Commentary by Hamlin Grange in Toronto
While working as a television journalist with Canada's public broadcaster, CBC, in Toronto, I produced a documentary series on how new immigrants were settling in Canada. It was part of an effort by the CBC to celebrate Pier 21, the point of entry for up to one million immigrants to Canada from 1928 to 1971. Pier 21 was often called the "Gateway to Canada." Today it is a national historic site and museum.
For the series, TV cameras followed a man and his wife on their journey from Shanghai to Canada, and in their early weeks of settlement in Toronto. They had worked as electrical engineers in power plants in China. Now, like all new immigrants, they were starting over.
We were there when they moved into their one-bedroom apartment above a convenience store. We were there when they went to the local job placement office to search for jobs and to update and print off their resumes. And we there when they bumped up against the stark reality of discrimination.
I knew him by his real name, which was, of course, Chinese. His accented English was quite good because he studied English in China. We talked frequently during those weeks, exchanging phone calls to catch up on his efforts to find a job.
Then one day I got a message that “Andrew” had called. I didn’t recognize the name. Once I called back, I recognized his voice right away. He was the same person I’d been talking to all those weeks, except his new name was Andrew. I asked him why he had changed his name. He said that acquaintances in Toronto’s Chinese community had advised him to change his Chinese name to a “Canadian name” if he wanted to get a job. That’s what Chinese immigrants have to do, he was told. Once he changed his name, his phone began to ring.
I recalled that story as I read a Toronto Star story about a new study by University of Toronto researchers. According to the study, 40 per cent of non-white job seekers are “whitening” their resumes in order to get called for job interviews. Names such as the Chinese “Lei” become “Luke”.
That’s not the only change applicants are making to their resumes in their effort to ‘whiten’ their profiles.
Only 10 per cent of African-Canadians who included experience with African-Canadian organizations were invited to interviews, but that rate jumped to 25.5 per cent when they deleted that experience from their resumes.
I can certainly relate to this. When I was recruited by the CBC in the late 80’s, a manager on the hiring panel asked me if I could be “objective” covering the black community because he noticed I had indicated on my resume that I had volunteered with a few black community organizations.
I told him I could be objective and that because of my involvement in that community I had unique access to a community other reporters did not have. I also pointed out that my resume also included my volunteer work with the YMCA and that I am certain I would be able to objectively cover stories about the Y. I got the job.
Sonia Kang, the lead author of “Whitened Resumes, Race and Self-Representation in the Labour Market” says the findings show that job applicants from racial minority groups are fighting back against discrimination.
In our practice at DiversiPro, we have heard these stories over and over. They are not new. We have been told of immigrants changing their names, their accents and their experience to be more acceptable to other Canadians.
We’ve also heard from immigrants from former British or French colonies in the Caribbean and elsewhere whose European names have disguised their race or ethnicities until they turn up for a job interview – only to find the welcome mat withdrawn.
In the current political climate in the United States, and to a lesser degree even in Canada, many individuals are cautious about how they identify themselves. In a time of "travel bans" and screening for "Canadian values", it's no surprise some new immigrants may decide to minimize their differences in order to be accepted.
The encouraging news is that new immigrants and people from racial minority backgrounds are finding ways to adapt and work around a system that is not often based on merit but how well a hiring manager believes a job candidate will “fit” into the organization.
I have no doubt that such short-sightedness has deprived companies of competent, hardworking individuals who could have contributed to the bottom line.
by Matt D’Amours in Montreal
Community organizations and immigrant lobby groups in Quebec are speaking out against a provincial welfare reform bill that would require new social assistance applicants to enter the job market sooner.
Activists say that Bill 70, “An Act to allow a better match between training and jobs and to facilitate labour market entry,” will have a disproportionate impact on Quebec’s immigrant population, which is overrepresented in the welfare system.
At the Minister of Labour’s request, Bill 70 would seek to introduce a “workfare” system that requires welfare recipients to enter a job training program, or “accept any offer of suitable employment.”
Those who fail to meet these conditions could see their social assistance cut in half. For a single adult receiving $623 a month, that would mean a drop down to about $308.
