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Monday, November 12, 2012

Immigration Minister says new system makes it easier for foreign professionals to have credentials recognized in Canada

Further to my post of 30 September 2011, in a report in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed that his government is making “profound” changes to Canada’s immigration system in anticipation of escalating competition from other developed nations for skilled immigrants.
Canada currently admits between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents a year.  For decades it has been one of only about half a dozen countries worldwide to allow immigration.  (The others include the United States, Australia, and Israel.)  But now other industrialized countries are opening their doors to immigrants to compensate for the reduced growth and aging demographics of their domestic populations. 
In the face of this rising global competition, Mr. Harper says Canada must improve its process for targeting and selection to ensure that it attracts sufficient numbers of immigrants, as well as people with the most desirable skills, expertise, and investment capacity. Mr. Harper describes his Conservative government's changes to the immigration system as shifting from a system that merely receives applications and processes them on a first-come-first-serve basis to a more proactive one that chooses people based on the country’s priorities and how much the applicants can benefit Canada.
Mr. Harper’s statements come soon after three further developments affecting Canadian immigration practices:  The first is that Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney (shown at right), announced earlier this month that the backlog of skilled immigrant applications, which has clogged the system for years, is declining rapidly and will be eliminated by the end of 2013.  Mr. Kenney said about 100,000 applications are still in the system, down from 640,000 just a few years ago.
The second development occurred last week, when Mr. Harper’s government launched a review of the federal Temporary Foreign Worker program, which brings some 200,000 temporary workers into Canada each year from foreign countries.  The review was prompted by controversy following the government’s decision to hire hundreds of Chinese nationals through the program to work in British Columbian mines.  Criticisms of the program include that it lets foreigners take jobs away from Canadians and creates a second class of labourers that puts a downward pressure on wages.  (In October, unemployment in Canada remained at 7.4 percent, following two consecutive months of increases.)

The third development, also announced earlier this month by Mr. Kenney, is a revamped points system to assess people who apply for immigration.  Schedule to take effect in 2013, the revised system will place new emphasis on having employers invite immigrants into the country and place them in jobs on arrival.  It also includes pre-assement of overseas applicants based on their education, prior Canadian work experience, age, and English or French language skills. The Conservatives’ current immigration system already treats temporary workers from foreign counties who have obtained Canadian work experience as one of the best prospects to enlist as new immigrants, because they have already proven they can integrate into Canadian society and meet the country’s labour-market needs.  

To date, discussions sparked on LinkedIn by the Globe’s Saturday report seem to emphasize the disparity between the public image of Canada as a land of golden opportunity for newcomers versus the reality that skilled immigrants may encounter upon arrival in this country, when they may find themselves severely underemployed.* 

Mr. Kenney says the recent immigration reforms were devised with exactly this disparity in mind: "I don't think we're being true to our reputation as a land of opportunity by inviting engineers to come here and come and drive cabs, or medical doctors to come here and be night watchmen or convenience store clerks," he comments.

  For an example, LinkedIn members might search and review the discussion started on Saturday by Nicole Jelly, a global HR strategist and cross-cultural expert in Calgary, Alberta.  Mr. Kenney is the Member of Parliament for Calgary Southeast.