Canada on the wrong immigration track?

July 29th, 2009

About a year ago, I was privileged to appear before parliamentary committees that were charged with examining proposed changes to Canada’s immigration selection system. The government of the day claimed that urgent modifications to the law were necessary in order to streamline the immigration process and reduce the backlog of pending skilled worker (economic) applications. At the time, I felt there was more to it than that. For, if the government really just wanted to shorten the immigration queue, it could have easily accomplished this goal by exercising its authority within the immigration regulations as they then existed. Clearly, they had more in mind, and in the end the government got the changes they desired.

Now comes an in-depth study from Queen’s University’s Naomi Alboim, sponsored by the Maytree Foundation, which takes a look at recent federal immigration policy developments and notes that there has been a dramatic change in the paradigm for economic immigration to Canada. The study finds that Canada’s economic immigration policies have become short-term in focus, with a concentration on current labour market needs instead of longer-term economic priorities and nation-building. This has come about, in part, by:

– Restricting federal skilled worker application to persons who have offers of arranged employment in Canada or work experience in one of only 38 occupations deemed to be in demand in Canada;

– Expanding Provincial Nomination Programs by removing caps on the number of nominations each province/territory may issue with guaranteed expedited processing of Provincial Nominee applicants by the federal government; and

– Expanding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, with a focus on lower-skilled workers, so that employers can quickly access workers for difficult-to-fill jobs.

Until recently, Canada selected immigrants based on a human capital model- the collection of characteristics individuals possess that enable them to contribute and adapt to the economy. Education, language skills, and transferable work experience are hallmarks of human capital. Now, Canada is moving in a direction that weakens the human capital model by adding an occupation filter to the Federal Skilled Worker program and by giving priority to Provincial Nominees and Temporary Workers.

The study points out that the federal government has devolved much of its role to the provinces and employers but these latter groups do not have the national interest as their mandate or objective. Ultimately, this will not benefit Canada.

Some of recommendations of the study are as follows:

1. Articulate a national vision for economic immigration through public dialogue and debate.

2. Make the Federal Skilled Worker Program Canada’s priority for economic immigration.

3. Revise the Federal Skilled Worker Program to better match labour market needs.

4. Connect applicants to employers.

5. Create a national framework for provincial nominee programs that allows for provincial variation and that complements but does not replace the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

6. Eliminate the Low Skill Pilot Program for temporary foreign workers.

7. Broaden eligibility for federally funded settlement services.

8. Fund successful and creative labour market supports.

It will be interesting to see how the report will be received by the Canadian political parties and whether any of the parties incorporate these suggestions into their party platform as we get closer to a federal election.

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24 Responses to “Canada on the wrong immigration track?”

  • On July 30th, 2009, shailesh said ...

    How does this change in immigration rules impact applications which are already filed under the federal skilled worker category?
    If we do not have arranged employment when decision is being made, will the application be rejected?

    This point is related to the following as per your blog:
    – Restricting federal skilled worker application to persons who have offers of arranged employment in Canada or work experience in one of only 38 occupations deemed to be in demand in Canada;

  • On July 30th, 2009, Simon said ...

    I worked for several years in the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI), an American territory that became infamous for recruiting temporary foreign workers; I don't know if it's wise or not for Canada to take this route, but this is a description of the major problem that the NMI encountered (although since it primarily affected the workers' rights, it was not considered a problem, there). I speak Thai, and while in the NMI was close friends with many foreign contract workers who lived there.

    1) Unskilled foreign labor doesn't recruit itself; these workers generally lack a high school education, English skills, computer access, much less the ability to fill out forms.

    2) The NMI government did not recruit them. They were recruited in their own countries by for-profit agencies or individuals, under whatever laws or sporadic enforcement existed (usually none). Many of them arrived in the NMI expecting to either be in the U.S. (technically they were, but in practice not) or to be sold into prostitution.

    3) Because of this they paid large fees, often equal to the amount of money they could save in a year or two of work in the NMI.

    4) Thus, they landed in the NMI in a subservient position, relative to their employer. Their practical right of complaint, striking, requesting decent services, etc. was absent, seeing as being fired from their job or being sent home was equivalent to losing the land that they had mortgaged to come. This is not a relationship between employee and employer that should be permitted in a country that cares about individual rights.

    5) As the system in the NMI developed over time, they got rid of Filipinos (who speak English) and men overall (who are harder to control) in favor of mainland Chinese women, who did not speak English, would work for very little money, and rarely complained. The abuses that occurred in this system are famous.