Political opponents have also criticized the plan, introduced last year by the province’s Liberal government. In a National Assembly debate on Feb. 25, Bernard Drainville of the Parti Québécois called the law “heartless, arbitrary, unwise, myopic and disrespectful.”
During a parliamentary hearing on Feb. 17, Labour Minister François Blais defended Bill 70, saying that Quebec’s immigrant population would not be adversely affected by the legislation.
“In general, as you know, immigrants want to integrate and make the necessary efforts to find employment,” Blais said. The minister added that, among the organizations he had spoken to, there was “zero worry” about how the proposed welfare reforms would impact the immigrant population.
Faulty perceptions of immigrants and employment
Pascale Chanoux, of the group Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI), testified at the Feb. 17 hearing, and said the minister’s comments highlight the government’s faulty logic about immigrants and employment.
“Bill 70 claims that if we want to, we can – which is to say that whether someone gets a job or not is based on whether they want to or not,” Chanoux explained. “The minister does not see that on the path of professional integration for immigrants, there are systemic obstacles … [for him] everything is always about the willingness and responsibility of the individual.”
Another person who testified that day was Nalawattage Pinto, a Sri Lankan immigrant who came to Canada in 1993.
Pinto described the systemic barriers that made his job search difficult upon arrival, including his lack of French language skills, and the market’s lack of recognition of his professional experience in Sri Lanka.
Pinto was forced to work nights at a chemical plant, which he alleged only hired new immigrants because it was dangerous work.
He also said the company only hired people for six months, so that workers wouldn’t have time to unionize. After Pinto and his wife lost their jobs in 1994, they were forced to apply for welfare.
Pinto is not alone. According to a provincial report on social assistance published in November 2015, new Canadians make up nearly a quarter of welfare recipients in Quebec.
However, another provincial report, which tracked immigrant welfare requests between 1996 and 2004, found that most made their application early after their arrival in the province – usually within the first six months.
That same report found that once these immigrants opted out of the welfare program, they generally didn’t return.
“This first stay in social assistance is, in the large majority of cases, a unique episode in the process of integration for immigrants,” the report concluded.
‘Suitable’ employment for who?
The concern with Bill 70 is that for immigrants seeking assistance within their first months in Quebec, the mandate to accept a job that is deemed “suitable” by the government could force people into a cycle of low wages, and further trivialize the qualifications they held in their native countries.
“We talk about accepting a suitable job – but suitable for who?” asks Chanoux. “Do we want to institutionalize de-qualification by pushing people into a job without regard to their socio-professional background?”
Those who refuse to accept “suitable” employment would see massive cuts to welfare benefits, which are already too low to live on, according to Project Genesis, a social justice community organization based in Montreal.
The group points to a fall 2015 report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which shows that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Montreal now stands at $675 – $52 more than the current welfare benefits received by a single person.
“Any policy that reduces the income of households living in poverty is destined to … [increase the] depth of poverty experienced by people on low income,” stated Project Genesis.
During his closing remarks at the Feb. 17 hearing on Bill 70, Pinto outlined the hardships he had experienced as an immigrant in Quebec.
“I’ve had jobs at minimum wage since I’ve been in Canada,” Pinto explained. “I am now 65, and I did not achieve the dream that we had when we came here.”
If Bill 70 passes in Quebec, the TCRI and Project Genesis argue, Pinto’s dream of a better life will become harder to achieve for a whole new wave of immigrants.
“We’re talking about poverty and exclusion,” Chanoux said of the proposed legislation. “It’s part of a tendency to try and recoup money on the backs of populations that are very vulnerable.”
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Danica Samuel in Toronto
New online programs are looking at how work is done in other parts of the world in order to more easily transfer newcomers’ skills to the Canadian job market.
The program was one of two B.C.-based collaborative business plans showcased in the panel discussion “Facilitating Labour Market Integration to Skilled Trades”. The programs cater specifically to the construction market and offer an innovative way to reach immigrants who practise labour work in their home countries.
“Many construction companies tend to look within their circles for hiring,” explained Fulton. “They employ their friends and family. Because of this, those who don’t fit into that category have a harder time finding work.”
