Canada looking to close anchor-baby loopholes
News reports suggest Canada being played for passports.
David Trifunov March 7, 2012 23:13
The Canadian government is contemplating changes to its immigration policy after
newspaper reports showed Chinese women are flying into the country to have
"anchor babies." (China Photos/AFP/Getty Images)
The Canadian government is contemplating restrictions on birth tourism after a
Chinese newspaper reported women there are using Canada to flaunt their country’s
one-child policy and exploit Canadian immigration laws.
Because Canada gives anyone born in the country a passport, foreign parents can
also use their “anchor baby” to bypass immigration laws.
The recent Chinese newspaper report said “consultants” coach Chinese women how
to wear baggy clothing when they arrive in Canada and carry nothing that shows they
They might also learn how to apply for permits or even student visas.
About 200 “anchor babies” are born in Canada every year.
“We are aware of crooked consultants who encourage pregnant women to illegally
travel to Canada to give birth and gain access to Canada’s considerable benefits,”
Citizenship and Immigration spokeswoman Candice Malcolm told Postmedia News.
“We condemn the practice of circumventing our laws to game the system, leaving
Canadians taxpayers with the bill. This is unfair and not right.”
The government is considering introducing changes within the year.
The Toronto Sun discovered numerous homes in Vancouver that act as “havens”
for Chinese women, charging them about $70 per day until they give birth
The Sun sent an undercover reporter to the home seeking information for relatives
The woman who answered the door denied running a “passport baby” office.
“I only promise myself to do legal thing. That’s all,” the woman, named Susan, said
through a Chinese translator. “Other people are not my business. I won’t give comments.”
Most of the women who use the services in Canada are wealthy Chinese women
looking to get around that country’s one-child policy, the Sun said.
Canada and the
United States are the only countries in the world that give babies born there passports.
In 2008, about 340,000 babies born in the US had at least one illegal immigrant parent,
Only about 120 per year came from China, however, MSNBC said.
It also happens in Hong Kong, where mainland Chinese couples pay consultants
about $3,200 to help them give birth in the former British colony.
“We work like a travel agency,” Gordon Li told MSNBC. “The fee depends on the
client – whether they want to stay in a luxury hotel or a small hotel, etc.”
At least one immigration expert warned against changes, however.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said any changes could change how
Canadians parents apply for passports for their children.
“There are a couple of hundred passport babies born annually in
Canada out of our 200 million visits per year,” he said. “To clamp down
on those several hundred, the government is going to require Canadians
to re-apply for their Canadian citizenship to get a passport. ... That won’t
do away with a couple of hundred passport babies a year, but it will do
away with the privacy of 33 million Canadians.”
Why is Canada keeping out China’s rich?
Tim Shufelt Mar 2, 2012 – 7:16 PM ET
Masses of wealthy Chinese, their money huddled in less-than-secure foreign assets,
are yearning to breathe the free air of Canadian
capitalism. But Canada doesn’t seem to want them much.
Brimming with the spoils of a historic economic expansion, Chinese
millionaires by the tens of thousands wish to make Canada home
for their families and their private wealth.
The Canadian immigration system has a program in place to grant rich
foreigners permanent resident status, provided they first
hand over a six-figure sum to the federal government.
By almost all accounts, that program is broken. It’s rife with delays, an
enormous backlog of files and misallocation of funds — all
providing fodder to critics who characterize the Federal Investor Immigrant
Program (FIIP) as a cash-for-visa scheme that enriches
banks while providing little benefit to the country.
Two years ago, the federal government suspended the program, then
reinstated it with double the financial requirements and a cap
on new applications of just 700 a year.
Would-be immigrants filed their submissions to an intake office in Sydney,
N.S., beginning July 3. The quota was reportedly met
soon after the office opened in the morning. Of the 700 applicants, 697 were
from China. FIIP was then effectively shut down for another year.
Proponents of so-called “economic immigration” say Canada is forgoing billions
in foreign capital and untold economic growth by limiting the intake of rich
Canada approved 3,223 applications in 2010, representing a total of 11,715
people including children and spouses. That’s a paltry figure in the context
of Canada’s annual immigration quota of 250,000, says Richard Kurland,
a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer and policy analyst.
“It just makes sense to take their money and allow them to consume
Canadian goods and services at a time we need it most,” Mr. Kurland
said. “They’re buying houses, they’re buying cars, they’re buying
consumer goods.” Just what finance ministers across the country are hoping
consumers start doing more of. The Li family (who asked that their real name not
be published) is one example of instant economic benefit. Since arriving in Montreal
through Quebec’s version of the immigrant investor program in 2005, the family
purchased a home in a wealthy suburb of the city, enrolled their son in a private
school, and acquired a hotel employing about 20 people. “I was considering my
son’s education and the fresh air, because he has asthma,” Ms. Li said.
Her concerns with pollution are shared by a growing number of Chinese elite, as
are fears of political instability, and security of their assets.
“We worked very hard on our business and we earn every penny. I don’t want
somebody to take it back,” she said, indicating the family made its money from a
electrical component manufacturing business. Poaching China’s wealthy is also a
short-cut to establishing economic ties with China, said Louis Leblanc, head of
immigrant investor programs at National Bank Financial. “Canada being a
resource-rich country dominated by exports, the beauty of this is that you’re creating
golden bridges throughout the world with these wealthy families coming into
Canada,” he said. In limiting new FIIP applicants, the federal government cited a
backlog of more than 15,000 files. But those familiar with Canada’s economic
immigration system say of equal concern is how immigrant money is distributed.
“The main issue is one of financial accountability,” Mr. Leblanc said. “It’s very hard
to figure out how the money is used under the FIIP.”
The program requires applicants to prove net wealth of at least $1.6-million, in
addition to an up front investment of $800,000 to the federal government, to be
refunded after five years without interest. Ottawa then distributes that money to
participating provinces, who are mandated with funding projects to create jobs and
subsidize economic development. The program generated about $680-million in
2010, about 40% of which went to Ontario, another 20% to British Columbia, and
the rest to the other provinces and territories. The link between incoming foreign
capital and funding for Canadian enterprises through the provinces is crucial to
the rationale behind the program. But the provinces have struggled to find ways
to appropriately invest this money.
“Some of the provinces aren’t really distributing it, they just hold it for five years,”
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in an interview.
“Sometimes, they don’t even pretend to do anything with it. I think Ontario’s
sitting on $80-million or more of investor immigrant funds. They haven’t even
set up the pretense of a dedicated purpose for those funds,” he said.
Ontario says it has made recent improvements to its program, signing an
Agreement with Infrastructure Ontario, loaning the agency $149.2-million for
34 projects that generated almost 5,000 jobs. Another $34.7-million funded
emerging technologies through the Innovation Development Fund.
Mr. Kenney called that use of funds “notional,” merely “offsetting their interest
costs for five years for that money.” That charge is one of many leveled by the
program’s critics. “I’m surprised they decided to cap it, it might be better to just
end it,” said Jeffrey Reitz, a sociologist at the University of Toronto who focuses
on immigration. “They’re basically buying visas. There’s little way around that.
And I think it strikes people as inappropriate. “That’s the reputation abroad, too.
That this is a way the Canadian government allows rich people to buy their way in.”
Some of the program’s biggest supporters, meanwhile, are participating financial
institutions, he explained. The $800,000 upfront loan flows through a facilitator
— typically a Canadian bank — then on to the federal government. But the vast
majority of investor immigrants opt for a financing program offered through the
banks, which front the loan requirement. The immigrant pays the bank a
fee, which can amount to $200,000 or more. “That’s the end of the obligation,”
said David Cohen, an immigration lawyer based in Montreal. “The applicant never
gets his money back. It cost him $200,000 to do this.” Banks also receive a commission
on each file, from which agents overseas charged with finding candidates earn
their own fee. “It’s a gold mine for the facilitators and for the agents,” Mr. Cohen
said. That system is partly to blame for the deluge of applications, Mr. Kenney said.
As is the relatively low financial requirements. While he says he still sees merits to
the investor immigrant program, the seemingly unlimited demand is indication that
the program is still priced too low, he said. “The program is underselling Canada.”
The failings of the federal program, however, shouldn’t stain economic immigration
altogether, Mr. Cohen said. “There’s no reason to throw out the baby with the bath
water.” Quebec’s program, which operates independently of the federal program, and
which isn’t subject to the cap, has established an effective system of distribution its
immigrant loans. “It works,” Mr. Cohen said. “It’s one of the few programs that
nobody bitches about in Quebec.” Through Investment Quebec, the banks recommends
grants to companies with net assets under $35-million seeking help with projects to
expand their business. The same kind of system could be applied federally through
the Business Development Bank of Canada, he said. Reducing the federal backlog need
not be a monumental problem, either. Raising the financial requirements again or
asking for a deposit could limit applicants to those serious about immigrating to
Canada. Alternatively, the federal government could consider simply ignoring the
backlog. Chinese millionaires with their minds set on Canada could reapply under
heightened financial requirements. “I can’t get excited about a backlog of
millionaires, when they can easily access the front of the queue by paying
current market value,” Mr. Kurland said.
Once the federal government fixes the program’s failings, it can capitalize on the
economic potential of the elite exodus from China. A recent survey found that 60%
of China’s U.S. dollar millionaires, now numbering almost one million, intended to
or were in the process of emigrating.
“The day you’re convinced that passive economic immigration is of economic benefit,
why cap it?” Mr. Leblanc said. Undoubtedly, there are “millions of millionaires”
eager to relocate to Canada, Mr. Kenney said. But their role is limited in countering
skills shortages. “Lending the government $800,000 for five years doesn’t respond
to labour shortages and it doesn’t necessarily even respond to the broader demographic
challenges,” he said. But economic integration is becoming a global reality. More and
more western countries are courting the wealthy of the developing
world through their own programs, of which Canada is a pioneer. Already, the
United States, Britain and another of other developed countries have already
followed Canada’s lead. Canada will lose out at its own game if it doesn’t get the
FIIP in shape, Mr. Leblanc said. “Over the next two years, you’ll have at least half
a dozen new countries going after the very upwardly mobile wealthy individuals who
want access to new citizenship.”
Kenney pushes greater private sector role in immigrant selection
Minister warns Alberta, B.C. provincial nominee program needs reform
BY PETER O'NEIL, EDMONTONJOURNAL.COM MARCH 1, 2012
Jason Kenney, Canada's Minister of Immigration and Citizenship.
Photograph by: Peter J. Thompson/National Post/Files , National Post
OTTAWA - Immigration Minister Jason Kenney raised the spectre
of European-style tensions over multiculturalism in Canada
Thursday while proposing measures to boost the economic prospects
of new Canadians.
His proposals include a greater private sector role in immigrant
selection and, in a move one immigration lawyer said would be
controversial, more emphasis on the English or French proficiency
of immigrants’ spouses. He also elaborated on his recent warning
to provincial governments such as Alberta and British Columbia that
he won’t expand the provincial nominee program until that program
“If we can improve the economic outcomes of immigrants, debates
over the degree of their social integration would virtually disappear,”
Kenney said in a speech in Toronto.
Kenney also said the steps the government has taken to improve the
“integrity” of the immigration and refugee system are essential.
“We don’t have to look very far to see what happens when that integrity
is undermined,” he said.
“It’s happened across Europe and even to some extent in the United
States, where public support for the entire immigration system has fallen
after widespread illegal migration and consequent abuse of public
resources have gone unchecked. “I never want to get to that point.”
Kenney, after noting the comparatively poor performance of immigrants
in recent decades, said he is considering proposals to adjust the points
system for skilled workers to put greater emphasis on youth with “high
Applicants with Canadian work and study experience and trades skills
should also move closer to the front of the line, he said.
The minister said the federal government will also look at giving preference
to applicants with a direct job offer, resulting in the private sector getting a
much larger role in the federal skilled worker program.
Kenney said he will reject recent appeals from such provinces as B.C. and
Alberta for a higher quota from the provincial nominee program until that
system is reformed.
He cited the successes of the program, noting that 26 per cent of current
economic immigrants go to provinces other than the traditional destinations
of B.C., Ontario and Quebec, compared to 11 per cent in 1997.
But he said provincial nominee immigrants tend to do worse than nominees
under the federal foreign skilled worker program because Ottawa puts more
emphasis on language skills.
Kenney also said the provincial programs are in some cases duplicating
federal programs, and also expressed concerns about provincial nominee
“integrity” due to nominees arriving in one sponsoring province and then
quickly moving to another.
“We will not consider increasing a province’s allocation under the PN program
until it demonstrates that its PN program is directly responsive to labour market
needs and does not overlap with federal family reunification or investment
NDP immigration critic Don Davies said Kenney exaggerated the government’s
progress on reducing immigration backlogs and said the minister has failed to
substantially improve the ability of immigrant professionals to get their
Davies also said Kenney is allowing far too many low-wage temporary foreign
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland praised Kenney’s proposed moves, saying
a more “nimble” system that lets the private sector play a bigger role is replacing
the old “supertanker” model.
“The policy driver behind these changes is simple,” he said in an email.
“Today, fundamental design change is being driven by common sense backed
by hard data. In the past, it was more about politics and lobbyists and that was
the recipe that led to undisclosed government policy decisions like curtailing the
processing of parents and grandparents, unfair processing times, and ballooning
backlogs across the board.”
But Kurland said a move to a British-style requirement that spouses should speak
one of the official languages will cause a stir.
And he said Kenney will also cause provincial governments some grief by pushing
them out of the investor recruitment field, demanding tougher language
requirements and perhaps setting up monitoring programs to ensure immigrants
don’t immediately leave the province that’s sponsored them soon after arrival.
Fraser Institute economist Herb Grubel, a prominent critic of the system, said
allowing companies to play a bigger role in selection will improve immigrants’
But he had some words of warning.
“Will there be a minimum level of pay the employers have to offer? We do not
want to be flooded by unskilled workers whose incomes are low,” he wrote in an
Fraudulent job offers is another concern.
“The employers and immigrants should be required to submit to Ottawa frequently
evidence of the pay the workers received and taxes they paid,” Grubel argued.
“Stiff penalties need to be attached to violations, including the threat of removal
of the violators.”
Former senior Canadian diplomat James Bissett, a director with the Centre for
Immigration Policy Reform, said Kenney is helping to fix a “broken” system.
“But the fundamental question is, why do successive governments continue to
insist Canada needs 250-275,000 immigrants every year?” he asked.
“Most serious economic studies show that immigration has little positive impact
on a country’s economy prosperity.”
Greeks line up to start new lives in Canada
Austerity measures and grim prospects at home force many in
Greece to look overseas
BY SHEILA DABU NONATO AND AND DARAH HANSEN,
POSTMEDIA NEWS; VANCOUVER SUN FEBRUARY 23,
2012 2:20 AM
Former restaurateur George Varvarigos has started a new
career in auto sales in Toronto after immigrating from Greece
seven months ago. Varvarigos, 37, sold his share of a restaurant
and came to Canada with hopes for a better future. "Everybody
works hard for every daily expense ... and the bills they have to
pay," he said. "Nobody is lazy ... So they're fighters."
"[Canada] is a better environment with better chances for
people who would like to do something in their life, to have
a family, to have their job and to get paid for that and to look
straight to the future," he explained.
Members of Greek-Canadian communities say Varvarigos's
story is becoming familiar as an increasing number of Greek
residents inquire about job opportunities in Canada. They are
hoping to start a new life because of the financial uncertainty
in their homeland, which is on the brink of bankruptcy.
The EU approved its second bailout for Greece on Tuesday
worth $172 billion. To get the debt bailouts, Greece has
had to commit to unpopular austerity measures, which include
tax increases and deep cuts to pensions, public-sector wages
and the country's minimum wage.
Greece's unemployment rate hit a record 20.9 per cent in
November, compared to 10.4 per cent for the 17 countries
sharing the euro. The number of young Greeks without work
is closer to 40 per cent. The crisis prompted thousands of
protesters angry at punishing spending cuts to pour into
Athens' central Syntagma Square on Wednesday as
lawmakers rushed to pass laws needed to secure the latest
bailout. With these economic prospects, new immigrants
are increasingly attracted to Canada's economic engines.
"Since this crisis occurred we've heard from a lot of professionals
who are frustrated and can't find employment in Greece.
They want to know what the job conditions are like in
Vancouver and how do they go about applying to come
here," said Peter Kletas, a Vancouver lawyer and president of
the Hellenic Community of Vancouver, a group that serves
the local Greek community. In the past six months, Kletas
said the society has seen the number of phone calls to its
office from Greek nationals looking to migrate rise from an
average of one to two per week to two to three a day. "They
are sending us their CVs and everything, thinking we can get
them work," he said. Kletas said not since the post-war era of
the 1950s and 60s has B.C., and Canada, seen such interest
from Greek nationals in migration. "A lot of them want a
better way of life for their families. That is what we are hearing,"
John Yannitsos, president of the Hellenic Society of Calgary,
said a few dozen Greek residents have been arriving in
Calgary on a weekly basis recently. Most are Greek citizens
with Canadian relatives. There are also some Canadian citizens
who had been living in Greece and are now starting to return,
he said. Inquiries from Greek residents are skyrocketing, he
said, noting it's come to a point where they arrive daily.
"You can sense the desperation in their voices and in the
inquiries," he said. "[They say] 'can you help us with
opportunities? How can we get there? We'll take our chances
when we get there.'"
But moving here isn't easy. Mario Bellissimo, an immigration
lawyer in Toronto, said many professionals looking to make
the move to Canada don't qualify to migrate unless they've
secured a Canadian employer. People with experience
and education in one of 29 federally recognized occupations,
including nurses, psychologists, industrial electricians and
welders, are eligible to apply as skilled workers. But that
list is so narrow, and the numbers accepted capped, "that
it doesn't tend to be an option that is very fruitful for many
people, not just from Greece, but around the world," said
But Vancouver lawyer and immigration analyst Richard Kurland
said Greece could likely prove a "prime recruiting zone"
for human resources professionals looking for a ready supply
of workers in occupations where there is a looming shortage.
By 2020, there will be an estimated 61,500 more jobs in the
province than workers to fill them, according to B.C.'s
most recent Labour Market Outlook, and that has the province
relying on newcomers to fill a third of all job openings within
New Toronto resident Roula Loukaki says it was when the
tourists stopped buying that she and her husband decided
to close their decade-old, family-run gift shop in Greece.
Born in Toronto, Loukaki moved to Greece with her family
when she was nine years old. In her late 30s, Loukaki
returned to Canada in early February. "It's a difficult decision
but we want a better life," she said. "We thought, let's just try
something else because we don't see any future there," she said.
She says her friends and young people in Greece are considering
moving to Canada, Australia or other European countries, such as
Although there hasn't been a large immigration wave from
Greece in Toronto yet, the return of "bold expats," such as
Loukaki, also will include individuals who are single, unattached
and Canadian-born who are "coming back to their roots,"
said videojournalist Trifon Haitas, who was born in Greece
and works with Toronto's Greek media.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
SUN TV: Richard Kurland
June 8, 2011 18:25 From The Caldwell Account
SUN TV: Richard Kurland
From Byline June 15, 2011 21:13
SUN TV: Richard Kurland A FAVOURITE!!!!
July 5, 2011 17:32
From Canada Live
September 2, 2011 20:24
From Daily Brief
October 21, 2011 19:34
From Daily Brief
Immigration fraudsters exploit
new rules, report says
Federal anti-fraud unit finds 22 per cent of Chinese applicants
BY PETER O'NEIL, EDMONTONJOURNAL.COM JANUARY 9, 2012
OTTAWA - New federal immigration rules passed in 2008 to make the system
more streamlined and “responsive” to Canadian economic needs were exploited
by Chinese fraudsters,according to newly released internal documents.
The Conservative government quickly confirmed that the documents,
obtained by immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, reflect an ongoing
problem that needs to be tackled. An official acknowledged concerns with
bogus applications, particularly those relating to the arranged offer of
employment (AEO) program.
“We are aware of this issue and are concerned,” said Candice Malcolm,
spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
“That is why we are currently reviewing options to strengthen the AEO process
to prevent this fraud from taking place in the future.”
She added that the Harper government has “done more than any government
in Canadian history to crack down on all types of immigration fraud and
strengthen the integrity of Canadian citizenship.” The documents underline a
problem that is of particular concern to B.C., since close to a third of permanent
residents allowed into Canada are from China.
Kurland said the documents show that understaffed Canadian
missions in certain countries aren’t able to contain the pressure
from applicants who misrepresent themselves. “It’s China, it’s Pakistan,
it’s Africa, and it’s because some countries of the world do not have
western democratic institutions issuing reliable paperwork.
It’s that simple,” said Kurland, who obtained the documents
through the Access to Information Act. Canadian officials have “opened their
eyes and they see the problem. The question is, what are they going to do about
it, if anything?” Kurland said the ongoing fraud problem could be handled by
putting greater emphasis on recruiting skilled foreigners already in Canada
under the Temporary Foreign Workers program.
Bill C-50, passed in 2008 under former minister Diane Finley, was intended to
let the government set priorities in its selection of economic immigrants to
ensure emphasis on particular skilled workers needed by Canadian businesses.
But one study of skilled worker applicants from Hong Kong during the
2008-10 period, involving applicants claiming those skills who allegedly had
AEOs, found that only 22 per cent had genuine jobs in Canada and many had
“very low” English-speaking skills. “There are serious problems with the validity
of job offers” in the AEO category, wrote the authors of the analysis.
The Canadian government’s anti-fraud unit in Beijing, meanwhile, did an analysis
that found that, of applications between late 2008 and early 2010, more than
one in five (22 per cent) of applicants misrepresented their own employment records.
The greatest abusers were supposed “financial auditors and accountants,” as
42 per cent of them were lying about their credentials and were in many cases
merely cashiers or bookkeepers. Another above-average category was financial
managers, with 27 per cent of applications being fraudulent.
“Employment fraud is an issue on certain profiles of C-50 applications,” stated a
summary of the report that considered applications for workers headed primarily
to Ontario. “A more thorough verification process is required.” Another 2010 study
of applicants from Taiwan found that of 31 AEO applicants, the vast majority
headed for B.C., only five — or 16 per cent of the total — actually took jobs with
the employers that made the offers.
Kurland’s documents pinpointed another fraud concern unrelated to
C-50, involving the 275 or so applications for dependent children each
year under the family class category. The analysis noted that it is “common
practice” for Chinese couples who have emigrated to Canada to return to China to
have children, then go back to Canada when their kids reach school age. The
authors noted that there are persistent reports in China about children trafficking,
raising the possibility that Canada’s system could be exploited by child-traffickers.
The study found that five per cent of the cases studied involved confirmed or
suspected fraud, though the report doesn’t indicate whether the children involved
were trafficked. “The exercise indicated that there is a significant risk of abuse”
of the child application program, the report stated. “In response the family class
unit has raised evidentiary requirements for this caseload.” B.C., long a magnet
for Chinese immigration, attracted 9,317 of the 30,197 permanent residents from
that country in 2010, according to government statistics.
Of the 17,934 Chinese students entering Canada in 2010, 6,061 went to B.C.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
admit failure to stop
BY DANIEL PROUSSALIDIS ,PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU
FIRST POSTED: MONDAY, JANUARY 09, 2012 05:38 PM EST
Canadian passport.(QMI Agency files)
OTTAWA - Canadian immigration officials admit their refusal rate for
Canadian residency applications at the embassy in Abu Dhabi in the
United Arab Emirates "should have been higher."
That's the conclusion of a 2010 quality assessment report unearthed
by an Access to Information request provided to QMI Agency.
The embassy in Abu Dhabi handles visa applications from the Emirates
as well as other Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Officials say foreign nationals working in Gulf countries have been
able to obtain Canadian residency using fraudulent sponsors who
"go to great lengths to try and convince visa officers that they are
residing in Canada when in fact they are not."
The report notes the motive is money because highly skilled workers,
such as engineers and nurses from Canada and other western countries,
get double the salary of other foreign nationals doing the same work.
"An Indian national working in Kuwait will receive a significant salary
increase if he acquires a British passport," noted the report.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland sees another problem.
"If there's instability in that Middle East country Canada historically
will pay to bring to safety Canadian residents - permanent residents,"
said Kurland. "So, it's a cheap insurance policy paid for by the people
of Canada for non-residents."
Kurland says the consequences aren't tough enough for fraudsters.
"The only sanction practically is non-renewal of their plastic (residency)
card," he said. In an e-mail statement, immigration officials noted the
government is cracking down on citizenship fraud.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney refused comment.
