New Canadian Media

By: Kelly Toughill in Halifax

Thousands of families will soon get a second chance to bring parents and grandparents to Canada.

That’s the good news recently announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The bad news is that there is no chance Canada will keep its promise to issue 10,000 permanent resident visas to extended family members in 2017.

Officials won’t even finish collecting the new applications until December and it will take months to process those applications after they arrive.

Problems with the parent and grandparent sponsorship program are a classic case of great intentions gone wrong. In this case, families who followed the rules were suddenly shut out of the system, and other families were given false hope that they could reunite with ailing relatives.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet have changed Canada’s immigration system significantly in the last 16 months. They reversed a much-criticized law that allowed the government to strip people of their Canadian citizenship. They set up new programs to help businesses recruit tech workers and to support Francophone immigration outside Quebec. They made it easier for entrepreneurs to come to Canada, and eased rules for workers who want to move to struggling Atlantic Canada. They shortened the wait time to sponsor a spouse and made the forms easier to read and understand. They helped international students by setting up a new, speedy immigration program in Atlantic Canada, giving students extra points for Canadian degrees and making it easier for international students to become citizens after they get permanent resident status.

Those changes were greeted with relief and even gratitude across Canada.

Changes to the parent and grandparent program were supposed to be another feel-good tweak to the system. Instead, the changes angered the very consitutuency the government was trying to please.

Under the Conservative government, Ottawa set a quota each year for the number of Canadian families that could sponsor a parent or grandparent for permanent resident status. The Liberal government doubled the quota from 5,000 to 10,000, but initially kept the same process: applications opened in early January and closed when the quota was reached – always within days.

To win one of the coveted visas, most families hired experienced immigration lawyers or consultants and paid stiff fees for private couriers to wait in line outside the Mississauga processing centre the night before the program opened.

Just three weeks before the program was expected to open this year, the government announced it was scrapping the first-come, first-served system. Instead, then-Immigration Minister John McCallum invited families to fill out an online form and promised to hold a lottery to decide who could formally apply. He called the new process “more fair and transparent.”

The announcement came after thousands of families had already prepared applications that require medical exams, police certificates and expensive translations, not to mention lawyers’ fees. Many families wasted months of work and thousands of dollars on applications they would never get to file.

The larger problem, though, was the online form set up to register for the lottery; families could fill out the form without figuring out if they were actually eligible to sponsor a parent or grandparent.

Most know that only Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor a parent or grandparent for permanent resident status. But many don’t know that you must be able to support that parent and that the only acceptable proof of your financial ability is past income tax forms. Many also didn’t realize that parents and grandparents must be healthy to immigrate to Canada.

When immigration lawyers and regulated consultants saw the online form, many immediately warned of coming pandemonium. Some dismissed those warnings as sour grapes, suggesting that lawyers were just mad that clients might be able to sponsor relatives without their high-priced help.

It turns out the lawyers were right.

Almost 100,000 families registered for the lottery, but only a fraction of the 10,000 that were invited to apply actually managed to do so.

Immigration consultants shared stories of clients showing up on their doorstep with expectations that Canada was going to immediately fly their relatives here because the family had “won the lottery.” Many had no idea they still had to pull together the complex and expensive application in 90 days. In June, an immigration official told a conference that only 700 of the 10,000 families had filed applications, and that 15 percent of those applications were incomplete.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada still doesn’t know how many of the 10,000 families invited to apply will actually get to bring their relatives to Canada. A spokesperson said this week that 6,020 of the 10,000 families invited to apply last February actually filed applications. However, immigration officers still don’t know how many of those application are complete or valid. Those numbers are expected later this fall.

In the meantime, Ottawa has quietly launched a second lottery. The notice was posted Friday afternoon before Labour Day. The new invitations were sent out on Sept. 6. Families must finish the applications by Dec. 8, and it will take several months after that deadline for permanent resident visas to be issued.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen vigorously defended the new application process in early summer, when the problems first became public. Hussen could not be reached for comment this week, but a spokesperson for the department suggested the new process might change.

“This is the first year that we’re using the new random selection intake process, and we are actively monitoring this model to see how we can make improvements in future years,” communications advisor Faith St.-John wrote in an email.

Kelly Toughill is an associate professor of journalism at the University of King’s College and founder of Polestar Immigration Research Inc.

Published in Policy

Commentary by Aleem Ali in Brisbane, Australia

A few career changes ago, I managed a branding and design agency. Our primary task was to help our clients communicate their organisation, product or service. We worked to create a strong brand so that people would choose our client’s company or service over and above their many competitors.

