by Sarmad Khan.
DUBAI // Six years of unabated growth at breakneck speed, fuelled by high oil revenues and an unprecedented rise in the property and construction sector made Dubai a destination of choice for ambitious people. Property marketing wizards, geniuses who reinvented the term “fast-track” in the construction sector, bankers, professionals in retail and hospitality, and even researchers and academicians all had one goal: be here and be part of an incredible success story.
But the days of pulling strings to grab a corner office in a Dubai International Financial Centre investment bank, or be the top man of a property firm selling projects worth billions of dirhams without even putting a shovel in the ground, are a distant memory.
who had called the UAE home during the boom years were rather unceremoniously made to leave when the contraction hit the economy with real
force in the last quarter of 2008. Some of those who survived the mass redundancies are now looking elsewhere, to Singapore, Hong Kong or even
a return to Europe or the Americas.
Does that mean the UAE is facing a real threat of brain drain? Immigration consultants and executive placement experts think so.
There has been a “substantial increase” in the number of cases filed by expatriates living in the UAE to migrate to countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand since the financial crisis hit the Gulf.
“There has always been a global demand for immigration, but it is more so now in the UAE since the beginning of last year. Expatriates opting to immigrate feel insecure about long-term prospects of their jobs and financial security here,” says Sony Nellissery, the resident director at Aries International, an immigration consultancy firm in Dubai.
Expatriates from all sectors of the economy are interested in migration, but construction professionals are perhaps more enthusiastic than others.
The construction and property sector and record high oil prices were the primary drivers of the UAE’s 7.4 per cent growth in GDP in 2008. However, construction projects, both commercial and residential, estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars have either been suspended, shelved or scaled down since the beginning of last year in response to virtually non-existent project finance.
There is no official data available on how many people have lost jobs since the last quarter of 2008, but economists say tens of thousands of positions disappeared as developers and construction contractors had to adjust to painful market realities. Shuaa Capital, the UAE’s largest investment bank, said in a report last week it expected the population of Dubai to contract by 3.6 per cent this year.
Some countries, such as Canada, have cut the time for processing immigration applications from two to three years to about a year, which, the consultants say, is one of the major reasons why they are receiving applications in bulk.
Construction professionals are joined by financial managers and workers in the health care and hospitality sectors as those most interested in emigrating from the UAE.
These sectors have taken a major beating in the wake of the economic contraction as businesses took drastic measures to cut the cost of operations in order to compensate for declining demand and shrinking business volumes. Redundancies in these sectors were as widespread as in construction and property.
“There are about seven categories in health care and as many in hospitality. Open categories such as financial and construction managers are attracting many applicants from the UAE,” says Anup Suphia, the branch manager for Worldwide Immigration and Consultancy Services Canada that operates from Dubai Airport Free Zone.
He says the shortened period for the application process, social security, unemployment benefits, free health care and education for children are some of the attractions the would-be migrants do not get in the Gulf markets.
“They might be making less than what they make here [in the Gulf ], and end up paying taxes, but they become citizens and enjoy all benefits that comes with it,” he says. “Here they will always remain expatriate.”
There are more than 40 immigration consultants operating in Dubai and they are all are busier than ever, which is a reflection of how much interest there is in immigration, Mr Suphia says.
“It is even more difficult to qualify for immigration under the new skilled professional category system in Canada, but the interest from applicants is huge.” And those who do not qualify in the 38 professional categories to call Canada their new home have an option to apply to live there as investors. People with liquid assets of at least C$500,000 (Dh1.7 million) can be classified as investors. Consultants in Dubai say they are getting more applicants in that category.
The Canadian authorities, undeterred by economic contraction, are planning to accept a little over 250,000 new immigrants this year.
“The focus of the 2010 plan is on economic immigration to support Canada’s economy during and beyond the current economic recovery,” Jason Kenney, the Canadian minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism said last year.
The highest number of migrants the country has received in a single year is 429,649 in 2007.