    So I don't know how the Canadian government finds its temporary labor recruits, but in my opinion it would be best to do so actively; instead of taking anyone from around the world, set up a regional bureau or two in Central America, the Philippines, etc., and let people apply in person. The practice of letting people pay for the right to work for you can really produce some terrible results.

    Sorry to yammer on,


  • On July 30th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    What I am confused about is that, our immigration minister has stated that all temporary foreign workers will be able to apply for PR after having worked one year, therefore the message being conveyed is if you work for one year you can apply and stay in our country permanently. Correct? My company spent 6 months and $20,000 on recruitment efforts to get temporary foreign worker from India. However, the selected candidate was not given work permit in India because they were not convinced that the candidate will go back to India!! Does the right hand know what the left hand wants? If our immigration minister says, if you have a job in Canada and if you stay and work here for a year, you can apply for PR and don't have to leave then why does the consulate in the host country need convincing whether the candidate will come back or not? Doesn't this all seem to be counter productive and redundant? My orgnaisation is very upset at having been misled.

  • On July 30th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    I have at least 9 of my freinds who are pharmacists, managers in a Major USA Companies, hold a Master degree in Business Administration and Several marketing dgrees & their English is Perfect ..But who failed to get their visas to CANADA Just because they applied after the new changes are on effect…Canada do not need their qualifications any more…CANADA prefer Chiefs, Plumbers and people who can, thankfully & respectfully, serve the consumer community not people who can innovate or lead. Please Dont tell me that this is not a great loss for CANADA!

  • On July 30th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    I support the recommendation that applications under federal skilled worker must be given priority and it should not be restricted to persons who have offers of arranged employement only.
    This will give opportunity for many people to benefit their skills inturn it will benefit Canada economy.

  • On July 30th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    Yes, Canada is on a path to lose good well-qualified workers with its new rules. But if you read the newspapers, there are lots of other necessary jobs that are not listed in those 38 categories. This is a totally unfair disadvantage for the educated people, those who would be of great benefit, as they are federal skilled worker applicants, who have all the qualities that Canada previously required, including first-class English, keeping many economically productive and contributing people from successfully applying for immigration to Canada. The whole system now seems inadequate, and needs to be over-hauled again, and fast! We need qualified educated contributors to come to live here, in this this vast country of opportunities.

  • On July 30th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    I admit I'm ignorant about the specifics of the Canadian job market, but I'm not sure it's true that highly educated foreigners are the greatest need. For example, in the entire country there are probably fewer than 40 open jobs as a community college faculty member, and these are subject-specific (an economics teacher can't apply for a nursing instructor position); and yet community college teacher is one of the 38 occupations that qualify one to apply as a skilled immigrant.

    I imagine that a skilled carpenter, construction worker, electrician, logger, welder, etc. would have a far easier chance of finding work, even if their English was quite rudimentary. The truth is, education from foreign countries is often quite difficult to translate into professional employment.

    But I might be wrong.


  • On July 31st, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    Canadian Government should think about Federal Skilled Worker Category applicants who applied before the new fast track application process…. many of the applicants just like me also fall under the new policy but not processed…Pick up applicants from the old applicants who also satisfy the new rules..

  • On July 31st, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    People always think education is just for finding a job. I'm surprised the government of Canada fell into this trap. Education is only a way to strengthen the armamentarium of an individual for the purpose of survival. I came to Canada with less than 400 dollars in pocket but well educated. Today, the financial adviser says I'm worth over 1 million dollars! I don't look for jobs, I strive to create jobs. It is Canada's loss. Smart people will always find a place to go if their countries are no more livable, and they will survive and thrive!

  • On August 1st, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    there are still problems of rigidity
    for skiller working or going to permanent immigrant as he does not feel satisfied he must be back home or change the place of immigration over the response after a long-term impact on their stability that sometimes a situation can change this period then go to another country or returned home.

  • On August 4th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    I have a question : If immigration minister states that a foreign worker can apply for permanent residency if he works for a year here then, why would the Canadian embassy in India deny a work permit to an applicant who has a job offer, LMO approval from HRSDC and everything else in order on the basis that they don't think the candidate will come back to India? Isn't this detriment to the Canadian economy – on one hand, they let doctors in who are driving taxis and on the other hand they refuse work permits to people who have job offers in hand? Also, if the immigration minister states that a foreign worker can apply for permanent residency then why is the embassy concerned whether a candidate will come back or not especially given the fact that their minister has stated that it is ok for a foreign worker to stay back and apply for residency? Am I missing something?

  • On August 4th, 2009, Shiraz said ...

    Canada you are loosing out on the cream of educated people with these rigid rules. People are now finding it easier to apply and settle in Australia and New Zealand where immigration rules are not this silly. WAKE UP CANADA.