VANCOUVER SUN - JANUARY 6, 2011
Ottawa cracks down on diplomats fleeing toppled regimes
BY TOM GODFREY ,TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 08, 2011 07:44 PM EST bordergraphic091211TORONTO - Ottawa is cracking down on former government leaders from toppled Middle East regimes who
may be trying to flee to Canada by using the diplomatic passports of their countries, classified documents
warn. Canadian border agents nationwide have been alerted to take a closer look and question travellers
entering the country with diplomatic passports because they may be trying to claim political asylum or seek refuge. Canadian police and intelligence officials are concerned that top political leaders and their families
from countries rocked or toppled during the Arab Spring that includes Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen,
Algeria, Syria and others may try to use the documents to escape to safety here. An operational
bulletin - number PRG-2011-19 - was issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
last April 18 to front-line officers and was obtained through an Access of Information request
by lawyer Richard Kurland. “Due to recent developments in the Middle East, the Traveller Primary
Unit in the Border Programs Division has reviewed the processing of persons who have self-identified
as diplomats,” the bulletin said. “The reviews indicated that there is a need to clarify the procedures
for the questioning and processing of such persons.” Officers were told that diplomatic passports are
acceptable documents for foreign nationals seeking to travel here as temporary residents. The memo
alerted officers that some diplomats may require visas to enter Canada and would likely be travelling
“to attend a conference or for tourism.” It said accredited foreign representatives can also bring their
families and household when they move. “A diplomatic passport is a free pass for anyone who
want to board a plane for Canada,” said Kurland. “Entire former governments can arrive by
using diplomatic passports and claim they are here for a meeting.” Kurland said he won’t be
surprised if toppled Arab ex-leaders, their families or senior staff are caught trying to slip
into the country. ”A lot of former government officials from previous regimes are jumping
ship,” he said. “They have lost control and there are new leaders in place.” Kurland said
the days of free and unchallenged travel by diplomats to Canada are gone. “That ship sailed
during the Arab Spring,” he said. “The government is no longer taking these people (diplomats)
at face value.” Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann said the CBSA is not only targeting war
criminals and street thugs, but even diplomats. “The agency is leaving no stone unturned due to the
vulnerability of the situation in the Middle East,” Mamann said. “It appears there may have been a
spike in the number of people coming here with diplomatic credentials.” The measure also affects
diplomats arriving in Canada by private aircraft who can normally register to CBSA officials by phone.
They now have to undergo more stringent checks. More than 45 members of the foreign diplomatic
corps have sought refugee status in Canada in the last three years after arriving as representatives
of their home countries, government statistics show. More than 40 refugee claims from foreign diplomats were filed from Sept. 2009 to Sept. 2010.
Vancouver Sun launches new Chinese-Language website Taiyangbao.ca
VANCOUVER SUN DECEMBER 6, 2011 5:33 AM
A screengrab of Taiyangbao.ca, a comprehensive Chinese-language website offering the latest in local and international news and files from prominent writers and leaders from the community and around the world.
Photograph by: Screengrab, Handout
The Vancouver Sun is launching a comprehensive
Chinese-language website offering the latest in local
and international news and files from prominent writers
and leaders from the community and around the world.
Taiyangbao.ca -- or "Sun newspaper" -- combines the
resources of Western Canada's largest newsroom, a
wealth of national and international content from Agence
France Presse's Chinese-language division, and a
growing network of local and international bloggers.
In addition to breaking news,c features health, sports,
lifestyle, fashion, entertainment, food, cars, real estate,
business and immigration news, trends and features --
all delivered in simplified and traditional Chinese
language characters, to better serve one of B.C.'s
A key feature on the site is Vancouver immigration
lawyer Richard Kurland's Lexbase publication and
blog, which provides an in-depth guide to immigration
"We're proud of this initiative, the most comprehensive
Chinese-language product in The Sun's 100-year
history," said Paul Bucci, The Vancouver Sun’s
deputy managing editor, digital. "We know it will bring
The Vancouver Sun's great content to an even greater
number of avid news readers and advertisers in our
Taiyangbao’s readers will be encouraged to follow
breaking news and join the conversation on various
social media sites including Facebook at www.facebook.com/taiyangbao
and Twitter @taiyangbao.
The site's blog network includes the following
writers and community leaders:
Wai Lam Cheung: Chinese community food critic,
former editor for Ming Pao Daily News in Vancouver.
Judy Hsu: National Public Relations associate,
formerly with BC Centres for Disease Control.
Richard Kurland: Vancouver lawyer & immigration
Jerry Li: President of the Canada-China Society of
Science and Technology and SFU communications
Stephanie Li: Hong Kong University graduate
Elisa Qiu: Hong Kong University graduate journalism
Lydia Tsui PR assistant manager at CNN
International and freelancer with Prime business
Kenneth Tung Kwantlen Polytechnic University
board member, former vice-chair & chair of
S.U.C.C.E.S.S., AM 1320 talk show host.
Yichun (Cherry) Yu Hong Kong University graduate
journalism student and a former reporting intern at
People’s Daily in Beijing.
Brian Yap Kwantlen Polytechnic University journalism
Henry Yuen Wine critic.
Stephanie Yuen Food critic, co-founder of Chinese
restaurant awards in Vancouver.
Sgt. Terry Yung Vancouver Police Department
officer and S.U.C.C.E.S.S. board member.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Some immigrants faking language tests, officials
By TOM GODFREY, QMI AGENCY
Last Updated: November 15, 2011 8:39pm
TORONTO -- Federal immigration officials are targeting
unscrupulous immigrants who are paying big
bucks for fake certificates that show they have mastered
English or French tests required to come to Canada. The
fraudulent language tests were first detected among immigrants
applying to come here from Indonesia and Timor-Leste, according
to a report from a Canadian visa officer in Indonesia Some Toronto
lawyers claim a number of tradespeople and immigrants find the
standardized International English Language Testing System
(IELTS) difficult and have to write the test twice or three times to
pass Immigrants are required to have a working knowledge of
either of the official languages before they're allowed to come to
Canada as permanent residents "Fraud exists primarily with
language testing," the officer told Ottawa of the high failure
rate. "Candidates for immigration to Canada must demonstrate that
they have a solid knowledge of English or French. The officer said
the fraud is being looked into and some applicants submit
questionable paperwork to try and obtain a visa "Often IELTS
fraud ... is suspected by our office," the visa officer said.
"Financial statements, such as bank letters and accounting reports,
are not reliable. The officer warned "unreliable civil documents
and financial statements make the screening of legality of
net worth a challenge. Canadian immigration lawyer Richard Kurland,
who obtained the report, said the language testing fraud has
spread from Indonesia to other countries "The fraud range goes
from the wrong people taking the test to hacking into the system
to change grades," Kurland said on Monday.
THE PROVINCE NEWSPAPER
Gangs a threat to refugee kids
Surrey: Mayor Watts adamant immigrant fees are pushing youth toward
lawlessness and criminality
BY KENT SPENCER AND IAN AUSTIN, THE PROVINCE NOVEMBER 9, 2011
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts is warning the federal government that about 500 Surrey
kids are at risk of being recruited into gangs because of fees being charged to
vulnerable refugee parents. She told a meeting of The Province’s editorial board on
Wednesday that the fees, which can run into tens of thousands of dollars, put kids
at risk of recruitment because normal support systems are not available from the
hard-pressed adults in their families. “Some kids need more help than others so
they don’t end up joining gangs,” Watts said. “Of particular concern is the refugee
population in Surrey. “Typically, the kids can’t read or write, have lived in refugee
camps and been witness to violence,” she said. “The parents do menial work. Their
13-year-old is at the age to join Grade 8 even though he has never been to school
before. “These kids are off the scale in terms of their risk of being recruited by
a gang. It’s a real concern. The recruitment goes on in schools. If I’m a gangbanger,
I’m going to pick a refugee kid,” she said. “The kids have no tools and they’re in
survival mode, so guess what’s going to happen.” Officials with Citizenship and
Immigration Canada told The Province that individual refugees may be responsible
to repay up to $10,000 per person under the Immigrant Loans Program to
cover the costs of medical examinations abroad, travel documents and transportation
to Canada. “The maximum amount of the loan the refugee would pay is $10,000,
as there’s a cap,” said a CIC official. “Loans in excess of that amount are paid for
by the IOM [International Organization for Migration]. So the refugee pays zero
dollars to $10,000, then IOM would pay the remainder if it’s over $10,000.
“The global repayment record is over 90 per cent.”
Watts said the federal government has refused her request to drop the refugees’
transportation charges. “The feds told me, ‘We’re keeping it,’” she said.
Refugees’ participation in criminal activity is not just a theoretical concept.
Police sources say one of the suspects in a wild jewelry store shootout at Oakridge
Mall last year was a juvenile-aged refugee who had just arrived from a camp in Africa.
Three teens were charged with armed robbery in the incident. Surrey Coun. Judy
Villeneuve said it’s wrong for a country as rich as Canada to seek repayment from
penniless refugees. “For me, it’s a moral issue,” said Villeneuve. “Many of these
people have been in war camps for 10 to 20 years — when they come here, they have
no money, no resources. “In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we should
not be asking the poorest of the poor to pay back that money.” Villeneuve said
the Union of B.C. Municipalities and Federation of Canadian Municipalities have officially
appealed to the federal government to stop demanding repayment.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland has a novel solution — have Canadians
donate their frequent-flyer points — so the Canadian government wouldn’t
have to pay in the first place and the refugees wouldn’t have to pay it back.
“It really depends on the size of the family — if they’re coming from China
where there’s a one-child family, it’s not so bad. “But if it’s a family from
Somalia with eight kids, that money won’t get paid back.”
Surrey is the primary destination for government-assisted refugees in Metro
Vancouver, with 33 per cent of the total number arriving there. The five largest
refugee groups who have wound up in Metro Vancouver to escape persecution are
from Afghanistan, Myanmar (Burma), Iraq, Iran and Somalia.
SURREY NOW NEWSPAPER
Feds opening Canada to more foreign grandparents, parents
BY TOM ZYTARUK, SURREY NOW NOVEMBER 8, 2011
The federal Tory government is introducing a new "super visa" designed to bring more
parents and grandparents into Canada, and faster. Immigration Minister Jason
Kenney revealed the new plan Friday to let 10,000 more parents and grandparents
into the country each year - to a total of 25,000 - by way of a new multiple-entry
10-year "super visa" that will permit stays of up to two years at a time. Currently, of
about 40,000 parents and grandparents who apply to visit their children and
grandchildren in Canada each year, about 17,000 get in. "We need to change the math,"
Kenney said. The new super visa is expected to speed up processing times and reduce
backlogs, "making it easier for parents to visit." The current wait time for Family
Class sponsorship applications for parents and grandchildren is more than seven years.
Kenney's super visa announcement for parents and grandparents comes on the heels
of a report released Thursday by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa, suggesting
Canada's increasingly aging population could lead to a debt crisis here similar to what
Greece is now facing when baby-boomers retire en masse and increase demand on
public spending. But Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer,
does not believe an influx of elderly visitors will result in large numbers of
foreigners attempting to draw on Old Age Security pensions. Such a concern is
"not supported by the data," he said, explaining that "at that stage of your life"
most visitors want to return to their own countries. "In many cases parents
have their own lives." He noted certain requirements must be met before a
person can receive a public pension in Canada. "Just because you're here,
doesn't mean you get it."
© Copyright (c) Surrey Now
VANCOUVER SUN NEWSPAPER
eases immigration to allow more foreign students
By KIM PEMBERTON, Vancouver Sun November 2, 2011
Korean student Dennis Yim is studying in Vancouver. Yim hopes to stay in Canda
after he is done school.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
Canada is expanding the number of international students granted permanent resident
status, while also making it easier for foreign PhD students to gain status through a
new federal immigration initiative announced Wednesday. The announcement was
welcomed by Dennis Yim, a Korean international student who wants to stay in Canada
after he graduates next month from Vancouver Community College.
Citizenship and Immigration is set to welcome 7,000 temporary skilled workers and
international students through the Canadian Experience Class program next year — the
largest influx since its launch in 2008. The CEC allows those studying in Canada, as
well as skilled professionals here on temporary foreign worker permits, to jump the
queue and obtain permanent residency more quickly and without having to return
to their home country to fill out an application. “I love Canada but sometimes I think
they ask too much in order to have permanent residency status. I just want them
to make it easier,” said the 21-year-old Yim, who has been studying business at
VCC for nearly six years. Yim said one of the requirements for him to stay in
Canada is to have a job in management, which can be difficult to achieve when
starting out in the workforce. “If they don’t make it easier they will lose students,”
As part of the new and expanded initiatives announced Wednesday, the government
will start accepting 1,000 international PhD students a year as permanent residents
through the Federal Skilled Worker Program as those students have a tendency not
to qualify under CEC. As of Friday, students who’ve completed at least two years of
a PhD program and remain in good academic standing at a provincially recognized
post-secondary institution will be able to apply. The decision to increase the
number of students accepted is a good “first step,” said Vancouver
immigration lawyer Richard Kurland. “It’s the right direction at the right time
and long overdue. It’s one small step in a longer journey. You need young
educated people and to revise old [immigration] policies. We can cream off
the very best by targeting the students. Other countries might claim we’re
in the brain drain game but too bad, that’s global competition,” said Kurland.
He pointed out it’s expected there will be a labour shortage in three years
so taking steps to encourage international students to remain in Canada
makes sense. “They are already living here. They know Canadian values
and understand work and paying taxes. We need to be encouraging young
students to upgrade from temporary to permanent [residency] status,” he
Kurland added one of the unnecessary hurdles is requiring students to leave
the country in order to apply for permanent residency.
“It’s archaic. What’s the difference between sending in an application from
overseas and mailing it within Canada,” he said.
with files from Postmedia News
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
CTV TELEVISION NEWS
Saturday Nov. 5, 2011 8:26 PM PT
A young Australian woman living in B.C. for almost five years is facing deportation after
her Canadian fiancé's sudden death from liver cancer.
Julie Andrews came to Canada to enjoy life in the mountains and study nursing at the
College of the Rockies in Cranbrook. Then in 2008, she fell head-over-heels in love with
David Grigat. "I met someone and he just got me. We got each other," Andrews told CTV
News. The pair got engaged and David signed on to sponsor his wife-to-be in her bid to
become a permanent resident. "Everything was going to plan. We knew it would take a
long time and we understood that you had to do the paperwork and cross all your t's and
dot your i's," Andrews said. But in the spring, David was diagnosed with liver cancer and
died within weeks. It was a terrible blow for Andrews, made much worse when
Citizenship and Immigration Canada declined her visa application and closed her file.
"I seem to be on a losing streak," she said, choking back tears. Immigration officials have
ordered her to pack up her belongings and return to Australia or face deportation in the new
year. Andrews has written letter after letter to the government, pleading for compassion.
"I am financially able to support myself. I wanted to go back to work. I've been in Canada
almost five years and I feel it's my home. I own my own house, my friends are here, my family's
here, my cat is here," she said. "David died, but this is still my home."
But officials are not budging, explaining that a sponsor is necessary to consider someone
for permanent residency. "If circumstances change and the sponsor is unable to fulfill the
undertaking, the application will be refused," CIC spokeswoman Jen Burkholder said in a
statement. Friends in Fernie are incensed by Andrews' ordeal.
"I couldn't believe that such an injustice could be happening, when so many people are
allowed to stay in Canada and they don't have nearly as much reason to be here as she
does," Amanda Parker said.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said Andrews' case "cries out for compassionate
relief," but added that this sort of situation is all too common.
"Heartbreaking cases cause concern, not just at the level of the applicant, but
individual immigration officers fret this type of situation. They can pass the
buck up the food chain to the office of the minister, ensuring that justice and
humanitarian relief is provided in deserving cases," he said.
"The minister is responsible for solving humanitarian issues that do arise when
there's a death." But immigration officials say that Andrews doesn't qualify to stay
under strict humane-compassionate grounds.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger
THE NATIONAL POST
Record number of Hungarian asylum-seekers landing on Canada’s doorstep
Tyler Anderson / National Post
“I wanted a safe environment; that was my first priority,” said Zoltan Kiss, a 29-year-old
Hungarian Roma who landed at Pearson airport on Oct. 13. He said an Internet search told
him Canada accepted newcomers and already has an established Roma community.
Kathryn Blaze Carlson Nov 4, 2011 – 8:29 PM ET
When Jason Kenney made a surprise appearance at a roundtable with Roma community
leaders and asylum-seekers last weekend, the Citizenship and Immigration Minister
wanted answers: What is driving the record, silent flood of Hungarian Roma refugee
claimants streaming into Canada, and why are so many ultimately abandoning or
withdrawing their claims? The meeting — and a Saturday night spent sitting in on
immigration interviews at Toronto’s main airport, where an average of 17 Hungarians
make claims each day — did little to solve the mystery of why a European Union
country is Canada’s top source of refugee claimants, nor why only 2% of those
claims were accepted last year, Mr. Kenney told the National Post in an interview
A record number of Hungarian refugee claimants arrived at Pearson International
Airport in September and October, with an unprecedented 91 asylum-seekers
landing in a single day on Oct. 26, according to data obtained from the Canada
Border Services Agency. When Mr. Kenney visited the airport last weekend, the
answers to his first question were myriad: Canada is a safe, multicultural country.
It has a quality health-care system and education is free. Economic opportunities
abound. It is a “nice place to live.” Canada welcomes newcomers. It pays them
welfare. And what of his question about the number of Hungarians who drop their
claims? The process takes too long. Toronto’s bed-bug situation is insufferable.
“[Bed bugs] came up two or three times,” Mr. Kenney said, referring to the meeting
at Toronto’s Roma Community Centre, where he listened through a translator as some
of the two dozen claimants in attendance described their need for sanctuary. “I was
told that a significant number of people are attached to sanitation, and found the
bed-bug situation in Toronto intolerable.”
Mr. Kenney has long questioned the merits of claims put forth by members of the
stateless ethnic group that says it still faces persecution by ultra-right-wing nationalists
and neo-Nazi groups across Europe. Two years ago, he called Czech Roma claims
“bogus,” and last year told the House of Commons that some Roma asylum-seekers
are “coached to come to Canada, make a false asylum claim, and then register for
provincial welfare benefits.” That bed bugs could evict from Canada someone supposedly
fearing for their life, or that waiting a few months for a refugee hearing is a deterrent
to staying safe in a free country, all but confirmed for the minister what he already
thought: Many of the 2,298 claims filed last year are “not bonafide,” and the migration
by Hungarian Roma is “very peculiar,” “bizarre,” and “very well-organized.”
“Asylum isn’t about whether you like the country you live in, it’s not about whether life
is easy there or not, it’s not even about whether you might occasionally face discrimination,”
he said. “If people are interested in Canada because they want to pursue a quality
health care system, or economic opportunities, or they don’t like their country of
origin, then I would invite them to apply through our immigration system like everyone
else.” He also pointed out that Hungary is a member of the European Union, and
citizens can now live and work freely in fellow member states. According to the United
Kingdom Border Agency, for example, an EU citizen and members of his or her family
can accept a job offer, become self-employed, start a business, or manage a company
without asking permission or applying for refugee status. Still, in the first six months
of this year, 1,600 Hungarians claimed refugee status in Canada — three times the
number of Tamil asylum-seekers who arrived off B.C. aboard a smuggling ship last
summer, amid much controversy and media frenzy.
Hungary is today Canada’s top source country for refugee claims, ahead of African
and Asian nations, and the vast majority are believed to be Roma. The number of
claims increased almost 100-fold after the country’s visa requirement was lifted in
2008, with claims jumping from 34 in 2007 to 2,298 in 2010. Some 970 claims were
withdrawn last year, and another 117 were abandoned because either the claimant did
not show up to their hearing or they failed to inform the Immigration and Refugee Board
of an address change. Only 22 of the 1,181 claims finalized last year were accepted.
When asked where the hundreds of Hungarians who abandoned their claims over the
past three years might be, Paul St. Clair, a Roma resettlement worker, said, “Who
knows, they could be underground or they could have left the country.”
He pegged the high withdrawal rate, in part, to people becoming discouraged — due
largely to Mr. Kenney’s public statements that the Roma claims are mostly bogus.
The federal government has grappled to get a handle on Roma claims since the issue
flared with a boom in Czech Republic claimants two years ago, when the government
imposed a visa requirement on Czech citizens after 95 Roma landed at Pearson
International Airport one June night. The number of Czech claimants has since dropped
dramatically. The minister’s spokesperson has previously ruled out immediate plans
for a Hungary visa requirement, but Mr. Kenney told the National Post “Canada always
reserves the right to apply visas.” He said he would not comment on the government’s
plans beyond that. His unexpected visit to the centre on Saturday marked his first
official meeting with leaders of the community in Canada, the centre said in a statement.
The meeting was apparently planned months ago, but centre executives and guests were
expecting a half-dozen federal representatives — not the suit-clad, hands-on minister
himself. “He was here for about two hours, unannounced,” said Mr. St. Clair, who was
the centre’s executive director for 10 years and who now counsels Roma newcomers at
the affiliated CultureLink organization. “He was concerned with what to do about this
group — about how this is impacting Canada — and not so much about their future.”
Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer and policy analyst,
echoed Mr. Kenney’s skepticism, and chalks the flood of Hungarian Roma
claims to “sheer abuse.” He said many Hungarian Roma asylum-seekers
have “done a calculation on how much they can milk from the Canadian and
Laszlo Balogh / REUTERS
A Roma woman carries her baby as she leaves her house in Alsozsolca, 200km
northeast of Budapest. A large concentration of Hungary's Roma live in the
northeast of the country. It sometimes takes several years for the refugee board to
make a determination. In the meantime, refugee claimants are eligible for Interim
Federal Health benefits — including emergency treatment for serious medical and
dental conditions, immunizations, essential prescription drugs, contraception, and
pre-natal care — as well as provincial assistance and education for their children.
“If you can toehold into Canada and get free medicare, education for your
kids, and a welfare cheque until your refugee claim is disposed of,” he said,
“and if it takes two or three years for claim to be disposed, then that’s
pretty good.” He said that statement may no longer be true as of June, 2012,
when the new refugee determination system is expected to speed up
According to a refugee board spokesperson, 1,446 of the 1,600 claims in the first six
months of this year were made in Toronto, and many likely originated at Pearson
airport. Sandy Mangat, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Community and
Social Services, said refugee claimants in Canada are eligible for various levels of
assistance, as is true of all other applicants. A single Hungarian Roma, for example,
would be eligible for a maximum of $592 monthly for basic needs and shelter, while
a sole parent with one child under 12 or a couple with two children under 12 are
eligible for $922 and $1,124 respectively.
Zoltan Kiss, a 29-year-old Hungarian Roma who landed at Pearson airport with a
friend in the middle of the night on Oct. 13, told the National Post through a
translator he was unaware Canada offered such health and welfare benefits. He said
he plans to apply for provincial assistance and a work permit as soon as possible.
“I wanted a safe environment; that was my first priority,” he said, adding that an
Internet search told him this country accepted newcomers and already has an
established Roma community. “If I went somewhere else in Europe, I could not
be so sure.”
Mr. Kiss, who said he saved up for his plane ticket for two years, said he did
not want to jeopardize his claim or his family’s safety by discussing the persecution
he said he suffered in Hungary, only to say, “I feared for my life.”
The Hungarian-speaking carpenter is living in a Toronto shelter and is taking English
classes. He does not yet have a date for a refugee hearing.
• Email: email@example.com |
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
November 3, 2011
Changes to family reunification program would ease backlog
By STEVEN CHASE
From Friday's Globe and Mail
Immigration Minister expected to restrict applications and allow more family members
The Harper government is moving to restrict applications for a program allowing
immigrants to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada - part of a plan to eliminate
a massive backlog in this category that has people waiting eight years. But this is only
part of what Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will announce on Friday at noon ET
in Mississauga, immigration lawyers predict. Experts say they expect Ottawa will also
increase the number of parents and grandparents admitted annually under this family
reunification program. The waiting list is currently at more than 150,000 people.
The Immigration Minister's announcement will include details of a planned overhaul
of the grandparents and parents portion of the program. Mr. Kenney will also announce
that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration will hold consultations in early
2012 to solicit opinion from Canadians on how best to revamp the program.
The federal government each year receives about 40,000 applications from
grandparents and parents of immigrants and admits only about 17,500. At the same
time, the backlog grows by 13,000 to 14,000 annually. Mr. Kenney hinted at his plans
at a Commons committee in late October, saying the two best ways to eliminate the
backlog of applicants are to cut the number of applications considered each year and
to increase admissions. "Is the department going to have to issue directives limiting
the number of new applications that we receive? I think that it is a solution that we
have to consider," he told the Commons immigration committee last month.
Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said he expects the
Harper government will restrict applications and increase approvals as a
solution to the backlog. "I think the only way out is going to be a Sound of
Music solution, where 'When a door gets closed, somewhere, a window
gets opened,' " Mr. Kurland said.
The immigration lawyer suggested Mr. Kenney could find a way to make it work.
