New Canadian Media
Saturday, 05 November 2016 11:54

High on Immigration, Low on Citizenship

News Analysis by NCM Newsroom

Days after being sworn in as prime minister on November 4 last year, Justin Trudeau listed priority tasks for his ministers.  

Like that of his colleagues, the list for John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, drew much from the Liberal party’s election promises.

While resettling Syrian refugees was the number one priority, McCallum was told that his overarching goal was “to reopen Canada’s doors to welcome those who want to contribute to its success.”

The wording was clever. While it tried to highlight the previous Conservative government’s reluctance to open Canada’s door to refugees, it retained the essence of what the country’s need for immigrants has always been: It’s the economy, stupid.  

And, McCallum has stuck to the time-tested script. Tabling this year’s report on immigration targets in parliament, he said the government is boosting the base number of immigrants to be admitted next year to 300,000. The previous annual targets from 2011 to 2015 was 260,000, but it swelled to 300,000 this year on account of the Syrian arrivals. The last time this base figure was reached was way back in 1913.

Attempting to give this annual setting of targets a more long-term view, the minister told reporters that it “lays the foundation for future growth." What was unsaid is that last year’s election rhetoric for letting in more refugees was a one-off political gesture meant to to induce a feel-good across the country and reinforce the "Canada is back" mantra.   

Although the 2017 intake targets includes 40,000 refugees and protected persons, it is down from nearly 56,000 this year. Also slightly down is the number of people who would be let in on humanitarian or compassionate grounds: 3,500 against this year’s 3,600.

And when it comes to government-assisted refugees, the numbers are far lower. The number for 2017 is 7,500, down from nearly 20,000 admitted so far this year, and still fewer than the nearly 10,000 admitted in 2015.

Like the previous government, the targets focus on boosting entries for those in the "economic" class. It has been increased to 172,500 from 160,600. In the family class, the number of sponsored spouses, partners, children, parents and grandparents will climb to 84,000 from 80,000.

Signalling left, turning right

While people in the settlement sector would bemoan the cuts to refugee intake given the continuing crises around the world, others would call it pragmatism. Those less charitable to the Liberals would say they are back at their game of signalling left, turning right.

The Liberals know that Canadians will not continue to be supportive of refugee resettlement. Reports about the government being caught off guard by the large number of children each Syrian family had in tow would cast doubts about the whole manner of bringing them in, starting from the vetting process.

Keeping both public perceptions and capacity constraints in mind, the government has astutely kept in abeyance its own economic growth council’s recommendation to raise annual immigration levels to 450,000 over the next five years.

However, it is doubling down on bringing in economic immigrants. Early on, Ottawa indicated that it would be more positively inclined towards international students becoming permanent residents, with McCallum terming them as “the perfect immigrants.”

The Express Entry immigration selection system, the key change to the economic immigration stream made by the previous government, is now being seen as a tool to also promote family reunification. The idea is to give candidates with family members already in Canada additional points.

Discounting citizenship

The unsettling thing about the emphasis on immigration levels is the indifferent attitude towards the very feature that makes our system unique: one of the shortest paths to citizenship, that over 80 per cent of immigrants eagerly choose to take. At least until recently.

The number of citizenship applicants has plummeted for the second year in a row after the more than a doubling in the application fee from $300 to $630. For a while it was $200, after being at $100 for a long time.

Evidently, citizenship applications are down. Only 36,000 citizenship applications were received from January to June this year, a little more than one-third of the number for the same period last year, according to data obtained for policy analysis by Andrew Griffith, a retired immigration department director-general. In 2015, a total of 130,000 applications were submitted compared to an average of 200,000 in the previous years.

While $630 itself is a hefty sum, the actual cost incurred could be much more if one includes the fee (around $200) for a language proficiency test that many applicants would need to take, and further for the Canadian passport (minimum $120). And, in the case of persons from source countries like India that do not allow for dual citizenship, the expenses add up. The fee to process the giving up of Indian citizenship and obtaining a new visa would take the costs to well over $1,500.  

Self-defeating

Imagine a family of four needing to spend $6,000 when struggling economically to put roots in a new country. No one is suggesting that citizenship should come cheap, but forcing those on the cusp of becoming citizens to bear the whole cost of the process is rather unfair. Especially when the government is ready to waive or subsidize fees for refugees. How much more do new Canadians need to do to become citizens of a country they cheerily chose?

More importantly, isn't ultimate citizenship the whole point of welcoming new immigrants in the first place?        

Whereas the Liberals were critical of all the changes to immigration rules made by the Harper government, they were coy about reviewing the citizenship fee during the election campaign. Now that they hold the reins and are reviewing Bill C6 to amend the Citizenship Act, there is still no mention of any adjustment to the fee.

While tax-paying permanent residents are already an underclass unable to vote even in local elections, this disenfranchisement is now set to grow and become a permanent feature of our polity. It calls into question our own understanding of democracy and surely not something we should be proud of.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all NCM columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of New Canadian Media.

Published in Policy
Friday, 31 October 2014 12:48

NCM NewsFeed: Weekly Newsletter Oct. 31

In this edition: Mississauga in the spotlight + Pluralism + Anchor Babies + aftermath of the two shootings in Ontario and Quebec. Read on ...


 

NCM NewsFeed

 

Here and Now

With the recent municipal elections in Ontario, we lead this week's lineup with a retrospective on the campaigns and whether issues relating to immigrants were front and centre. Alas, not! However, our reporter Maria Assaf homed in on the race in Mississauga, where one of the mayoral candidates had a couple of interesting ideas on how to better integrate immigrants into the workforce. Again, alas, he lost!
 