She explained that the integration program helps fill a gap, as 85 per cent of construction companies in B.C. have less than 10 employees.
An important aspect of the program is understanding how construction is done in other countries – research Fulton calls “invaluable.”
Addressing competency gaps
The BCCA Integrating Newcomers program focuses on assessing the skills of potential immigrants overseas as well as providing information about working and living in B.C., and later, employment leads.
It is an example of several pre-arrival tactics that use online programs to properly survey, assess, mentor and inform newcomers about Canada’s workforce and labour market.
Alongside this research is preparation for newcomers who want to settle in Canada and partake in the labour workforce. This is where the second business module called Facilitating Access to Skill Trades (FAST) comes into play.
Sangeeta Subramanian of the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC of BC) and Lawrence Parisotto of British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) presented FAST as a competency assessment and gap training tool for skill trades individuals.
Parisotto says the program is “explicit and direct.”
“Someone that comes from another country may have the components of many things, but we want to train them on the parts they don’t know,” said Parisotto. “The way to do that is being contextual and dependent between our content so that it provides and addresses outcomes.”
Getting credentials recognized in advance
FAST’s online application is collaborated with Shift IQ, a cloud-based learning management company.
Shift IQ provides detailed diagnostics, validation, gap identification, post assessments and contributes to the e-mentoring program that guides and coaches a person through understanding the trades and services.
The research BCCA Integrating Newcomers and FAST partake in both concluded that one of the main things immigrants should complete pre-arrival is getting their credentials recognized.
Similar advice was mentioned in the “Seamless Service from Pre- to Post-Arrival in Canada” workshop.
Maha Surani, a senior program officer and stakeholder at the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) said that research done by Planning for Canada to align newcomers with sector specific jobs showed that 63 per cent of employers encouraged pre-arrival immigrants to have their credentials assessed.
Surani spoke on Planning for Canada’s collaboration with Acces Employment, a company connecting employers with qualified employees from diverse backgrounds.
“There’s nothing generic about our work, which enhances the program altogether,” said Sue Sadler, a senior director of services and program development at Acces.
“We have sector-specific training, and then follow through with a job search,” explained Sadler. “We then have business communications with our clients, the employers. All of this is done to connect our pre-arrival candidates to employers.”
Connecting with employers
Acces Employment’s continuum module is enabled by online technology to enhance the job search of immigrants early on. The eight-week program caters to six sector-specific markets – engineering, human resources, finance, sales and marketing, supply chain and information technology.
Markus Van Aardt, the business communications consultant behind the program, said that “folks are hungry for this information.”
He explained the learning principle of the program: Immigrants usually start off being non-conscious and non-competent of the skills required for each of their desired job sectors.
“I’ve walked in these folks’ shoes, it’s important to make sure they are in good hands,” said Van Aardt adamantly.
“Newcomers want this information. They will drive you, and you don’t have to drive them. They will move quickly in the learning process, from being non-conscious, non-competence to conscious, [competence],” he said, using a diagram outlining the process of adult learning to illustrate his point.
Enid Pico, senior vice-president and head of operations and share services at Scotiabank, spoke from an employer’s perspective.
As the first female president of Scotiabank Puerto Rico and once a newcomer to Canada, she shared her encounters as a newcomer to the country and stated that while a pre-arrival program that prepares immigrants for job specific sectors is important, it is also essential for employers and staff members within various companies to understand the importance of inclusion of various backgrounds and diversity.
“These cross-competency relationships are important. [Scotiabank] believes in diversity. It’s the right and smart thing to do,” said Pico. “Because of this, it’s important for us to find units and partners [like Planning for Canada and Acces] so that we can work with them to give us what we need.”
by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario
Several observers have noted that immigration is, generally, a non-partisan issue in Canada. That probably explains why it's not a topic of debate during this current federal election campaign. But, it's safe to say that the next government will inevitably be confronted with competing demands on the immigration file.
In this edition of Research Watch, we offer the next Minister of Immigration a look at two studies that highlight why federal policymakers need to understand where immigrants settle, how they integrate and factors that determine their economic success in Canada.