"So even if applications are capped, the minister can direct that temporary visas
be issued in order to bring families together until the backlog is processed."
Sources said consultations in 2012 will be used to seek ways to redesign the
program to prevent future backlogs. All options are on the table, including different
rules for who can sponsor parents and grandparents, or increases in the
amount of income required to support newcomers under the program, the sources said.
Mr. Kenney promised to address the backlog in the parents and grandparents class
during the federal election campaign earlier this year. Parents often apply for
permanent residence on the advice of Canadian visa officers after they are refused
a visitor visa, lawyers say. Immigration lawyers say a more permanent solution to
the backlog should include changing visitor visa rules. They say Ottawa should devise
a way to allow parents of immigrants to visit without incurring the risk of a drain on
medicare if they fall ill while in Canada.
Mr. Kurland estimated that about 20 per cent of those parents and
grandparents in the queue for permanent residency would withdraw their
application if they could instead secure a long-term, multiple-entry visa that
stipulated they cover their own health insurance in Canada. Canada expects to
admit 254,000 immigrants this year in total.
The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved. Permission granted for up to 5 copies.
All rights reserved.
Influx of Roma refugee claimants puts strain on airport staff
October 26th, 2011
TOM GODFREY | QMI AGENCY
TORONTO -- As many as 50 Hungarian Roma a day are filing refugee claims at
Pearson airport, putting a strain on airport staff and medical services, according
to border services officials. A record 110 claimants arrived at the airport one
night last week, creating a challenge for immigration and security personnel working
to process them, officers say. The Hungarian Roma are a stateless ethnic group
that considers the name "Gypsy" derogatory. Entire Roma families, from babies
to grandmothers, are getting off flights and claiming refugee protection at Pearson,
alleging they're being persecuted by "skinheads or Neo-Nazis" in their homeland,
border officers said. Frontline officers at Pearson said extra staff had to be called
in last week when the 110 claimants landed. Staff worked throughout the night to
process them before they were released to shelters or the care of family members.
Officers said many of the refugee seniors and children suffer from health issues and
expressed concern they're placing a burden on the health-care system.
Hungarian citizens do not require a visa to travel to Canada and Hungary has been
a leading source of refugee claimants in recent years, according to the Immigration
and Refugee Board (IRB). Some 2,400 Hungarian refugee claimants were referred
to the IRB for hearings in 2009. There were 2,300 in 2010 and about 2,500 from
January to September of this year. About 23% of the claimants are accepted as
refugees. Officials at the Canada Border Services Agency said Tuesday that they
are looking into the issue. Gina Csanyi-Roban, executive director of the Roma
Community Centre, said Toronto shelters are full and the newcomers are being
housed in other communities. "These people are scared and running for their lives,"
Csanyi-Roban said on Tuesday. "Neo-Nazi groups are setting up training camps and
committing violence against the Roma." She also said many are exploited or abused
by others when they arrive here. Three families of 13 people, including two
grandparents, were scammed of $270 in savings by a taxi driver who took them from
the airport to an east-end shelter, she said, adding that driver then sped off.
"The Canadian government has been silent on the issue," Csanyi-Roban said.
"The problems will still be there even if a visa on Hungary is imposed."
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said Roma don't have to travel to
Canada and can legally seek asylum in any European Union country.
"They don't have to remain in Canada," Kurland said. "They can return
to any European country and legally work." Some CBSA officers said many
Roma go underground in Canada rather than be deported to Hungary. Close to 700
refugee cases have been abandoned by Roma in the last three years.
Suspect war criminal still avoiding extradition
BY TOM GODFREY ,TORONTO SUN
MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2011 05:01 PM EDT
Arshad Muhammad, 42, was at a Mississauga hardware last summer when he was
spotted by a Halton cop who notified authorities. He has been hiding in Canada since
TORONTO - Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is looking at ways of deporting from
Canada a suspected war criminal from Pakistan whose government does not want him
back. “I am looking into this case,” Toews said on Monday of the deportation of
Arshad Muhammad, who is accused of taking part in crimes against humanity. “It is
a long-standing problem (obtaining travel documents) with both Pakistan and India.”
Toews said the case is being handled by immigration authorities and not the Canada
Border Services Agency (CBSA), that posted mugshots of Muhammad and 29 others
on a most-wanted website last July. Muhammad, 42, was at a Mississauga hardware
last summer when he was spotted by a Halton cop who notified authorities. He has
been hiding in Canada since 2002 after being refused refugee status and later appeals.
Muhammad was deemed inadmissible to Canada due to crimes against humanity.
A ban on publication on his activities in Pakistan has been ordered by an Immigration
and Refugee Board. He has been in detention for three months awaiting a travel
document. Officials of the Pakistan consulate in Toronto said they require permission
from Islamabad to issue a document. Members of the Pakistan High Commission in
Ottawa also refused to comment on the deportation.
CBSA officers said Ottawa can pressure the Pakistani government to issue a travel
document by witholding Canadian foreign aid or handouts to that country.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said Ottawa can also stop issuing visas
to Pakistan’s elite and wealthy residents who want to travel here.
“This has worked before with the governments of other countries,” Kurland
said. “It will trigger political pressure by preventing Pakistan’s social elite
from entering Canada.”
Muhammad was arrested after his identity was released by the CBSA after pressing
by Sun Media. So far, six of the suspects have been arrested and four deported.
That success led to a second most-wanted list posted on a CBSA site, this time of
32 foreign-born criminals who are hiding in Canada to avoid deportation. Seven of
them have been arrested due to tips from the public. Two of them have been deported.
Authorities said people should not take any action to apprehend the suspects and
should report information to the Border Watch Line at 1-888-502-9060.
Cut immigration applications to fix backlog, Kenney says
By Laura Payton, CBC News Posted: Oct 20, 2011
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney appeared before a House of Commons
committee on Oct. 20 to discuss immigration backlogs.
(Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Kenney on immigration wait 7:42
Canada needs to accept fewer applications from people wanting to live here, Immigration
Minister Jason Kenney says, and he's eyeing the family class for cuts.
Canada is facing too big a backlog and, despite accepting 254,000 applications every year,
there are one million people who are waiting to hear whether they can move to Canada,
the citizenship and immigration minister said Thursday. Canada gets about 420,000
applications every year and refuses about 10 per cent of those. Speaking to the House
committee on citizenship and immigration, Kenney said processing applications faster
won't fix the backlog problem. And it isn't possible to accept enough people to deal
with it either. The only options, he said, are to vastly increase acceptances, or take
fewer applications and keep processing the ones already received. "Those are the only
two possible solutions. It's a math problem," Kenney told reporters after the
Cut family class applications
Kenney pointed to the family class, under which parents and grandparents of Canadian
citizens can immigrate. His department received 37,500 applications in 2010 but
admits 18,500. Right now, there's a 10-year wait time for processing.
"Merely for us just to tread water, we would have to double the number of people
coming into that program … and that wouldn't even reduce the backlog," he said.
Kenney said other countries require a minimal family income, private health insurance
or a bond to limit parent and grandparent applications.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said Kenney's right to suggest a cap on
the parents and grandparents category. "Unless you solve the intake problem,
you're going to have a growing backlog with growing processing times and
it's time to bite the bullet," he told reporters after the committee meeting.
Kurland said a 20,000 cap is appropriate, and that the government should
break the applicants into categories. "Bring in as priority one the single
parents overseas. Priority two is you bring in parents where the families can
pony up $75,000 up front to defray medicare costs, either with permanent
resident visa on payment or [for $75,000] give that family a 10-year visitor
visa to Canada and that way they can be here waiting until their number
comes up in the immigration inventory overseas."
Speaking to Rosemary Barton on CBC's Power & Politics, Kenney called the $75,000
payment "a very interesting idea." "I’ve heard similar ideas about asking people to
share in a greater portion of the social and health-care costs. And maybe that’s one
practical way of bringing more fairness while limiting the number of new applications
so we can avoid the big backlogs. That’s a very valid idea," he said.
The Conservative government and previous Liberal governments averaged about
18,000 parent and grandparent entrants a year, he added. Kenney says the
department is launching consultations on cutting the backlog. NDP immigration critic
Don Davies said reducing parent and grandparent applications is the wrong way to go.
"What I object to the most is the minister has come into this so-called study, these
meetings, with a preconceived conclusion. The only policy tool that he's looking at is
capping applications. Well, that's not the only policy tool available to the minister,"
Davies said. He wants Canada to accept another 100,000 immigrants every year,
arguing a per capita measurement doesn't make sense because the country has
so much space.
GLOBAL TV NEWS
Cutting applications could solve immigration backlog: Minister
Amy Minsky, Global News/The West Block with Tom Clark :
Thursday, October 20, 2011 6:08 PM
Photo Credit: Chris Wattie/Reuters ,
OTTAWA -- Canada’s Minister of Immigration said the marathon wait times facing
many people who want to immigrate to Canada is a simple math problem.
to chip away at the backlog creating the wait, Jason Kenney said Canada might
decrease the number of applications it accepts from people hoping to join their
families in Canada.
Because Canada is such a popular destination for would-be
immigrants, the country is overwhelmed with applications that end up accumulating
exponentially year after year, the minister told a House of Commons committee
Canada on average has accepted 254,000 immigrants annually since 2006.
Still, there are currently approximately one million people waiting to have their
applications processed and assessed, the minister said.
Kenney blames the
quandary partly on the “good problem” of Canada’s reputation as a land of
opportunity, and partly on the system the Liberals set up wherein an unlimited
number of applications are accepted each year.
Kenney said he predicts the problem
might be resolved through a combination of decreasing the number of applications
accepted and increasing admissions.
“It will have to be a combination of both,
because the volume (of applications) is so great,” the minister told reporters after
the committee meeting.
Canada accepts several categories of immigrants – family
and economic among them -- each of which has a quota.
“Last year we received
38,000 applications for parents and grandparents. And this is at time when we’re
trying to reduce the overall age of the population ,” he said, hinting that if any class
of immigrant sees a decrease in the number of applications received, it might be
the family category -- those looking to join their children, parents or spouses in
Doing nothing could see wait times for applicants increase from the
current 10 years to 20, he said.
“That’s effectively keeping people from being
able to reunite with parents. So reasonable choices have to be made, and
I’m being transparent about that.”
NDP MP Don Davies, however, said the
minister’s words run contrary to his party’s behaviour.
“Every single year since
this government’s been in power, they have reduced the number of visas granted to
parents, spouses, children and grandparents,” Davies said. “They always talk about
Canada having the most generous immigration policy in the world per capita… It’s a
fool’s game to compare Canada that way. We are the second-largest land mass in
the world, with 34 million people. You don’t compare us to Germany or France.”
Cutting down on family reunification applications could be political suicide,
but is necessary, said Richard Kurland, a policy analyst and immigration
lawyer who spoke to the committee.
Several backlogs have been fixed,
but government officials haven’t touched the issue of reuniting families
in a quarter of a decade, Kurland said.
“That’s the bottom line here and
if a minister is suggesting to cap intake on parents, that’s kissing the
political third rail,” he said. “It’s the death card in immigration politics, but
if this minister has the guts to do it, good on him…The minister says cap
the parents. Well, he’s right,”
Tougher language exam proposed for citizenship
By Nicholas Keung
October 15, 2011
The federal government is cracking down on the language competency of newcomers
who apply for Canadian citizenship. In a government notice released Friday, Ottawa
says multiple choice tests are no longer enough to demonstrate immigrants can speak
one of the two official languages. It wants would-be citizens tested on their oral and
listening skills. “The written test is an inadequate proxy for assessing language as it
does not adequately assess listening and speaking skills . . . for effective communication
with fellow Canadians and for effective integration,” wrote Nicole Girard, a Citizenship
and Immigration Canada acting director general.
Currently, language competency is largely assessed through a multiple choice written
test, which also evaluates an applicant’s knowledge of Canada, and the responsibilities
and privileges of citizenship. If an applicant fails the test, the individual must satisfy
a citizenship judge through an oral interview. The changes would affect applicants
between the ages of 18 and 44, representing about 134,000 individuals a year.
Last year, the Conservative government tightened up the citizenship exam — 20
multiple questions answered in 30 minutes — by raising the passing mark to 75 per
cent from 60. The failure rate immediately skyrocketed from between four and
eight per cent to 30 per cent. The proposed changes would require applicants to prove
they meet the Canadian Language Benchmark level 4 descriptors such as “the ability
to take part in routine conversations about everyday topics, use basic grammatical
structures and tenses, have sufficient vocabulary. . . follow simple instructions.”
Immigration policy analyst Richard Kurland said the proposed language test
can provide a standard measure of one’s language ability, but could
inconvenience those born and raised in English and French. Since all skilled
immigrants must pass mandatory language tests to qualify for permanent
residency, Kurland said this group could use their old test result and be
exempted from the new requirement for citizenship. Immigrant advocate
Avvy Go said she appreciates that language proficiency can be a huge advantage
for newcomers to flourish in Canada. “But the language requirement is going to
be a barrier for some to fully participate in the society,” said Go. “Those who come
here under family reunification or as refugees and are illiterate in their own language
are going to be denied the opportunity to become full-fledged members of the
society.” Immigrant lawyer Joel Sandaluk agrees. “What the government is trying
to do here is to increase the value of citizenship by increasing the difficulty in
obtaining it,” he said. “It is excluding people from the right to vote and (carry)
passports based on the ability to communicate in English and French.” Citizenship
applications cost $200 for adults and $100 for minors. One must have lived here
for at least three years in the past four years to qualify. Current processing time
is 19 months from the moment an application is received.
Mercury news services
This article is for personal use only courtesy of GuelphMercury.com
a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.
October 9, 2011
Hungary tops asylum claims again in Canada
Sunday, 09 October 2011
An increase in the number of bogus claims by Hungarian asylum seekers is raising
calls again for Hungarians to need a visa in order to travel to Canada.
Some 2,045 Hungarians filed refugee claims between January and August, the
majority by Roma. But many cases are dropped in the 10 to 18 months it takes to
process them, while the remaining cases are almost never approved.
“How much of our money do we want to haemorrhage before setting a visa
requirement on Hungarian nationals, just like we did with the Czech
Republic?” immigration lawyer Richard Kurland asked in an interview with
The Toronto Sun.
“The Government of Canada is concerned about the rising number of refugee claims
from Hungary, the vast majority of which are unfounded,” the Canadian Embassy
in Budapest said in a statement to The Budapest Times. “As per standard protocol,
Canada is monitoring the situation.” With 13 per cent of refugee claims in Canada
coming from Hungarians, the country tops the list of asylum seekers.
Several cases of human trafficking have been under investigation by Canadian
authorities in recent years, following allegations that asylum claimants had been
coached into filing refugee claims and collecting social assistance. The benefits were
then siphoned off by organised crime syndicates while the claimants were enslaved
in construction work and locked in basements. In the largest human trafficking case
in Canadian history this summer, nine members of an extended family of Hungarian
Roma living in Hamilton, Ontario, were brought to court on charges of human trafficking,
conspiracy, criminal organisation and theft. The accused allegedly lured at least 19
people from a town in northwest Hungary, with a promise of a better life and better
job opportunities, but then forced the victims to work in slave-like conditions for no
pay after having taken away their documents.
Immigration backlog keeping millionaires out of Canada
BY TOM GODFREY ,TORONTO SUN
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 07, 2011 07:15 PM EDT
TORONTO - More than 22,500 foreign millionaires are waiting abroad to resettle in
Canada, bringing with them more billion to help cash-strapped Ottawa, immigration
officials say. There are about 16,400 millionaires alone in Hong Kong, Jim Versteegh,
a federal immigration program manager at the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong,
said about classified numbers released this week. Versteegh said there are about
22,491 millionaire investors worldwide who’ve applied and are waiting to come to
Canada. They’ll bring about 77,800 family members with them. “We still
need a game plan for dealing with our inventory,” he said in a July 2010
memo obtained under an Access to Information request by lawyer Richard
Kurland. “The total number of investor cases we now have on hand is 16,400.”
He said it’ll take about 12 years for visa officers to process the backlog of
cases. Only about 2,000 cases involving the federal investor program are
processed yearly. Kurland said investors are required to dish out $400,000
in cash each to Ottawa to obtain visas for their families, providing they pass
medical and background checks. He estimated the millionaires will hand over
about $9 billion in cash to the federal government for use for the provinces.
“We are losing some of these people to other countries,” Kurland said.
“Many of these people don’t want to wait for years are going elsewhere.”
He said there’s stiff competition from the United States, Australia and some
European countries for the well-heeled crowd. “These people are paying
hard cash for Canadian visas,” Kurland said. “That money will go a long way
to create jobs and our deficit.”
Federal immigration officials have said officers can only process 2,000 cases yearly
because it takes a long time to determine source of the funds or whether the money
is linked to organized crime.
October 1, 2011
OTTAWA - As Canada receives thousands of dubious refugee claims from Hungarian
citizens, there's a call for drastic action. "How much of our money do we want to
hemorrhage before setting a visa requirement on Hungarian nationals, just
like we did with the Czech Republic?" asked immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.
Between January and August of this year 2,045 people claiming to be refugees came
to Canada from Hungary That's 13% of all refugee claims made during that time in
Canada, keeping Hungary as this country's top source of refugee claims. QMI Agency
has acquired a 2010 Canada Border Services Agency report that concluded most of
the claimants from Hungary are Roma – a stateless ethnic group that considers the
name 'Gypsy' derogatory. Once those claimants arrive, they're set up to receive
medical, dental and eye care at no charge, social assistance benefits, and financial
help for housing and furniture while their case is sorted out. But, claims from
Hungary are almost never approved and most cases are usually abandoned or
withdrawn during the 12 to 18 months it takes to process them. Citizenship and
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney spoke out about the problem in the House of
Commons in April 2010. "The allegations are that many of these people were
coached to come to Canada, make a false asylum claim and then register for
provincial welfare benefits which subsequently flowed to a criminal organization.
The asylum system was being abused as a tool to access welfare." said Kenney.
Over the last several years, the Mounties have investigated allegations people have
been trafficked from Hungary to Hamilton, Ont., coached into filing refugee claims
and collecting social assistance, enslaved in construction work, and locked in
basements while organized crime syndicates took every penny from them.
The Conservatives passed reforms to the refugee system last year to get claims
processed in just two or three months -- not long enough for most claimants to
get approval for provincial welfare benefits.
Budget considerations and the process for approving new regulations have bogged
down those reforms, so changes aren't expected until late June 2012.
Federal officials say a new visa requirement for Hungarian nationals is not under
Diplomatic breakthrough led to Zhao murder trial: lawyer
Amanda Zhao is seen in this undated file image. The trial for her murder will begin on
Sept. 20, 2011 - almost nine years after she was found dead. (CTV)
ctvbc.ca Monday Sep. 19, 2011 3:43 PM PT
Nine years after Amanda Zhao was killed in B.C., her ex-boyfriend is set to stand
trial in China for murder, thanks to a bit of diplomatic maneuvering.
The 21-year-old Chinese student was found dead in October 2002, her body stuffed into
a suitcase in Stave Lake. Beginning Tuesday, Ang Li will stand trial for the killing in
Beijing. Li was a suspect in the murder, but fled Canada to his home country two
days after Zhao's body was found. He wasn't arrested until 2009, and couldn't be
tried without information from investigators in B.C. Canada and China don't have
an extradition treaty, but a series of recent negotiations helped move the case
forward. "The Chinese government had agreed to waive the death penalty and
with that, the federal government agreed to share evidence with Chinese
authorities," NDP MLA Jenny Kwan told reporters Monday.
The move comes two months after China's most-wanted fugitive, Lai Changxing, was
booted out of Canada. To achieve his deportation, the Chinese government assured
Canadian officials that Lai would not be executed.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland says those negotiations may have
paved the way for Li's trial. "I think the return of Mr. Lai to China resulted
in a watershed diplomatic moment. The death card on the table has been
removed," Kurland told CTV News. "Canada said, ‘We're not going to send
him back if he's going to face the death penalty,' and today it's the same
card played diplomatically once more."
Investigators believe Zhao was strangled to death. She was studying English at
Coquitlam College at the time she was killed, and was living with Li in a basement
suite. Li reported her missing, but it wasn't until 11 days later that hikers discovered
her mangled body in the woods. After his flight to China, he lived with his father in
a military compound until the time of his arrest. Li's cousin Han Zhang was also
arrested in China and is accused of being an accessory to the murder.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Bhinder Sajan
IMMIGRANT INVESTORS SHOULD PAY MORE TO COME TO CANADA
By Mata Press Service
The Federal government should dramatically hike the visa fees for the
world’s wealthy who are lining up to get into Canada via the Immigrant
Investor Program, says one of the country’s leading immigration policy
Richard Kurland, an immigration lawyer who is also the
editor-in-chief of Lexbase, a monthly publication on current immigration
issues, is also warning that agents working with Canadian banks or
facilitators are “price-fixing” commissions as they scour Asia for potential
investor immigrants .
This practice, if left unchecked will incentivize fraud
in the investor immigrant class, Kurland warned.
financial institutions, approved by Immigration Canada to market the
Immigrant Investor Program (IIP).
The facilitators in turn pay “agents”
to bring clients to them.
These agents reportedly receive between $40,000
and $60,000 for each referral. Some agents are commanding as much as
$100,000 in commissions, the internal documents noted.
views on a draft briefing note obtained pursuant to the Access to
Information Act, Kurland said Immigration Canada has been warned about
‘price fixing’ by offshore Chinese agents.
The internal documents he states
in Lexbase, provide a candid explanation of how Canada’s federal immigrant
investor program works.
Last year, nearly 12,000 people, including
spouses and dependants, moved to Canada under the federal government’s
Immigrant Investor Program, up from 4,950 a decade ago, according to
Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
To qualify in this category, immigrants
must have a minimum net worth of at least $1.6 million, and are
required to “invest” $800,000 with the government, mostly through ‘facilitators’
which is returned after five years.
British Columbia, under its provincial
nominee program also saw 203 new permanent residents between 2005
and 2010 who invested $423 million in the province, creating more than
Kurland said there is now a three-year supply of federal investor
cases and that Canada can immediately increase the amount required for
the required investment from the present “$800,000” to $1.2 million.
minimum net worth from the current “$1.6 million” should also be raised to
$2.5 million, he suggested.
“Canada has dramatically underpriced the federal
investor program. It is a ‘no risk’ policy proposal (to hike the fees) because
the current investor case backlog is so large, that our inventory can
continuously supply investor cases right through 2015, even if no new cases
enter the system.
If the demand for investor visas grossly exceeds the
available supply of investor visas, increase the price until demand levels out
with supply,” he wrote.
In Hong Kong alone, there are 15,835 cases which
represent a potential $6.3 billion investment in Canada ($400,000 per case
processed under the ‘old’ rules; $800,000 per case under the ‘new’ rules).
The demand for investors’ visas is so great that Canada recently placed a
700 applicant limit on “new cases” in 2011. That quota was filled within a
matter of days.
Here is a sampling of who are in the queues around the world
trying to get into Canada under the investor visa program, based on the internal
documents obtained by Kurland;
Accra: “From the perspective of the selection grid, Accra provided the ideal Investors -
highly educated with a good command of English. This is the only Mission where
language points were consistently noted. The majority of applicants were awarded
16 points for moderate English. Their average net worth was $2,877,823. Average
age at application was 45. Accra Investors had the highest levels of education amongst
all Missions surveyed. 50% of the sample [had] a Masters or PhD. Many of them were
educated in the US and UK.”
Beijing: “Compared to the other Missions already surveyed, Beijing provided a pool
of younger applicants, with more business experience and a higher net worth. The
average PNW [Personal Net Worth] was $2,289,497. The average age at application
was 41. All applicants earned full points, and ages ranged from 34 – 49 All of the
applicants had at least secondary and 43% [had] a 2-3 year post-secondary credential.
9% [had] a Masters or PhD.”
Taipei: “Taiwanese are comparable to other applicants from the same region in terms
of how they scored on the selection grid. A large number of applicants (approx. 40%)
already had children studying in Canada at the time of application. The average Personal
Net Worth was $1,468,010. They are a younger group - average age at application was
46 and earned on average 9 points, out of a possible 10. The ages ranged from 32 - 59,
with the largest group in their 40s (69%) […] and only 5% was 54 and over.
Taiwanese applicants have a moderate level of education. There were a significant
number of professionals applying through Taipei, Many of these professionals were
in the medical field.”
Seoul: The majority of applicants (82%) had dependents living in Canada at the time
of application. Often the spouse and children were already taking up temporary
residence. 23% of the sample qualified via the Management option. There were a
significant number of medical professionals (15%) who qualified for business
experience through sale proprietorship medical clinics. The average personal net worth
was $1,565,181. The average age at application was 46The majority of applicants were
in their 40’s at the time of applying (82%).
