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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Mentorship programs help newcomers network

A trained engineer, Beatriz Arias Quero landed a job at TransCanada in August after almost two years of looking.

A trained engineer, Beatriz Arias Quero landed a job at TransCanada in August after almost two years of looking.

Photograph by: Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald

Trained as an industrial engineer in Venezuela, Beatriz Arias Quero immigrated to Canada in 2004 and landed in Montreal to pursue her master’s degree while working to gain some Canadian experience.
At the end of 2009, she moved to Calgary for family reasons, but didn’t have any experience in the oil and gas industry that dominates the city’s economy.
“It was hard because I didn’t have a network in Calgary,” Arias Quero says.
After all, even within Canada, workplace cultures and industries vary significantly from region to region. So, she applied to jobs online, cold called and networked by taking industry-related professionals out for coffee, but nothing concrete ever came of her one-off meetings.
Frustrated, she also applied to every immigrant resource centre available to her to try to form an ongoing relationship with somebody who could offer local advice to land a job. Then, she heard about a mentoring program through the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council.
She enrolled in the council’s Mentoring Collaborative program, a four-month initiative that matches up new immigrants with an established, local professional, which started in January.
Midway through the program, both mentor and mentee became frustrated that she was having no luck in finding employment, but both persevered. “I would keep looking online for any (job) postings and if I saw any from TransCanada that I thought I’d be a good fit, I would take them to my mentor . . . and ask if I should apply for this.”
In August, she landed a job at TransCanada Corp. as a business analyst. “It really relates to my background,” she says. “It’s a different industry, but the principles are the same.”
During the mentoring program’s pilot, the employment council made 37 matches that resulted in 17 mentees finding employment. Since January, it has had 160 mentoring relationships that yielded 67 successful job hunts, a number expected to rise with the program’s followup, which includes a three-, six-and one-year checkup.
“What employers are looking for . . . is what your resume needs to look like (and) what is in your advantage to showcase – where you need to upgrade your skills,” says Marie-France Varin, the council’s director of program development.
Students also have the benefit of guest speakers from industry that provide additional advice, tips and direction about what new Canadians need to do – and where to find the resources – to gain employment in their fields.
Astrid Abramyan also benefited from the mentoring program. The Armenian-born supply chain management professional moved to Calgary from Moscow with her family four years ago with poor English skills, but lots of initiative.
“When I came here, I had 10 years of experience and my educational background, but I realized I had to start from zero,” says Abramyan, who quickly enrolled in English courses upon arrival.
She is now working toward her Canadian professional designation as a supply chain management professional – she is graduates in 2012 – but has already found employment in her field as a result of the mentoring program.
What prompted her to enrol was frustration after sending out more than 30 resumes and not getting even a single telephone interview.
After the program, she landed a job through an employment agency at a large, integrated oil and gas company in Calgary. As she hones her English and works toward accreditation, Abramyan is confident she’ll be able to demonstrate her abilities to her current employer over the next several months. It’s valuable Canadian experience that will surely help her in the future, wherever she ends up in her career.

Read more:http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Mentorship+programs+help+newcomers+network/5778582/story.html#ixzz1f4LnD3Ym

Employers crossing cultural boundaries

Recruitment specialist for Hatch, Jamie Rogers is photographed in his downtown office in SW Calgary on November 18, 2011.

Recruitment specialist for Hatch, Jamie Rogers is photographed in his downtown office in SW Calgary on November 18, 2011.

Photograph by: Adrian Shellard, Postmedia News

Like any business professional on the move, Jamie Rogers likes to network. But for this recruitment specialist at Hatch, a Calgary-based engineering firm, his sphere of influence is a little out of the ordinary.
Rogers is a firm believer that international experience is a terrific advantage in the Canadian workplace. That’s why he spends a lot of time working with immigration agencies, colleges and other associations to meet, greet and mentor new Canadians.
His passion for helping immigrants find employment harkens back to the time Rogers spent working abroad after graduating from university.
“That experience gave me real insight into how businesses work out there and the many similarities,” he says.
He considers it an important opportunity to find potential talent that might otherwise be over-looked. “There’s been a belief that a person needs Canadian experience before they can be hired. But overseas experience is solid. The language and cultural differences are easy to overcome if you have the credentials.”
Tapping into this work pool is quickly becoming a business imperative. According to Lynn M. Merrithew, corporation relation liaison for the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, 24,000 new Canadians from 120 countries arrive in Alberta each year.
“That’s a large number. And given the trends – older workers retiring, lower birthrates, etc. – we have to depend on immigration to sustain our corporate growth here,” Merrithew says.
This is far from being a local phenomenon. Teresa Gonzalez, director, gateway for international professionals at Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education in Toronto, says “immigrants are expected to account for all of Canada’s labour force growth this year.
For that reason, access to this pool of talent has become a pressing issue for employers.”
The challenge for many employers lies in knowing where to find the right qualifications and talent for the job.
Rogers says he likes to work with organizations such as CCIS and Bow Valley College, which offer a range of networking, professional development and placement services designed to encourage business leaders to connect with new immigrants.
“These programs are a great tool for anyone in HR staffing,” Rogers says.
New Canadians can also help themselves enormously by put-ting themselves in the networking picture and working on building “soft skills” to augment their credentials, Gonzales says.