The truth about ethnic enclaves
A recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the notion that communities with high populations of visible-minority immigrants are rife with socio-economic marginalization and cultural isolation.
In the report “Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” researcher Daniel Hiebert sets out to answer whether these enclaves are the so-called “ghettos” they are often perceived to be.
While the answer proves complex and varied, the key finding of Hiebert’s research is that, in Canada, this tends not to be the case.
This is particularly true of neighbourhoods where there is a dominant ethnocultural group (twice the size of any other group) living alongside several smaller groups.
“[In these communities] the stereotype of the poor immigrant neighbourhood doesn’t work,” Hiebert says. “Where there is one large group, there’s probably some sort of internal capacity for helping people because of the scale of that group.”
He suggests that this is the case because social capital is strong in these communities. Immigrants are more likely to find work more easily or have success in small business ventures because of shared commonalities with other residents.
In addition, the many other cultural groups in the enclave prove to be an asset, Hiebert explains, offering what he calls “bridging” social capital – the type of learning that comes from being exposed to other cultures that helps integrate into mainstream society.
Communities with a high percentage of visible minorities that tended to have more socio-economic challenges were those where no dominant group was present – rather, just several small cultural groups residing together.
For Hiebert, the findings highlight three important ideas.
First, he says, “Cultural diversity is everywhere.” He cites an example: in the past, an organization in “Chinatown” may have found it effective to exclusively serve Chinese Canadians, but with what is now known about the diverse make-up of communities, that type of exclusivity may mean some residents are left behind.
Second, it is time to re-evaluate services for immigrants overall. Hiebert points out that many present-day services were developed in the 1970s when immigrants were settling in inner-city locations rather than suburban ones, and while that is changing, agencies may not be keeping pace.
Finally, Hiebert concludes his study by stressing that in order to truly understand and serve these ethnocultural communities effectively, municipal governments must be at the decision-making table and engaged in the development and reform of immigration policy.
“If cities are the places where most immigrants are settling and integrating,” says Hiebert, “it seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.”
Contributors to economic success
With Canada continuing to compete in the global market to attract economic immigrants, a better understanding of predicting future earnings and success here is vital.
A recently released study from Statistics Canada based on historical data observing two cohorts of immigrants from the late 1990s and the early 2000s may help in this area.
The study shows that, in the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.
“Basically, it appears that economic principal applicants with Canadian work experience at the time of landing are treated more like Canadians in the labour market in terms of returns to education and experience,” explains researcher Aneta Bonikowska, adding the same goes for having strong official-language skills.
But in the long-term (over a period of five to 10 years), this changes. Age and education play a factor.
“Even though we don’t see a big return right off the bat, the earning trajectories of higher, better-educated immigrants are steeper than lower-educated immigrants – over time you see a gap in earnings developing on average,” says Bonikowska.
There is also a correlation between all four characteristics that affects the long-term predictions of an immigrant’s earnings.
As Bonikowska explains, the economic returns on age (the younger an immigrant, the higher the earnings, typically) and education at landing depend on that immigrant’s official-language skills and previously accumulated Canadian work experience.
While the Stats Canada report is meant to be an exercise in analyzing historical data – not a forecast of the future – Bonikowska points out that, from a policy standpoint, if more detailed information was collected from arriving economic immigrants, better predictions could be made about their potential success.
She says factors like the nature of an immigrant’s study, what institution he or she studied at and what level of education was achieved prior to arriving in Canada would give a better sense of who did well from the cohorts studied.
by Shan Qiao (@dmaomao) in Toronto
Susan* felt lucky to land her first job as an interpreter a few months after settling in Ottawa. But the rollercoaster ride that followed – leaving her without payment after more than six months – left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Having emigrated from China two years prior, she had tried to find work through many employment agencies to no avail - despite her experience back home translating for several book clients and the New York Times’ Chinese-language website.
Not only was she delighted with the pay rate of $25 an hour, but also the fact that she was able to work even without an interpreter licence, which is required by many other companies in the language interpretation industry.
“Although I’m a professional in translation back in China, I have not yet had a licence here. I [had only been] here for a short time; I [needed] to find a job,” explains Susan, during a phone interview with New Canadian Media.
