By RON FANFAIR
Canada is committed to improving the economic outcomes for newcomers, their expeditious integration into the society and generally ensuring that immigration works for this country, says Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney.
“This is important because one thing we should be mindful of is that this is one of the only western democracies with a broad and deep pro-immigration political consensus,” Kenney said in his address at the Economic Club of Canada last week. “We can see the recent debate in the United Kingdom over by how much should immigration be cut. We can see in other Western democracies xenophobic, anti-immigrant and, at worst, racist political parties. We can see recent law adopted in Arizona as an indication of the direction that other jurisdictions are headed in.”
Kenney pointed out that Canada is unique in having a broad and deep “across-the-political spectrum” consensus that supports diversity and immigration’s positive attributes.
“We cannot take that consensus for granted,” he said. “We must demonstrate to Canadians that immigration works for this country and that means ensuring that the newcomers that we select, and that is something that you know it should not be by happenstance, are connected to the labour market needs of today and the future and will have a capacity to be successfully and rapidly integrated into our society and into our economy. And that has really been the guiding principle of everything that we’ve done.
“When I think of immigration, I try to remember that it starts with someone’s often difficult decision to pick up and move, sometimes, usually with their family to Canada. That choice connects to a larger chain of decisions and actions whose results affect us all, even if we’ve not come here from another land. So our vision of the road ahead is based on ideas about what I want those results to be.
“I want to see an integrated society of active and engaged citizens, not a series of separated ethno-cultural silos and I want Canadians, whether they’ve been here for a few months or all their lives, to embrace our shared values and our shared history and institutions.
“I want newcomers to integrate into our proud and democratic Canadian society and I want us all to work together to invest in and help strengthen the prosperity of a country that continues to attract newcomers.”
Close to 250,000 newcomers arrive in Canada each year and the majority settle in Ontario. Though skilled in myriad fields, many immigrants are unable to find employment in the sectors in which they were trained in the countries of their birth.
To help immigrants translate their credentials into jobs, Kenney said the federal government is working with the provinces and professional agencies to address the issue of foreign credential recognition.
“We don’t expect or ask the professional licensing bodies in Canada to lower their standards,” he said. “We don’t want people who aren’t properly qualified doctors performing surgeries. We don’t want people who aren’t really properly qualified engineers building bridges, but we do want those licensing bodies to give foreign trained professionals at least a fair crack at their application in a reasonable amount of time.”
The federal government has invested $50 million to work with the provinces and territories to reduce and eliminate barriers that prevent foreign-trained professionals having their credentials recognized in Canada.
Kenney also said the Canadian government is offering two free two-day settlement seminars for selected economic immigrants.
“This is now available to 80 per cent of those newcomers before they get to Canada, so for two days they can sit down and get customized training on where you are hoping to live, how you can find a job there, how can you apply from abroad before you get to Canada, how could you even apply for your credential recognition before you land in Canada,” he added.
Kenney recently launched a series of proposed reforms to Canada’s refugee system, beginning with a commitment to resettle 2,500 more UN-selected refugees living in refugee camps and urban slums once the package is approved.
Close to 2,500 individuals filed for asylum last year. Kenney estimates that about 97 per cent of them either abandon or withdraw their claims.
“There are too many people who come here inappropriately through our asylum system, abusing our generosity and violating our laws,” Kenney said. “In fact, nearly 60 per cent of asylum claims in Canada are found not to be in need of Canada’s protection.”
Kenney said many of the claimants enrolling in Canada’s welfare and other income support programs and then channeling those funds to accounts controlled by criminal organizations are being investigated.