Islamabad: The average PNW was $3,071,729. This was a younger group – average age
was 42 and average age points earned was 9. Ages ranged from 31- 57, with 88%
of the sample earning full age. Education levels were lower through Islamabad. 56%
of the sample had secondary or less, and 25% [had] a Bachelors and Masters.”
New Delhi: “The overall calibre of applicants applying through this Post was
comparatively lower. The education level was low, language abilities were often
noted as nil, and the majority were farm owners (67%) who were working on ancestral
lands. New Delhi received a young group of applicants - average age was 39.
New Delhi and Islamabad had the lowest average points for education. 20% had not
completed secondary, while 47% had only completed secondary.”
Buffalo: “Buffalo processed Investors with the highest average net worth -
$8,504,258, as well as the oldest Investors - average age of 52. All of the applicants
in this sample applied as business owners. Ages ranged from 29 - 71.
44% earned full age points, while the rest were 54 and above and earned 0 points.
55% [had] post-secondary studies.”
London: “They had a high net worth - $3,502,083 and there was a high intake of
Managers (44%). This was an older group, comparatively speaking. The average age
at application was 51 and average age points earned were 5. 44% were 54
or over and earned 0 points. The entire sample had completed at least secondary.
No applicants earned full education points.”
Cairo: “They had a high net worth - average of $3,429,493. Ages ranged from 28 - 52,
with 86% of the sample earning the full 10 points available for age. There was a high
level of education in Cairo. No applicant (in sample studied) earned less than 20 points
Moscow: “They were a young group, with high education and significant business
experience. Their average net worth was $2,384,684. All of the Investors were business
owners. The average age of the Russian Investor was 43. Education levels were high -
average points earned were 22.
Berlin: “Their average net worth was $2,384,836. 25% of this group qualified via the
Management option. The majority of applicants already had dependents living in
Canada, and in some cases the principal applicant’s primary residence was also in
Canada. There was a noticeable trend amongst those Investors already residing in
Canada to have sold their businesses a year or two before applying. Age: The average
age for this group was 51”.
Kuwait: “They had a high average net worth - $4,200,166. Average age at application
for this group was 48. Kuwaitis had the lowest levels of education in this region.”
“67% of the sample had only completed secondary.”
UAE: “Their average net worth was high $3,943,305. 39% were in their 40s’ and
33% were 50 and over when they applied. Education levels were lower in comparison
to other countries in this region.”
Saudi Arabia: “Their average Personal Net Worth was $2,101,523. The average age
at application was 43. 38% of applicants were 50 and over. All applicants had
completed at least secondary.
Damascus: “Typically, Investors from this area were older, wealthier and did not
fare as well on the selection grid. Their average PNW was $3,961,830. The average
age at application was 50.”
Court backs Husky oil executive’s bid to get visas for his Nepalese servants
TU THANH HA AND CARRIE TAIT
TORONTO AND CALGARY — Globe and Mail
Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2011 9:15PM EDT
Since he left his native Nepal 13 years ago, Shyam Thapa Chhetri has spent
his entire adult life working with his brother Shalik as domestic servants at the
home of a telecom executive in Delhi, for $130 to $186 a month.
Now their employer is trying to get the brothers to come with him as he runs
a major oil company in Calgary.
Asim Ghosh, the chief executive at Husky Energy Inc., has successfully gone to
court to force diplomats at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi to
reconsider their initial decision to refuse the Chhetris temporary work visas.
The case has shone a light into the world of temporary workers, a category of
newcomers whose arrival has now outpaced permanent immigrants in Alberta,
raising union fears that Canada is becoming a country of guest workers.
If the Chhetri brothers eventually get their visas, they are to come to Canada to
keep Mr. Ghosh’s house clean, wash and iron clothes, cut grass and shovel snow,
and prepare meals in either of the Bengali, Uttar Pradeshi or southern styles of
Indian cuisine. Visa officers in Delhi were concerned that the brothers wouldn’t
leave Canada after their work visas expired. But a Federal Court ruling last July
ordered the applications to be reviewed again.
In Canada, the Chhetris would earn 13 times more than in Delhi, though
accommodation won’t be included so they would have to face Calgary’s housing
market on $28,537 a year. (They are to be paid $13.72 an hour, with 10 weeks of
paid vacation and medical and dental benefits. Alberta has an annual minimum wage
of $21,492 for domestic employees.) To justify their hiring, Mr. Ghosh obtained a
labour market opinion (LMO), a federal government document certifying that no
Canadian was available to fill the Chhetris’ jobs.
“These guys will likely do very well for themselves. Typically, a fellow like
this is looking for continuity,” said Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard
Kurland. Mr. Kurland, who has advocated for temporary workers, said
many others are not so lucky and languish in poorly paid jobs with little
oversight or legal recourse.
The issue is especially topical in Alberta, home to nearly a quarter of Canada’s
temporary foreign workers. Nearly 43,000 of the 113,000 LMOs issued last year by
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada were for Alberta.
Hiring temporary employees is supposed to be a tool of last resort, but looser
federal rules have allowed employers to fast-track foreign workers into Canada,
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said.
Because Mr. Ghosh has employed the brothers for more than a decade, it is unlikely
that their stay in Canada will be temporary, Mr. McGowan argued. “The federal
government’s Temporary Foreign Worker program has completely gone out of
control,” he said. Still, Mr. Ghosh had trouble persuading consular staff to let him
bring his servants to Canada.
After successfully managing Vodafone Essar Ltd., India’s second-biggest telecom
firm, Mr. Ghosh was named Husky chief executive in June of last year, earning
an annualized salary of $1.2-million.
By October, he had obtained a favourable LMO for his two domestics. The following
month, visa officers rejected the Chhetris’ applications. Officers said the brothers
had weak ties to Nepal and suspected that the huge salary hike would lead them to
stay in Canada. The Federal Court, however, ruled in July that the wage gap
shouldn’t disqualify the two men. Earning more is “the very reason for coming,”
Mr. Justice Donald Rennie said.
While “a yellow flag was reasonably raised” by the visa officer, the case deserves
a second look, the judge ruled. Mr. Ghosh will not comment on the case, a Husky
Failed refugees can get $2G to leave
BY TOM GODFREY ,TORONTO SUN
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 24, 2011 6:54 PM EDT
Wearing surgical masks Canadian Border officials board the MV Sun Sea after it
docked at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt with an estimated 490 suspected Tamil
migrants on board in Colwood, British Columbia on Vancouver Island August 13, 2010.
TORONTO - A controversial policy that will enable Ottawa to buy airline tickets for
failed refugees and give them up to $2,000 each to leave Canada is slated to
take effect in June next year. Failed claimants under a Balanced Refugee Reform Act
can use the $2,000 when they return home for education, vocational training,
job placements or business pursuits, federal immigration officials said.
The Act, which will have refugee cases decided in a year, contains an Assisted
Voluntary Returns (AVR) program to give financial incentive to failed claimants to
leave Canada and reintegrate them in their home country. The initiative has been met
with applause by lawyers and immigration workers.
"The Canadian taxpayers will save a lot of money by getting these people
to leave right away," said lawyer Richard Kurland. "If they don't leave, we
have to pay to carry them." It costs millions of dollars to "track, monitor a
nd remove" failed claimants who may go underground and not leave, Kurland
Public Safety Ministry officials said there are about 9,200 failed refugees who go
underground in the Toronto-area yearly. There are 44,000 immigration offenders on
the lam nationwide. The way things work now "money is not generally given directly
to the failed asylum claimant" besides incidental expenses such as meal money or
taxi fare, according to the AVR program. The new proposal would make "it more
likely for failed claimants to reintegrate into their home country and less likely to
return to Canada." Ottawa said the funds dished out to failed claimants would be
managed and distributed by an independent service provider on behalf of Ottawa.
The $2,000 being handed out is not a strong incentive for claimants to submit false
claims to defraud the system, immigration officials said.
Failed claimants are eligible for the program if they do not have a criminal record,
meet all their reporting requirements and abide by terms and conditions imposed.
Those who leave voluntarily are allowed to apply to return to Canada.
Officials said those who abuse the program can be imposed with a temporary
ban on returning to Canada or may have to reimburse the Canada Border Services
Agency for assistance received. The program is in existence right now in about
18 European countries. Federal immigration officials said the "funding support is a
conservative amount" compared to a program in the United Kingdom that dishes
out $7,200 per claimant. The program sparked controversy in the U.K. when it
began, from people who accused the government of doling out taxpayers' money in
times of economic restraint. Immigration officials said voluntary returns allow failed
claimants to go back to their homeland with dignity and anonymity.
August 24, 2011
Critics decry outsourcing of visa processing
Privacy commissioner notes 'challenges and risks.'
By Kristen Shane
Published August 24, 2011
The federal government is working to create a global network of visa processing
offices, many of which are now privately run—a move that critics say raises
concerns over information security, privacy and oversight. The government is
set to almost double the number of countries in which it outsources the operation
of visa application centres, from 20 to 35. During Prime Minister Stephen Harper's
visit to Latin America earlier this month, he announced the opening of one in Costa
Rica, and three in Brazil.
These are in addition to six more scheduled to open this month and seven next
month, all in South and Central America. They add to those already running
everywhere from Mexico to Moldova, Kenya to Kazakhstan. Citizenship and
Immigration Canada says it wants to continue to expand its use of these centres
globally, although a spokesperson says no final decisions have been made yet.
Some centres could also collect and transmit biometric information, such as
fingerprints, in the future.
Business sees efficiencies, convenience
Canadian missions abroad process applications for temporary visas to Canada.
But since 2000, they have been striking agreements with third parties to outsource
more and more of these activities. Most service providers are businesses. They
include a Canadian subsidiary of Computer Sciences Corporation, a Fortune 500
American information technology company that will run the new visa application
centres in 15 Latin American countries, and the India-based VFS Global. Embassy
tried to reach someone with VFS Global but did not receive a response. A CSC
spokesperson referred comment to CIC. The Canadian government also works
with at least one non-profit group. The International Organization for Migration is
an intergovernmental organization that runs application centres for Canada in
Vietnam and Tajikistan. On top of the Canadian government's processing fee,
application centre operators charge a service fee to each applicant for accepting
their application and supporting documents such as passports, making sure it's
complete, tracking it, sending it to a Canadian embassy or consulate and returning
documents after a government visa officer has decided whether to accept or deny the
application. CIC approves fees as part of a formal agreement it signs with each service
provider. They differ depending on the country. The base fee is about $14 CAD in
India and $36 in China. Countries such as the United States, UK and Australia also
outsource visa application processing. Business groups and the tourism industry like
it because it makes the process more efficient by ensuring there's less chance of being
rejected for incomplete or incorrect forms, and more convenient because visa
application centres may be easier to access than consulates and are typically open
longer hours. Stephen Cryne is president and CEO of the Canadian Employee
Relocation Council, which helps its member firms address workforce mobility issues.
It serves 400 companies with activities in Brazil. "Any way that we can make it easier
for those companies to move their people between Canada and the US is welcome
news," said Mr. Cryne. "It goes a long way to helping our economy." He sees the
Latin American visa centre boom as part of the Canadian government's larger trade
agenda in the region.
David Goldstein, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada,
said economically and demographically, Mexico and Brazil have the fastest-growing
upper- and middle-class populations in the hemisphere—people who can now afford
to travel the world. His lobby group would like the Canadian government to stop
imposing visas on them altogether, but if they have to be there, he said, a faster
visa process is "the semi-perfect solution."
While critics may complain about the inflated cost of getting a visa through a
privately-run application centre, Mr. Goldstein said consulates are still open to take
visa applications directly. "In the grand scheme of things, if you're booking a trip
from São Paulo to Toronto, you're going to spend thousands of dollars between
airfares, hotels and restaurants. Another $20, $30, $40 for convenience is not a
significant investment," he said. Visa application centres improve the productivity
and processing times of visa posts for temporary resident applications, said Phil
Mooney, president and CEO of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory
Council. "In most of the cases where they've been introduced the wait times for
temporary resident applications have decreased," he said.
Concerns over adequate safeguards
But Mr. Mooney also said some immigration consultants have raised concerns.
For example, visa application centre officials are to ensure applicants' forms are filled
out correctly, but not to offer advice. The federal government passed a law this year
to strengthen penalties against people who charge money but aren't authorized to give
immigration advice. CIC spokesperson Nancy Caron said that under the terms of the
agreement signed between CIC and each centre operator, the service is subject to
inspection and audit. If an operator doesn't comply, CIC could cancel the agreement.
"The government should be more open in how they monitor these facilities and there
should be reports that are readily available to individuals about that," said Mr. Mooney,
adding that this would help maintain the integrity of the system.
He also raised concerns about sensitive personal information falling into wrong hands,
for example if the business running a visa application centre must be licensed by the
country in which it operates, and the state security service requires access to the
company's files. NDP immigration critic Don Davies said there are certain government
functions that it must do itself, such as adjudicating income tax returns and visa
processing. Every deviation from that direct relationship between the government
and its client, he argued, raises the potential for risk in dealing with sensitive
information such as bank records. "If you're in India and you're handing this
information to a third-party provider, what kind of guarantees do you have? That
company could go out of business next week and flee the country," he said. "They
could be selling that information to someone else. They could have a breach of
VFS Global, which runs Canadian visa application centres in eight countries including
China and India, did come under pressure in 2007 when a security breach meant the
personal data of people applying online through VFS for a visa to the UK were visible
to others visiting the site. VFS has since said it has improved information security by
following industry best practices.
Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said he's concerned that
contractors or subcontractors in other countries might flout legislated privacy
safeguards that the private and public sectors in Canada must both follow.
Monitoring should be done by third parties, he also argued, not "the foxes
guarding the foxes." And there should be accessible means of recourse for
users if something goes wrong.
Anne-Marie Hayden, a spokesperson for the federal privacy commissioner's office,
outlined similar concerns. She also said there are plans for some visa application
centres to collect and transit biometric information, such as fingerprints, which is
especially sensitive personal information. CIC should work to mitigate and manage
such "privacy challenges and risks," she said.
She noted that CIC has sought and is seeking advice from her office as it establishes
visa application centre management contracts. The office is currently reviewing a
CIC privacy impact assessment for some of its visa application centres. And privacy
and security requirements will be built into CIC's assessment of candidates in a
coming request for proposal process related to the creation and management of a
global visa application centre network.
Ms. Caron noted that safeguards on the protection of personal information are
built into agreements with application centre operators. Background checks and
screening are done on all centre staff, she said, and they must be given proper
training as provided or authorized by CIC. Mr. Davies suggested the government
open small satellite offices to process applications rather than use outside providers.
Alleged Serbian war criminal loses citizenship court battle in Vancouver
BY TRACY SHERLOCK, VANCOUVER SUN AUGUST 18, 2011
Alleged war criminal Branko Rogan leaves Federal Court in Vancouver, B.C.
on April 27, 2011. Photograph by: Ian Smith, PNG
Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish found that Rogan, 49, intentionally hid information
about his work as a prison guard in the former Yugoslavia when he applied to come to
Canada as a refugee. “I have also concluded that Mr. Rogan participated, both directly
and indirectly, in the mistreatment and torture of prisoners held at those facilities,”
Mactavish wrote in her decision. Mactavish’s ruling won’t automatically strip Branko
of his citizenship, but it is an important step in the process, which began in 1996, with
a chance encounter at a Burnaby mall between Rogan and the wife of Huso Hatzic,
a childhood friend of Branko’s who was imprisoned in Bosnia-Herzegovina while
Branko was a guard. Hatzic told the RCMP about Rogan’s past, kicking off the first
attempt to revoke a person’s Canadian citizenship for a war crime committed after
the Second World War. Hatzic said he was thrilled Thursday when the Federal Court
ruled that Rogan lied about his past to get admitted to Canada. “Justice came after
16 years — finally — it was very slow,” Hatzic said. Hatzic said he assumed Rogan
would have been dealt with years ago by the Canadian authorities. “I thought Canada
was much quicker on these things,” he said. “With the ruling, everybody is just so
Rogan, a Serb, came to Canada as a refugee in 1994 and became a Canadian citizen
three years later. A woman who answered the phone at Rogan’s Port Coquitlam home
said he was away on vacation in Italy. Four Muslim men from Bileca told the court a
bout being arrested, severely beaten and held in deplorable and crowded conditions in
the detention centre, where they were only fed once a day. Bileca — home to 13,000
people, 80 per cent of whom were Serb in 1991 — is in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a province
in the former Yugoslavia. The country broke up in 1990, sparking a civil war in which
alliances were formed along religious and ethnic lines. Serbian forces arrested, detained
and tortured non-Serbs, including Bosnian Muslims. Although none of the witnesses were
beaten by Rogan, they gave chilling testimony about an elderly man named Asim
Catovic, who they said Branko beat on a daily basis for seven to 10 days.
Ramiz Pervan testified that he heard Catovic scream for an hour, then Rogan came back
into the prison and asked Catovic’s son if he had heard him kill his father. “Mr. Rogan
then told Mr. Catovic’s son that ‘As long as I am a guard, this is going to happen. This
is always going to happen to him.’ Pervan said in court. The testimony says after one
of the beatings, Catovic’s face was unrecognizable and that the bruises on his body
were “really, really bad and disturbing to look at.” Rogan insisted the witnesses were
lying, calling their testimony “incredible lies.”
Rogan testified in April that he had done nothing wrong, and that those who accused him
had lied to Canadian authorities. He did not regularly attend the hearing except to
testify, and he was not represented by a lawyer. Rogan admitted to working as a
reserve police officer at two jails in Bileca, and said he had heard stories of Muslim
prisoners being beaten and tortured, but said he did not participate in the beatings.
Hatzic said he feels he has helped make his new country a little safer and bring justice
for the atrocities in his former one. “It is better that whoever did something like this
is supposed to be punished even if it is my father, my brother or my relative.....
it doesn’t matter right is right and wrong is wrong.”
The Citizenship Act allows the Governor in Council to revoke a person’s citizenship if
they became Canadian through false representation or knowingly hid material
circumstances. If Branko had told the truth about his work at the detention centre,
his application for refugee status would have been rejected. “Mr. Rogan stated that
he did not tell Canadian immigration authorities about his work with the reserve
police ‘Because that is not considered a real job. I did not really receive a salary for
it. I was there under force, I mean, I wasn’t — yeah, I was there under force. It was
not a real job,’” court documents show. But in another interview reported by Mactavish,
Rogan said he omitted his work as a prison guard because he was scared that Canada
would not accept him because of it. Hatzic said the “Canadian government should
learn a lesson. They should check a little bit better. They should check closely. It is
okay to open the country and bring people in. It is really good. Canada is giving a
better life to a lot of people. But now we don’t have to be scared that we are living
next to somebody who maybe wasn’t checked properly.”
The Governor in Council’s decision, which is the next stop in the citizenship revocation
process, may be subject to a review, but no appeal is permitted on the finding of
facts by the Federal Court.
The process to deport Branko may take several more years, said Richard
Kurland, a Vancouver immigration policy analyst and lawyer.
“The court case likely needed a lot of preparation prior to commencement
back in 2007. All in, it would not be unusual if the entire process needs a
decade,” Kurland said.
“To all Canadians and others who contributed to the investigation on this file,
including those who were victims from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia,
this marks an important day of accountability and justice,” said the
Vancouver-based RCMP lead investigator in the case, Paul Richards.
Court documents show that Rogan is employed in British Columbia as a
With files from Kim Bolan
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Toews hopes plan will help turf illegals
By TOM GODFREY, QMI AGENCY
August 18, 2011
Public Safety minister Vic Toews speaks during a press conference on border security
in Winnipeg. (Brian Donogh/QMI Agency)
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is hoping 95 new enforcement officers will help nab
and reduce a backlog of 44,000 illegal immigrants who made Canada their home.
Toews said each year 9,200 failed refugees go underground in the Toronto area and
they pose a big concern. "Many of these people are economic migrants who refuse
to go back home," Toews said Thursday. "Not all of these people are dangerous or
a danger to the public." There are 350 Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
enforcement officers in Toronto who remove more than 9,000 failed refugees yearly,
but there's still a huge backlog of would-be deportees to find and remove, officials
said. Toews hopes the new hires will help deport an additional 4,200 failed claimants,
increasing the total to 13,400 yearly, for the next three years in a pilot Refugee
Reform Initiative that will involve the RCMP, Canada Immigration, Canadian Security
Intelligence Service, and the Immigration and Refugee Board.
"We are not happy to have all these people here illegally," Toews said. "They are
not all wanted for criminality." Under the initiative to take effect next year, all
failed claimants will be deported within a year of losing their cases.
Claimants will be tracked through an "asylum system" and failed claimants will go
through a removals program to stop them from going underground. The initiative will
also introduce an "Assisted Voluntary Returns," to help with the removal of "low-risk
failed refugee claimants," the CBSA said. Almost half of the new officers will remain
in Toronto with others working in Montreal and Vancouver, officials said. "Having
additional officers will help us clear the backlog," Toews said. "We are working as a
government to move these individuals out of Canada." The failed claimants have
warrants issued for their arrests for either missing hearings or appearances before
an Immigration and Refugee Board, the CBSA said. Most have been in Canada for
less than two years and have work permits that have been suspended.
The crackdown was met with applause by lawyers and immigration workers.
"This is Christmas come early," said immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.
"Canada is finally serious about immigration enforcement."
The failed refugees do not include 30 suspected war criminals, 1,400 foreign criminals
or 20,000 immigration offenders already on the lam.
American mice invade Canadian offices
by Charlie Smith on August 5, 2011 at 2:28 PM
Canadian diplomats are facing down some very tough mice.
Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland's newsletter always contains
some interesting items from inside government, but I can't recall it ever covering
rodent infestations. Until now.
In the July-August edition, Kurland includes a "security alert" written last
year by Diane Burrows, a staffer in the Canadian embassy in Washington.
"There was an epic struggle here yesterday evening as a rather plump mouse met
his demise in the middle of the visa section work area—he had clearly taken bait
and succumbed. When I left the office he was slightly drugged; later on he emerged
and slowly died. Lorraine alerted security and someone took him away.”
A followup message from Anna Mae Grigg, who works in the New York consulate,
declared: “We have failed rather spectacularly to bring our mice under
control—to the point where the mission has decided not to renew the infestation
treatments contract. Poison does not touch NYC mice—they are tough!!!”
I will resist the temptation to make any jokes about putting Maple Leaf food
products in the vicinity.
July 20, 2011
Kenney: Majority of fraudulent citizens outside Canada
By Bryn Weese, Parliamentary Bureau
Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks in Calgary, Alta., July 12, 2011.
(QMI Agency/ Jim Wells)
OTTAWA — Most of the 1,800 people the feds believe obtained their citizenship
fraudulently are Canadians of convenience who don’t even live here, according to
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. And he doesn’t expect many to object to the
government’s move to revoke their citizenship, which he said could be completed in a
year. “Most of these people, we believe, have never really lived in Canada and are
still overseas,” he said Wednesday. “We frankly have got them dead to rights with
the proof that we have, and I don’t think a lot of these people want to go through a
long, protracted public court battle where it’s clear they fraudulently obtained our
citizenship.” Immigration officials said the suspects, through the use of crooked
consultants who charge thousands of dollars, use fake names or addresses to
circumvent the three years Canadian residency required to become a citizen.
On Tuesday, QMI Agency revealed the revocations, which come after a lengthy
RCMP and departmental investigation. “This investigation and these enforcement
efforts ... should send a very clear message to the little industry of crooked citizenship
consultants — we’re putting them out of business,” Kenney said. “Canadian citizenship
is not for sale, and we’re onto them.”
Kenney warned that the 1,800 are likely just the “first tranche” of people to have
their citizenship revoked as the feds crack down on the crooked consultants, many
of whom guarantee Canadian citizenship for a hefty price.
He said the “clues” that tipped the government off to the scam included, in some cases,
many applicants using the same address on their applications and some of the “dodgy”
applications coming from the same consultants. In 2006, the federal government shelled
out nearly $100 million evacuating 15,000 Canadian citizens from Lebanon during the
Lebanon-Israel conflict. It turns out many of them had rarely, if ever, set foot in
Canada, prompting some to blast them as “Canadians of convenience.” Kenney said
many of the people whose citizenships are being revoked were, in fact, living in tax
havens making money hand over fist and fraudulently obtained Canadian citizenship
as a “insurance policy” to access Canada’s free health care, subsidized tuition at
Canadian schools, or a free ticket out of a conflict.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said it’s “about time” the feds got tough
with fraudulent citizens and the crooked consultants who fudge residency
requirements. “People need to know the government can check up and crack
down on fraudsters,” Kurland said Wednesday. He also said the government
should send in the tax man to try and recuperate some of the lost revenue
from the fraudulent citizens who have avoided paying income taxes here.