The UAE expatriate population is dominated by South Asian and Arab expatriates, who in most cases have less than reliable economic buoyancy in their home countries. The security situation in their respective countries is another reason why expatriates are hesitant to move back.
“For example if a Pakistani expatriate is interested in immigrating to Canada, he is more driven by security issues than economic concerns,” says Mr Nellissery.
“But whatever the reasons are, the make-up of the labour market is changing rapidly.”
Jack Montgomery, a senior consultant at Stanton Chase International, one of the largest global executive search firms, agrees.
“The talent pool available is definitely shrinking. It is difficult to get the right people for the job.”
The main reason for that, he says, is the exit of middle and senior management from the job market when companies merged positions to cut costs during crisis days. Also, employees are now more interested in a “safety net”, such as an unemployment allowance in case they lose their jobs, a practice more prevalent in western countries and non-existent in the Gulf market.
“An expatriate from the European Union might be a little less stressed about having a safety net than an expatriate from an Asian country,” Mr Montgomery says. The pressure of losing a settled job and moving on to a new job market is the same for any expatriate, but Asian middle managers would consider it more favourably as they would have better social benefits in countries such as Canada, he says.
“Top managers are not really interested in immigrating to other countries for social benefits. Even if they lose jobs, they have the qualifications and experience to get relatively easily into a new job market with or without a social safety net.”
Online program costs less to offer while letting newcomers polish their skills, continue to work.
With the click of a mouse, Lilla Gyotar can simulate buying a TTC ticket and visiting a job centre. If she stumbles on a new English word, an animated parrot will pop up on the computer screen and teach her how to pronounce it.
“The online program is helpful because you can go on it any time. You can see your mistakes and learn from them right away. Sometimes when you talk to people, they don’t correct you,” said Gyotar, 18, who came here from Hungary in 2008.
The Port Credit Secondary School student has joined a growing number of immigrants turning to cyberspace and home study to learn English while juggling a job, school, family and a new life in Canada.
Over the past five years, the number of immigrants to Ontario taking a government-funded English home-study program has jumped from 440 to 1,100 – including 150 in Toronto, where the program only became available in 2008.
Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classes are offered to immigrants at no cost, but only 20 per cent of adult newcomers take the program annually – many drop out due to other obligations. The home study version allows students to study on their own time. It also costs much less – $1,972 per student, compared to $4,113 per seat for LINC, according to a government review.
This month, the e-learning program has been expanded, with a pilot project for young newcomers like Gyotar. Another, for immigrant seniors, will follow. Like the $2.5 million home-study program, the $300,000 pilot is administered by Mississauga-based Centre for Education and Training.
Participants in the online LINCing Youth program (www.ylinc.ca) can practise reading, writing, listening to and speaking English through interactive scenarios and tools such as YouTube; their progress is monitored. Information on student loans, college applications and other settlement needs is also available. The 25 students in the pilot must attend a weekly group meeting with instructors.
Opinions vary on which is better: 41 per cent of LINC students surveyed favoured the flexibility of home study, while 28 per cent preferred the conversation opportunities of classroom instruction. The rest had no preference.
An immigration spokesperson said new technology won’t replace classroom instruction because the online program is offered only to those who can’t attend regular classes due to shift work, lack of transportation or child care, who have a chronic illness, or who live in places where classes are unavailable.
Illya Dudukalov, an engineer from Ukraine, spent two months in an English class in Barrie before his assembly-line job forced him to switch to home study.
“It takes a lot of motivation and determination. I like learning in a class because you can interact with others and get immediate feedback from the teacher,” said the Vaughan resident. He advises others to start with a class and, after getting a job, continue through home study.
Updated: Sat Jan. 16 2010 18:38:09
Jessica Earle, ctvedmonton.ca
Canada will expedite immigration applications for Haitians with family in this country and Haitians on a temporary visit to Canada will be allowed to extend their stay says Minister Jason Kenney, who looks after the Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism portfolio.