Able Translations sent an assignment on January 13, asking Susan to interpret at a physiotherapy clinic in Ottawa the next day for an insurance-related issue.
“I was so excited. I also felt anxious [about] some medical terms I might not be able to interpret . . . Instead of checking reviews on this company, I started checking my dictionary,” explains Susan, admitting not doing a background check on Able was her biggest mistake.
According to Susan, the assignment went well – she satisfied the expectations of both the client and Able. She then signed a time sheet, filed an invoice, and waited for her first payment of $50. Upon signing the original agreement, she had opted for immediate payment versus the company’s default pay schedule, which issues earnings every two months.
“I haven’t received any payment even right now,” she claims. “From sending them emails every two to three days to every week, I never got an answer. Every time [I called] someone [would] forward my calls to nowhere.”
Several other translators have posted comments narrating their experiences working with Able Translations, however, NCM was unable to corroborate their claims independently.
An unregulated industry
Julio Montero, in charge of Able Translations’ compliance and regulatory affairs, tells New Canadian Media the company never fails to pay anyone.
“When an interpreter doesn’t receive payment, it may be for a number of reasons,” he explains. “Some might not file the invoice properly, others may not sign the time sheet, or they unfortunately engaged in unprofessional [conduct].” He adds interpreters who are biased or show up late for a job are not compensated.
As for why the company would hire someone without a license, Montero explains: “Unfortunately, the language industry in Canada is not a regulated profession. It is not illegal for you to work as an interpreter. We have certain standards . . . We hire accredited interpreters. It is someone who has a combination of knowledge, experience and certain accreditation.”
He also explains that, based on a client’s urgency to hire an interpreter as well as the availability of the interpreters, Able will sometimes opt for less qualified candidates.
Montero dismisses accusations Able tries to take advantage of bilingual immigrants hungry for professional jobs. He stresses that the company has hundreds of freelance interpreters and translators and most of them are second-generation Canadians.
“No one is perfect. We recently went through a transition in [our] accounting system. Sometimes payments may slip through cracks,” Montero explains. He encourages people who have payment issues with the company to contact him directly.
Not ‘an industry for new immigrants’
Lola Bendana, president of national member organization Language Industry Association (AILIA), stresses the importance of gaining proper training and licensing in Canada.
“We don’t have legal authority to arbitrate a financial settlement,” Bendana says.
Professionalization and professional practice is what AILIA usually recommends to people, continues Bendana.
“Sign a contract with an organization, stop working for the company if you don’t get paid,” she advises, adding people claiming not to be paid can decide to go to small claims court and file an official financial dispute.
Bendana also indicates that, back in 2006, Seneca College launched the first of its kind training course for the language interpretation industry, and since then many other colleges have started to offer the program.
The Language Interpretation Training Program, a 180-hour certificate course to train interpreters designed by the Ontario Council on Community Interpreting, is a step toward professionalization and standardization of the industry.
Julie Li (pictured left), a Toronto-based interpreter, has finished one and a half years of the training program at Seneca College and has already obtained a basic Community Interpretation Licence. She currently works with MCIS Language Services and 911 Emergency Services.
“Being bilingual doesn’t necessarily mean being able to interpret or translate,” Li says. “I don’t even think this is an industry for new immigrants because you also need to understand many social contexts and Canadian culture.”
Hearing about Susan’s case, Li says it should be treated as a common labour dispute like in any other industry, but adds, “Unlicensed job seekers are prone to be ripped off because there are always companies [that] want to target them.”
*Susan’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.
by Themrise Khan and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa
The federal government is calling on its provincial counterparts to develop a national standard for registered professionals to ensure foreign credentials are recognized, Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre said.
Right now, Poilievre said, there are 13 different regulators and standards, a bureaucratic immigration process that can be very difficult to navigate.
Canada, he said, needs a “one stop shop” for registered professionals looking to immigrate.
A single national standard, with only one point of contact, would make the immigration system more efficient, the minister said. A single standard already exists for 10 professions, like registered nurses, he noted – a system the minister said should be extended to the remaining 14 registered professions.
