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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott

   

Immigration changes in the local press

My intention was to write a third successive article on the reconfiguration of the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP) but I never lose sight of the news that is happening around me.

It was but one year ago when the local headlines were filled with breaking news about dramatic changes in the funding of settlement services in Manitoba. There was no consultation, no warning, only the unilateral action of the federal government to take back the service. The Manitoba Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism, Christine Melnick, was vocal in her criticism of the federal government who cancelled the annex to the Canada – Manitoba Accord and announced their intention to administer settlement services across the country by the spring of 2013. Minister Melnick said, “You ask me if the PNP is safe, I can’t tell you that. I can just tell you what happened two weeks ago.”

The change in funding was only one part of a very ambitious plan by federal Minister of Immigration Jason Kenny to change the immigration world as we know it.

“The reforms we are making are designed to dramatically improve the economic outcome of newcomers and help Canada’s productivity,” said Kenny in Canada Politics (“Immigration minister says foreign engineers, doctors no longer need to drive cabs,” 19 December 2012). Manitoba and the rest of the world may have survived the ancient Mayan predictions of the end of the world but one year has elapsed and we are now witnesses to Minister Kenny’s immigration spring 2013.

In a series of articles, the Winnipeg Free Press announced to its readership the changes that have taken place. In a piece entitled “Tighter Immigration Slammed,” the staff writer points out that Manitoba and Canada are not the same friendly places they used to be, at least not for immigrants (March 21, 2013). “It’s much, much more difficult for huge numbers of persons to immigrate and reunite with their families,” noted Louise Simbandumwe of Immigration Matters in Manitoba Coalition. “We’re taking a broad look at the unprecedented changes the federal government is making that is closing doors for all categories of people.” The article cites the drop in arrivals to Manitoba from 15,931 in 2011 to 13,991 in 2012 as cause for concern.

The reasons for the decline are not explained in this article but the writer does enumerate a number of changes in federal immigration that cause applicants and new Canadians to conclude that Canada is no longer a friendly destination but is “closing the door”:

1. In 2010 the feds introduce a more difficult citizenship exam with a higher minimum passing grade. In 2009 only one of every 25 applicants who took the previous test failed while one in five (20%) who challenged the 2010 test failed: in Winnipeg, one in three immigrants failed;

2. In November 2011 federal immigration announced a two-year moratorium on the sponsorship of parents/grandparents. The freeze is set to expire in November of this year so the jury is still out. It is too early to tell if the sponsorship will be reinstated or we are left with the Super Visa that allows parents/grandparents to enter for a period longer than 6 months as long as they can afford the $100,000 in health coverage needed to get the super visa. The signs are not good with federal immigration promoting the wide benefits of the increased temporary residence opportunities: “Super Visa, Super Successful” (CIC);

3. In 2012 the MPNP and CIC moved to impose minimum language requirements for applicants with semi- or low-skilled job experience (Categories C & D);

4. In 2012 the federal government took the drastic step of cancelling over 300,000 federal skilled worker applications that had been submitted before February 27, 2008. This action was unprecedented in Canadian history and was challenged in the Supreme Court. One of the results of the judicial challenge was a moratorium on FSWP applications with the new program set to be introduced in May 2013;

5. The federal government decided that employers could pay foreign workers (OFW) wages 15 per cent lower than the median wage paid to Canadian workers doing the same type of work in their region;

6. In November the federal department made it harder for citizenship applicants by requiring proof of English language proficiency. In addition to a more difficult test, the CIC now requires applicants to demonstrate a minimum level of language proficiency in English or French;

7. The cap on MPNP nominations is being held at 5,000 by federal immigration. This is counter to the volume of yearly applicants of over 10,000, the retention of rate of 85 per cent for provincial nominee arrivals and their contribution to the growing Manitoba economy and healthy real estate market.

In another Winnipeg Free Press article of the same day entitled “Policy Change Effects Immigration Numbers,” Winnipeg lawyer, Reis Pagtakhan points out that the drop in arrivals has much to do with a change in federal immigration in favour of “an employer driven” model. He correctly points out some of the benefits of the approach and also the costs. Canada has made it more difficult to sponsor family members. The MPNP, in sharp contrast, tries to maintain something of a balanced approach. “Manitoba is the only province with a viable program that still allows family members and friends to immigrate to Canada without a job offer, previous work in Canada or study here. This allows Manitoba to strike a balance between employer-driven immigration and family reunification,” said Pagtakhan.

The final article is one specific to settlement services. “Federal Takeover Quashes Immigrant Service” is the dramatic headline that appeared in the March 22, 2013 issue of the Winnipeg Free Press and the Brandon Sun. The focus of the article was on the Nominee Application Centre (NAC), which is no longer being funded by the federal government and will close its doors in April 2013. The service is discontinued. The federal settlement services, centralized in Calgary, Alberta decided that NAC should not be funded. A Manitoba immigration representative noted: “As a result of the federal government’s unilateral decision to take over management of settlement services, the NAC is no longer eligible for funding.”

Thank you to the writers who contributed to the Winnipeg Free Press. They correctly point out that things are changing in the immigration world and the changes affect us all. The MPNP has also been altered by the changes in Canadian immigration and this will be explored in my following article.

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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