“Canada has welcomed a large community of Haitians to this country and is working to reunite families affected by this disaster as quickly as possible,” he said in a news release on Saturday.
“Haitian nationals who are currently in Canada will also benefit from special measures.”
According to the statement, priority will be given to new and existing sponsorship applications from Canadian citizens, permanent residents and protected persons who have close family members in Haiti.
The change will take effect immediately, though Kenney cautions applicants must identify themselves as being directly and greatly affected by the tragedy in Haiti and must notify Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
New sponsorship applicants should write “Haiti” in clearly visible letters on the mailing envelope.
Those with applications in process, meanwhile, should notify the CIC Call Centre at 1-888-242-2100 (in Canada only, from 7 am to 7 pm ET Monday through Friday) or by email at question-Haiti@cic.gc.ca if they or the family they have sponsored have been greatly affected by the earthquake.
Kenney says pending adoption cases with the visa office in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, will also be given priority consideration.
The government warns the Canadian Embassy in Haiti is providing very limited services right now because of damage sustained in the natural disaster. Officials say CIC is trying to open another office in the area in order to speed up visa and immigration applications.
Kenney says Haitian nationals who are temporary residents in Canada can extend their stay. Fees typically associated with applications of this nature will be waived and those struggling financially will be allowed to apply for a work permit.
OTTAWA–Haitians with close family members in Canada will be moved to the front of the immigration line as the federal government steps up its immediate and long-term commitments to help those in the devastated Caribbean nation.
In an update on the crisis, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Saturday that 1,362 Canadians are still missing in Haiti, down from 1,415 the previous day.
In all, 781 Canadians out of an estimated 6,000 in Haiti at the time of Tuesday’s quake have been located, Cannon said. The government’s emergency operations centre, which tries to track down individuals unaccounted for in Haiti, has received approximately 21,000 calls.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Ottawa will temporarily fast-track applications for Haitians under the family reunification provision of the Immigration Act, which allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to sponsor close family members in Haiti as immigrants to this country.
Priority will be given to new applications and to the 2,000 applications now pending, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said.
In total, up to 5,000 Haitians could come to Canada under this expedited process, Kenney estimated.
But he said applicants will need to demonstrate that they were “significantly” affected by the earthquake.
New sponsorship applications should be mailed to Citizenship and Immigration Canada with “Haiti” written prominently on the envelope. And sponsors and applicants who have applications in process should notify immigration officials so their cases can be moved to the front of the queue.
Kenney said priority will be given to pending adoption cases with the visa office in Port-au-Prince, and a satellite office to handle applications from Haiti will open soon in Santo Domingo, capital of neighbouring Dominican Republic.
“Canada has welcomed a large community of Haitians to this country and is working to reunite families affected by this disaster as quickly as possible,” Kenney told reporters at the news conference.
But his announcement may disappoint some refugee advocates, who had hoped Ottawa would significantly expand the group of people allowed to immigrate under the family reunification process.
The government said Saturday that the speeded-up immigration process applies to spouses, unmarried dependent children, parents or grandparents and an orphaned child under 18 who is a brother, sister, niece, nephew or grandchild of a family member in Canada.
NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow said the move is a step in the right direction, but the family reunification program needs to be widened to include siblings.
“Most Canadians would think a brother is part of the family, but right now it’s not included in the strict definition of family class,” Chow said.
Source:Muchmore Canada magazine.
Calgary, Waterloo, Ottawa, Vancouver, St. John’s and Richmond Hill have what migrants are looking for when choosing where to locate, according to the Conference Board’s second report assessing the attractiveness of Canadian cities. Read the report here.
“Cities that fail to attract new people will struggle to stay prosperous and vibrant,” said Mario Lefebvre, Director, Centre for Municipal Studies. “These six cities come out on top across all rankings, so they appear to have an overall winning combination that is attractive to migrants. Although it would be hard to imagine a more diverse group of cities, each has particular strengths that make them magnets to newcomers, both from within Canada and abroad.”