Since I ran that agency 15 years ago, much has changed in the world. But some things still hold true, and many issues have grown in scale. Talk to retailers, tour operators and educational institutions. Talk to employers. They will tell you that competition is only increasing, not diminishing. And the competition is now global, not local.

Last year, not long after the launch of Welcoming Cities, I received a phone call from the CEO of a Regional Business Council. They outlined their challenge as follows: “We have a large infrastructure project in our community. When the project is complete, we know that we won’t be able to attract enough people domestically to fill all the jobs. So, we need both a national and international solution. But we are struggling to attract people. There is a perception of our community that we are not welcoming. Because of this perception, Australian residents and migrants don’t want to move here, live here, or work here. We need to change that perception. We don’t just want to be a welcoming city; we NEED to be a welcoming city.”

Our international reputation of a fair go, cheering for the underdog, and boundless plains to share no longer seem to ring true.

This story, or at least the sentiment behind it, seems to be a growing challenge.

I recently met with Local Government employees of a major capital city. Their focus is on increasing social cohesion and economic participation in their region. They’re concerned by political sentiment and what they perceive to be regressive policies and divisive rhetoric. One of the people in the meeting commented that “Brand ‘Australia’ is damaged. There’s no evidence this will improve anytime soon. We need to do something about it.”

Brand Australia needs some serious help

The compelling and disconcerting truth of this statement struck me. Brand Australia needs some serious help. Our international reputation of a fair go, cheering for the underdog, and boundless plains to share no longer seem to ring true. The growing perception is that we demonise people fleeing torture and trauma, are intolerant of diverse cultures, and newcomers risk vilification. Brand Australia is now associated with a fair go for some, but not all.

Tourists, international students, and skilled migrants are vital contributors to our prosperity as a nation. And when it comes to the choice of coming to Australia, or not; perception is everything. If brand Australia ceases to be open, welcoming and generous, then the damage will not only be to our reputation but also the ongoing success of our nation.

The time to address that damage is now. It’s time to refuse small-minded, divisive politics. It’s time to stop waiting for politicians to cast a vision of a generous, welcoming and inclusive Australia and to grow this work ourselves. It’s time to lead. It’s time for community groups, small businesses, educational institutions, peak bodies and corporations to come together. It’s time to welcome newcomers to our shores and ensure that everyone can take part in social, economic and civic life.

It’s time to be deliberate, strategic and collaborative. To put policies and practices in place that value our First People’s, long-term residents and new arrivals. It’s time to rescue brand Australia. More than a branding exercise, this is a renewed commitment to an inclusive, multicultural Australia. 

Awarded and recognized for his contribution to the community, Aleem Ali has spent the past 20 years seeding and mentoring the development of various programs. Aleem is currently the National Manager at Welcoming Cities, in addition to lead roles with For the Common Good, and FOUND

Published in Commentary

Canada needs to play a bigger role in the world, an international conference of policy-makers held in Ottawa this past week has concluded.

The two-day conference, hosted by the University of Ottawa and titled “Canada in Global Affairs: New Challenges, New Approaches,” attracted Canadian and international experts who suggested innovative ways Canada could renew its role in global affairs.

Epoch Times

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Published in International

THE annual statistics for 2015 show British Columbia saw a 7.9% increase in international visitors over the previous year. A total of 4.9 million international visitors came to B.C. in 2015 – 359,750 more people compared to 2014. British Columbia saw an increase from a number of regions including: * France up 32.8% * […]

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Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National

by Susan Korah in Ottawa 

Approximately 500 Taiwanese Canadians from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver travelled to Taiwan to vote in the country’s recent presidential election. 

They say they are proud of the democracy in their home country and value it as a precious gift for which their parents and grandparents fought so heroically. 

Most of these voters, who spent between $1,500 and $2000 each on an airline ticket, are in their 50s and 60s, says Jack Chen, a Taiwanese Canadian scientist with Environment Canada living in Ottawa. 

Unlike younger people, who often wish they could go, but don’t have the opportunity, this demographic is more likely to have the time and the financial means to make the trip, he adds. 

“Many of them are first generation immigrants to Canada with strong ties to the home country,” he explains, emphasizing that they also have first-hand experience of living without any civil and political rights under repressive governments. They have a deep appreciation of their hard-won right to vote. 

[Many first generation Taiwanese Canadians] have a deep appreciation of their hard-won right to vote.

Growing up in Taiwan 

Grace Bui, one of the Taiwanese Canadians who made the trip to vote, says she remembers the days of repression in the 1950s. 

“My brother, 15 years older than me, lived his high school years in fear because many of his classmates were dragged away from the classroom and were never seen again,” she recalls. “I could see the fear in his eyes. He warned me never to discuss this because the secret police could take us away.” 

Shin-Youg Shiau, an Ottawa resident and community leader, is another of those first generation Canadian immigrants that Chen refers to. 

“It’s a great sacrifice for us in financial terms,” Shiau explains, just before leaving for Taiwan with his wife to participate in the election. “We not only have to pay for our flights, but also hotel rooms because we don’t have any family left there to stay with.”

He adds, however, that the sacrifice is worth it and that they are happy to have had this opportunity. 

Eligibility of overseas voters 

From the Taiwan government’s point of view, there are certain conditions voters must meet to make them eligible. 

Taiwanese voters must be physically present in Taiwan to cast their ballots.

“Overseas Taiwanese who want to vote must still possess our citizenship,” explains Simon Sung, Director of Information at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, the equivalent of a Taiwanese embassy in Ottawa. 

“They need to maintain a valid household registration in any place in Taiwan and must activate that registration six months before the election so that the local election commission can prepare documents and ballot papers for them,” he adds. “When they show up at the polling station they can cast their votes.” 

Chen, who is also the vice chair of the parents’ advisory council of the Ottawa Mandarin School run by the Ottawa Catholic School Board, was unable to go to Taiwan himself, but closely monitored the campaign and the presidential election on Jan. 16 from Canada. 

He points out that unlike Canadian elections in which non-resident citizens can vote by mail, voters must be physically present in Taiwan to cast their ballots. 

Optimism for the future 

Chen says that regardless of party affiliation, most Taiwanese are proud of the election of Tsai Ing-wen – the country’s first female president – and also of the peaceful transfer of power. 

“Our democracy has become strong and mature and we are all proud of that.”

Kuomintang (KMT), the party of defeated President Ma Ying-jeou, was in power for eight years and people wanted a change, but unlike in the election of 2000, there was no violence whatsoever, he adds. 

“Our democracy has become strong and mature and we are all proud of that,” Chen says. 

Louisa Ho, a retired businesswoman from Ottawa, is another Taiwanese citizen who could not make the trip to vote. She also watched the election from overseas and says she is pleased with the final results.  

“Our new president, Ms. Tsai Ing-wen, is very calm and composed and very knowledgeable,” she says. “I’m also happy that her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has won the majority of seats in the legislature because now their new policies and legislation won’t be blocked.” 

Ho adds that most people in Taiwan want to lead peaceful lives with an improved economy.   

Both Ho and Mai Chen (no relation to Jack Chen), a resident of Kingston, Ontario, express hope that the new party in power will restore Taiwan’s ‘space’. They say that under former President Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan was leaning too close to China, and they perceived this as a threat to Taiwan’s democracy. 

“If the KMT [party of Ma Ying-jeou] had continued to be in power, there was a distinct possibility that Taiwan could go the way of Hong Kong,” says Mai Chen.

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in International

THE latest overnight custom entries from Statistics Canada show a strong summer tourism season in British Columbia. Visitor numbers are up by 238,000 people for the first eight months of 2015 – representing a 7.1% increase compared to the same period last year. The Province invests more than $90 million annually in the tourism […]

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Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National

Several high profile Canadians of Iranian descent expressed their support for the recent P5+1 Nuclear Deal currently before US Congress. Following earlier two reports…

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Salam Toronto

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Published in Arab World

Sunday, June 21: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Guildford Recreation Centre, Surrey Free event THE inaugural United Nations (UN) International Yoga Day will be held all day long on June 21 at Guildford Recreation Centre in Surrey. This Festival event is organized by the UN International Yoga Day – Planning Committee with the supportive participation of over […]

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Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in Arts & Culture

Eighteen international medical graduates (IMGs) were recognized as the first-ever foreign-educated doctors to receive a degree in naturopathy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) at its 35th convocation on May 21, in Toronto. “We congratulate our inaugural IMG graduates and believe that naturopathic medicine provides an excellent option for IMGs seeking to define careers for […]

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Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Education

VANCOUVER is North America’s top destination for international meetings, according to a report published on Monday by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). The Amsterdam-based organization releases an annual report ranking cities according to the number of international meetings hosted in the previous year. In 2014, Vancouver hosted 60 international meetings – more […]

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Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National
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Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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