Read more:http://www.vancouversun.com/Employers+crossing+cultural+boundaries/5778574/story.html#ixzz1f4KUOirx

Balancing social and economic interests with family sponsorships

Written by  Jennifer NeesPosted Date: November 28, 2011
Source: Canadian Lawyer

On Nov. 4, the Canadian government announced it was taking immediate action to cut the backlog of parent/grandparent sponsorship applications by suspending any new applications for the program. It vowed to decrease the backlog of 165,000 files by increasing the number of those backlogged applications processed during 2012. In addition, the government will be introducing a new “Parent and Grandparent Super Visa,” which will allow eligible applicants a 10-year visa valid for multiple two-year stays in Canada. This Super Visa will become available on Dec. 1.

The reaction of the immigration bar to this announcement has been mixed. While some counsel applaud the government’s efforts to address the extensive processing times (five years and counting), others are concerned that the unspoken “truth” is that the government no longer places an importance on sponsoring parents and grandparents.

There’s been much discussion about the various benefits and drawbacks of the parental sponsorship program. Among the benefits are the importance of family reunification as a tenet of the Canadian immigration program, the benefits that parents and grandparents provide with respect to familial issues such as childcare, and the liquidated assets that many parents and grandparents bring to Canada when they land as immigrants. The drawback arguments have included the possible increased demand on health-care services from elderly new immigrants and the general lack of contribution to the Canadian workplace as elderly new immigrants may be less likely to enter the Canadian labour market.

The theory is the Super Visa would deal with the positive aspects without incurring any of the negative ones. While information kits are not yet available online, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has indicated that Super Visa applicants will be required to undergo an immigration medical examination; demonstrate they have purchased private Canadian medical insurance; and provide a written commitment of financial support from a child or grandchild in Canada who meets a minimum income threshold. If approved, they will be allowed to remain in Canada for two years at a time without access to health care or the labour market.

While I can appreciate the benefit of having parents or grandparents visit for a long time, and the positive effects this could have for Canadian citizen and permanent resident families, in my mind it falls short.

The Super Visa will allow foreign parents and grandparents to come to Canada, to visit for up to two years at a time and to spend their money, but it will not allow them to make Canada their home, to build a life here with their Canadian citizen/permanent resident children, or the certainty of where they will be if they unfortunately require some sort of long-term care or treatment. It also creates uncertainty for the Canadian citizen/permanent resident offspring who is concerned about long-term care options for a family member, which would be alleviated by having a Canadian permanent resident parent.

It’s a fine balance between the economic and social benefits of having family sponsorship in general. As a society, we want to encourage the best and brightest potential immigrants, but this means offering more than just the possibility of jobs. It also means allowing them to sponsor their family members and to build a complete life in Canada. For many people, this will mean having the ability to sponsor parents or grandparents, and even siblings, who continue to be ineligible under the Canadian family sponsorship class.

It will be interesting to see how these changes affect the program and if the Super Visas decrease the number of overall applicants under this class if/when the suspension is lifted and the class becomes operational again. The Super Visa will likely offer a speedy option for parents and grandparents who are interested only in visiting their Canadian children, and it certainly addresses the issues surrounding access to health care, but it ignores many of the social reasons why people sponsor their parents and grandparents to Canada in the first place.