City Magnets II: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of 50 Canadian Cities, analyzes and benchmarks the features that make Canadian cities attractive to skilled workers and mobile populations. The performance of these cities is compared on 41 indicators grouped across seven categories: Society, Health, Economy, Environment, Education, Innovation, and Housing.
The challenge in determining overall attractiveness is that when individuals are choosing a new city, they value attributes of city living differently. Weights were computed for each of the seven categories. For migrants with a university degree, the Education category matters the most (21 per cent) in the decision to locate, followed by Society (20 per cent), Innovation (19 per cent) and Economy (13 per cent). Migrants without a university education consider, in an overwhelming fashion, that the Economy category matters the most (33 per cent) and followed by Society (20 per cent).
“In deciding where to live, university-educated migrants prefer cities with higher Education and Society outcomes. Migrants without a university education place more value on a city’s economic strength,” said Lefebvre. “However, the study shows that a city that is attractive to a certain type of migrant ends up being attractive to all, so policy makers must be cautious in crafting policies aimed at attracting university graduates only.”
The six “A” performers – Calgary, Waterloo, Ottawa, Vancouver, St. John’s and Richmond Hill, Ont. – range between big and small cities, from the West Coast to the East Coast, and include both urban and suburban centres. Specifically:
* Calgary’s strong economic results come as no surprise given its performance over the past decade, but the city also ranked first in Innovation and second in Housing.
* Waterloo’s worldwide reputation for high-tech excellence in education and business is well deserved. Ranked number-one in Education, Waterloo also posted strong results in Economy, Innovation and Housing.
* Ottawa reaps the benefits of a strong and well-educated public sector. The nation’s capital excels in Innovation and Education, and, apart from Health, scores well across all categories.
* Richmond Hill, a fast-growing city north of Toronto, has become the second most diverse city in Canada. A well-educated workforce contributes to its high scores in the Education and Innovation categories.
* Vancouver enjoys an enviable climate and a vibrancy that comes from its young, diverse, and multicultural population.
* St. John’s has achieved a strong productivity level that even surpasses that of Calgary and Edmonton. It is also a stellar performer in Health and Environment categories.
The “B” class includes 14 cities – Edmonton, Victoria, Markham, Vaughan, Kingston, Oakville, and Guelph are consistently in the top half of this group. The City of Toronto also earns an overall “B” grade. Although held back by lacklustre results in the Health and Environment categories (too few physicians for such a large population, and too many days of poor air quality), the City of Toronto leads all cities in the Society category, particularly the proportion of foreign-born population and the proportion of population employed in cultural occupations. In all, the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA) obtains five of the top 14 spots. The Toronto CMA attracted 35 per cent of Canada’s immigrants (about 85,000 per year) between 2001 and 2006, but this is partly offset by migrants – 25,000 annually – leaving for other Canadian cities. London, Halifax, Lévis, Regina, Québec City, and Burlington also receive “B” grades.
A total of 21 cities get “C” grades, including three of Canada’s largest urban centres: Winnipeg, Montréal, and Hamilton. Although an overall “C”, Mississauga – with its high number of immigrants – gets a “B” in attractiveness among university-educated migrants. Four of Vancouver’s suburbs – Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Surrey – earn “C” grades, as does nearby Abbotsford. Generally, Vancouver’s suburbs lag behind in Health and Economy. Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Kitchener, Barrie, Saskatoon, Moncton, Brampton, Kelowna, Thunder Bay, Peterborough, St. Catharines, and Sudbury also get “C” grades.
The “D” class includes nine small or mid-sized cities – four in Ontario: Oshawa, Brantford, Windsor, and Cambridge; four in Quebec: Longueuil, Saguenay, Trois-Rivières, and Laval, and Saint John, New Brunswick. Along with struggling economies in most cases, seven of these nine cities have shown little population growth, while the other two posted a decline in population (Saint John and Saguenay). These nine cities are also clustered near the bottom of the Innovation and Education categories.