“They can’t have it both ways. Either they were a resident and physically
present in Canada, which is sufficient to trigger tax on global income,
or not,” Kurland said.
Since Confederation, Canada has only ever revoked 67 citizenships, 63 of them since
1977. Since 2006, more than one million people have been sworn in as new Canadian
citizens. If the people who obtained their citizenship fraudulently are living in Canada,
they won’t likely be deported, but would revert to their immigrant status prior to
becoming a citizen illegally.
Ottawa targets 1,800 in citizenship crackdown
Move shows Canadian citizenship 'not for sale': Kenney
CBC News Posted: Jul 20, 2011 9:00 AM
Beginning of Story Content
Ottawa intends to revoke the citizenship of 1,800 people it believes obtained their
status through fraudulent means, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says.
The decision to revoke citizenship is rare, and a large-scale crackdown such as
this one appears to be unprecedented. Fewer than 70 citizenships have ever been
revoked since the Citizenship Act was passed in 1947. The people were identified
through investigations conducted across the country by police and the Citizenship
and Immigration Department. People identified by the investigations will receive
letters informing them of the government's decision.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the move to revoke the citizenship of 1,800
people shows Canadian citizenship is 'not for sale.' (Canadian Press) Most of the
1,800 individuals are believed to be living outside Canada, Kenney told reporters on
Wednesday in Toronto. The minister said the move sends a "very clear message" to
anyone who thinks of abusing Canada's citizenship system. "We are in the process
of notifying them that we will revoke their citizenship because Canadian citizenship is
not for sale," Kenney said. "We believe that the vast majority of new Canadian
citizens respect our laws. There is a small but not insignificant number who hired
crooked consultants to obtain fake proof of residency." The decision can be contested
in Federal Court, which can be a long process. If individuals choose not to contest
the decision, the federal cabinet will order their passports be voided and citizenship
revoked. That doesn't necessarily mean those affected would face deportation.
If citizenship is revoked, the individual returns to whatever status he or she held
before gaining it, such as permanent residency, which requires a separate process to
revoke, the CBC's Meagan Fitzpatrick reported from Ottawa. Kenney said he didn't
expect any of the identified cases to file for the "public battle" of a judicial review
and believes the vast majority of the revocations will be resolved quickly.
"There's a very fair and exhaustive legal process," he said. "We have strong,
convincing evidence of the fraudulent activity happening."
'If the minister's assuming most people are going to just roll over, he may have a
big surprise coming to him.' —Immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman
But Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman disagreed with Kenney, saying
Wednesday he believes many of those facing revocation of citizenship will try to appeal
the government's decision through Federal Court. "There are several questions that
arise from this," Waldman said. "One is, where are they going to get the resources
to proceed with this?" Waldman suggested the cost of the appeals process could force
the government to divert funds from other Citizenship and Immigration initiatives,
including settling new immigrants — something economic and demographic experts
say is badly needed.
"If the minister's assuming most people are going to just roll over, he may have a
big surprise coming to him," Waldman said. "Each time someone seeks the right to
go to Federal Court, that is an extremely expensive and time-consuming process."
Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said it's about time the
government brought in a "no nonsense" policy to crack down on fraudsters.
"I would also send in the tax man," Kurland wrote CBCNews in an email
Wednesday. "They can't have it both ways. Did they pay tax? Either they
were resident and physically present, sufficient to trigger tax on global
income, or not. "Think of all the lost revenue. I sure do."
Kurland said the move will most likely affect individuals from the Middle East
and Persian Gulf countries, as well as China. He added the Federal Court
process will protect the rights of the individuals. But like Waldman, Kurland
warned the court system doesn't have the resources to handle 1,200
10-year travel visa announced
Canada is also creating a new visa for frequent visitors, valid for 10 years with limitless
entrances to the country, Kenney announced. The visas will let people come to Canada
for up to six months at a time, and as many times as they want, over the 10-year
period. The new permit is expected to appeal to travellers who come to Canada
frequently on business or to visit family. Kenney, who made the announcement in
a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto, said the move creates a
"more responsive and flexible" processing system to deal with more applications.
Multiple-entry visas are already recommended for parents and grandparents with
sponsorships being processed. But the ministry says it could now be extended to other
clientele, such as business visitors.
Wife feels victimized by legal system
Friday June 24, 2011
By John Thompson
Ian Stewart/Yukon News
Evangeline Ramirez at her Copper Ridge home on Thursday. Ramirez accuses her
husband of having another family in the Phillipines, but could be the one found in
contempt of court in her messy divorce trial.
‘I married a man I don’t know,” says Evangeline Ramirez, 61, between sobs.
Her husband, Benjamin Toquero, 64, filed for divorce in the autumn. At that time, the
Whitehorse woman learned his big secret. He already had a wife and five children
back in the Philippines, his country of origin. Toquero admits to the existence of
his previous marriage in court documents. That plainly contradicts his immigration
papers, marriage certificate and even his divorce statement of claim against Ramirez,
which all claim he’s single. Yet, in Yukon’s Supreme Court, Ramirez is the one
being punished. Toqero is seeking half of Ramirez’s assets in a messy divorce
settlement. He’s also seeking spousal support payments. Earlier this month, Justice
Leigh Gower awarded an interim payment of $1,500 to Toquero. So far, Ramirez has
refused to pay. “I’d rather go to jail or kill myself,” she says. Now she runs the risk of
being found in contempt of court. So it goes in Canada’s topsy-turvy legal system
when it comes to allegations of marriage immigration fraud.
“I hear it again and again across the country,” says Richard Kurland, a
Vancouver-based immigration lawyer. “Because, at the family law bar,
you don’t want to hear anyone’s story. First, you determine the money.
This stuff may be relevant for later, but it ain’t relevant now. So it looks like
she’s being strung up twice.”
Even if Toquero is found to have falsified his immigration documents, it could
take many years before he’s deported, thanks to several levels of appeal,
says Kurland. “If he has good counsel, he may have a good case for
compassionate humanitarian relief here.” Toquero declined to comment for this
story. But, in a statement filed in court, he asserts he disclosed his other marriage
to Ramirez early in their relationship and that it was her idea that he apply to
immigrate as a single man. Ramirez disputes this. “I thought he liked me,” she says.
“I thought he was a nice man. I thought he was single.”
Either way, Toquero’s court-filed explanation doesn’t get him off the hook,
says Kurland. Bigamy, or being married to two people, is illegal in Canada.
So is entering false information on immigration papers.
“A bigamist is a bigamist is a bigamist,” he says. “Even if she did know,
it’s still bigamy. He’s still out. The guy is facing the door. There’s no
getting around that. And, because he never became a citizen, he’s exposed,
in plain, open view. “There was no gun to his head to hide a marriage and
Such stories are especially familiar with Filipino immigrants, says Kurland,
“because there’s no divorce in that country.”
Ramirez reported Toquero to immigration authorities and the RCMP in the autumn.
To date, she’s heard nothing. Their case is to go to trial in September. In the meantime,
Toquero is living in one of Ramirez’s houses and driving her white Chevy Malibu.
Immigration officials are frequently swamped with complaints, says Kurland.
Allegations of marriage fraud don’t attract the same attention as
“drug-pushers, terrorists and guys who beat up on women.”
But recent changes made by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney should help, says
Julie Taub, an Ottawa-based lawyer who considers marriage immigration fraud to
be her “pet peeve.”
Last year, Kenney assigned one immigration officer the task of solely working on
marriage fraud complaints. She plans to pass Ramirez’s complaint on to him.
To Taub, “This is an open-and-shut case.” And she’s more optimistic than
Kurland about the possibility of Toquero being deported.
“This guy will be kicked out of Canada very shortly.”
Ramirez and Toquero struck up a pen pal relationship in 1989. Both originally hail
from the Philippines, and both were working abroad at the time. He was a boilermaker
in Saudi Arabia. She was a nanny in Singapore. He visited. They liked each other.
They stayed in touch. Ramirez arrived in Whitehorse in February of 1991. Toquero
followed her in September of 1994. They married two months later at Whitehorse’s
Sacred Heart Cathedral. By both accounts, it was not a happy relationship for long.
In court documents, he accuses her of making him labour away at her cleaning
business from the moment he arrived and for little compensation. She accuses him
of being sexually abusive. A statement by one of Ramirez’s daughters, Sarah
Yvonne, accuses Toquero of making sexual advances to her and other employees
at the cleaning business. Toquero denies this.
In court documents, he admits to having committed adultery with a woman in 1997.
The couple separated twice, but made amends.
Toquero lost his job as a janitor with the Department of Education. Two supervisors
accused him of kissing them and touching their groins, according to court documents.
Toquero denies all this in a court-filed statement, accusing one woman of being “a big l
iar, jealous, mean and bossy” and the other of plotting a “conspiracy to destroy my life.”
He eventually received a $12,000 settlement from the government, he says in a court
filing. During the lead-up to divorce, in the summer of 2010, Toquero accused Ramirez
of hiding his passport and immigration papers to prevent him from applying for
citizenship, according to court documents. Ramirez called the RCMP after the
argument and told them Toquero had threatened to burn their home down - something
he disputes. She received a restraining order for one year. It expires in August.
Toquero insists he’s the one being harassed. In court statements, he alleges that
Ramirez routinely threatened to have him deported. From the moment he arrived at
the airport, Ramirez put him to work at her janitorial business and only provided him
a monthly allowance of several hundred dollars, he writes in a court document.
He denies being abusive. “I have never hit her, but she has hit me,” he writes in
a statement filed with the court. Since their separation, Ramirez cancelled his
vehicle insurance and the fuel delivery and electricity hookup to his home, he
writes in court documents. His two stepdaughters have been intimidated into
denouncing him, he alleges. “I do not think they will want to testify for me as I
think they are afraid of losing their jobs.” And Ramirez racked up a $12,000
Visa bill in his name, he alleges in court documents. The one thing Toquero doesn’t
contest is his previous marriage. He wed Carmencita Duclayan August 27, 1966
in San Juan, La Union, according to documents filed in court. The marriage still
appeared in the database of the Philippines’ National Statistics Office, as of
March 23. Also on record is a blurry photo of a young bride and groom, and a
saccharine “pledge of love” certificate offered to Duclayan as a Valentine’s gift in
1990. “I love you and I’ll always do, through every hour of everyday. I’m always
thinking of you. For my greatest happiness in all my lifetime through is my only
feeling of always loving you.” Ramirez’s sister in the Philippines dug up these
documents, following the divorce application, along with the birth certificates of five
children. All these documents have sat in court files since the autumn. It
goes to show how the family court system is “ignorant” to the reality of immigration
marriage fraud, says Taub. “The court is actually, financially rewarding her
estranged husband,” she says.
Contact John Thompson at
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Citizenship judges want better security
By TOM GODFREY QMI AGENCY
TORONTO - Some Canadian citizenship court judges say they don't feel safe at work
and want increased security at their offices to deal with possible threats from the public,
documents show. "The primary concern is that clients in the wait room have direct
access to the judges offices, leaving them exposed to the direct public," said minutes
of a September 2010 relocation meeting attended by citizenship court judges in Toronto.
The minutes of the confidential meeting, that included senior immigration
officials, were obtained by lawyer Richard Kurland through an access of
The judges called for precautions to be taken in a "security conscious" world.
A security door was to have been erected at a Toronto office to separate judges from
the public, but it hasn't been installed yet, the document said.
Citizenship court judges from across the country have expressed security concerns, even
though they were told that their offices had undergone a risk assessment and were
deemed safe by federal officials, the minutes show.
"Security and safety needs to be a priority," said senior Judge George Springate.
"Paramount concern is the safety of judges in our new 'security-conscious' world."
The judges are responsible for screening and approving immigrants seeking entry into
Kurland said new Canadians should be welcomed into the country and not
sent packing. "A citizenship meeting isn't a police interview," Kurland said.
"Welcome our new Canadians, don't scare them."
Springate was a former Montreal cop, professor and football player who played on the
Montreal Alouettes in 1970 - a year the team won the Grey Cup.
Citizenship judges receive secret information
By TOM GODFREY, TORONTO SUN QMI AGENCY
Top-secret police intelligence reports and information on investigations are being
shared with citizenship court judges so they can make informed decisions on immigrants
trying to become Canadians, federal officials have confirmed. "Judges are the
primary decision makers for all resumption, renunciation and statelessness grant
applications," said Raylene Baker, Registrar of Canadian Citizenship, in a memo
obtained through an access of information request.
"All information relevant to the decision of an application before a citizenship
judge must be provided to the judge in order for them to make an informed
decision," Baker wrote in an October 2010 report obtained by immigration
lawyer Richard Kurland and made available to QMI Agency.
"lnformation regarding investigations, intelligence reports and analysis on fraud
trends or patterns could be useful to citizenship judges in the execution of their duties,"
Baker said. She said it "is not the role of individual officers and clerks to decide
when information of this nature should be distributed to citizenship judges."
Baker said it is the role of an office of Operational Management and Co-ordination
in Ottawa to decide what information is distributed to judges. The judges interview
and examine applications from landed immigrants to determine if they qualify
for Canadian citizenship. The court holds citizenship ceremonies for new Canadians.
"This information is provided to all citizenship judges through the Citizenship
Commission," she said. "Communications between both judges and staff are
important and should continue."
Kurland said secret intelligence reports appear to have been given to judges
without disclosure of the practice to the public, parties appearing before
the judges or to lawyers. "What if the secret information triggers
unfounded suspicion?" Kurland asked. "What if the secret information
is incomplete, misleading, or just plain wrong?" He said there is no
oversight process to review the secret information being provided to judges.
RCMP stands behind decision to charge absent woman with human trafficking
VANCOUVER— Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, May. 17, 2011 9:59PM EDT
The RCMP is standing by its decision to announce human-trafficking charges against a
West Vancouver woman while she was out of the country, even though it could mean
she’s less likely to return to Canada Mounties earlier this week announced that
Mumtaz Ladha had been charged with one count of human trafficking and one count
of human smuggling under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Ms. Ladha,
57, is accused of luring a young African woman to Canada with the promise of a job
at a hair salon. Police say the young woman was instead forced to work long hours at
Ms. Ladha’s luxury home with no pay and little food.
RCMP spokesman Constable Michael McLaughlin said investigators have reason to
believe Ms. Ladha is out of the country, though he wouldn’t specify where she might
be or when she could return. He said Ms. Ladha is aware of the charges and the onus
is on her to face them.
“If, after a certain amount of time, she chooses not to do that, we do have other
options that we can pursue in terms of getting an international warrant,” he said in
Constable McLaughlin said it’s “not the right time” to go that route, since Ms. Ladha
still has an opportunity to return. He couldn’t say when the right time for such a move
might be, or if extradition would become a possibility.
“We don’t believe that there’s an imminent risk to anybody by her not facing this
charge right away. Now, if at some point the public interest starts leaning the other
way, where it becomes a serious public-interest issue that she needs to face these
charges, obviously we would revisit the idea of obtaining some kind of international
warrant.” The African woman, now 23, arrived in West Vancouver in 2008. Police
said she was forced to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and sometimes ate
just leftovers. She was often only allowed to sleep when everyone else in the house
was doing so. In June of 2009, the woman was advised to seek help at a women’s
shelter. Constable McLaughlin wouldn’t say from whom that advice came.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada, a federal government agency, approved
charges last week, nearly two years after the woman fled the home. RCMP announced
the charges Monday.
When asked why Mounties didn’t wait until Ms. Ladha returned, Constable McLaughlin
said a charge is laid when it’s ready, not at the convenience of the accused. He said
police couldn’t force the woman to stay in Canada because charges hadn’t been laid.
Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer, said it’s certainly conceivable
Ms. Ladha won’t return. However, he added it’s also possible she will, since
she does not have a criminal record and this would be her first offence. The
maximum penalty for one of the offences alone would be a fine of up to $500,000
and a 10-year prison term.
Benjamin Perrin, an assistant law professor at the University of British Columbia and
the author of Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking, said
he, too, was caught off guard by the timing of the announcement.
“I have to admit to being a bit surprised that the charges would be announced while the
suspect is out of Canada. It’s not clear why they did this, or how long the person’s been
out of the country.” But Prof. Perrin said he didn’t want to second-guess the RCMP’s
strategy and agreed the house and woman’s family were compelling reasons for her to
return. Prof. Perrin said the good news is charges have been laid at all, since such
arrests have been rare. Lee Lakeman, of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s
Shelter, said it has seen five or six human-trafficking cases in the past couple of
years. She said most have involved sex slavery, though there have been cases of
domestic slavery as well. She said some of the cases involved women who were
trapped in luxury homes. The young woman in the West Vancouver incident is still
in British Columbia, though police won’t say where. She is getting support from a
number of social-assistance agencies.
Canada may become home to bin Laden informants
BY TOM GODFREY ,TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: MONDAY, MAY 9, 2011 5:24:07 EDT PM
TORONTO - Canada can and may accept “a number” of valuable informants from
Pakistan who helped the U.S. locate Osama bin Laden, police and immigration officials
say. The relocation of high-level Pakistani informants to other countries is part of an
international witness protection program between NATO-member countries, according to
the Canadian justice department. “I wouldn’t be surprised if are there some files
like this in the post-Osama bin Laden era,” said immigration specialist
Richard Kurland Monday. “The program offers sanctuary for people who
helped the U.S. — Britain and Canada and are in danger.”
Kurland said the informants, who can include military personnel, workers or
the elite, are brought to safety and resettled in other countries. They and
their families are given a fee, identities and a place to live in Canada. “These
people are friends of the West who now need our protection,’ Kurland said.
“This would be standard operating procedure in the post-Osama era.”
The world’s most wanted terrorist was shot and killed at his Pakistan home by a U.S.
team more than a week ago. Kurland said dozens of informants were quietly
accepted by Canada in the 1940s and ‘50s after the end of the Second World
War and the defeat of Adolf Hitler. “This process has been going on for years
and has never stopped,” he said. “The cycle continues and the practice is
U.S. officials have said they were helped by a number Pakistani nationals in their
hunt for bin Laden. A Department of Justice website said government officials may
enter into a reciprocal agreement with a foreign government to admit foreign nationals
into the witness protection program. “The Solicitor General of Canada may make a
similar arrangement with an international court or tribunal,” the site stated. The S-G
“must consent to the individual’s admittance into the program.” Justice officials said
immigration officials must also consent before a witness can be accepted. “The
RCMP’s role in such cases is to administer the agreement between the foreign country
and its witness,” the site stated. “Witness protection in such cases is provided on a
cost-recovery basis.” The RCMP, foreign affairs and immigration officials refused to
comment on the program on Monday. A U.S. homeland security official also refused
comment citing privacy concerns. The RCMP in 2008 and 2009, spent $6.6 million on
their witness protection program that only accepted 15 witnesses from 103 requests,
according to government documents. The bulk of the cash, $3,576,756, went to pay
RCMP salaries. Expenses incurred by witnesses cost $1,327,649, administration fees
came to $612,711 and travel costs amounted to $369,821.
Ont. candidate's access to Kenney questioned
CBC News Posted: Apr 26, 2011 9:58 PM ET
Parm Gill at a recent all-candidates meeting in the Ontario riding of Brampton-
There are allegations in the Ontario riding of Brampton-Springdale that Conservative
Party candidate Parm Gill has inappropriate access to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
Brampton has a large South Asian population, so the ability to get visas for family
members of voters is an issue in the riding. Liberal candidate Ruby Dhalla accused
Gill, a businessman and entrepreneur in the hospitality industry, of setting himself
up as Kenney's official delegate on visas and suggests someone in his office must be
tipping off her rival after she's submitted official visa requests.
"In those cases the families have been called before even I was notified, that had they
had been accepted and approved by the minister's office and they were called by Parm
Gill," said Dhalla. As for proof, Dhalla said people are too afraid to come forward and
speak publicly. Kenney, who has visited the riding to speak during the election
campaign, was asked about the accusations, and responded: "That's completely
ridiculous, you know, she's a Liberal MP who's under a lot of pressure, and of course
she's going to make unfounded and ridiculous accusations."
There's a reason why they are going to Mr. Gill for that advice, said Kenney on a
conference call with South Asian journalists. "It's because they can't get any service
from their member of Parliament and that's one of the reasons why I think Parm Gill
should be elected member of Parliament for Brampton-Springdale." Kenney told CBC
that if "their own MP isn't providing them with the services and the advice that they
require on technical issues on immigration then that's a problem.
"So Mr. Gill has every right as a private citizen to provide volunteer unpaid advice.
I understand he has taken no payment for that. He has never claimed to represent
the government or me, but he's just providing a volunteer service and that's totally
legitimate." At a sporting event in February, Gill said: "I have approximately three
people assisting me; they are full time just taking calls and helping me process….
immigration files or anything else." In January 2009, Kenney made an official
government trip to India, where he was pictured with Gill, who was asked about
the trip during a candidates' debate in the riding. "I was not in India on any government-
sponsored trips. I was in India on a private business," said Gill.
"Mr. Gill came as did other Canadians with different backgrounds and attended some
public events," said Kenney of the trip.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland says Kenney shouldn't show favouritism.
"You can't politicize the immigration function when the immigration minister
holds the key to Canada's immigration kingdom in any case," said Kurland.
Gill was not available for an interview.
Liberal MPs Ujjal Dosanjh and Justin Trudeau promise more
family reunification visas
By Carlito Pablo
Publish Date: April 20, 2011
A Liberal government would grant 20,000 visas each year for a period of two years
to parents and grandparents intending to reunite with their families in Canada.
Vancouver South MP Ujjal Dosanjh made this pledge when he and Justin
Trudeau, the MP for Papineau in Quebec and son of former Liberal primer minister
Pierre Trudeau, dropped by the Straight offices for a joint interview on April 19.
The two Liberal MPs took turns blasting Stephen Harper’s Conservative
government for its decision to slash the number of family-reunification visas for
parents and grandparents to 11,200 this year, a 30-percent reduction from the
16,000 issued in 2010. With a backlog of around 150,000 applications, this means
a wait of about 13 to 14 years. “That highlights the fact that for Conservatives,
immigration is about bringing over [temporary] workers, units of production, not
bringing over community builders, family members, how we’re going to build a
stronger nation,” Trudeau said. “So what the Liberal party has committed
to is restoring the balance, restoring the proportion of reunification of grandparents,
spouses, and children versus workers.”
Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith interviews Justin Trudeau and
Ujjal Dosanjh at the Straight offices.
Dosanjh recalled that before Paul Martin’s Liberal government was defeated in
2005, it planned to issue 20,000 visas for parents and grandparents in the
following year. It also proposed a budget of $1 billion to fix the immigration system.
In February this year, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stated in a news release
that the Conservative government is increasing in 2011 the number of admissions
for family-class immigrants, which include mothers, fathers, children, parents, and
grandparents. From a planning range of 57,000 to 63,000 in 2010, Kenney said the
number will increase to between 58,500 and 65,000. However, the minister noted
that the government is placing a priority on wives, husbands, and children.
The reduction of visas for parents and grandparents was unearthed earlier
this year by Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.
Kurland said by phone that based on the feedback he has heard from
urban areas with thriving immigrant populations across the country, the
issue of cuts to family visas is “killing the Conservatives”.
“In this election, it is the only issue I have seen that has touched the hearts of
voters in urban Canada,” Kurland told the Straight. “Ironically, it is the exact group
of voters who will make the difference between a minority and majority government.”
Source URL: http://www.straight.com/article-388200/vancouver/liberal-mps-promise-more-family-visas
CBC TELEVISION NEWS
Family reunification: Still waiting for mom and dad
By David McKie on April 15, 2011 2:13 PM
The moment came just past the halfway point of the English-language leaders'
debate, when Liberal Michael Ignatieff challenged Stephen Harper on the
government's immigration policy. After pointing out that his father and brothers
immigrated to Canada with their mom, Ignatieff said he doubted that they'd be able
to do the same today. Why? Because of the length of time it takes landed
immigrants to sponsor other family members, particularly their parents and
grandparents, something many do once they've settled into a life in Canada.
"So you've got Canadian citizens saying 'I can't get my mom and dad over here,'"
Ignatieff said. "And that's what you've been doing. You've been reducing family
reunification and that's creating deep unfairness and deep resentment in all the
new Canadians that I meet." Harper, whose party has gone out of its way to court
immigrant communities, shot back, accusing Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton
of distorting the facts.
Harper said that his government has been increasing immigration targets across all
categories, including the family class. Then he added, "in terms of family class,
there will be as many family class admitted this year as in the previous year.
That's the government's plan. That's how we keep a strong system of immigration."
So here's the reality check. Ignatieff was referring to parents and grandparents, a
subset of the family reunification class that is actually diminishing. In February,
CBC News reported that the government intends to reduce the number of visas for
parents and grandparents to 11,200 in 2012. Last year, the number was 16,200.