Ontario’s dwindling appeal to immigrants prompts funding cut from Ottawa

Ontario is slowly losing its appeal for immigrants as newcomers head to more promising regions to make a life for themselves, a trend prompting Ottawa to reduce the funding it gives Canada’s most populous province to settle arrivals.
The state of affairs has Ontario’s Immigration Minister blaming the Harper government for the problem and warning the that disappearance of the cash will hurt newcomers in his province.
The federal Conservatives say Ontario has no right to demand more money per immigrant than other provinces.
For the third year in a row, Ottawa is chopping the amount of settlement funding it is giving Ontario, which has been plagued by weak economic growth as its manufacturing base struggles to recover from the 2008-2009 recession.
Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced on Friday that Ontario will receive $314.9-million in the next fiscal year, 2012-13. That’s a decline from $346.5-million this year, from $390.4-million in 2010-11 and $390.7-million in 2009-10.
Settlement funding for every other province will rise or remain constant next year.
“We believe it is only fair that settlement allocations across Canada should be based on the share of newcomers that provinces and territories have,” Mr. Kenney said.
Ontario’s share of new Canadian immigrants has declined to 52 per cent in 2010 from 64 per cent in 2005, as more newcomers chose to settle in Western and Atlantic Canada. Federal officials who provided these figures say the trend has continued in 2011.
But Ontario’s Immigration Minister, Charles Sousa, is crying foul over the dwindling dollars, saying Ottawa is short-changing his province.
He points out Ontario remains Canada’s No. 1 destination for immigrants.
Mr. Sousa said the latest funding cut will deny Ontario $31-million and leave the deficit-ridden province short of what it needs to help immigrants during weak economic times.
“It will hit newcomers in Ontario especially hard at a time when the province could most benefit from the valuable contributions they bring,” the provincial minister said.
“These unfair cuts will deny thousands … access to services that will help them find jobs and learn new skills.”
The Ontario minister said Ottawa is to blame for the decline in immigrants, saying the long waits to process applications has become a bottleneck for newcomers trying to settle in his province.
“Thousands of people destined for Ontario are stuck in a huge applications backlog that forces many to wait as much as seven years before they can set foot in our province,” Mr. Sousa said.
“This system is not working.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Kenney rejected Ontario’s accusation.
“An immigrant applying under the federal skilled worker program applying today to go to Toronto would be there in under 12 months,” Candice Malcolm said.
“The fact is a lot more immigrants are choosing to go west.”
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said he thinks Ontario’s appeal for newcomers will recover as the economic conditions change.
“It will always bounce back,” he said.
But he added that Ontario could do a better job of wooing skilled workers by building a provincial system that actively recruits and selects the immigrants it needs.
“While other provinces have fully embraced their provincial constitutional responsibility of selecting immigrants … Ontario has effectively abdicated its ability to engage in the immigration dossier in a serious way.”
Mr. Kurland said it’s logical for Ottawa to finance and promote immigration outside Central Canada as a means of ensuring that newcomers don’t simply cluster in major centres such as the Greater Toronto Area.
“If you want to send immigrants to our hinterland and retain them there, it makes common sense to shift resources outside Ontario to places where settlement services are sparse,” he said.
“Why pay federally for something that municipalities and provincial services are already doing” in places such as Ontario, Mr. Kurland said.