Performance By Category
* Society – Canada’s largest cities post the best results, with Toronto and Montreal capturing the only two “A” grades. Toronto’s suburbs rank highly, as do Vancouver and Victoria.
* Health – Small and mid-sized cities dominate this category, which mainly measures per capita access to care. Only Kingston and St. John’s get “A” grades. Vancouver and Quebec City are the only big cities to rank in the top 10. Suburban cities, which rely on services located in the urban cores, face the greatest challenges – 10 of the bottom 12 are neighbours of either Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.
* Economy – Although the rankings are based on 2006 data and pre-date the recession, the Conference Board expects cities with strong economies back then to rebound and post the strongest showing following the downturn. Calgary, Edmonton and Vaughan earn the only “A” grades in the ranking; Edmonton’s strong economy makes it particularly attractive to non-university educated migrants. Five Toronto-area suburbs make the top 10. Ottawa and Waterloo also rank in the top 10.
* Environment – Seven of the eight cities in British Columbia included in this report earn “A” grades and dominate the top 10 rankings, due largely to good air quality and a mild climate. Montreal ranks last and Longueuil is also near the bottom. Mississauga, Burlington, Vaughan and Oakville also earn “D” grades.
* Education – The “university towns” of Waterloo and Kingston outclass their counterparts and earn the only two “A” grades. Small and mid-sized cities dominate the results for teachers per student population, with four small Ontario cities (Burlington, Waterloo, Peterborough and Guelph) grabbing all the “A” grades on this indicator.
* Innovation – Calgary, Richmond Hill and Ottawa get “As” for Innovation. Cities with broad manufacturing or resource-based economies generally fare less well in this category.
* Housing – Small and mid-sized cities generally do the best in this category, thanks in particular to relatively affordable housing. The Quebec City suburb of Lévis leads all cities, and five other Quebec cities rank in the top 10. The opposite is true for all eight B.C. cities, where homes are generally expensive. As a result, these cities fall in the bottom half of the rankings and five of them, including Victoria and the Lower Mainland cities, get “D” grades.
The research was funded by 15 municipal and regional organizations from across Canada. The full report (120 pages) is available from the Conference Board’s e-library for a price of $225.
Posted By DAVE DALE, THE NUGGET
North Bay turned a page Monday in its strategy to attract immigrants to help fill the void being created by a baby boomer generation nearing retirement.
A new website portal was unveiled at the Best Western Lakeshore Drive that highlights why the city is a good choice for a new home or business investment, as well as links to services assisting immigrant transitions.
Three consulting firms were involved in the research and design of the site funded by a $270,000 grant from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.
Nipissing MPP Monique Smith said it’s part of a $10-million initiative across the province allowing 18 communities to showcase their assets.
The goal is to get new Canadians to consider places outside Toronto, where the majority of immigrants settle.
Mayor Vic Fedeli said boomers are leaving their jobs
by the thousands” across Canada and North Bay firms are telling him they may not be able to keep their offices here without trained individuals to replace retirees.
We need immigrants in North Bay,” Fedeli said, describing how five senior staff are soon leaving city jobs and it’s the same at Ontario Northland, the Ministry of Transportation, Canadore College and Nipissing University.
He said the fears about finding professionals echo in the private sector with Redpath Engineering and Cementation warning him that North Bay doesn’t have the bodies to fill positions.
It’s very important to be proactive to solve that problem . . . in North Bay we are ahead of the curve,” he said, referring to the North Bay Newcomer Network, North Bay and District Multicultural Centre and the new website.
Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota said the portal gives prospective immigrants a broader view of the opportunities here, describing how his grandfather arrived on Ellis Island in New York in 1902.
Rota said the only information his grandfather had was word from a friend who worked for the railway in North Bay.
It really makes it easier,” he said, adding that it may also help landed immigrants living in other parts of Canada who may want to relocate.