When asked why the federal government was not taking the lead on creating the national standard, Poilievre said it’s a provincial responsibility.
“We have BNA [British North America] Act that gives provinces exclusive, legal and constitutional authority over these areas. That’s why we’re cooperating with the provinces,” Poilievre told reporters on the sidelines of the Conference Board of Canada's two-day Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa.
The minister did commit to meetings with his provincial counterparts to address the issue of foreign credential recognition in the coming months.
The employment minister also announced funding to two professional organizations to help improve the recognition of foreign credentials for medical professionals and engineers.
The Medical Council of Canada will receive $6.7 million in matched funding from the federal government to streamline its exam process for foreign trained physicians.
As for Engineers Canada, the federal government will contribute $779,000 in matched funding to develop an online competency assessment system that will make the profession’s accreditation system available worldwide.
Some 95,000 professional engineers are expected to retire by 2020. Current graduation rates are not expected to fill the gap.
Balancing social and economic
Speakers at the conference looked at immigration from a variety of perspectives. Provinces such as Nova Scotia and Quebec, for instance, both represented by their provincial Ministers of Immigration, emphasized the need and importance of immigration at the regional level. Nova Scotia faces a fast aging population. Programs in the province therefore, are focused clearly on attracting younger immigrants by way of international students and retaining them in the workforce.
The province was one of the first to launch the Express Entry System and is now looking to launch a business immigration stream.
In Quebec, on the other hand, 70 per cent of the 50,000 new French-speaking immigrants who entered in 2015 thus far, are economic class immigrants, highlighting the need for skills and economic integration in the province.
From a federal government perspective, the new Express Entry System is seen as a gamechanger in the overall scenario of immigrant selection and retention. However, some commentators at the conference expressed caution, stating that huge shifts in programming can be problematic if the social and human aspects are not balanced with the economic.
Questions from the audience also highlighted the fact that there was a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding around the Express Entry System, and whether international students and temporary foreign workers can be part of the applicant pool.
Other speakers emphasized the need to recognize the new mobility among immigrants globally. Trans-nationalism has seen many temporary workers not wanting to settle in Canada. This new trend must be recognized by the business sector in Canada if it wants to attract the best talent and retain it. Migration is no longer a one-way flow.
The first day of the summit concluded with a discussion on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), a topic of recent controversy and government reform. This was perhaps the most complex discussion of the day. Canada needs to fill in labour shortages in many sectors, but cannot have every TFW stay in the country beyond his/her contract.
According to Diana MacKay, Chair of the Summit, the Conference Board's National Immigration Centre intends to create a strong knowledge base on immigration through research, leading to a Canadian Immigration Observatory that will regularly monitor the performance of Canada's immigration system.
With additional reporting from iPolitics.ca
Canada’s labour market must overcome significant challenges if it is to contribute to economic growth, but one field that could provide the biggest bang for...
by Mark A. Cadiz (@markacadiz) in Toronto
Newcomers to Canada, now more than ever, are thinking twice about where to lay down their roots.
Rural towns in the prairie provinces are rapidly growing hot spots for many new immigrants, more so than anywhere else in the country. But the trend does pose a challenge for some towns not accustom to welcoming immigrants.
A recent study by Pathways to Prosperity (P2P), an organization advocating for the economic, social and civic integration of migrants and minorities, found that rural Saskatchewan had higher rates of immigrants arriving per capita than larger urban centres.
Lead researcher Ray Bollman says he wasn’t surprised to see the prairie provinces leading the way.
“In terms of percentage of increases in number of immigrants, Saskatchewan has been leading the pack over the last few years,” Bollman says. “The main driving force for immigrants to these communities are jobs, not family networks.”
Settling Where Labour Demands are Increasing
The research, based on the 2011 National Household Survey, revealed the top five non-metropolitan towns with the highest number of immigrants as a per cent of total population were all in Saskatchewan. Although the number of immigrants moving to rural areas are smaller, the impact on the local population is significant. For example, topping the list was the town of Englefeld, Saskatchewan, with a total population of 225 people, 80 of them being immigrants – about 35.6 per cent of the population.