Canadian paycheques failing to keep pace with cost of living

The buying power of Canadians’ paycheques is eroding, as wage gains fail to keep pace with inflation at a time when domestic spending is key to countering the effects of a deteriorating global economy.
Wages are growing at the slowest rate in nearly two years, new figures from Statistics Canada show, as the most populous provinces grapple with a weak job market that is making it more difficult for workers to demand pay raises. Meanwhile, the spike in global commodity prices that started in the spring is translating into unusually high energy and food costs.
The national figures mask a widening divide between the new have and have-not regions – the resource-rich West, where more and more workers are benefiting from the commodities boom and a scramble by companies to attract skilled labour, and the old manufacturing powerhouse of Central Canada, where entire one-horse towns are dying.
Average weekly earnings in Canada are highest in Alberta, while Saskatchewan has moved up quickly, Statscan numbers showed Thursday. At $906.22, weekly earnings in Saskatchewan in September were higher than in Ontario for the first time, and well above the national average of $872.75.
Nationwide, Ontario is more indicative of the drop in the purchasing power of Canadians.
The national increase in average weekly earnings from a year earlier was just 1.1 per cent, the slowest since November, 2009, and a far cry from the 4.1 per cent pace in April. With inflation close to 3 per cent, real wages fell.
The weekly take of Saskatchewan workers was nearly 7 per cent higher in September from a year earlier. Earnings in Ontario were lower, by 1.3 per cent.
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney says inflation will fall to as low as 1 per cent by mid-2012, as the higher food and energy prices that have vexed households since the summer ease.
But consumer spending, which accounts for about half of the economy, is already slowing because so many households are preoccupied with trimming their elevated debt loads.
The booming economy in Saskatchewan, centre of the global potash market and Canada’s No. 2 oil producer, helped Premier Brad Wall cruise to re-election this month and is forcing companies to raise salaries amid fierce competition for workers that is spreading to all sectors. Ontario, meanwhile, is losing ground against jurisdictions all over North America in terms of per capita economic output, and, last month, employment in manufacturing fell to the lowest on record.
Mr. Wall is the first to acknowledge that Saskatchewan has lucked out, as its commodities help underpin rapid growth in emerging markets like China. Still, he also touts his efforts to cut taxes, spend cautiously and provide incentives for investments in the resource sector.
“We’ve always credited a lot of good fortune for what’s happening economically in the province,” he said Thursday. “No government can claim responsibility or credit for this, but our growth agenda has sought to stay out of the way of this kind of development and facilitate it through infrastructure investments, and through competitive taxes.”
Potash and oil are undoubtedly the key drivers, he said, but the services, retail and construction sectors are surging, too. The Premier noted there are currently 10,000 openings on a provincial jobs website, underscoring Saskatchewan’s skilled-labour shortage.
Camile Baillargeon and his wife Carol operate a grain farm and tiny oil-field service company called Camcar Enterprises, about 200 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.
Mr. Baillargeon needs two full-time employees year-round, and peaks at eight employees during harvest. Right now, those positions are vacant.
“It is hard to attract and retain talent,” he said. “The Occupy Wall Street movement doesn’t hold much water out here, because if you want to work, the world is your oyster.”
Ontario, of course, would love to have this problem.
The decline in the factory sector is a key reason why the Canadian economy shed a surprising 54,000 jobs in October – the most since February, 2009, in the depths of the recession – and the jobless rate edged up two notches to 7.3 per cent.
Mr. Baillargeon said he has posted jobs on a Saskatchewan employment site and 50 to 60 per cent of the applicants come from Ontario. Camcar, though, has to compete against oil and gas companies for labour. Large firms like Husky Energy Inc. and Devon Energy Corp., for example, operate in this northwest slice of the province, and their presence means local service outfits have also popped up, pushing the Baillargeons to pay salaries reminiscent of Alberta’s oil-sands boom.
“We’re paying close to oil field wages,” he said. “We have to be competitive.”
With a report from Carrie Tait in Calgary