So the government is cutting the number by almost a third.
While the government has been making it easier for an increasing number of
individuals to sponsor their spouses, the same isn't true for parents and
grandparents, as we can see from the numbers. So it's a stretch for Harper to claim
that his government has been increasing levels across all categories. The numbers
fail to support that argument.
Richard Kurland, a Vancouver lawyer, obtained the government's visa targets
through an access-to-information request. In his view, the current policies
mean that parents and grandparents will continue to endure long waits
before being able to join their adult sons and daughters in Canada.
"It's going to take 13, 14, years," says Kurland, adding that he doesn't see
this being good politics for the Conservatives as many of these
new-immigrant families can be found in swing ridings they are counting
on winning en route to that coveted majority.
Houssein Charmarkeh knows this problem all too well. He emigrated from Djbouti,
in northeast Africa, in 2005. The following year, he applied to sponsor his parents.
So far he's been waiting four years and if Kurland's estimate is correct,
he'll have to wait several more.
According to Charmarkeh, who teaches media studies at the University of
Ottawa, Stephen Harper is "completely out of touch because he doesn't meet
people like me or others who are waiting for their parents. It's not fair."
What the platforms say
The Conservative platform does not mention family reunification. When it comes
to immigration, its main emphasis is cracking down on human smuggling and
crooked immigration consultants. It also promises to help immigrant professionals
attain the appropriate Canadian credentials through an expanded loan program.
But as a previous Reality Check showed, this promise is less than meets the eye.
The Bloc Quebecois gives the topic a brief mention. And the Green Party is silent
on the issue. For its part, the NDP does mention family reunification with a promise
to "increase resources to reduce the huge and unacceptable backlogs in processing
immigration applications, with an emphasis on speeding up family reunification."
And the Liberals go down the same path, but fail to add much detail. In their
platform, the Liberals are promising that family reunification must remain a
crucial part of Canada's immigration policy and that they will "restore balance"
to the system by increasing family class visas. However, it's unclear whether the NDP
or Liberals promises will make it easier for people such as Houssein Charmarkeh to
sponsor his parents.
In Vancouver, Richard Kurland puts the backlog of parents and grandparents
waiting for visas at about 150,000 and growing.
David McKie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
April, 15, 2011
Family reunification visas top list of concerns for many ethnic voters
Conservatives face difficult time selling their anti-human smuggling plan.
By Anca Gurzu Published April 13, 2011
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
With Immigration Minister Jason Kenney sitting across from him, Harjinder Thind
fielded call after call from irritated Indo-Canadians. The minister was there as a
special guest for Mr. Thind's popular Vancouver-based program on radio station
Red FM, and had intended to talk about the Conservatives' plan to tackle human s
But earlier in the year, Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland had
obtained documents that showed the Harper government was planning to
halve the number of parents and grandparents allowed from India under
the family reunification category. The documents also showed the government
was going to more than double the number of Chinese allowed into Canada. "I
was getting call after call and people were very angry," Mr. Thind says. "People
wanted to know if he would reverse it." As a result, Mr. Kenney was put in the
rare position of having to defend himself and his party's policies over anger from
a coveted ethnic voting block and didn't really a chance to talk about the
Conservatives' anti-human smuggling campaign. While federal political parties
have been addressing various immigration issues in their attempt to reach out to
Canadian newcomers during this election campaign, the example above makes
some observers wonder whether politicians are tuning in to the real concerns of
ethnic groups. Since the beginning of the federal election campaign at the end of
March, Conservative Party candidates have been very vocal about their continued
commitment to bring in stronger laws to fight human smuggling—as well as tougher
penalties for migrants who arrive at Canada's shores by boat in large groups.
The goal is to connect with the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who spent their
time in queues and followed other set procedures to come to Canada, and argue that
it isn't fair that others are trying to skirt the system. "It is not acceptable when there
are organized operations to smuggle boatloads of people into the country to bypass
all the legitimate channels that the vast, vast majority of immigrants are willing to
go through," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a speech in Markham, Ont., on
April 6 attended by numerous immigrants and new Canadians.
"That's not fair to the country, it's not fair to those hundreds of thousands of
immigrants who respect the rules, and it's important that we have laws to deal with
that problem." Speaking in Quebec a day earlier, Mr. Harper had made a similar
point: "The Bloc and Liberal want to transform our border into a real sieve, which
shows a total lack of respect for the immigrants who respect the rules." The
Conservatives have also put the human smuggling message in an advertisement that
is being broadcast regularly on television. The ad shows clips of the MV Sun Sea that
arrived at the end of August with hundreds of Tamil asylum seekers on board, while
the narrator says Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken action to protect Canada's
borders against human smugglers, who take advantage of Canada's generosity. But Mr.
Harper has also been touching on the issue of foreign credentials recognition, which is
something many newcomers to Canada struggle with. If re-elected, he said his
government would introduce a new program for loans to help recent immigrants pay
for training to have their credentials recognized in Canada. "We think this small
investment in the future of new Canadians will strengthen the future of our economy
for all Canadians," he said. These initiatives are important for the immigrant
communities, but Mr. Kenney's decision "with one stroke of his pen" to reduce the
number of people allowed in under the family reunification category has become the
overriding concern, Mr. Thind says. Besides the changes to Chinese and Indian
applicants under this category, the government cut the overall number of family
reunification visas it will issue to 11,000, down from 16,000. Since waiting times are
on average around 13 years, this reduction means some applicants' parents will die
before being allowed to come to Canada, Mr. Thind says. "It doesn't matter they are
throwing some money to human smuggling or to foreign credentials," he says. "Family
reunification is very close to their hearts and this has angered them like crazy." Jenna
Hennebry, associate director at Wilfrid Laurier University's International Migration
Research Centre, says she is not surprised family reunification is so important to ethnic
groups. "Family sponsorship is very important to immigrants because it's part of feeling
they achieved what they hoped to achieve from emigrating to Canada, having the family
members close," she says. "It's about being able to say they succeeded." The Liberals
and NDP, who are against the Conservatives' proposed anti-human smuggling measures,
have been attacking the Tories for its changes to the family reunification class, with the
issue quickly becoming part of all opposition party platforms. "Why do we think family
reunification is so important? Because families stick together. Families help each other,"
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told an audience in Oakville, Ont., on March 29. "That's
how we get better integration into our society. So we're going to reverse that attack on
family class and family reunification." While foreign credentials recognition is a
legitimate issue, Ms, Hennebry said the Tories' human smuggling message is a risky
one if officials are targeting the immigrant vote, because she says people in those
groups cannot really relate to the criminal element of the message. However, she says
the message is not risky if the Tories want to target those who want to hear about
tighter border controls—which would fit with many of their traditional voters.
Meanwhile, despite the efforts by all parties to use immigration policy to attract
voters, new Canadians also care about general election issues, says Binoy Thomas,
editor of the Weekly Voice, a South Asian newspaper in the Greater Toronto Area.
Mr. Thomas says he recently participated in a roundtable with the ethnic media with
Mr. Harper, but people did not ask many immigration-specific questions. Mr. Thomas
says family reunification only matters to those specific families that are waiting for
their application to be processed, but there are also others in the immigrant community
that "are not excited about getting thousands of old people in the country." In fact, he
says the Tories' anti-human smuggling message might indeed touch a sensitive chord
with newcomers. "These kind of issues irritate immigrants," he says. "To wait five,
six years to process your documents to come here and then read that some people
come just like that—they don't have patience for that."
Immigrants Feel Betrayed by Conservative Decision to Make
Family Reunions Harder
'I feel I was lied to' says a tech worker from India, echoing other
newcomers yearning to bring parents and grandparents to Canada.
By Krystle Alarcon and Stephanie Law, 8 Apr 2011, TheTyee.ca
Veronica Cheung with her grandfather in Vancouver:
What is a grandparent worth to Canada?
Satish Patel and his family are selling their home in Ontario and leaving everything
behind to return to India. He waited five years for his parents to join him in Canada
and he's giving up. "I am the only son and I believe we have waited for much longer
than normal," said Patel, whose parents live in India. "I should have considered this
before I applied for immigration. But now that's already done and I have to see how
I can move back sooner so my parents can be with me." When Patel leaves, not
only will Canada's population decline by one, but one political party or another may
lose a potential voter. In this federal election season, Patel's predicament is emerging
as an important issue in a number of close-fought ridings, including Vancouver South.
Leading into the election, the Conservative government admitted it had changed
internal immigration targets to stretch wait times for parents and grandparents of
immigrants applying to come to Canada to join their relatives. In February, when
documents obtained through a freedom-of-information request brought that shift to
light, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney defended the decision, arguing immigrants
who brought higher earning skills should trump parents and grandparents wanting to
come to Canada. "There are trade-offs, and this government is focused on the priorities
of Canadians which are economic growth and prosperity,"Kenney told the House of
Commons. "We need more newcomers working and paying taxes and contributing to
our health-care system. That is the focus of our immigration system."
'I feel I was lied to'
As an immigrant, Patel is still able to sponsor his parents to join him here.
That would mean going through a two-step procedure. First, Citizenship and
Immigration Canada checks to see if the immigrant qualifies as a sponsor, which
includes an income threshold. This step takes about 42 months, according to CIC.
Second, CIC assesses the parents themselves, which involves, among other tests,
a thorough medical examination. The time it takes for this part varies depending
on the country of origin. The expected wait time for sponsoring parents from India
is 30 months, according to CIC. Adding that up then, the total wait time for Patel
and his parents would be about six years. But this is too long for Patel, who says he
was lured into moving to Canada under false pretences. "When I applied to
immigrate, Canada was encouraging families to move here and promoting family
reunification," he said. "Having moved to Canada now, I feel like I was lied to."
Patel is one of those immigrants Kenney says Canada needs to attract. He immigrated
here in 2003 as an information and technology expert. For the first few years, he
worked low paying jobs. After two years, he found a job that provided enough
income to sponsor his parents for immigration. He applied in 2006 and the wait began.
While in Canada, Patel got married and had a son, who is now two and a half years
old. But his parents are missing all of this. "It's really hard for my parents because
they only get to see my child on webcam," he said. So Patel made a tough decision
to reunite with his family in India. But Patel's story isn't an anomaly.
There are 147,768 other families also waiting for parents or grandparents
to join them in Canada, according to the access-to-information request
obtained by immigration lawyer Richard Kurland that revealed the new
government policies. The wait will be over for about 11,200 of those families in
2011, according to the same documents. But this is a 19 per cent decrease from the
number granted permanent residency in 2010. Canada issued 11,486 visas to
parents and grandparents in 2010 between January and September alone.
"[The government] lured more applicants into the system by posting on the
website this historical processing time," Kurland said, "knowing full well
that the real processing time would be significantly longer."
'Irresponsible and inhumane': Liberal Dosanjh
If the current backlog and approval rates continue, Kurland estimates that
the average processing time will be at least 10 years. Just across the border
in the U.S., it takes about one to two years to sponsor parents. "When the Liberals
were in government, parents were waiting three to four years and I was ashamed
we couldn't do a better job," said Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who was born in India
and moved to Canada in 1968. "But I didn't know that this government has no
shame, that they can make them wait 10 years."
"That's irresponsible and inhumane," Dosanjh added, an accusation that may resonate
among voters in the Vancouver South riding where he's running neck and neck against
Conservative candidate Wai Young. Vancouver South's population is 50 per cent
Chinese-Canadian and 10 per cent Indo-Canadian. Conservative candidate Young was
asked on Thursday to comment on the increased wait times and her opponent's
criticisms, but she did not get back by publication time the next day. Candidates
in ridings with large immigrant populations run a risk if they ignore the issue, say
advocates. "If political parties are serious about promoting family values, then
they should be working on promoting family reunification for immigrants," declared
Avvy Yao-Yao Go, Anita Balakrishna and Atulya Sharma, representatives of three
immigrant legal organizations in Ontario, writing in the Toronto Star on Wednesday.
A privilege many would pay for
Many immigrant families are eager for their parents to join them in Canada. Some
would even consider footing all of their parents' bills and not take a single penny
from Canadian taxpayers. "We don't want the medical facilities for them or the
pension. We can take care of them," said Jagdeep Sandhu. "Just let them come
here." Jagdeep Sandhu immigrated to Canada in 2006 to join her husband. She
has a bachelor and master's degree in education and taught for a while in Winnipeg.
She stopped teaching so she could stay home and take care of her one-year-old
and three-year-old. She applied for her parents to immigrate to Canada just over
three years ago and is still waiting.
"The most important thing is we love them. I want them here. I want to see them
everyday," Sandhu said. "They are alone there. There's no one to take care of them."
"And the other reason is that they can take care of my kids and I can go to the
school as a teacher," she added. But for now, Sandhu would rather stay at home
than to leave her children at a childcare facility.
Lawyer Kurland agreed that it would be possible to shorten the processing
time if some families were allowed to cover all their parents' future
expenses. "This problem can be fixed, and it's better than 15- to 20-year
waiting periods," Kurland said. "It's better than shutting off all together."
The solution that Kurland proposes is a three-tiered immigration system. The
first tier would allow families who can afford it to opt out of the social
security system completely.
These applications could be processed quickly. This way, the government
wouldn't have to consider the economic burden that older parents might have,
he said. The second tier would be the current system. Families would apply
and wait, but since some families would be processed in the first tier, the
processing time would theoretically decrease.
The third tier would be for families who don't satisfy the income requirements
to sponsor their parents. For these families, the province could step in and
take care of the family's medical and social expenditures. But Kurland isn't
convinced that the government would consider implementing such a system.
"The immigration ministry would have to be courageous politically to go
this way," Kurland said. "But if they do nothing, they're going to be in
trouble, you can't have increasing processing times like this."
Critics charge lack of cultural sensitivity
Not being able to live with parents is a reality for many immigrant families. But it is
particularly troubling because the cultural values for immigrants often differ from
Canadians', according to critics of the long wait times like Raminder Kang from
Progressive Intercultural Community Services, an organization that supports South
Asian immigrant communities. "Here, the families are made up of only the husband,
wife and children," Kang said. "But people live in extended families back home, and
immigrant families have to ask friends and others to help take care of their parents
overseas." "And when grandparents are retired, they do take care of the grandchildren
when there's a need," he added.
"Canadians have been here the entire time for hundreds of years, so obviously they
wouldn't need to talk about reunifying," Zhou said. "But everyone who immigrates
would want to be with their family and reunify. It's only human nature."
Immigrant families often obtain multiple-entry visas so their parents can visit regularly,
instead of applying for permanent residency. But these visas restrict the length of stay
to six months, sometimes up to one year, and are costly to maintain.
Increasing separation anxiety
Julie Bulosan immigrated to Vancouver almost 13 years ago and currently works at
the Vancouver General Hospital. She still hasn't applied for her parents to move
here from the Philippines because she's worried about the long wait and the potential
of a rejection. So instead, she brings them to Canada as visitors.
"It's nice having them here," Bulosan said. "It's not just them watching over our
kids, but we can watch over them too."
Between airfare and medical insurance, the bills to allow her parents to visit are
piling up. Buloson is adopting a son and said she hopes her parents could watch
him grow up.
"We read in the paper that the immigration is taking fewer and fewer grandparents,
they're not approving a lot," she said. "It's hard, but if we can sponsor them then
they don't have to go back there."
Sue Zhou, a Chinese immigrant living in Vancouver, wanted to sponsor her parents
when she was pregnant, but decided not to. She said she was worried about the
long processing times and the risk of rejection. Julie Bulosan: 'It's not just
[grandparents] watching over our kids, but we can watch over them too.' Unlike
Bulosan, some immigrant parents send their children to their home country so
the grandparents can help take care of them while the parents work in Canada.
The children then return to their parents when they attend elementary school.
This has created some adjustment problems and separation anxiety among
families, said Kelly Ing, chief operating officer at S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a settlement
services provider. "They miss the grandparents very much and they have
attachment issues to their own parents because of the long separation," Ing said.
"So we are creating another whole segment of difficulty here."
For most families, the wait might be worth it. But for some, like Satish Patel who
is returning to India, it isn't. Patel said he hopes other immigrants would learn from
"They need to make a decision upfront on how badly they want their parents to be
with them and they need to be aware of the gains and losses," Patel said. "Things
might change in the future and it might become more friendly for parents to join
their kids, but I didn't weigh my options and I was too positive."
Opinion: Sweeten immigration ‘pie’ to win election
BY RICHARD KURLAND, THE PROVINCE APRIL 3, 2011 2:24 PM
The issue of immigrant parent sponsorship has plagued Liberal and Conservative
governments. Every year, more parents are sponsored than the number of visas
available, creating ballooning inventories with ten-year queues. It’s not about finding
money to get files done; it’s purely about the number of visas. There is only one
immigration pie for Canada, and it’s the minister who decides how to slice Canada’s
immigration pie. Increase the pie slice for parents, and there’s less to slice for
millionaires and skilled workers. Or maybe the whole pie can be made bigger to
make everyone happy. The politics are potentially deadly to the party that gets
it wrong. Both Liberals and Conservatives are hotly pledging allegiance to blocks
of “new-Canadian voters” centralized in urban Canada, because the group will
likely make or break a government. Liberals know the game well, but the Liberals
blew it. Liberal policy required people to pay $975 to use their immigrant visa,
in addition to the usual immigration processing fees. They got harpooned in
Canada’s very first federal class action when their immigration policy tried and
failed to eliminate 400,000 skilled worker applicants, mostly from India and
Greater China. Liberal policy figured immigrants were a captured group. In
came Conservatives, who pledged to cut the $975 in half, then fix the skilled
worker and refugee systems. It paid off big and Liberal strongholds poured
open to Conservatives. Will the parent issue now sink the Conservatives?
Both Liberals and Conservatives have engaged in a strategy hiding inventory
numbers and have failed to disclose quotas. In 2011, over 150,000 people are
waiting for 11,200 visas. The math says you wait 14 years. Family reunification
will be over a crypt.
Some truth in advertising: Conservatives don’t cut into all family reunification.
The welcome mat is out there for spouses and children, just not for parents.
And Liberal election campaign pledges such as that recently given by Michael Ignatieff
to reverse Conservative cuts to parents — or anything involving immigration — will
need a giant grain of salt. Liberals broke the box when it came to skilled workers,
refugees and parents. So far, Conservatives fixed new skilled worker files, the refugee
system is overhauled and presumably parents are up next. But the hidden secret is
a financial incentive to delay processing. The government collects $1,040 per couple
up front for an immigration application, but the application can’t legally exist for a
decade until sponsorship is approved. That’s a cool $55 million. This is a gaping hole
in the Conservative credibility fence. You’d be arrested or bankrupt if you ran a
business this way. Maybe the government should give people back their money and
only collect it when ready to actually open a file. Unless new Canadian voters
hear solutions, Conservatives may find voter support among new Canadians flying
off faster than heat tiles off The Challenger.
Richard Kurland is a B.C. immigration lawyer and immigration policy analyst,
© Copyright (c) The Province
BY CATHERINE SOLYOM, MONTREAL GAZETTE APRIL 3, 2011
PHOTOS ( 3 ) Tatyana Skorobogatko with her grandmother Yevdokiya (Eva)
Chernova. Skorobogatko has been trying to sponsor her 89-year-old grandmother to
live in Canada, but she can't even get her a visitor's visa so she can see her new born
Photograph by: Tatyana Skorobogatko, Montreal Gazette MONTREAL - Tatyana
Skorobogatko could well be the poster child for Canadian immigration. Having landed in
Montreal from Ukraine at 13, she is now an engineer for whom French and English have
become more natural than her native Russian, sirloin steak or tacos more likely to
appear on her dinner table than borscht or perogies. But like many immigrants who
have created new stories and good lives for themselves here, she now wants to
share the wealth and remember the old stories – and for that she needs her babushka.
Tatyana, 27, applied to sponsor her grandmother for permanent residence in 2009,
but with the federal government’s drastically reduced targets for bringing in this class of
immigrants – from 16,000 in 2010 to 11,200 in 2011 – and more than 147,000
others already on the wait-list around the world, she could easily wait another
six years, until her grandmother turns 95. “I’m afraid she will die before she ever
gets in, before she ever sees my daughter,” says Tatyana, whose baby girl is now
five months old. “It’s just inhumane to make someone wait like this. If you
accept immigrants to come over, you have to allow them to see their families –
if not don’t let them come in.” The federal government says it is decreasing the
number of parents and grandparents admitted as permanent residents in order to
increase the number of spouses, children and skilled workers – who pay taxes.
Last year saw a record number of so-called “economic immigrants” – 186,881 compared
to 138,251 in 2006, when the Harper government took power – while family-class
immigrants, spouses and parents included, were down 15 per cent to 60, 207,
from 70,517 in 2006. But critics say the new targets are symptomatic of the
Harper government’s overemphasis on immigrants as economic units, to the detriment
of new Canadian families and ultimately the country’s ability to attract “the best and
the brightest” if it means leaving their families at home. Leading up to a federal
election the Harper government is preaching family values, they say, but not
necessarily the value of family.
So how much is a grandmother worth?
When the 2011 internal visa targets for parents and grandparents were revealed in
February through an access to information request, federal Immigration Minister
Jason Kenney told the House of Commons it was a choice that had to be made.
“There are trade-offs, and this government is focused on the priorities of Canadians
which are economic growth and prosperity,” he said during Question Period.
“We need more newcomers working and paying taxes and contributing to our
health-care system. That is the focus of our immigration system.” To be sure, any
cost-benefit analysis of grandparents would have to include the increased demands
they put on a health-care system that is already gasping for air. According to a
report released in October by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canadians
over the age of 65 account for less than 14 per cent of the Canadian population, but
consume nearly 44 per cent of all health-care dollars spent by provincial and territorial
governments. Brought down to the level of the individual, in 2008, the latest available
year for data broken down by age group, provincial and territorial governments spent an
average of $10,742 per Canadian age 65 and older, compared to $2,097 on those
between age one and 64. Those 80 years and older, like Tatyana’s grandmother,
required the most spending, at $18,160 each – more than three times what was spent
on seniors younger than age 70 ($5, 828.) The government can’t ignore this reality,
especially as the proportion of seniors in the Canadian population is expected to
reach 20 per cent by 2026. And as Kelli Fraser, a spokesperson for Citizenship and
Immigration Canada points out, even with the reduced visa targets, the
government “will maintain what is probably the most generous family reunification
program for parents and grandparents in the world.” Indeed, Canada ranks third in
the world after Sweden and Portugal on the 2010 Migrant Integration Policy Index
released in February. A benchmark European study, the MIPEX measures a
range of indicators, from paths to citizenship to public education. And when it comes
to family reunification policies in particular, Canada ranks second after Portugal.
Jack Jedwab, the executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, who
was presenting the MIPEX findings in Vancouver last week, said the reduced visa
targets would not likely affect Canada’s rank, because it is based on policies,
not numbers. Sweden, for example, lets in fewer immigrants per capita than
Canada, but its policies are less restrictive. The reduced visa targets do run
counter to important Canadian values, however, says Jedwab, whose think
tank conducts annual surveys on Canadian identity issues. And the targets seem
to ignore the important benefits, economic and non-economic, that come from
reuniting families. Survey upon survey suggests that Canadians stand out for the
importance they attribute to family and for having a larger, more generous
definition of family; that they value the contribution of immigration to the
country; that immigrants value family; and that they don’t like the idea of cutting
off children from parents and grandparents, Jedwab says. Economically speaking,
the costs and benefits associated with bringing in more parents and grandparents
are not always clear, Jedwab adds. Most would not pay income taxes, but nor are
they entitled to old age security for 10 years after they enter the country. And
they are nevertheless consumers – the transfer of funds outside the country to
relatives unable to immigrate may be substantial. “But there are also indirect
benefits associated with having a strong family unit here that are difficult to
value in economic terms … but may have an important impact nevertheless,
especially if we want to continue to be a kindler, gentler nation.” For Tatyana,
having her grandmother here would mean free childcare in a province where subsidized
daycare is a huge advantage over other provinces, but is still difficult to come by.
And it would mean a link to her culture, language, and history, all but lost to her now.
She arrived in Canada as a teenager during what is known in Ukraine as the
“Dark ’90s” – a time when the end of Soviet-era price controls and the fire-sale
privatization of the nation’s assets led to a decline in living standards akin to the
Great Depression 60 years earlier. At the time Quebec was the cheapest destination
in Canada – requiring only $10,000 to immigrate – so her parents sold their apartment
for $7,000 and added it to their $3,000 in savings. It helped that both she and her
parents spoke French as a second language, as many Russian-speakers do.
But after her mother committed suicide in 2008, Tatyana needed her grandmother by
her side, a need that became more urgent when she had a baby girl in November.
