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Changes to SINP seen through Manitoban eye

By this time I think most readers are aware that something has changed in immigration in the province. As of this time, federal immigration is still set to assume full control over settlement services by spring 2013. The rumours, however, of the impending end of the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) are not true. MPNP continues to operate unchanged but it’s future is uncertain. I shall not minimize the changes that were imposed on Manitoba by the federal government (see April and May issues of Pilipino Express).

Can things get worse? Yes, they can and they might. We have the recent example of the Saskatchewan provincial nominee program (SINP) as an example of what might happen here.

The major change to SINP announced in the last few months has to do with the application streams. The best way of categorizing the change is that SINP has now become a program primarily for applicants with job offers or those who are already in the province on work permits. Or, in other words, the focus is on employer direct applications.

The Saskatchewan Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration Minister, Rob Norris, made no efforts to defend the existing SINP and readily supported the federal changes, saying that the SINP was “swamped” with family related applications. “We’re over-subscribed today as it is – that is, there’s more demand than we have room under the federally imposed cap.” Norris added his support to the federal change to “employment related” applicants, saying, “We want to protect it and sustain it, connect it more closely to the labour market and we want to make sure that it is fair for all families.”

It is somewhat astonishing for residents of Manitoba to hear that the Saskatchewan provincial government so readily accepted the changes. There were no arguments to the contrary, no consultations with communities but a ready acceptance that family sponsored applications were somehow burdensome and do not add economic value to the province. This attitude is quite different from that found in the Saskatchewan Statistical Immigration Report of 2009 when the then-NDP government praised all provincial nominees for adding to the growth of the province. Saskatchewan welcomed 3,516 newcomers in 2007 and rose steadily to 8,946 in 2009. The province did not distinguish between family and employment direct. All were welcome and all made contributions to the province. But the attitudes towards immigration have changed with the provincial government, which is now the Saskatchewan (Conservative) Party.

What about the news media? The Saskatchewan Leader Post did publish a story about a public gathering of 300 people outside the Saskatchewan Legislature on May 15, 2012 to protest the changes. The people interviewed and quoted in the paper seemed for the most part to be among those who moved to Saskatchewan recently to take advantage of the provincial nominee program, especially the family related stream. Doubtless, there were others in the crowd but their complaints were not reported. The complaints about false promises and lack of warning fell on deaf ears. Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenny readily dismissed their criticism: “If immigrants are keen to live with their extended families they’re welcome to do so in their own country.” And what country is “their own” Mr. Minister? Don’t all Canadian Citizens and permanent residents have rights? Did the newspaper take the Minister to task for his anti-immigration sentiments or ask for some documentary justification for such drastic action? The answer is a resounding “No!”

There are lessons to be learned from the Saskatchewan experience. First, no matter how successful an immigration program is, if there is no one to defend it, it falls. Second, the provincial response appears to be based not on the economic realities but on what party is in power. In Manitoba communities, settlement service providers stood with elected Liberal and NDP party members in defence of our excellent settlement service model while the Conservative party members rallied around Minister Jason Kenny. If or when the same Minister Kenny comes to change our nominee program, because of real or imagined abuse, do you really expect Conservative party members to defend the MPNP, the best interests of our province, newcomer communities like the Filipinos? Or will they just defend their party’s position regardless of whether or not it is fair, too extreme or anti-immigrant? All those who have benefited from the MPNP should be grateful that we have a government in power that actually favours immigration to our province by still making it possible for our families and friends to immigrate. No, Mr. Kenny, newcomers are not a burden to the country: immigration is a net value. Canada was built by bringing people in, not by keeping them 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: mscott.ici@gmail.com

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