Ontario still attracts the most in sheer numbers, but the prairie provinces rank higher per capita for several reasons says Dr. Michael Haan, the Canada research chair in population and social policy at the University of New Brunswick. He describes the recent trend to rural Canada as a natural progression of a country’s immigration movement.
“When a country initially welcomes immigrants, they tend to cluster in particular regions, here the largest cities received the most,” he explains. “Over time, the labour markets in the larger centres become particularly saturated, so immigrants will perceive more opportunities in smaller jurisdictions and that will bring them outward.”
In combination with this natural progression, many of the fastest growing industries are located outside of major metropolitan areas such as rural Saskatchewan, northern Alberta and Newfoundland. Currently these provinces are facing a substantial increase in labour demands mainly in the potash, natural gas and oil reserve industries.
According to Kirk Westgard, executive director of immigration services in Saskatchewan the province has one of the strongest job growth rates in the country, ending 2014 at a rate of 2.5 per cent year-over-year unadjusted, falling only behind Alberta, which stood at 2.8 per cent.
“Most of these jobs are in the manufacturing of agricultural equipment, mining and oil and gas sectors,” he says.
To fill the labour demand, the provincial nominee program is utilized to get working boots on the ground, often in isolated areas where immigrant support services are less developed. As the largest avenue for immigrants the program accounts for 77 per cent of all immigrants moving to Saskatchewan, Westward adds, with federal and humanitarian streams rounding out the remaining 23 per cent.
As a whole, Canada’s largest sources for immigrants between 2006 and 2011 were Asia and the Middle East, accounting for 56.9 per cent or approximately 661,600 of immigrants to the country according to Statistics Canada.
Settling Where Services Are Scarce
The promise of jobs in these rural towns may be enough to sway newcomers, but according to the study, 15 out of the 23 communities where immigrants represented 10 per cent or more of the total population had very little experience welcoming newcomers.
Janine Hart, executive director from the Humboldt Regional Newcomer Centre in Saskatchewan highlighted some challenges she has observed in recent years.
“One of the biggest challenges for any newcomer to rural Saskatchewan is infrastructure,” Hart says. “We have a lack of or no public transportation, so transportation is one of the major hurdles in these communities.”
Another barrier she says is the lack of English programs for newcomers, especially between the kindergarten to high school years where schools don’t have adequate staffing or English as an Additional Language (EAL) programs.
For adults, they face another challenge and that’s in the workplace where misunderstandings could arise.
“I would like to see lot more public awareness and cross-cultural training in the workplace. We really need to have a better understanding of our cultures and how one person’s culture can intertwine with another person’s culture,” she says.
Haan adds that initially there might be some antagonism in these smaller towns.
“The reaction of these smaller jurisdictions I would say is mixed. The strongest predictors of successful influx of immigrants is exposure to immigrants,” he says. “Initially there is always a difficult transition that needs to be made, but over time people realize that this is the new normal.”
Haan explains the trend will continue and likely accelerate when the price of oil rebounds.
In Saskatchewan, the top source country for immigrants has been the Philippines for the last few years, but also China, India, the United Kingdom, Germany and Ukraine. Within the last 18 months, Hart has seen a rise coming from Francophone countries like Mauritius, Tunisia and Senegal.
by Our Special Correspondent (@NewCdnMedia)
Canada’s most seasoned academic on immigration, Prof. Jeffrey Reitz, suggests that the decision of the government to postpone and reduce reliance on employer participation in the Express Entry system that takes effect Jan. 1 is simply a recognition of reality. Maintaining a leading role for government selection is the only way to ensure that Canada continues to receive an average of 250,000 new immigrants every year, he said in comments over the weekend.
In his view, short-term employer needs are not a good enough or efficient substitute for a system that has so far largely relied on the general employability of newcomers – also called the “human capital” model. Faced with mounting evidence that successive waves of immigrants are faring badly, the Conservative government has put in place a series of moves designed to increase employer participation to determine who gets in.
