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Minister Jason Kenny

& Canadian immigration reform

It never ceases to amaze me that the Minister of Immigration who is responsible for seriously limiting the numbers of persons entering Canada is forever quoted as saying he strongly supports immigration. The headline on a recent Globe and Mail article says: “Canada ready to open its doors to more immigrants, Kenny says.” It is encouraging to read such a headline but what does this really mean for immigration to the country? How do these supportive words accord with the recent actions by this same Minister to stop the sponsorship of parents, cut the number of skilled immigrant applications, take back settlement services in Manitoba and change the nominee program in Saskatchewan to one based primarily upon job offers or work permits in Canada? He appears to be saying one thing while doing the opposite.

Minister Kenny qualifies his comments by speaking about reforming the immigration system in ways that make all persons contribute to the Canadian economy. Remember his comments about the sponsorship of parents who he said are too much of a drain on the social services and medical services of the country? Were his conclusions well thought out, transparent, open to public scrutiny and discussion? No. His decision to suspend sponsorship for two years was arbitrarily forced upon all Canadians covered in excuses and justification.

We are told that the costs of medical care for the parents and grandparents we sponsor is too high, when in actual fact, their participation in the medical system is considerably lower than parents and grandparents of native born Canadians. We are told that they come to Canada not to work but only to collect. Did the Minister actually determine the attendant costs for Canada of not having such parents here as part of the extended family network? I am not convinced that Minister Kenny even understands the difference between the extended family network common amongst Asian families and the nuclear family common to American and Canadian families, much less did he determine the real benefits to the country of having such parents and grandparents present. The government has not yet suspended the sponsorship of parents: they have only imposed a two-year moratorium in order, we were told, to clear up the backlog. In place of sponsorship he introduced the Super Visa with it’s costly insurance premium that must be placed up front. After the moratorium is lifted, then what? If we judge Minister Kenny and his government by their actions to date, the likelihood of a return to the parental sponsorship of the past is slim to not at all: it may be “reformed” (his word not mine) right out of existence.

The Minister often contrasts family class immigration, such as parental sponsorship or even the inclusion of younger siblings, as something Canada can no longer afford. The cost of bringing in such persons, we are told, far outweighs their social, familial or economic benefit to the country. He forever contrasts family immigration with skilled worker immigration, which he praises as providing Canada with the workers we need to remain competitive in the global market place. We cannot argue with his praise for economic immigration but how do his actions match his words. Prior to the election of the Conservative government and especially after they achieved their first majority, the old “Human Potential Model” of judging economic class immigrants, by education, work experience, English or French language proficiency etc., championed by the Liberal government, was discarded.

We no longer speak about the “potential” benefits of workers but rather Minister Kenny and government has moved to match them against current labour market shortages. In short order over the past few years applicants were limited to those in certain “national occupational classification” codes (NOC). First, the number of occupations was reduced down to its current list of 29. Second, the government set a limit of 1,000 per occupation, such as Registered Nurses, and a total yearly number of 20,000 in 2010 and this number was cut in half for 2011 to 500 in any one occupational area and 10,000 in total. Are you surprised to hear that the number in both has already been reached and there will be no more skilled worker applications accepted for the current year? We have to wait to July 2012 to find out if there will be any continuation of this stream or if it be “reformed” out of existence. It is one thing to say you support economic stream immigration and another thing to introduce limits which drastically cut the number of potential applicants.

I also remind the readers that this is the same Minister of Immigration and majority government who recently decided to suspend the processing of over 300,000 skilled worker applications and return the fees they paid. First, I am surprised that a government who preaches austerity and fiscal restraint found $130,000,000 plus in money to give back. Second, I, like many other Canadians, are still appalled that any Canadian government would go back on its word in such a cavalier fashion. This arbitrary action is nothing to be proud of and it is hoped that the Supreme Court will overturn it.

Where are we then in matching the supportive words of our Immigration Minister with the actions of his government? Minister Jason Kenny was quoted in the Globe and Mail’s series on the future of immigration as being concerned that immigrant professionals were underemployed in Canada and could not readily enter their professional areas. This, like the praise the national government gives all Asians for the month of May, is well received and something that most of us can agree with. It does not make good economic sense to deny well-qualified and experienced immigrants the opportunity to work in their professional fields. However, the solution the Minister speaks about is where he and I part ways. He wants to delay the admission of immigrant professionals to allow them the opportunity to qualify for admission into their professional fields in Canada or match the job offers that are going unfilled in the Canadian labour market. I would like to remind that Minister that registered nurses can only challenge the qualifying examinations by regulatory bodies, such as the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba, only after they are landed. If we require all foreign trained applicants to meet the requirements from abroad then we, like Minister Kenny, are only giving lip service to the question of the underemployment of immigrant professionals. An independent study of landed practical nurses by professor Tom Carter of the University of Winnipeg has shown that underemployed professionals are actually able to find related work within three to five years of arrival. If Minister Kenny limits applications of professionals to those who can meet the requirements for professional accreditation and licensing from abroad, we may end up in a situation where few immigrant professionals, if any, get through.

In conclusion, the federal government apparently wants all Canadians to understand that immigration is costly for the country as opposed to a net benefit. His government talks about the high costs of providing medical coverage and pensions to sponsored parents and siblings, the underemployment of immigrant professionals, the provision of English language classes or costly settlement services like those in Manitoba, and an overriding need to reform the system. His actions such as the suspension of the sponsorship of parents, the removal of medical coverage for refugee claimants within Canada, the return of skilled worker applications and the suspension of the annex on settlement services within the Canada-Manitoba Immigration Agreement are all extreme measures. They remind me of an American Republican presidential candidate from the 1960s, Barry Goldwater, who famously stated, “Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice.” Or, in the case of our current Conservative government, they are “reforming” all immigration to keep immigrants out.

Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail:

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