Financial literacy a skill all Canadians could get better at

In the last decade, Alberta’s share of Canada’s immigrants has almost doubled reaching nearly 12 per cent of Canada’s total. And in Calgary alone there are more than 3,000 refugee claimants. Alberta and the West are increasingly a destination for immigrants.
It is no real surprise that the Canadian West is a becoming a bigger magnet for international immigration.
The relative health of our economy and strength of the job market makes places like B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan very attractive destinations. We need immigration, especially skilled workers, to help fuel continued economic growth.
To this end, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has plans for 42,000 to 45,000 people to arrive in Alberta next year through the Provincial Nominee Program.
Most Canadians think immigration is a positive force in our country. A poll released by the Trudeau Foundation earlier this month reveals that Canadians say, by a three-to-one margin, immigration is making the country a better place. The question, then, is how best to prepare and equip new Canadians to flourish in their adopted home.
Among the top challenges facing recent immigrants is money and financial literacy. Indeed, the same Trudeau Foundation poll found that six-in-10 say immigrants should be required to become economically self-sufficient in their first year in Canada.
Money and financial literacy is a big issue for a lot of Canadians, not just newcomers. The debt-todisposable income ratio has risen steadily over the last 20 years reaching 148 per cent in 2010. Momentum, a local organization that provides financial literacy programs for lower-income Calgarians, notes that more than half of Canadians say they need help with financial management skills.
Financial concerns rank even higher among immigrants. The most recent Signposts survey prepared for the City of Calgary and United Way found that while 18 per cent of Calgarians born in Canada are concerned with not having enough money for food, 29 per cent of immigrants are concerned about the same.
Recent immigrants have particular challenges when it comes to money. Earlier this year, the Minister of Finance’s Financial Literacy Task Force noted that while recent immigrants are doing better keeping track of finances, they are struggling making ends meet, choosing financial products, planning ahead, and staying informed. New Canadians tend to have strong financial support from family, be resourceful, and are relatively thrifty. Recent immigrants, however, also tend to struggle with language barriers as well as with loans, credit, interest, and budgeting.
This challenge hit home a few weeks ago. A good friend volunteers her time helping a large number of refugees who arrived in Calgary over the last few years. She helps them find jobs and homes, prepare their taxes, visit doctors, figure out schools for their children, as well as deal with winter. She received a call from one of the young men recently. He excitedly told her that he bought a new truck and wanted her to come along to pick it up.
The papers were all signed and finalized; he had purchased a brand-new truck for $56,000. He now faces $800 monthly payments for the next seven years, $400 a month for insurance, and every tank of gas costs more than $100. He makes $17 an hour. This young man was frankly thrilled with his new truck, but he does not seem to understand the financial burden he has assumed.
He ultimately bears responsibility for his decision, but concepts of budgeting, loans and interest are totally unfamiliar to him, his friends, and family. He has little direct or indirect experience with buying a car, along with the options and negotiations usually associated with the process.
When my friend confronted the dealership, the salesman saw nothing wrong with the sale. The car salesman could have just as easily sold a base model or used truck, but instead was more than willing to take advantage of this young man’s inexperience.
Canada needs these new Canadians, and we should want them to succeed in their new home. What, then, can be done to help improve financial literacy, especially among recent immigrants?
Minister Jim Flaherty’s Task Force on Financial Literacy established a good framework. Edmontonarea MP James Rajotte has continued the effort with a motion in the House of Commons. Their efforts should be encouraged. Likewise, local organizations like Momentum should be supported in their work to encourage financial literacy.
Finally, newcomers to Canada also learn from the behaviour and example of other Canadians. Among us, there had better be more kindly volunteers teaching and modelling Canadian values than there are shady car salesmen.
Nicholas Gafuik lives and works in Calgary. His column appears the last Sunday of each month.