The eventual goal of this approach is to grant permanent residence under the “economic class” only to those who have a pre-arranged job offer in Canada. Reitz, affiliated to the University of Toronto’s prestigious Munk School of Global Affairs, though, has his doubts about relying on employers as a proxy for government or a neutral points system to fulfill the bulk (60 per cent) of Canada’s immigration needs.
[Broadly speaking, Canada’s quarter-million newcomers fall into one of three classes – economic, family unification and refugees, split traditionally at 60:30:10 per cent, respectively.]
The U.S, he said, attracts from 150,000 to 175,000 a year under a ‘pre-arranged job’ category, while Canada can expect 15,000 to 17,000 annually – almost certainly causing a huge gap in Canada’s annual target of attracting 250,000 new immigrants every year. Of the 250,000 new arrivals, 60 per cent fall under the economic class (including immediate family members), with roughly 65,000 being “principal applicants” who qualify based on their work experience, language skills and general employability criteria.
Interestingly, Reitz points out, a number of changes introduced in recent years have been modelled on Australian reforms introduced by the then John Howard government a decade ago, in the hope that more new immigrants will be employed from the day they land in Canada. “[T]he evidence for the success of the Australian initiatives was based primarily on short-term outcomes, and analysis of the overall performance of immigrants in Australia does not suggest that the new policies produced any overall improvement.”
New Canadian Media interviewed Reitz in the context of the 2014 edition of Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective (Stanford University Press), an academic publication that is now in its third edition and includes policy reviews on every major immigrant-receiving nation.
“Nobody has had success” with this sort of employer-driven immigration system to produce large-scale immigration, the academic who has been tracking immigration trends in Canada and globally for four decades, said. The book has a chapter devoted to Canada, and in this Reitz writes: “Indeed, the Australian government has greatly reduced visa opportunities for international students and is reviewing its selection policy more generally.”
Overall, he writes in the book, “... it is far from clear that the new policy directions [in Canada] will actually improve the prospects for and impact of immigration.”
The UofT professor points out that while the jury is still out on the key question of net economic gain, Canadian newcomers can be expected to reduce income inequality mainly because they tend to be employed in high-skills jobs rather than at the lower end. “Immigrants compete for more highly skilled work in Canada, so the labour market impact is at levels of employment higher than the impact of relatively less-skilled immigrants in the United States.”
Income inequality has been a hot topic of political debate in both the U.S. and Canada in recent months.
Reitz also attempts to mathematically calculate the extent to which immigrant credentials are discounted in Canada: “[I]mmigrant skills in terms of both education and work experience have only about two-thirds of the value of corresponding skills held by native-born Canadians, and occupational under-employment is a significant reason for this imbalance.” This is based on a statistical calculation made by labour market analysts on the return on investment (ROI) that Canadians gain from every additional year of education.
Studies have shown that while mainstream Canadians gain five per cent in added earnings for every year of education, newcomers boost their average pay by just 3.5 per cent. “Some analysts have noted a decline in return for foreign experience as well, although no explanation for this trend has been found.”
The book chapter on Canada notes that the issue of immigrant credentials is today no closer to resolution: “There is as yet no overall plan to address the problem, which is certain to remain significant for many years.” Acknowledging that the availability of credential assessment services and bridging programs may be making a difference, Reitz, however, points that there has been “no effort to evaluate the overall impact of all these programs in relation to the problem of immigrant skill under-utilization.”
Further, Canada’s been receiving even more qualified immigrants in recent years. “If anything, the problem of immigrant employment in Canada has become more difficult over time, and it is more serious today than it was when it was first identified in the 1990s.”
Support for immigration
The 10-year retrospective in the book also has a section devoted to public opinion on immigration and politics. It points to the creation of the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform and the presence in Canada of a “distinct minority” that opposes the current level of immigration. Reitz takes issue with those who claim that majority support for immigration levels is a “myth”. Further, he adds, “Those who want to reduce immigration levels in Canada are very clearly the minority and have been for some time.”
In separate comments, the academic believes Canada has built up a “resilient base of support” for immigration and he does not foresee a shift in attitudes happening any time soon.
Here are some more nuggets from the book chapter entitled “Canada: New Initiatives and Approaches to Immigration and Nation Building”:
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit