AUGUST 8, 2015, VANCOUVER BC
BY DAVID AUJLA
MANAGEMENT AND THE NEW DEMOGRAPHIC
Unleashing the Economic and Organizational Potential of Migrants,
Diaspora and a Boundaryless Workforce
To understand the state of current Canadian immigration and the changes that have taken place, we need to examine the broad historical parameters over the last 40 years.
Canada has developed an image an all-accepting and magnanimous country to which individuals yearn to immigrate.
This impression was created by a very stable and open immigration policy of over 30 years which was brought about in the mid-60s under Pierre Trudeau when selection of immigrants was based on their human capital factors of age, education, language and work experience.
It was an immigrant-centered process where the qualities of the immigrant were central to the making of selection, all based on a points system where an individual who had a university education, was between the age of 22 and 49 and who had average English of French skills with at least 4 years of professional, technical or management experience would be assured of immigration once the application had been filed. The process was non-discriminatory, transparent and universal. The yearly quota was set at about 250,000 per year.
The result was outstanding. Canada became a very popular.
In fact, Toronto, which nearly half of all immigrants chose as a destination, was described as being the most demographically-diverse city in the world, representing the world’s population in a fairly representative way. In addition, the humanitarian aspect of Canada’s refugee program added further to its image of tolerance and acceptance.
But sometimes a program can become a victim of its own success–and Canadian immigration was no exception.
By the early 2000’s, independent skilled worker applications had built up in number- to over 1 million worldwide and processing times were taking between two and eight years or more. It was a bureaucratic nightmare, given the volume of applications, the widespread processing, worldwide, at Canadian consulates and all being done by paper.
Much can change personally in the lives of individual applicants in 2, 5 or 8 years—jobs change, marital situations change, other migration opportunities arise. And that was affecting Canada’s processing abilities as it fell further and further behind other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Britain.
By the mid-2000s, a perfect storm emerged with heightened security issues stemming from 9/11, the economic fallout of 2008 and with the change in the political climate in Canada from liberal to conservative.
Since 2008, we now have a government which has a different in political philosophy and which has been very proactive in legislating and implementing a change of immigration policy in line with its belief and mantra of economics, enforcement and efficiency.
Change has taken place in both form and substance.
The changes have certainly brought us into the 21st century as far as processing is concerned, all in the hope of speed. Seven years ago, the Immigration department would not communicate by email for privacy reasons. Today, there is very little that is not done electronically.
The original system based on the human capital model of age, education, language and work experience has now been enhanced with a government centric aspect, namely, that all successful permanent immigration will be linked to some arranged employment with a Canadian employer who is ready willing and able to sponsor the potential immigrant where there are no Canadians found to fill the position.
Other major shifts in government policy have been:
• to move the ideal demographic age of immigration from the old range of 22 to 49 to the new range of 20 to 29.
• to enhance immigration for those with Canadian education and Canadian work experience.
• to elevate points incrementally with increased knowledge of French and/or English.
How does the government attract such candidates?
To ensure that such a policy provides the numbers needed for immigration, the government has increased the number of students being accepted at the University and College level to approximately 300,000 per year. The number of students has almost doubled over ten years.
Secondly, it has increased the number of places under the various youth mobility programs, such as the International Experience Class.
At any given time there is a resource of potentially 350,000 young people who have the potential for developing paths for residency.
As a future demographic plan, this is brilliant. From the government’s point of view it is recognizes the realty that by 2030 our population growth is going to be solely from immigration and not by birth, and by having a younger demographic, we are attracting a group that comes with the very latest skill sets and knowledge and who can contribute to the tax base for years to come.
By focusing on students from within Canada, we are ensuring the easy transition of these immigrants who have had the benefit of Canadian experience, Canadian education and having developed a Canadian network and who will fit easily and rapidly into the demands of a changing labour scene.
But there is a problem and it appears at the end of this brilliant plan.
Having successfully completed their two or four-year programs, having obtained their three-year work permits and having landed their desired employment, these very committed youth must now ask their employer to advertise the very job they are in to ensure there are no Canadians available.
Employers must screen out potential Canadians, make a lengthy application to ESDC to justify why the foreign student/worker is the only viable candidate and wait for a favorable decision which is increasingly harder and harder to get.
Without such approval, the foreign student/worker who has been in Canada four, five or more years will not receive an invitation to apply for permanent residency under the new express entry system. That is the greatest source of frustration for these very capable young people that Canada has managed to attract.
Before this coupling of employer-sponsorship to human capital factors that has taken place, the Canadian Experience Class of immigration required only one year of Canadian employment and was an ideal avenue for permanent immigration, but the recent added employer-sponsorship requirement has made the end result frustrating.
There are some rays of hope such as the international graduate and postgraduate programs of the BC PNP, but from a practitioner’s point of view this is one problem that looms large in the present system.
We have a fantastic reputation as a country of favourable immigration, but we cannot lose it at this stage.