Marla Tremblay, the city’s economic development officer, said the province will soon offer translation into 14 languages for some of the static portions of the website.
But Tremblay said many parts of the website involve data that changes regularly, making translation expensive, and she said they wouldn’t want newcomers to expect services in their language.
She said three separate requests for proposals were tendered for the research necessary to build a site that serves a specific purpose, gathering of information from service providers and site design.
The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade, released an important study last week that demonstrates how international students contribute significantly to Canada’s economy.
The report, The Economic Impact of International Education in Canada, contains some remarkable numbers, beginning with $6.5 billion – the total amount spent by the 178,000 international students in Canada last year. This figure is greater than the values of the export of coal and coniferous lumber – two of our traditionally largest export sectors. According to the report, education services are Canada’s number one export to China and the second largest export to South Korea. The presence of international students at Canadian institutions provided employment for over 83,000 Canadians and generated more than $291 million in government revenue.
The magnitude of these figures provides additional evidence to support our call for a new investment to assist our member institutions in attracting this global talent to pursue their education and research here in Canada.
These economic outcomes are only the most recent indication of the benefits associated with international students, while they are here studying and after graduation, whether they choose to return home or put their expertise and knowledge to work in Canada.
While studying here, students from abroad bring diverse perspectives, expertise and skills to Canadian classrooms and labs and contribute to creating global, 21st-century institutions of education and research across Canada. This positive effect is not restricted to just the largest urban centres. The presence of international students at our institutions in smaller communities brings together many cultures from around the world which in turn, infuses the broader community with diversity.
When they graduate from our schools and return to their countries of origin, many become business, governmental and academic leaders, creating international networks that strengthen Canada’s economic and diplomatic ties abroad.
When they choose to stay here, foreign graduates bring significant economic and social benefits to Canada as an ideal source of highly qualified people for the skilled labour market – already integrated into our communities and without any of the barriers related to foreign credential recognition. A forthcoming report from the Canadian Bureau for International Education indicates that 52 percent of university students and 71 percent of college students intend to stay to work in Canada for up to three years after they graduate. Given that international students largely graduate in business and engineering, they represent a top talent pool matched to our labour market needs.
Now added to the list of benefits is this fresh evidence of the immediate economic impact of international students to Canada. As we begin to emerge from the current economic downturn, the potential of this significant sector of our economy needs to be realized.
The Government of Canada recognizes the linkages between international students and our economic competitiveness and we welcome the Minister’s commitment to work with us to market Canada as the destination of choice for students. Progress has been made through recent government measures such as the development of a new education brand, improvements to immigration policies and processes, and the creation of the new Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. Still, the efforts of other countries continue to eclipse those of Canada through major government-funded branding and marketing initiatives.
Now is the time to maximize the many benefits of bringing Canadian education to the world. On behalf of the key national educational associations representing the spectrum of institutions across the country – universities, colleges, public school boards and language schools, we are calling for a significant new government investment in an international student recruitment strategy that promotes the excellence of Canada’s education system to the many talented students abroad.
January 6 2010
Source:Seyfarth Shaw LLP
On December 30, 2009, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) issued new guidance on assessing the language requirement for temporary foreign workers.
Current Canadian regulations state that immigration officers shall deny an application for a work permit to a foreign national if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant cannot perform the duties stated in the work permit application. In this regard, immigration officers are instructed to assess temporary foreign workers’ knowledge of French or English before issuing a work permit, irrespective of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill level of the intended position in Canada.
In their assessment, immigration officers may consider the working conditions and/or any efforts undertaken by the employer to accommodate the limitations of the applicant’s proficiency in English or French, as well as resulting potential safety concerns. Immigration officers may also consider the terms in the actual job offer, in addition to the more generalized requirements stated in the NOC, in order to determine whether the applicant’s lack of language skills could compromise his/her ability to perform the job.