“My grandmother cries on the phone when she hears the baby,” Tatyana says, adding
her grandmother was like a second mother to her until her departure. “She feels she’ll
never see her and I can’t travel with a baby so young. There’s the plane ride, then
seven hours from Kiev to Kharkiv.” Unfortunately, her application to sponsor her
grandmother, Yevdokiya (Eva) Chernova, now 89, is still years away. All sponsors of
family-class immigrants are processed at the Centralized Process Region in Mississauga, Ont.
But while it takes only 37 days to assess an applicant wishing to sponsor a spouse or
child, it takes 42 months to assess someone wanting to bring over a
parent or grandparent, a delay that has more than doubled over the past decade.
CIC is currently processing applications received in Sept. 2007.
Only once the sponsor has been approved, however, do they move on to Step 2
of the process, assessing the sponsoree. According to CIC, it will take 27 months
to assess an applicant from Ukraine, the final test being the medical exam.
(Applications for permanent residence will not be accepted if the person’s health
would cause excessive demand on health or social services in Canada.) But at the
Kiev office of CIC, where Chernova travelled overnight to make her application,
visa targets for parents and grandparents have been slashed from 440 in 2010 to
25 in 2011. Fraser said parents and grandparents waiting abroad can apply for
visitor’s visas in the meantime. Chernova’s application for a visitor’s visa has been
denied, however, on the basis that she might choose to stay in Canada illegally
after the visa expires to be with her family. There is no way to prove that, of
course, or to disprove it, CIC told her. Up in Park Extension, one of the most ethnically
diverse neighbourhoods in the country, and a traditional landing pad for newcomers,
Justin Trudeau is vigorously campaigning for a second term. The “new-Canadian voter”
centralized in urban Canada, is the group most affected by the immigrant
parents issue, and it could have a big impact on the outcome of the election.
It’s no surprise that both Liberals and Conservatives are pledging their allegiance to
this core block. Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who parachuted into
Vancouver on Thursday to watch the World Cup Cricket match with about 100
Indo-Canadians, has been unavailable to comment on the issue of visas.
But in Little India, Trudeau, as Liberal Immigration critic, says he hears the same
complaints from his constituents all the time: People are discouraged and
despondent about not being able to bring their parents or grandparents over, as
permanent residents or visitors. There are no official figures available for the
number of parents or grandparents refused visitor’s visas. But Trudeau says that
anecdotal evidence suggests the Conservative government
has consistently reduced the number of multiple-entry visas given out abroad –
or is for some reason targeting his riding. These parents and grandparents are
unlikely to either claim refugee status, or work under the table, and they will
live with their children, not at Shady Acres down the street, he said.
The cuts to visas awarded at the New Delhi mission in particular, from 4,500
in 2010 to 2,500 in 2011, have hit hard in Little India, where many a campaign
event is held. “Right now the wait times are at eight or nine years (for New Delhi),”
Trudeau says. “With these cuts you’re pushing delays to 12 to 15 years. Most of
the people will end up seeing a coffin before they see their grandchildren, to be
blunt.” The Liberal government had increased the visa targets to 18,000 in 2005,
and increased the budget for CIC to process them, and were making it easier to
get multiple-entry visas forpeople waiting in line. But the Harper government
has reversed that trend. “The central question is what kind of Canada are we
trying to build? Obviously one that is prosperous and creates jobs, but also one
that is more compassionate and generous and more respectful of the things we
value in life more than money – like health and family,” Trudeau said. He suggested
most sponsors would be open to paying into a private health-care fund for their parents or
grandparents, to avoid the drain on the health-care system. “How we treat our elders
and our new Canadians is so important for the long-term growth of this country.”
Richard Kurland, an immigration lawyer who has been watching the backlog
of applicants expand over the last decade, says both the Liberals and the
Conservatives are to blame for the bottleneck. “The (Liberals’) 18,000 was
a drop in the bucket,” said Kurland, the editor of Lexbase which first
published the 2011 visa targets. “The Liberals knew how many people were
already waiting and the target, and at that rate, the inventory would
continue to grow and processing times would continue to lengthen. And
they lured more people into the system by reporting “historic” waiting
times, instead of telling people up front how long it would take if they
applied today for their visa. Why? They wanted to avoid political criticism
for lengthening processing periods, because they did not want to say no
to their core support groups.” Back at home in the Mercier district of Montreal,
Tatyana is spending what is left of her maternity leave trying to find a way to
get her grandmother to Canada. A lawyer she consulted told her that for
$2,000 he could probably do for her what he’s done for four other clients in the
same situation – secure a visitor’s visa for her grandmother on humanitarian
and compassionate grounds. Eva Chernova survived three years of a Nazi labour
camp until she was liberated in 1945. She just can’t get a foot in the door in
Canada. But Tatyana doesn’t want to go that route. “I guess you can solve
anything with money but that’s not fair either. Something is wrong with a
system that if you bring in a lawyer you win, and if you don’t you don’t get
anywhere.” Her grandmother will continue to travel on the overnight train to
Kiev to re-apply for a visitor’s visa. And Tatyana will keep trying to get an
answer from CIC on when the sponsorship process will be finished, and on
what she can do to prove her grandmother won’t stay illegally if given a
visitor’s visa while she’s waiting. A CIC customer service representative told
her she couldn’t give her any information over the phone, and they don’t
receive letters. Tatyana could write a letter to the government, she was told,
but the government won’t necessarily open it.
2011 global immigration targets
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
MONTREAL GAZETTE April 2, 2011
Delays and fees equal discrimination, law prof alleges in complaint
BY CATHERINE SOLYOM
The federal government is laying out a welcome mat for investors and skilled workers,
but it's slamming the door shut on parents and grandparents, says a law professor at
the University of Ottawa, who has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission
for discrimination based on age and family status. Amir Attaran, who applied in 2009
to sponsor his parents to immigrate from the United States, says the long delays that
face landed immigrants trying to sponsor their parents or grandparents allow the
government to keep them out of the country, but still pocket $1,000 in fees. At issue
are the different delays faced by sponsors and the medical exam requirements faced
by sponsorees. It takes only 37 days for Citizenship and Immigration Canada to
assess an applicant wishing to sponsor a spouse or child, but 42 months to assess
someone wanting to bring over a parent or grandparent, a delay that has more than
doubled over the past decade. (According to the Immigration Department's current
estimates it takes an additional 11 to 47 months to process the permanent residence
application, depending on where the parent or grandparent is applying from, Haiti
now being the fastest and Argentina the slowest.) And while all applicants for
permanent residence must undergo a medical exam to ensure they will not place a
heavy burden on the health-care system, since 2002 only spouses or children can
undergo "upfront" medical exams when they apply, to speed up the application
process. Parents and grandparents must have their medical exam at the end of the
process - five or seven or 10 years after they first applied. Attaran's parents are in
their 70s and in good health. But eight years from now? "It's a trick not to let
them in," says Attaran, who says he has asked for a ruling from the Commission that
will remedy the situation for all immigrants, not just himself. "It means your parents
or grandparents are unlikely to be admitted while they are alive and yet they have
paid for their permanent resident visa at the beginning. The government is really
getting interest free loans from immigrants." Asked to comment on the complaint
before the Human Rights Commission, Kelli Fraser, a spokesperson for CIC, replied
via email: "The Commission has not yet decided whether the matter will proceed to
tribunal stage. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on this matter at this
time." But in correspondence with the Commission, deputy minister for Immigration
Neil Yeates argued among other things that such "broad policy issues" are outside
the jurisdiction of the Commission. "The Government of Canada decides how many
immigrants and what type of immigrants, should be permitted to come to Canada
each year. This decision is based on consideration of short and long term needs. The
economy, social fabric of Canada and demographics of population are just a few
examples of the broad considerations that come into play when the Cabinet approves
Canada's Immigration Plan."
In short, says immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, "there is one immigration
pie, and one knife held by one minister. The minister decides how to slice
Canada's immigration pie."
To deal with the huge backlog of applicants - there are currently 147,769 parents and
grandparents waiting to fill 11,200 spots - "you either increase the size of the pie slice
going to parents, and reduce the slice going to millionaires or skilled workers, or you
increase the total size of the pie." Attaran, who has a PhD from Oxford and a law
degree from University of British, says he came back to Canada after teaching at
Harvard University because he fell in love with the country and has more academic
freedom here. He is just the kind of immigrant Canada is competing for.
Had he known.
"I always understood that if I wanted to, I would be able to bring my parents here
and I'm very upset to see that while true in the past, this government has destroyed
the system, all the while telling people 'it's because we like you.' "I love Canada but
am I going to give up my parents to stay here? I don't think so."
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
VANCOUVER SUN MARCH 30, 2011 and THE PROVINCE MARCH 29, 2011
Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff on the campaign
trail at Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel on March 29, 2011,
in Richmond, B.C.
Ignatieff promises to reverse cuts to immigration program
BY SEAN SULLIVAN AND TIFFANY CRAWFORD, PACIFIC NEWSPAPER GROUP
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff reached out to Vancouver’s immigrant community
Tuesday, using his first B.C. appearance in the general election campaign to pledge
a reversal of Conservative cuts to the family reunification program. Ignatieff launched
his party’s B.C. campaign in the key riding of Vancouver South, which Liberal Ujjal
Dosanjh won by a razor-thin margin of 22 votes in the 2008 federal election. Flanked by
Dosanjh and members of local community groups at Langara College, Ignatieff called the
family reunification program “an issue of equality for all Canadians. “Canada’s success
in the future turns on immigration,” he said. “We’ve just got to do this. It’s a matter
of fairness, it’s a matter of citizenship, it’s a matter of justice.” The program allows
Canadian citizens or permanent residents to reunite with relatives from other countries
by “sponsoring” their move to Canada. The Conservative government has cut the number
of immigration spots for family reunification by 15 per cent since 2006, Ignatieff said. For
grandparents of immigrants to Canada, he said the cut was 25 per cent. Family
reunification visas represent about 21 per cent of all permanent
resident visas, the Liberals say. That number was 28 per cent in 2006.
The Conservative government plans to cut the number of parents and
grandparents visas’ by 40 per cent over last year, according to an Immigration
Canada report obtained by Vancouver immigration specialist Richard Kurland
under access to information legislation. The report shows that the government
intends to grant 11,200 visas for offshore parents and grandparents in 2011,
down from its target of 16,200 last year.
On Tuesday, the Liberals pledged to restore targets to 2006. Reports from 2006 show
target levels of 18,050 visas for offshore parents and grandparents. “Families take
care of one another – which is why a Liberal government will return family class
visas to the same proportion of overall immigration as in 2006,” said Dosanjh. Ignatieff
tied his announcement to his own immigrant parents, who came to Canada from Russia
in 1928. “It wasn’t because we thought we’d be prosperous, it’s because we thought
we would be treated equally,” he said. “Why are you going to immigrate if you can’t
bring your family?” Ignatieff warned that if the Harper government gets back in,
“they are going to keep squeezing family reunification in Canada and we think that is a
serious mistake.” He said his party would return to the “balance” in visa distribution the
federal government had in 2006. “It’s pretty funny for a Conservative party that talks
about family values to have been so terrible about family reunification,” Ignatieff said.
The Conservatives admit they cut back on the number of visas issued for parents and
grandparents but say that, overall, yearly average numbers of immigrants admitted
under family class visas are slightly higher than when the Liberals were in power.
Earlier Tuesday, Ignatieff pledged $1 billion annually to help high-school students
attend a postsecondary institution. The Learning Passport, as the Liberals call their plan,
would provide $4,000 — $1,000 per year for four years – to all high school students who choose
to attend college or university. Students from low-income families would receive $6,000.
The money would be provided through the existing Registered Education Savings Plan.
“We’ve got to make sure that no one is excluded from the promise of education on
the grounds of income,” Ignatieff said in Vancouver. “If we don’t, we’ll slip behind.”
Later Tuesday evening, Ignatieff rallied hundreds of supporters at the Delta
Vancouver Airport hotel in Richmond, where Liberal candidate Joe Peschisolido hopes
to unseat Conservative MP Alice Wong. He used the rally as a platform to praise
The Learning Passport and scoff at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spending plans for
$30 billion on new fighter jets and $15 billion for new mega U.S.-style prisons. “If he can
afford to spend $15 billion locking up your kids and can’t afford to spend a billion to educate
them then I don’t know what to say.” Ignatieff whipped the crowd into a frenzy, with
supporters chanting “No fear here” as he lambasted the Harper government for trying
to scare people into thinking that if the Conservatives don’t win a majority the economy
will crumble. “This is the language of fear,” he said, adding that a Liberal government
offers hope while “Conservatives depend on cynicism and disillusionment.”
“The politics of hope beats the politics of fear any day,” he shouted. The Liberal
leader also lamented on voter turnout in the last election, saying only 60 per cent of
Canadians voted. He urged all voters to cast their ballots in the federal election on May 2.
© Copyright (c) The Province
March 16, 2011
Canadian visa extensions possible for Japanese students, businessman
By TOM GODFREY, TORONTO SUN
Japanese students and businessmen whose visas are expiring and have to return home can seek to stay in
Canada a while longer, federal immigration officials say. The temporary visa extension would allow thousands
of Japanese nationals avoid returning home to the damage from last week’s earthquake and tsunami as well as
ongoing nuclear threats. “It would be much safer if these people can stay in Canada,” said Yoshito Ito, of the
Toronto Japanese Association. “Some of them may have nothing to go home too.” The association is involved
in events to raise funds for those who’ve lost everything. Federal immigration spokesman Kelli Fraser said
her officials are working with other departments to monitor the situation in Japan. “We welcome them
(the Japanese) to seek extensions to their visas,” Fraser said Wednesday. “The majority of Japanese come
to Canada as visitors and do not require a visa.” Visitors from Japan can remain in Canada for six months,
she said. Students “can apply for an extension right now if they need one,” Fraser said. “The regular procedure
will still allow them to stay.” Some immigration border officers are expecting an influx of Japanese to seek
refuge in Canada due to nuclear fallout because they have family here and can stay for half of the year.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said those Japanese affected should be given an automatic
extension. “Some of these people face a nuclear risk if they return to Japan,” Kurland said.
“They should be able to stay for six months because there appears to be an imminent nuclear risk.”
Meanwhile, U.S. officials said Japanese residents affected by the devastation will be granted a 30-day
extension of their visas. “If you have exceeded or are about to exceed your authorized stay in the U.S.
you may be permitted up to an additional 30 days to depart,” U.S officials said in a statement.
There were 3,550 foreign students from Japan in Canada in 2009 and 6,450 workers, according to
immigration statistics.More than 235,000 Japanese tourists visited Canada last year, statistics show.
MARCH 9, 2011
Fake Chinese chefs arriving in Ontario
By TOM GODFREY, TORONTO SUN
Canadian Embassy officials in Beijing have turned up the heat on Chinese nationals posing as chefs to fraudulently
obtain visas to enter Canada under a provincial work program. The so-called Chinese dim sum and gourmet
cooks use phoney letters they claim are from Canadian restaurants offering them a job because of their skill.
The letters are given to embassy officials to obtain a visa under a provincial nominee program since there
is a demand for the cooks in Ontario.
Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by lawyer Richard Kurland
show smugglers are abusing the program to slip people into Canada.
“Beijing has experienced a consistent incidence of fraud for cases submitted under the provincial
nominee category,” said a report that was drafted by immigration official, Francesca Imperato.
The April 2010 “Fraud in the Provincial Nominee Program in Beijing” report said in 2009, about
129 cases were refused visas due to misrepresentation. “The most common occupation where
fraud was identified was that of cooks with a total of 36 fraudulent cases,” Imperato said. The
report said visa officers in Beijing were busy in 2009 by intercepting eight bogus welders,
six fake electricians and three phoney business managers, many of whom had letters of
employment promised by some Ontario firms that did not exist. “In 2009 the misrepresentation
was determined as a result of field investigations an or by telephone verifications,” the report said,
adding the remaining fraudulent cases involved lower skilled occupations. The immigration
scam involving phoney chefs first surfaced in 1998 when Canadian Embassy staffers
in Bejing began encountering a rash of fraudulent cooking certificates. Many of the
chefs arrive here and claim refugee status or head to the U.S., officials said.
Kurland said its about time Ottawa crack down on the illegal workers.
“Immigration officials can check a degree or diploma but they can’t check
if someone is a dim sum chef,” Kurland said. “The workers are being given a
heads up that the government is checking their documents.”
About 1,000 foreign workers are brought to work yearly in Ontario under the nominee
program. Canada also requires police officers, journalists, machinists, truck drivers,
secretaries, dressmakers and accountants, according to the 2011 national occupations list.
GEORGIA STRAIGHT - MARCH 4, 2011
Vancouver city councillors urge protection of family reunification program
JOURNAL OF COMMERCE - MARCH 7, 2011
Federal Skilled Worker Program targets show need for reform
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is slashing the number of tradespeople targeted
for selection this year, but the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) hopes to see
more access for these workers.
Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland obtained data from CIC that
reveals only 55,900 people are being targeted for selection in 2011 under the
Federal Skilled Worker program. The data, which was obtained using an access to
information request, represents a decline of 20 per cent from 69,915 in 2010.
“The reduction in the number of people coming into Canada under this program initially
sounds terrible,” said Michael Atkinson, president of the Canadian Construction Association
“It doesn’t make sense to be reducing the number of people coming in, but these numbers
don’t matter if the system is not working for the construction industry. Rather than
worrying about numbers, the system needs to be fixed.”
As a result of this problem, the CIC started a process of public consultation on Feb. 17.
It plans to overhaul the program.
“The Canadian Construction Association is hoping the reforms being discussed, with
respect to the Federal Skilled Worker program, will make it more user friendly to the
construction industry,” said Atkinson.
“The current system puts too much emphasis on language proficiency and post secondary
education. If you don’t have a good score in these categories, you can’t get enough points
to qualify for citizenship. The program has not worked for the trades.”
Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said their research
points to some key changes that will guide policy reform. To start, the current
selection system awards a maximum of 16 points (out of a total of 100)
for high proficiency in one official language. CIC will consult on increasing the maximum
points awarded for proficiency in the first official language from 16 to 20, and on
establishing minimum language requirements, depending on the immigrant’s
occupational skill level. This means that tradespeople will have a different language
requirement than managers or professionals.Education points are awarded based on
the credential and the number of associated years of education. Skilled tradespeople
often have a credential in their trade, but not the required years of education, so they
are disadvantaged and lose points. The proposal is to reduce the number of years of
education required to claim points for a trade or other non-university credential.
This change would help improve access for skilled tradespeople, technicians and
apprentices, who have valid post-secondary qualifications, but not the required number
of years of study. Younger immigrants have higher rates of employment and earnings
than older immigrants. For example, immigrants aged 45 or older experience
unemployment rates almost double those aged 25–34. The selection system currently
awards the maximum 10 points to applicants up to age 49.
CIC will consult on proposed changes to award a maximum of 12 points until age 35, with
diminishing points awarded until age 49. Points wouldn’t be awarded after age 50.
Kurland’s figures from the CIC also show the number of people that are targeted
to receive a visa under the Provincial Nominee Program is forecast to increase by
nine percent to 40,300 in 2011 from 36,650 in 2010. He argued that the relationship
between the numbers of workers being targeted by these two programs reveals a
hidden government agenda. “If you combine the two targets over time, the total
is close to being the same, but the proportions are changing so there are more
provincial than federal decisions in the overall selection process,” said Kurland.
“The design is to push down the cost of the selection decision to the provinces.
The soft skills required for construction must be verified for every file and
employers must also be checked out locally. The feds are leaving all the heavy
lifting to the provinces.” CIC estimates that skilled tradespeople currently make up less
than three per cent of all federal skilled worker applicants. The new program only accepts
20,000 applications each year and there are 29 occupations that only accept up to
1,000 applications. “Unless you are a manager, a construction worker can’t
get a footing,” said Kurland. “So, in terms of construction, the number of
people in this program is insignificant.” Once the number of applications hits
20,000 for the year, the process stops. About 80 per cent of the people that apply
under the new system get a visa in nine months. For the remainder, it can take up to
six or seven years to receive a visa. This issue will be discussed during the CCA
Human Resources Committee on March 8 at the annual conference in Hawaii.
Vancouver city councillors urge protection of family reunification program
By Yolande Cole, March 4, 2011
Vancouver city councillors voted Thursday (March 4) to urge the federal government not to
make cuts to family reunification visas.
A motion by Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs to call on Ottawa, through the
Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to maintain family reunification visas at least at
current levels was passed by council despite a vote of opposition from NPA councillor
Suzanne Anton, who argued the numbers referenced in the motion weren’t accurate.
Meggs’ call was based on information made public by Vancouver immigration lawyer
Richard Kurland last month. Kurland said internal documents showed the federal
government was planning to reduce the number of family reunification visas for
parents and grandparents.
Anton said while she supports the family reunification program, she argued the federal
government is not planning to reduce family class visas. According to a letter from
federal immigration minister Jason Kenney sent to city councillors, this year’s planning
range for all family members and dependent children is 58,500 to 65,500.
Braeden Caley, who delivered a statement to council on behalf of Vancouver-South MP
Ujjal Dosanjh, said immigration documents show a fall in family class visas every year
“Overall, family class visas as a whole from fallen from 70,517 issued in 2006 to 60,207
issued in 2010,” he said. “A family class target range in 2008 was 68,000 to 71,000 and
in 2011 it has now fallen to 58,500 to 65,000.” During debate on the motion,
councillors expressed support for increasing family reunification visa approvals.
“I think we have a duty and a responsibility to represent all of the families that
are potentially impacted by the government adjusting these numbers and leaving
thousands and thousands of people in limbo,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson.
"I think this is an important statement for us to make as a council on behalf of
the many immigrant families in our city."
Vancouver city councillor's immigration motion questioned
By Yolande Cole, March 1, 2011
A motion regarding a federal immigration program hasn’t been discussed at Vancouver
City Hall yet, but its content is already being debated by some councillors.
Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs introduced a motion today (March 1) calling
for the City of Vancouver to appeal to the federal government, through the Federation
of Canadian Municipalities, to maintain family reunification visa approvals at current levels.
The proposal was referred to Thursday for debate.
Meggs’ motion refers to claims made by Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland
last month that the federal government was planning to reduce the number of family
reunification visa approvals.
Kurland said through documents he obtained through a freedom of information
request, it appeared the government was planning to reduce the number of visas
for parents and grandparents wanting to join their family members in Canada to
about 11,000 this year, down from 16,000 last year.
Federal immigration minister Jason Kenney sent a letter to city councillors today refuting
those numbers. “Last year, the planning range for all family members and dependent
children was 57,000 to 63,000,” Kenney wrote. “We estimate that we landed
59,029 such persons. For 2011, we have increased the planning range for the
same class to 58,500 to 65,500.” NPA councillor Suzanne Anton called the concerns
over potential visa reductions a “manufactured crisis.” She said federal immigration
numbers show the 2011 planned range for parent and grandparent visas is between
13,000 and 17,500. She also argued the City of Vancouver shouldn’t be getting
involved in federal immigration issues. “It’s beyond our expertise, it’s not true,
it’s sending out alarm waves for no reason, and people may have various reasons for
being angry at this federal government, but you might as well get angry at them for
something they did, not for something that they’re not doing,” she said in a phone interview.
Meggs is standing by the numbers released by Kurland, and said the principle of
the motion is to maintain the family reunification program.
“I think the minister’s trying to backfill here on what’s been a very damaging
development for the government, because the commitment to allow grandparents
and parents to come here is a long-standing one, and the possibility that Canada
might repudiate that commitment by cutting the numbers really struck a fear in
the hearts of a lot of immigrant families here in Canada,” he told the Straight.
City councillors will hear from speakers and vote on the motion on Thursday afternoon.
Immigration officials target bad employers
By TOM GODFREY, TORONTO SUN
February 27, 2011
Federal immigration officials are creating a database of “bad employers” who are blacklisted
for abusing a foreign worker program and banned from bringing employees to
Canada for two years. The so-called bad employers will have their names posted
on a government website, starting April 1, as part of a crackdown on abusers of the
Temporary Foreign Workers and Live-in Caregivers programs, federal officials
said. The changes stem from 2008 allegations against Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla
by two former caregivers who claimed they were mistreated and had their passports
withheld by her family members, according to federal officials.
Immigration minister Jason Kenney has been working to curb fraud and abuse in the
programs. Immigration lawyers have mixed feeling about the database claiming
it will help workers but can lead to false accusations against companies.
“This is long overdue,” said lawyer Richard Kurland. “Any employer who
mistreats a foreign workers gets barred, plain and simple.”
Toronto Lawyer Guidy Mamann said he’s hoping there will be safeguards to
protect Canadian companies that hire foreign workers. “Any allegation of
wrongdoing and a company can be blacklisted or shut down,” Mamann
said. “Canadian employers should have the benefit of due process.”