Getting on Canada’s wanted list

What does it take to be on Canada’s wanted list for suspected war crimes or crimes against humanity?
– Individuals have a removal (deportation) order that is in force.
– Individuals have a Canada-wide warrant for arrest and detention for removal issued under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
– The Canada Border Services Agency has actively investigated the whereabouts of these individuals “using all the tools at our disposal with no results.”
Number of refugee claimants in Canada currently under investigation for war crimes or genocide: 132
– Number of non-refugee claimants under investigation: 28
– Total number of permanent resident applications referred to the Canada Border Services Agency for screening for war crimes or crimes against humanity in 2010-2011: 415
– Total number deemed inadmissible to Canada: 22
– Total number of applicants referred to the CBSA last year for possible links to organized crime: 162
– Total number deemed inadmissible: 23
– Estimated cost of prosecuting Rwandan Desire Munyaneza for genocide and war crimes in Montreal: $4 million.
– Cost of revoking citizenship of accused Serbian war criminal Branko Rogan: $300,000.
– Minimum number of illegal immigrants – people under a removal order – in Canada: 124,000
– Number of active arrest warrants for illegal immigrants: 28,737
– Annual budget for Canada’s War Crimes Program, 2005-2010: $15.6 million
– Proposed annual budget starting in 2011: $8.4 million

Read more:http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Getting+Canada+wanted+list/5773646/story.html#ixzz1ev1xW31o

A primer on the immigration appeal process

OTTAWA — Federal Court judges hear appeals and judicial review applications from a wide range of processes and decision-makers in immigration, refugee and citizenship cases. But only a small percentage of those decisions ever make it to Federal Court. Here’s a short overview.
The IRB, Canada’s largest independent administrative tribunal, makes decisions on immigration and refugee matters. It has three divisions, with a fourth on the way.
– The Refugee Protection Division (RPD) rules on claims for refugee protection made by people already in Canada. Last year, it finalized 32,634 claims for refugee protection, accepting 38 per cent of those. In the first six months of this year, it accepted 37 per cent of the 17,021 claims it dealt with.
– The Immigration Division (ID) conducts immigration admissibility hearings for permanent residents or foreign nationals who may have contravened the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, as well as detention reviews in cases involving permanent residents or foreign nationals. Last year it concluded 2,779 admissibility hearings and 13,888 detention reviews. Between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, it concluded 1,322 admissibility hearings and 5,939 detention reviews.
– The Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) hears appeals on immigration matters, including appeals of removal orders and appeals by sponsors whose applications to bring family members to Canada have been denied by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. In 2010, it finalized 7,019 cases and concluded a further 3,537 in the first six months of this year.
– Next June, a new Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) will come into being, staffed by people appointed by cabinet. It will hear appeals of decisions made by public servants at the IRB’s Refugee Protection Division. Only after the RAD has ruled will claimants be able to apply to the Federal Court for judicial review.
CIC has overall responsibility for immigration and refugee matters. Among other responsibilities, it selects those who can immigrate to Canada, issues visas to visitors, students and temporary workers, grants Canadian citizenship and decides who can apply to the IRB for refugee protection.
Last year, CIC officers made nearly 450,000 decisions for permanent resident status, approving about 281,000 of those. That included 13,283 decisions from applicants seeking permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds. Those came from people already in Canada who must convince a CIC officer that they would suffer excessive hardship if they had to return to their home countries to apply for permanent residence. CIC officers approved 63 per cent of the H&C applications they ruled on in 2010.
Another group of CIC officers considers Pre-Removal Assessment Risk (PRRA) applications from unsuccessful refugee applicants who have been given a removal order and argue they face a risk of persecution, torture, death or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment if removed from Canada. These are rarely successful; last year, PRRA officers upheld just 89 applications in 6,601 decisions.
As well, citizenship judges evaluate and rule on applications from permanent residents for Canadian citizenship. In 2010, they made 153,825 decisions, approving more than 93 per cent.
CBSA officers admit people to Canada. At ports of entry such as airports, seaports and Canada-U.S. border crossings, they receive refugee claims and refer them to the IRB. The agency detains people who it deems are a security risk or a danger to the public. It also removes people deemed inadmissible for serious criminality, security reasons, financial reasons, misrepresentation or other causes.