However, immigration officers are not authorized to consider perceived challenges the applicant might face in interacting with the broader community if it is not relevant to his/her job performance.
It is likely that immigration officers will require, going forward, proof from official testing (IELTS for English or TEF for French) for candidates whose native language is neither English nor French.
George Abraham (Diplomat)
4 January 2010
The Canadian city of Edmonton —· popular among Arab tourists thanks to a gargantuan mall — was the coldest place on earth in mid-December, along with a Siberian place called Dzalinda.
The mercury hovered at -46 degree C, but the wind made it seem more like -58 degree C. But such extreme temperatures have not stopped Canada being the warmest towards immigrants, in fact, making it the only country to buck a global trend towards lowering the gates.
In recent months, several European governments, including Spain, Ireland, Denmark and the Czech Republic, have paid immigrants enticing sums of money to go back to where they came from. Not Canada, though. The government has said it will continue to welcome a quarter-million new immigrants a year, but will conversely tighten the refugee determination system that is seen by many as too liberal.
With high unemployment and a large number of citizens on welfare in all of the so-called First World, admitting newcomers who are likely to contribute to both is seen as politically un-doable. Canada, however, is following a different tack. “We are planning for the economic recovery,” says a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, alluding to several positive indicators that have surfaced in recent weeks foretelling an economy on the rebound. Compare this with Australia’s 15 per cent cut in immigrant intake in the wake of the economic downturn.
However, Ottawa’s stay-the-course approach is bound to be balanced by a tougher attitude to refugee applications, which were set to record a dramatic increase until the government stepped in with visa restrictions on travellers from the Czech Republic and Mexico. The fear of human smugglers taking advantage of a sympathetic refugee system took on new urgency in October when a batch of 76 Sri Lankan Tamils landed in British Columbia aboard a ramshackle freighter. Every one of them filed refugee applications, but few have made it beyond the gates of a detention centre as the government goes the extra mile to conduct background checks and ensure they are not Tamil Tiger guerrillas out to turn Toronto into an alternative capital for their grievances. In the words of a government spokesperson, “We can’t allow the creation of a two-tier immigration system: one tier for people who wait patiently and legally in the queue to come to Canada and another for profiteers, for those who engage the services of snakeheads and human trafficking groups.” Besides domestic pressure for a refugee screening system that is less prone to exploitation, American concerns over Canada serving as a backdoor into the US homeland has resulted in tougher questioning of applicants.
The overriding message to what the Economist recently called the world of “footloose talent” is that Canada remains open to immigrants, even at a time when Western economies stare at the prospect of sustained 10 per cent unemployment well into the next decade. To the Canadian mind, this is a myopic view that will prove counter-productive in the long term. The need for immigrants to replace an aging population and thereby ensure that there are always more workers paying into pension funds than retirees remains a paramount calculation. It may also be that a recession may not be a good time to cut back on immigrant intake, which has the desirable effect of transferring wealth from rich nations to the developing world.
This transfer is worth an annual $283 billion, but may be impacted if immigrants lose their jobs or there is a fall in the overall numbers gaining residence in industrialised nations. In a macro-economic sense, immigration has the unintended consequence of lifting families out of poverty thereby diminishing the “push” factors that drive people to flee their countries of birth.
But with many magnets for mobile human capital, Canada and its provinces are learning to be nimble in the pursuit of top talent. A recent instance was the relocation of 80 Indian IT consultants from Hartford, Connecticut, to two Atlantic cities — Charlottetown and Halifax — following the collapse of the Hyderabad-based Satyam Computer Services. Living in the US on work-dependent visas that were threatened following the troubles of the Indian computer giant, the governments of Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Nova Scotia are reported to have worked actively with a Canadian company to make a smooth switchover. Another factor that makes Canada an attractive home for immigrants is its religious tolerance. According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Center for Religion and Public Life, Canada ranks among the most tolerant on a global scale.
George Abraham is an Ottawa-based commentator. For feedback, write to email@example.com