    Canada is a beautiful country and a god blessed. Dont let these silly rules run down the economy. Open up your immigration for Federal Skilled Workers, there are well educated people waiting to come but do not qualify in those current 38 occupations list. Sorry to say me and my husband are few among them. Is it Canada only requires those 38 occupations when i google in search of my stream looking out if there are jobs in canada, to my suprise jobs are in abundance. but because of these silly rules I cannot apply. I really do not know what the Canadaian Government is thinking….

  • On August 5th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    Is there any news that the policy of 38 occupations will revert back?

    I have applied in October 2006 in Federal Skilled Worker. More than 33 months have passed but there isn't any news yet from CHC. Canadian seems to me very lazy nation. Aren't they?

  • On August 5th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    While I was reviewing the list of elligible occupations it crossed my mind that where I live welders and machine operators usually don't speak french or english

  • On August 5th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    Does David (or anyone else) have any insight as to whether or not the rules might change any time soon?

  • On August 6th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    Dear Annonymous, none of you realise that the present government does not want immigrants from Asian countries – they only want Europeans. If you don't believe me, think about it. Why are they looking for skills like welders and demanding only english or french speaking candidates! They don't want Asians, period!

  • On August 6th, 2009, Canada Immigration said ...

    thanks for your comments…but

    There is saying…… that frogs always think that their own territory (eg.. a well)is the final world…….but its not..

    Do not take it to heart….the above saying is just to say…

    Just think that….There are huge huge applications are there for 2004….and only part of the applications are here in this list… so we can not really know whether CHC working or not. ….

    To be frank CHc will not give salary if they dont work…so i presume that the process is going on and it is under controlled manner.

    Everything takes its own time….we can not decide within how much time we should get visa….and time is not in any body's hand….so let TIME decide which time is the best time is for you guys to fly to Canada…!!!

    Pls do not loose hopes…

    One day it will come….that day you will remember me….

  • On August 6th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    This is a very thought provoking article indeed, particularly the objective and attitude, i.e. 'the mind' of the government which appears no different than that of the emerging countries' (erstwhile third world countries)governments / elected leaders.

    It appears to me that , governemt or elected leaders/legislatives of Canada really do not have anything specific in their mind regarding immigration. They probably borrowed something 'in mind' from their predecessor only, that is, to 'streamline and expedite'the immigration process. Accordingly, they appointed consultants to understand their 'borrowed mind'or the consultant's vision may not be of the Canadian voters .The result is as expected. You will not see any recommendation that aims at'expediting'the existing slow gait proces but some streamlining only- that is delying with more filters and layers.

  • On August 14th, 2009, stella said ...

    well simon really appreciate your elaboration..but what about those who applied before the fast track process

  • On August 17th, 2009, d3y said ...

    does the immigration think about the foreign worker who belongs in semi skilled workers, iam working here in canada for almost 3 years and i didnt even see my daugther in persons, sacrificing everything just for money, and to serve CANADA it is really tough, i just wish that the canada immigration will me chance to live with my family here in canada. matbe they can consider those semi skilled worker to become immigrant if they have a 2 years experience here in canada, because i think we have proven our skills and knowledge thats why we our still working in canada, hopefully cic will do something about it………………………….

  • On August 17th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    i think if you work here in canada for more than 2 years you should be qualified to be an immigrant because they have prove themselves for more than 2 years skilled or semi skilled, they already sacrifice to much for canada for the sake of work or should i call it covering canada for human power shortage…………..

  • On August 23rd, 2009, Sandeep said ...

    all the wrong people will enter canada;
    semi-skilled or low skilled vacancies should be restricted to the local population.
    The UK has gone down the drain due to the influx of demi-skilled or non-skilled workforce from abroad.
    granting of PR to such people may spell doom for the local labour pool.

  • On September 21st, 2009, MTM64 said ...

    The immigration process is very confusing. My brother-in-law is hear as a skilled worker, and soon will have the chance for his PR. My wife is from the U.K> and her daughter. Now there are four of us contributing to our economy. The forgotten ones are our parents. The new process is to put families together ? Canada wants the workers here for our future, but somehow doesn't want the whole family, even though our parents are self supporting and would never require a dime. This whole process needs our voices in Parlament, but our elected officials wnat to ignore. I have written almost every member, with little to no response. What cna we do with a government whom does not wnat to listen or assist ? I guess we all leave, but I'm sure we are not alone. Speechless in Ontario

  • On July 23rd, 2010, BN Bhattarai said ...

    Canadian Immigration system is very hard for new immigrant. For sponsorship and many reason.

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