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/sports/primer+immigration+appeal+process/5769268/story.html#ixzz1erpdvjWS

Business visa rejections pose threat to Chinese investment in B.C.

When visitors seeking to develop trade links are turned down, they likely to go elsewhere: critics

B.C. officials fear Chinese investment business is being lost.

B.C. officials fear Chinese investment business is being lost.

Photograph by: Getty Images Files, Vancouver Sun

When an uncle of Vancouver resident Wendy Wang told her that he was interested in coming to Canada to develop trade links with the B.C. forestry sector, she offered to help any way she could.
He planned on beginning his business trip by attending an international forestry conference at the University of B.C. Wang registered him and UBC sent an official letter inviting him – a requirement to receive a temporary visa.
But when her uncle applied for a visa through the Canadian government’s Beijing office, he was turned down.
The reason? The Canadian official who processed his application was not satisfied he would return to China at the end of his stay.
Both Wang and her uncle were shocked, Wang said in an interview, adding that he is a well-established business person whose interest is in building commercial links outside China.
He owns sawmills and manufacturing plants in the northern city of Suifenhe and has investments across the region in hotels and transportation.
He believes there is opportunity for investment in Canada, and Wang said he wanted the chance to make personal connections with people in the B.C. forestry sector.
“If you don’t come to a country and see the skills that they have, how do you build a business relationship?” Wang asked. “It is important to meet people so you can trust each other.”
Wang’s story is not unique. There are enough anecdotal reports of Chinese business visitors to Canada having difficulty in getting their visas that Pat Bell, British Columbia’s jobs, tourism and innovation minister, views it as a threat to the province’s China strategy.
The Vancouver Chinese consulate views visa rejections as an important issue affecting current and future visitors to Canada. An email statement from the consulate said: “The Chinese Embassy and Chinese Consulates in Canada pay attention to this problem and are coordinating efforts with the Canadian government to make progresses that could facilitate as well as attract Chinese investors in Canada.”
Visa rejections were raised a number of times by Chinese business leaders during Premier Christy Clark’s recent Asia tour.
Bell was on the China leg of the tour with Clark. He heard those reports personally and conveyed his concern to Canada’s ambassador to China, David Mulroney and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
“It is on our radar screen as a high-priority issue,” Bell said in an interview.
“I think this is a very, very critical phase of our strategy to engage with China. If you leave one investor at home in China, the risk associated with that is very high,”
In fact, Canada has left 2,203 business travellers at home during the first six months of 2011. That’s the number of applications Citizenship and Immigration Canada (C.I.C.) rejected. It’s less than 10 per cent of the 24,474 application C.I.C. received, media spokeswoman Johanne Nadeau said in an email to The Sun.
Except for anecdotes, there is no evidence of Chinese business travellers encountering difficulties, Nadeau said.
“It appears that the vast majority of applicants are not experiencing great difficulty,” she said.
“Chinese business visitors already enjoy a visa processing time of five days and an application approval rate of more than 90 per cent. There is little that we could do to improve on that performance.”
She also said that in addition to having visa offices in three Chinese cities, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, C.I.C. also has visa application centres, where applicants can receive administrative help, in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing.
Bell said despite assurances from Canadian officials that the approval rate is high, he still has concerns.
“We certainly heard (visa applications are being rejected) over and over again, so we are concerned,” he said.
“I think it is very high stakes. Every country in the world is working in China to increase its profile and to gain traction on their investment opportunities. I think we need to do everything we can to accommodate every Chinese investor who wants to come here.”
In the case of Wang’s uncle, who wanted to look at business investment opportunities and to seek a new supply of logs and lumber, it may be too late. He is still interested in investing in B.C. but, Wang said, he has changed his strategy from shortterm to long-term.
“Business doesn’t wait,” she said. “If my uncle can’t get a visa, then his business plans in Canada don’t go ahead. There are opportunities to invest in other countries.”
Visa officers have the power to decide who is eligible for business travel on a case-by-case basis. The most common reason for rejecting an application is that the officer is not satisfied that the applicant will return home to China.
A rejection letter received by The Sun demonstrates the power the visa officer has.
“I am not satisfied that you meet the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” the letter states. “You have not satisfied me that you would leave Canada at the end of the temporary period if you were authorized to enter. In reaching this decision I considered your ties to your country of residence/citizenship balanced against factors that might motivate you to stay in Canada.”
Phebe Chan, an immigration and business lawyer at the Vancouver office of Fraser Milner Casgrain, said in an interview that she hears the story of rejected visitor visa applications quite often from her clients. She is part of a national team at FMC LLP specializing in China business, and the concerns are usually raised as an aside.
“They will frequently ask: ‘Is it worth it for us to go through this,'” she said.
The problem, Chan said, is that high net-worth individuals often don’t submit requested documents for their visa application, such as their employer’s approval letter with position, salary and the date they were hired. Also, there is often no Canadian invitation letter as the Chinese national has yet to do direct business with Canadians.
Underlying the problem, she believes, is misunderstanding by both parties.
“On the visa officer’s side, there may be greater than necessary concerns that high net-worth business individuals might choose to remain in Canada during their visit, without their families and without tending to their businesses overseas. At the same time there may be a misunderstanding on the Chinese side that it is more difficult to enter Canada for an exploratory business trip.”
Because of the frustrations they experience, and the perceived high rate of visa rejections, she said many business visitors often come simply as tourists to avoid the problem altogether.
“We may be losing business opportunities. A general principle applies: People don’t want to go where they don’t feel welcome. And business people are inherently intelligent, they only have so much time on their hands to deal with barriers to potential business. At the end of the day, we just need to know why the Chinese business people are being denied.”
I am not satisfied that you meet the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and regulations for the reasons indicated below: You have not satisfied me that you meet the requirements of Regulation 179; that you would leave Canada at the end of the temporary period if you were authorized to enter. In reaching this decision, I considered your ties to the country of residence/ citizenship balanced against factors which might motivate you to stay in Canada.
You have not satisfied me that you would leave Canada at the end of your stay as a temporary resident. In reaching this decision I considered several factors including:
. your immigration status;
. your family in your country of residence;
. purpose of visit;
I am not satisfied that you have a legitimate business purpose in Canada and therefore I do not consider you to be a genuine temporary resident who would leave Canada.
This application is closed and the decision is FINAL. Once an application is refused, it will NOT be reconsidered. Any new information you wish to provide must be submitted with a new application and processing fee. Should you wish to reapply, I would suggest that you do so only if your situation has changed substantively or you have significant new information to submit.