Also in focus this week is "pluralism," the idea that people must learn to live together in harmony irrespective of their differences. The Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa organized an interesting discussion on how Canada and India can be beacons for the world and our reporter Susan Korah has a comprehensive report.
 
Ever heard of "anchor babies"? Well, there are lots of terms used to describe this phenomenon, but it springs from the charge that foreign nationals are taking advantage of Canada's lax immigration rules by having babies here in a bid to gain citizenship. Catherine Sas in Vancouver argues that our fears are misplaced and that it's not such a big deal. 

Ripples

In the aftermath of the two attacks in Ontario and Quebec that left two Canadian soldiers dead, an early fallout was the arrest this week of a Pakistani gun collector living in Ontario. Muhammad Aqeeq Ansari, a 30-year-old software designer, is being charged under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act with being a danger to the security of Canada, the Globe and Mail reported.
 
Elsewhere, another Ontarian, Neil Bantleman from Burlington, is in a different kind of predicament. After being detained for 108 days without charge on sensational allegations of child rape at Jakarta's most prestigious international school, the Canadian man and his local colleague are being brought to trial.  Bantleman was detained in July along with Indonesian teaching assistant Ferdinant Tijong.
 
Creating a different kind of ripple on foreign shores is former Governor-General Michaëlle Jean as she enlists support for her bid to lead the international organization representing the Francophonie. She announced her candidacy in June to become secretary-general of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). The Paris-based grouping of 57 states counts Canada, Quebec and New Brunswick as separate members.
 
On a different note, two months after leaving India as Canada’s High Commissioner and returning two weeks ago as part of British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s official delegation to the country, Stewart Beck has sensed a change in the air. “Everyone from taxi drivers, to business people and politicians seem to feel a new confidence that India can now move forward,” Beck, who is now the president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, wrote. 
 
But not everyone in Canada seemed to be happy with attempts at growing ties with India. The opposition NDP, going by Clark’s remarks to an Indian newspaper, has claimed she plans to bring in temporary foreign workers to build Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants instead of focusing on jobs for British Columbians. Clark says her comments were taken out of context by the opposition party. "India needs a million skilled workers every year.  We can help.  If we can help train 3,000 and 300 of them help us build an LNG industry, it's good for you and it's good for us," she was quoted as saying in an Indian newspaper. "We believe that British Columbians have to be first in line for these jobs, but it's also true that there will be some need for some temporary workers to come in and support these projects when there are peaks in production and construction because we simply don't have enough people," said Ms. Clark. "I am really troubled by the NDP's hostility to people who come here on temporary credentials."
 
Wonder how the NDP would react if a multi-national corporation hires robots. Which is what food giant Nestle said its Japan unit plans to do: hire 1,000 robots as sales clerks. The first batch will report to work by the end of this year at outlets that sell coffee capsules and home espresso machines. Imagine the ripples such a move will cause in Canada. Coffee for thought, eh?

Harmony Jazz

 

Understandably, much of the focus of the past week has been the aftermath of the Ottawa shooting. Christie Blatchford has a moving account of Corporal Nathan Cirillo’s funeral in Hamilton in Cpl. Nathan Cirillo's qualities lit up the country he died serving

A wide range of debate and discussion over whether or not there is need for new powers for law enforcement and security agencies, with the balance, apart from Sun Media, warning against excess. Some of the better examples include Stephen Maher’s Harper government’s intelligence agenda a cause for worry, Ian Brodie’s There is no reason to turn Parliament Hill into an armed fortress, Wesley Wark’s Reducing the risk of terrorism.
 
Doug Saunders asks the pertinent question, The lone wolf: Is it ideology or pathology?
 
Canadian Muslims are engaged in fighting radicalization (e.g., Canadian Muslims denounce recent attacks, fear backlashProminent Muslim cleric urges imams to vet new Islamic converts), while at the same time there are a few isolated anti-Muslim incidents, along with efforts from the broader community to counter these in Volunteers help clean vandalism from Cold Lake mosque.
 
Meanwhile, Rocco Galati’s case against the Government’s revocation provisions for dual nationals convicted of terror or treason in the new Citizenship Act is in court in Lawyers argue law to revoke Canadian citizenship is unconstitutional and Chris Selley points out the absurdity of revocation as a countering violent extremism strategy in Our bad jihadi apples: Squash them or chuck them?

Back Pocket

 

 Please take a look at our Arts & Culture section, including content under both Books and History.

 

With that, have a great weekend and don’t forget to look up the next edition of NCM NewsFeed every Friday morning! We will soon be launching an e-mail version of this newsletter, so please subscribe by clicking here.

Publisher’s Note: This NewsFeed was compiled with input from our Newsroom Editors and regular columnist, Andrew Griffith. We welcome your feedback.

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Published in Other Regions
Friday, 05 September 2014 09:33

NCM NewsFeed: Weekly Newsletter Sept. 5

In this edition: Featuring our second edition of Research Watch: the very latest from academia in the area of immigration + a must-see movie, Dr. Cabbie, in Back Pocket. 

Published in NCM Newsletters
Thursday, 20 December 2012 14:00

Canadian passports to cost more in 2013

The cost of getting a Canadian passport is going up significantly in the new year. ...

-- Delivered by Feed43 service

Canadian Turk

Read Full Article

Published in News

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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