The Missing Link

December 31st, 2007

Over the past year we’ve seen quite a few changes in Canadian immigration. The trend continues towards the decentralization of immigration selection, with more and more power being put in the hands of provinces through Federal-Provincial agreements. More people are coming to Canada through Provincial Nomination Programs (PNP). The PNP’s also show another ongoing trend in Canadian immigration: a focus on jobs. Whether through PNP’s or other streams, the Canadian immigration story of 2007 has been: if you have a job waiting for you, you can get to Canada sooner.

The rationale behind this job focus is that people will have an easier path to success in Canada if they already have employment lined up. While on the surface this makes sense, it misses a deeper point about how immigrants succeed in Canada. I sometimes share with people the story of my grandfather and how he came to Canada. When my grandfather landed in Montreal as a young man from Eastern Europe, he entered Canada with nothing more than a few dollars in his pocket and barely a word of English or French. But he also carried with him one other thing that proved very valuable: the name and address of a man originally from his hometown. That man had recently settled in Montreal and was willing to help. He owned a small shop and offered my grandfather a little space in the corner of his store where he started a shoe-repair business that eventually grew into a successful clothing store.

My grandfather’s story is no different than that of so many other people who came to Canada and built a life from a combination of hard work and the help of people in the community. It seems today that these connections just aren’t taking place in the same way. There is no shortage of people willing to help, but Canada is a bigger place now and there seems to be a missing link between the people willing to help and the newcomers who could benefit from the help. While the government has made some good attempts in this area, it has had mixed success. The government has been effective at sharing information; however, it has not been able to build programs that foster the personal sense of community that was there for my grandfather.

All in all, the system we have in place works pretty well. But the reality of the job market in Canada is that it’s often “not what you know but who you know”. Newcomers are disadvantaged if they are not able to make that personal connection, like the one that helped my grandfather. We need to make it as easy as possible for these connections to take place. To this end, next month I will be unveiling a new initiative that aims to address this missing link in Canadian immigration. So keep an eye on this space for the next month.

Until then I wish you all a healthy and happy New Year!

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