Read more:http://www.vancouversun.com/travel/Business+visa+rejections+pose+threat+Chinese+investment/5772574/story.html#ixzz1erp5hXjV

Ontario loses federal funding as more immigrants head elsewhere

Fewer newcomers to Canada are chosing such places as Toronto as their destination, so federal funding to support immigration services is falling.

Fewer newcomers to Canada are chosing such places as Toronto as their destination, so federal funding to support immigration services is falling.

Photograph by: File photo, National Post

OTTAWA — The federal government is poised to slash another $31.5 million from immigration settlement services in Ontario where community organizations are already reeling from similar cuts last year.
While overall federal funding for things like language, employment and housing support will dip by $6 million, Ontario’s loss appears to be the rest of the country’s gain as every other province and territory — except Quebec which handles its own immigration program — will get a bigger share of a shrinking settlement funding pie.
Some of the largest increases are coming in Prince Edward Island, Yukon and Saskatchewan.
Rick Dykstra, the parliamentary secretary for immigration, said it’s because more and more newcomers are heading to other parts of Canada, particularly the West.
“Ontario’s share of immigration has decreased from 64 per cent in 2005 to 52 per cent in 2010, so our goal has always been . . . that the dollars follow where settlement is happening,” he said Friday.
“We have to be fair with taxpayer dollars. We’re not going to continue to increase funding at the levels of settlement that they were in 2005 and 2006 if those numbers are down dramatically, and they are in Ontario.”
Earlier this week, Postmedia News reported that Ontario experienced a significant drop in immigration, to 118,114 in 2010 from 148,640 settlers in 2001. Toronto welcomed 92,185 newcomers in 2010 compared to 125,169 in 2001.
Meanwhile, the number of newcomers settling in Manitoba increased to 15,809 in 2010 from 4,591 in 2001. Saskatchewan saw an increase to 7,615 from 1,704, while Alberta welcomed 32,642 newcomers, up from 16,404 a decade earlier.
According to the figures released Friday, Citizenship and Immigration has earmarked nearly $577 million for settlement services in 2012, compared to $583 million the year before and $622 million in 2010.
Despite a downward trend in recent years, the government boasts it has actually more than tripled settlement funding, which stood at $185 million in 2005 when the Liberals were still in power.
The overall drop is said to be part of a governmentwide strategic review aimed at eliminating duplication and the government says it’s actually providing a broader range of services.
It’s little consolation to Ontario, however, where as many as 20 groups are bracing for funding cuts as a result of this latest announcement.
Ontario still gets the lion’s share of settlement funding — nearly $315 million next year — but the province’s immigration minister said the cuts will hurt.
“This decrease of $31 million will hit newcomers in Ontario especially hard at a time when the province could most benefit from the valuable contributions that they bring,” Charles Sousa said in an email.
“As a result, these unfair cuts will deny thousands of newcomers access to services that will help them find jobs and learn new skills.”
Sousa argued more than 40 per cent of all immigrants to Canada still choose Ontario as their home and thousands more want to, but federal selection programs don’t respond to the province’s labour market needs. A huge backlog in applicants means many are also waiting seven years just to be considered, he said.
Ontario is also demanding Ottawa pay back some $200 million still owed to the province under the Canada Ontario Immigration Agreement which expired last year.
Sousa said it’s “unacceptable” that a new agreement hasn’t been struck and that the federal government needs to start working with the province “instead of unilaterally taking steps that determine Ontario’s economic recovery, and its economic future.”
Dykstra said Ontario had access to the money but never used it. Now that the agreement has lapsed, he said, the feds are off the hook.
Meanwhile, community groups say they too are definitely feeling the pinch.
The Eritrean Canadian Immigration Centre in Toronto saw 100 per cent of its funding cut last year — about $300,000 — and has since cut staff to one full-time and four part-timers from five full-time and two part-timers.
Clients now have to book an appointment to receive services and the centre is only able to handle 25-50 cases a month. Manager Abraha Ghebreslassie said demand for services, however, hasn’t dissipated and still stands at 3,000-5,000 people a year.
“Luckily for 2011, the provincial government stepped in and helped us to continue serving the immigrants in a minimal capacity,” he said, noting the group received about $65,000 in provincial funding to make up for the loss.
Kripa Sekhar, executive director of the South Asian Women’s Centre in Toronto, tells a similar story.
“The cuts were excruciating. The community is feeling it,” she said, noting the group lost more than $500,000 in federal funding last year.
“We are still seeing a huge volume in clients although staff are all part-time. It’s very hard to help clients. It used to be drop-in, now clients have to make an appointment to receive services.”
Audrey Macklin, a University of Toronto law professor specializing in immigration, said the problem with cutting services in Ontario due to fluctuating migration patterns is that proportionally, Ontario still welcomes a greater number of people who actually use integration services, such as refugees and family class immigrants.
“It isn’t just a total numbers game in term of where the immigrants are,” she said. “It’s also where the immigrants are who benefit the most and perhaps have the greatest need for settlement services.”
Noting federally funded settlement services are limited to permanent residents, Macklin said the government also needs to consider opening the program up to temporary foreign workers.
She argues the Canadian immigration system has shifted, focusing more on temporary workers who only become eligible for permanent residency after a period of time, rather than skilled workers who enter as permanent residents and often use settlement services to upgrade their credentials.
Immigration settlement funding by the numbers:
2011-12 2012-13
Newfoundland/Labrador $2,223,039 $2,512,975
P.E.I. $3,946,142 $5,218,024
Nova Scotia $7,012,146 $7,078,944
New Brunswick $5,179,369 $5,664,069
Ontario $346,521,868 $314,950,874
Manitoba $32,027,618 $36,539,512
Saskatchewan $14,255,519 $17,995,061
Alberta $64,071,989 $74,978,539
British Columbia $105,558,092 $109,813,233
Northwest Territories $672,976 $723,998
Nunavut $463,377 $469,800 Yukon $709,534 $932,632
Note: Figures are not available for Quebec.

Read more:http://www.canada.com/news/Ontario+loses+federal+funding+more+immigrants+head+elsewhere/5768967/story.html#ixzz1eqrEkHvA

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