traditions are important to share with newcomers to help them integrate into Canadian society?
- Canada’s immigration program should be guided by the principle of nation-building, which includes building a strong economy, a nurturing society, and strong and welcoming communities. Our immigration priorities should not be determined by businesses, which have interests and priorities of their own, and which are not typically centered on or consistent with nation-building.
- As a matter of principle all those who are hired to work in the Canadian labour market and are employed here beyond just a few months should have the opportunity to become permanent residents if they wish. Workers who are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by recruiters, employers and others who seek to take advantage of their precarious immigration status (such as low-skilled and low-paid migrant and seasonal workers) should have access to permanent residency from the point of arrival.
- From the start, immigration has been central to Canada’s economic strategy. This has included meeting the myriad labour market needs at virtually all skill levels and across virtually all sectors. In the last few decades we have seen a shift towards privileging workers deemed as ‘high-skilled’ and under-privileging workers deemed as ‘low-skilled’, particularly so that the latter have few rights and entitlements and are left with precarious immigration status. Racialized workers are over-represented in the latter cohort, perpetuating the historical racial inequalities in immigration selection.
- The over-representation of highly-skilled and educated racialized immigrants among the under and unemployed (including for reasons of the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier, and barriers to credentials recognition) should be cause for concern. The Canadian government should address this inequity, including as a way to address the skills shortage in high-growth sectors.
- Finally, immigration should never been viewed as a cheap labour solution for Canadian businesses. At a minimum, all workers should be paid a living wage as a cost of doing business.
- The current Express Entry selection process is not working for immigrants nor employers. It should be made more accessible and open to a broad range of skills and sectors, as well as for applicants from a broader range of source countries.
- Support francophone immigration from non-traditional source countries including Africa as well as others outside Europe.
Modernizing our immigration system
- Currently, immigration levels are planned yearly. Do you agree with the thinking that planning should be multi-year?
- What modernization techniques should Canada invest in for processing of applications?
- What should Canada do to ensure its immigration system is modern and efficient?
- Is there any rationale for providing options to those willing to pay higher fees for an expedited process?
- Yes, planning should be multi-year.
- The immigration and refugee determination process should be made more accessible by becoming simplified and more affordable; including by simplifying and reducing application forms.
- IRCC has transitioned to accepting fees payment only via online credit card payment. That has made the system inaccessible for anyone without a credit card – and there are many. This is an example of the system being less efficient and less modern.
- Improve access to immigration for applications from those regions where Canada does not have a visa post, or only one post for a large geographical
- Canada must honour the principle of universal access, and not discriminate on the basis of personal wealth or what an individual can afford to pay.
Leadership in global migration and immigration
- Is it important for Canada to continue to show leadership in global migration? If so, how can we best do that?
- How can Canada attract the best global talent and international students?
- In what ways can Canada be a model to the world on refugees, migration and immigration?
- Canada is seen as an example around the world with respect to immigration and refugee resettlement including: opportunity for permanent immigration, access to citizenship (Canada has one of the highest citizenship acquisition rates in the world), newcomer settlement services, and a relatively favourable perception of a welcoming society by virtue of the Multiculturalism Act and other instruments and mechanisms.
- Canada can best sustain our leadership role by modellling the following:
- prioritize permanent immigration over temporary migration;
- remove barriers to citizenship;
- eliminate the DCO regime in refugee determination;
- provide a pathway to permanent residence for those with precarious or no immigration status;
- resettle more refugees annually;
- better facilitate newcomer labour market integration;
- sustain the immigrant and refugee serving sector;
- end indefinite immigration detention and find alternatives to detention
- on an ongoing basis address racism, discrimination, xenophobia, Islamaphobia and intolerance;
- demonstrate a respect for human rights.