He said it’s easy for a disgruntled worker to make bogus allegations that can
hurt a company’s reputation and have it blacklisted. The changes will plug a
loophole that allows recruiters to bring foreign workers to Canada with phony job
offers, assigning them, instead, to perform unauthorized work which pays a
fraction of what they were promised. The database has been dubbed a
“blacklist” or “roll of shame,” since it would include information on anyone
deemed to have made a bogus job offer in the preceding two years.
There is now a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to two years for
anyone who “employs a foreign national in a capacity in which the foreign
national is not authorized,” according to immigration laws.
Another change to the program will set four-year limits on work permits.
After a foreign employees work in Canada for four years, they will not be allowed to
apply for a new work permit until an additional four years have elapsed.
The number of temporary foreign workers entering Canada increased from 107,217 in
1999 to 193,061 in 2008, with more than 40% destined for Alberta and British Columbia.
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, POSTMEDIA NEWS
FEBRUARY 10, 2011
If Immigration Canada is planning to dramatically reduce the
number of visas issued this year for family reunification, it's going
to disappoint a lot of people, Vancouver's Asian community says.
Photograph by: Faith Saribas, Reuters
VANCOUVER — Vancouver's Asian community is furious over allegations
Immigration Canada is planning to dramatically reduce the number
of visas issued this year for family reunification.
The reduction in visas in 2011 cuts to the heart of Asian and South Asian
families, who especially cherish the contribution of elders to family life.
Seniors are being sentenced to a 13-year wait that many of them won't survive,
say immigration experts. Thomas Tam, chief executive officer of SUCCESS immigrant
services, called the reduced visa numbers "a big surprise and so disappointing —
everyone is angry." "Traditionally for Asian immigrants, the reunion with grandparents is
very important. Parents rely on them for childcare and our community looks after
grandparents. They are not a financial burden." Immigration Canada is planning
for "fewer immigrant visas overall, a reduction from 230,450 in 2010 to
217,800 visas in 2011, a drop of over five per cent," noted Vancouver
immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who obtained the data under an
Access to Information request. "You're more likely now to get a coffin
than a visa to Canada," Kurland said Wednesday. "If you're hoping to bring
a grandparent over for a christening, they'll be lucky to get here
before the child graduates from high school." Although Kurland notes there
will be slight increases in visas issued in 2011 to business immigrants,
such as entrepreneurs or wealthy investors, "the only group chosen for the
back of the bus are parents and grandparents." Particularly hard-hit will be
elders from cities such as New Delhi, "which will see the number of its visas
drop from 4,500 in 2010 to 2,500 in 2011," said Kurland.
Charan Gill of Progressive Intercultural Community Services was incensed at
the apparent drastic reduction in the numbers of parents being allowed to emigrate from India.
"Already we have so many families waiting five, six years to bring parents over.
Now people will die before they see their family in Canada," said Gill.
And while Asia/Pacific visa quotas are reduced overall, the City of Beijing
appears to have been given an increase. "That means there will be only
11,200 parents/grandparents come to Canada from China in all of 2011, but one
in four of them will be from Beijing," noted Kurland. "Everyone else has to wait."
Johanne Nadeau, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada,
cautioned that "the visa targets only serve as a planning tool to help allocate
scarce resources, manage applications and minimize processing delays across a
global network." Nadeau said the "visa targets change from year to year" and are
"adjusted as necessary." It would be "wrong to infer from planning numbers how many
people Canada will actually welcome in 2011," she said. Nadeau noted that, in
2010, Canada "welcomed the highest level of permanent residents in 50 years."
© Copyright (c) The Province
Lawyer's documents show immigrants face 13-year wait to bring parents over
Source URL: http://www.straight.com/article-376805/vancouver/vancouver-city-councillor-calls-seeks-reverse-cuts-federal-immigration-program
Visas for skilled workers set to drop
Immigrants needed as economy improves, industry groups say
Thursday, February 17, 2011
By Louise Elliott, CBC News
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney boasted this week of a huge increase in
immigration to Canada in 2010. But new figures show the department
plans cuts to overseas visas in 2011. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Employment and industry groups are reacting negatively to a government plan to cut
substantially the number of visas issued for federal skilled workers this year.
New figures obtained through Access to Information show the government will cut all
economic class visas by nearly seven per cent, and federal skilled worker visas
specifically by 20 per cent, in 2011. "The notion of reducing the number of skilled
workers we aim to take in 2011 is certainly a move in the wrong direction given
where we expect the economy right across the country to be heading,"
said Elsbeth Mehrer, director of research and workforce strategy for Calgary
Economic Development. "This is a time when we need to ensure we're ramping up
to meet worker demand," Mehrer told CBC News Tuesday. "And while we had
some great success last year in terms of having our highest ever number of
immigrants coming into the country, we need to make sure we keep the foot on
the gas to meet labour demand in the future." In question period Monday,
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney noted that in 2010 Canada hit a record high
by welcoming "281,000 permanent residents to Canada, 106,000 more than the Liberals
did shortly after they came to office and cut immigration levels."
Overseas visa targets
2010 2011 % change
Federal skilled worker visa 69,915 55,900 - 20
Provincial nominees visas 36,650 40,300 + 9
Total economic class visa 161,630 151,000 - 6.6
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada/Access to information release
And when asked about his department's cuts to another category, visas for parents and
grandparents, Kenney responded by emphasizing his long-standing effort to
boost economic immigration. "There are tradeoffs. And this government is
focused on the priority of Canadians, which is economic growth and prosperity,"
he said. "Mr. Speaker we need more newcomers working and paying taxes and
contributing to our health-care system. And that's the focus of our immigration sytem."
The problem is, the government isn't robbing Peter to pay Paul — it's robbing
them both, says Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer.
Kurland, who obtained the target numbers through Access to Information,
notes the government is not boosting economic visas overall. In fact, across all
categories (including federal skilled workers, provincial nominees, Quebec skilled
workers, and the Canadian experience and business classes) there will be 6.6 per
cent fewer economic class visas issued this year over last. "The 2011 targets dramatically
show the substantial reduction in federal skilled workers and a slight increase in
provincial selection," Kurland says. "We really should be targeting more skilled
workers to make up for Canadians' inability to demographically reproduce. We
need the young workers to pay the taxes to support the pensions for Canada's
aging population." 'We are facing bigger challenges in the future with respect
to building our workforce and training them than we ever have before.'
—Michael Atkinson, Canadian Construction Association
Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland obtained details
about planned cuts to overseas visa targets through Access to Information.
(CBC) Officials at Citizenship and Immigration caution that the targets found
in the documents do not represent the final number of immigrants to be accepted
this year. That's because the targets are for overseas visas only and do not include
inland claims. However, experts say the extent of the cuts — specifically to
parents and grandparents and skilled worker categories — mean there will
undoubtedly be significantly fewer immigrants accepted in those categories
this year. Michael Atkinson, head of the Canadian Construction Association,
says the cuts to the federal skilled worker category won't affect the construction
industry directly, because those companies have had trouble for years getting
workers through the point system, which is heavily skewed toward
post-secondary education and language proficiency. But Atkinson is still
concerned about the government's motivation for cutting the economic
visas overall. "If the motivation behind reducing those target levels is, 'Well gee,
the economy is improving, we don't need as many skilled workers,' then I would
suggest that is a huge mistake, given the fact that just our aging workforce, our
aging population, our low fertility rate shows us and other industries that it
is only going to get worse. "We are facing bigger challenges in the future with
respect to building our workforce and training them than we ever have before,"
Atkinson says. He adds his industry expects to face a shortfall of 400,000 workers
by 2018 if government policies — both federal and provincial — don't move with
the times. Atkinson notes the government has taken a step in the right direction
by opening a review process of the point system for federal skilled workers. The irony,
according to Mehrer, is that the government has managed to reduce wait times for
federal skille workers through a new system of ministerial instruction brought in in 2008.
Workers under the old system still wait for years for a decision, but new applications
that fit one of a list of 29 occupations are being processed in seven to eight months.
That success is leading many employers to believe the government's current
motivation is a political one, rather than a policy decision. "It's really difficult to say,
but certainly the speculation I hear from employers here is that it's based on
political pressure that may be coming from other parts of Canada, where the
unemployment remains higher and where the understanding of the labour market
dynamics in Alberta and in much of the west are less clear," Mehrer says. She adds that
the economic recession is no argument for the cuts, as things are improving rapidly out west.
"We're already starting to see re-employment of Canadians and Albertans who lost their
work during the recession," Mehrer says. "I'm already hearing from some industries who
recognize that their talent pools are shrinking in terms of the skill set they are going
to need. So as much as they may not be in foreign markets right now looking for
talent, we certainly expect that by the latter half of this year there will be certain
skill sets we simply won't have available in the province."
Louise Elliott is the immigration reporter for CBC Ottawa.
She can be reached at email@example.com.
Federal Conservatives' visa cuts draw criticism
By Carlito Pablo
February 17, 2011
The Conservative government's decision to severely cut the number of
visas for parents and grandparents wanting to reunite with their families
is an “ill-judged” move, according to Jinny Sims.
A former president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, Sims is entering
federal politics, where immigration is a key issue. She is set to be acclaimed
as the NDP candidate in Newton–North Delta on February 27.
“It seems to reflect the values of [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper and his
government, which is not really for strong families,” Sims told the Straight
in a phone interview.
A U.K.–trained immigrant of South Asian heritage, Sims noted that she
herself comes from an extended family where “all these relationships are important”.
She belied the notion that elderly people like parents and grandparents
are a burden to the economy. On the contrary, Sims argued, their
presence in Canada is economically valuable. “They free up parents so that
parents can go out to work, and parents have the security knowing that the
grandparents are looking out after the children,” she said.
Earlier this month, Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland
called public attention to immigration cuts to be made by the
Conservative government for this year, including a reduction in the
number of skilled workers who will be accepted to Canada.
In a phone interview, Kurland noted that there are 142,000 parents
and grandparents abroad waiting for visas from Canada. According to
him, the government will issue only 11,200 visas for this group in 2011,
marking a 30-percent drop from the more than 16,000 visas issued
last year. “The math says that if you apply today, it's a minimum 13-year
waiting period,” Kurland told the Straight.
Source URL: http://www.straight.com/article-375239/vancouver/conservatives-visa-cuts-draw-criticism
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Canadian diplomats dispatched to Egypt
By TOM GODFREY, TORONTO SUN
A team of 14 senior diplomats have been dispatched to Egypt to help with the evacuation
of Canadians and keep an eye on our interests in that country, according to Foreign Affairs
officials. The department was tight-lipped on Friday on whether the civil servants will collect
information to help Ottawa prepare for a transition of power in Egypt now that President Hosni
Mubarak has stepped down after 30 years of rule.
Canadian government officials said some of the diplomats will be starting dossiers on potential
leaders, who stood out during the protests, as they look to protecting Canada’s economic
interests in that country. In 2009, Canada exported $639.4 million in goods to Egypt.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Lisa Monette refused to speculate on what roles, if any, the
diplomats will undertake in Egypt. Monette said an additional 44 foreign affairs staffers
were deployed to European countries to help more than 520 Canadians get home
after being evacuated from Egypt. She said the Canadian embassy in Cairo
suspended services and non-essential staff were sent home last month. Visa and
immigration services at the embassy have been temporarily suspended.
“The embassy continues to closely monitor the situation and to provide essential services,”
Monette said by e-mail. She said there are 1,426 Canadians registered in Egypt with the
department’s Registration of Canadians Abroad service.
“The Government of Canada continues to urge all Canadians to consider leaving Egypt,”
Monette said. “Canadians wishing to depart Egypt have a number of travel options available
through commercial carriers.” Lawyer Richard Kurland said a top priority for
Ottawa is to protect Canadian economic interests in Egypt. “Someone has to
identify who the potential leaders are and report back to Ottawa,” Kurland said
on Friday. “Someone has to look after Canadian interests as a new
government comes in.” The department is also warning Canadians to avoid
travelling to Egypt due to demonstrations, civil unrest, high levels of criminal
activity and violence throughout the country. Foreign Affairs said requests for consular
assistance may be made by calling an Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa
collect at 613-996-8885 or 613-943-1055.
Plan to cut family visas alleged
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, POSTMEDIA NEWS FEBRUARY 11, 2011
Vancouver's Asian community is furious over allegations Immigration Canada is planning
to dramatically reduce the number of visas issued this year for family reunification.
The reduction in visas in 2011 will cut to the heart of Asian and South Asian families,
who especially cherish the contribution of elders to family life, critics say.
Immigration Canada is planning for "fewer immigrant visas overall, a reduction
from 230,450 in 2010 to 217,800 visas in 2011, a drop of over five per cent,"
said Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who obtained the data
under an Access to Information request. Johanne Nadeau, spokeswoman for Citizenship
and Immigration Canada, said "the visa targets only serve as a planning tool to help
allocate scarce resources," and are "adjusted as necessary."
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist
'People will die before they come to this land'
Charan Gill is executive director of the Surrey-based Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society.
By Jeff Nagel - BC Local News
Published: February 11, 2011 3:00 PM
A federal plan to sharply reduce the number of family reunification visas issued this year
threatens to keep immigrants from being joined by aging parents and grandparents
who may die overseas before they can come to Canada.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said Immigration Canada targets
he has obtained under Access to Information to show Ottawa intends to grant
just 11,200 visas for parents and grandparents to join family in Canada in 2011 – a
40 per cent drop from 16,200 issued last year. With more than 140,000 applicants
seeking such family reunification visas, Kurland said it implies wait times will
more than double to 13 years, longer than many of the overseas elders may live.
Charan Gill, executive director of the Progressive Intercultural Community
Services Society (PICS), said many immigrant families in Surrey and across
the Lower Mainland will be upset by the change. "There's no point in processing
many of these applications any more," he said. "People will die before they come
to this land."
Gill called it a serious reversal of Canada's traditionally humanitarian policy of
accommodating the reunification of families here. "This policy is really anti-immigrant,"
he said. "They're segregating the families." Chinese applicants should not have as
much difficulty – the targets show the number of elder visas earmarked for
Beijing will more than double from 1,000 to 2,650 this year.
But for Indo-Canadians seeking to bring parents and grandparents home,
it's a different story. New Delhi, the hub for all applications from India, gets 2,500
visas this year, down 45 per cent from 4,500 in 2010. And the number of German
visas is slashed from 80 to five, with similar steep reductions for Turkey and Romania.
Gill said the new direction doesn't recognize the fact elders brought here
to live with family often help with child care, saving expenses and enabling one spouse
of a family to go back into the workforce. Families will be hurt economically and
culturally, he said, noting grandparents are key to helping instill heritage and
cultural values in children.
Kurland believes the decision to clamp down on reunification visas is about
money, specifically the potential cost to Canada of aging relatives who arrive
here and soon become a financial burden on the medical system. He proposes
Ottawa consider a new option to address that problem. Elder applicants could be
assessed overseas and actuaries could estimate the amount of medical premiums
required to cover 15 years worth of their anticipated medical costs in Canada.
Families could then choose to pay that as a lump sum – eliminating the health
care cost to Canada from the equation – in order to have the parents come here
without a wait, Kurland suggested. In many cases, he said, members of the
extended family from around the world could pool their finances to support
While Gill fears the reduced allocation of elder visas is permanent, Kurland
said it may be just a one-year reduction to enable government politicians to trumpet
a subsequent "increase" back to normal levels in a possible 2012 election year.
Immigration Canada spokesperson Melanie Carkner denied higher health
care costs are the reason for the lower 2011 visa targets. "We've opted to put children and
spouses first," Carkner said, adding they, along with refugees, will have access to more
visas this year. She downplayed the importance of the targets, saying they can be
adjusted throughout the year as necessary.
© Copyright Black Press. All rights reserved.
Immigration cuts mean some more likely to die before reaching Canada: lawyer
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, POSTMEDIA NEWS
FEBRUARY 10, 2011
If Immigration Canada is planning to dramatically reduce the number of visas issued
this year for family reunification, it's going to disappoint a lot of people, Vancouver's
Asian community says.
Photograph by: Faith Saribas, Reuters
VANCOUVER — Vancouver's Asian community is furious over allegations
Immigration Canada is planning to dramatically reduce the number of visas issued
this year for family reunification.
The reduction in visas in 2011 cuts to the heart of Asian and South Asian families, who
especially cherish the contribution of elders to family life. Seniors are being sentenced
to a 13-year wait that many of them won't survive, say immigration experts.
Thomas Tam, chief executive officer of SUCCESS immigrant services, called
the reduced visa numbers "a big surprise and so disappointing — everyone is angry."
"Traditionally for Asian immigrants, the reunion with grandparents is very
important. Parents rely on them for childcare and our community looks after grandparents.
They are not a financial burden." Immigration Canada is planning for "fewer
immigrant visas overall, a reduction from 230,450 in 2010 to 217,800 visas
in 2011, a drop of over five per cent," noted Vancouver immigration lawyer
Richard Kurland, who obtained the data under an Access to Information
request. "You're more likely now to get a coffin than a visa to Canada,"
Kurland said Wednesday."If you're hoping to bring a grandparent over for a
christening, they'll be lucky to get here before the child graduates from high
school." Although Kurland notes there will be slight increases in visas issued in
2011 to business immigrants, such as entrepreneurs or wealthy investors,
"the only group chosen for the back of the bus are parents and grandparents."
Particularly hard-hit will be elders from cities such as New Delhi, "which will see
the number of its visas drop from 4,500 in 2010 to 2,500 in 2011," said Kurland.
Charan Gill of Progressive Intercultural Community Services was incensed at
the apparent drastic reduction in the numbers of parents being allowed to emigrate from
India. "Already we have so many families waiting five, six years to bring parents over.
Now people will die before they see their family in Canada," said Gill.
And while Asia/Pacific visa quotas are reduced overall, the City of Beijing
appears to have been given an increase. "That means there will be only 11,200
parents/grandparents come to Canada from China in all of 2011,
but one in four of them will be from Beijing," noted Kurland. "Everyone else
has to wait."
Johanne Nadeau, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada,
cautioned that "the visa targets only serve as a planning tool to help allocate
scarce resources, manage applications and minimize processing delays across a
global network." Nadeau said the "visa targets change from year to year" and
are "adjusted as necessary." It would be "wrong to infer from planning numbers how
many people Canada will actually welcome in 2011," she said. Nadeau noted that,
in 2010, Canada "welcomed the highest level of permanent residents in 50 years."
© Copyright (c) The Province
Lawyer's documents show immigrants face 13-year wait to bring parents over
BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCE
FEBRUARY 9, 2011 7:01 PM
Thomas Tam, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Immigrant services stands in Chinatown in Vancouver, B. C.
February 9, 2011. Access to Information data shows the federal government has cut quotas for
visas to Canada, resulting in a 13-year wait list to bring parents or grandparents here.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG
If you’re hoping to help a parent immigrate to Canada, new federal immigration quotas will stretch out the wait to at least 13 years. “You’re more likely now to get a coffin than a visa to Canada,” says Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who obtained the never-released data through an Access to Information request. The new information also has the Asian community incensed, since the 2011 quotas come ahead of a promised “community consultation” process.
Kurland notes that Immigration Canada is planning for “fewer immigrant
visas to be issued from overseas processed posts: a reduction overall from
230,450 visas in 2010 down to 217,800 visas in 2011.
“That’s a drop of five per cent,” notes Kurland. “If you’re hoping to bring a grandparent over for a christening, they’ll be lucky to get here before the
child graduates from high school.” Although Kurland notes there will be
slight increases in visas issued in 2011 to business immigrants, such as
entrepreneurs or wealthy investors, “the only group chosen for the back
of the bus are parents and grandparents.”
Thomas Tam, chief executive officer of SUCCESS immigrant services, called the
numbers “a big surprise and so disappointing — everyone is angry, now that
the Chinese media start to report these details. “Traditionally for Asian immigrants,
the reunion with grandparents is very important. Parents rely on them for
childcare and our community looks after grandparents, they are not a financial
Kurland speculates that Immigration Canada may be concerned about soaring healthcare costs for seniors, but he proposes a simple solution. Each sponsor could purchase a group medical insurance policy for the elderly relatives for under $15,000, he says. Tam points out sponsors must already pledge to take financial responsibility for the new immigrants for at least a decade.
But Kurland notes that with “147,769 people in queue for 11,200 visas, if a person applied today, they would wait a minimum 13 years.”
Kurland said the vast barrage of data he obtained contradicts what Immigration officials are saying publicly, but he said they are citng data several years old showing much shorter wait times for visas. “We hope the government will explain its reasons because very senior Immigration officals have been promising they will consult us first.” said Tam. “Canadians support immigration so why is this happening?” Johanne Nadeau, Immigration Canada spokeswoman for B.C., said that media reps across Canada are working on a response to Kurland’s data, but will not have any public comment until Wednesday.
© Copyright (c) The Province
News Toronto & GTA
Ontario wants to peek at immigration files
By TOM GODFREY, TORONTO SUN
February 9, 2011
Ontario is trying to obtain access to a top-secret federal immigration database to curb fraud when issuing licences to new drivers, documents show. The plan by the transportation ministry has drawn criticism from police and immigration workers who say people may be in jeopardy if sensitive information falls into the wrong hands.
Ontario officials have been working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada since March 2010 to obtain a “formal information-sharing agreement” to use the data for those applying for regular or enhanced drivers’ licences, government memos show.
“Some of the activity of concern may be associated with (those) seeking permanent resident cards or Canadian citizenship,” Ontario immigration program adviser Wendy Quirion wrote in an e-mail. “The driver’s licence is a key document in support of residency in Canada.”
An immigration case processing centre in Sydney, N.S., now verifies requests from Ontario to validate citizenship certificates before licences are issued.
“They have been verifying the cards with a yes/no response and releasing no additional information,” she said in a memo obtained through Access of Information request by lawyer Richard Kurland.
Federal immigration officials said they support an agreement between their department and Ontario. Bob Nichols, of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, said his officials are looking at ways to strengthen the system. “We take fraud prevention very seriously,” he said. But, Karl Walsh, president of the OPP Association, said he doubts if ministry officials will be trained and sworn to secrecy as police officers. “This is the work for police officers,” he said. Amy Casipullai, of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, said some newcomers may be alarmed that their records are being examined. “I don’t see what an immigration check has to do with getting a licence.”
Senior immigration lawyer Marshall Drukarsh said some information could lead to danger. “If I made a claim against a regime and they found out about it my family there can be placed in jeopardy.”
Immigrants with money to invest spend more time in B.C.
BY DON CAYO, VANCOUVER SUN JANUARY 29, 2011
A lot of new immigrants to Canada don't stay very long in the province where they land. And when you add up the economic impact of the comings and goings of these immigrants once they've arrived, B.C. seems to be gaining quite a bit more than it loses.The short story is that economically active immigrants -- those with money to invest or, to a lesser extent, with skills that are in demand -- are more inclined to move to B.C. from another province than they are to leave here for perceived greener pastures farther east. And family class immigrants -- those who are most likely to provoke concerns about straining our government services such as health and education -- leave B.C. for other parts of Canada in slightly greater numbers than similar migrants move in from other provinces.
I gleaned these insights from a Canadian Citizenship and Immigration paper that was provided to me by Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland. (For reasons I'm hard-pressed to understand, Kurland had to ferret out this information with an Access to Information request, though it's now posted on the Internet.)
The report found the retention rate for all 1.6 million immigrants who arrived between 2000 and 2006 varied from 79 to 91 per cent in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, but was just 43 to 68 per cent in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Maritimes. When the destinations of those who left their province of arrival were tracked through tax records, Alberta and B.C. were the only two provinces to register a positive net inflow. But it's when you drill down into who went where that the economic significance of post-immigration internal migration starts to emerge.
In the family immigrant category, B.C. saw a net loss of about one per cent of the nearly 58,000 who arrived here between 2000 and 2006 -- a modest, but not insignificant change.
With nearly 68,000 skilled workers originally landing in B.C. between 2000 and 2006, migration had even less net effect, but we did end up with a small gain. We lost about 13,800 workers, more than 8,000 of them to Ontario and more than 3,000 to Alberta. And we gained just over 14,000, mostly from Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. But business immigrants, the ones with money to invest, tended to get here and stay here. Only about seven per cent of the nearly 17,000 who arrived during the last five years of the study packed up and moved on to another part of Canada. And nearly 5,000, or about three a day for the period under study, moved in from other provinces to bolster the net total to more than 20,000.
According to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website, business immigrants are expect to invest at least $800,000 into a business in Canada. And according to an estimate published in the Canadian Immigration Newsletter, published by a Quebec-based law firm, business immigration programs between 2002 and early 2010 accounted for more than $603 million investment in B.C. and 2,500 jobs.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun