A S S O C I A T E S
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Cutting Through The Government Red Tape
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A review of the past 12 months and beyond at Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, August 24, 2012 - With historically high numbers of new immigrants arriving in Canada, the Government of Canada has introduced a number of significant reforms over the past year to strengthen the integrity and economic responsiveness of the immigration system.
Ministers Toews and Kenney comment on immigration fraud charges
Ottawa, June 19, 2012 — The Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, and the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, made the following statement today commending the Canada Border Services Agency for its work leading to charges against a number of individuals for immigration fraud in Montreal and Winnipeg.
Immigration Bill Passes In Commons
Ottawa, June 12, 2012 - The government's controversial immigration and refugee bill will now make its way to the Senate despite opposition outrage.
Bill C-31, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, cleared the House of Commons Monday by a 159-132 vote after the Conservatives used their majority to pass the bill.
Feds Launch New Anti-Human-Trafficking Measures
OTTAWA, June 6, 2012 - The Conservative government is launching a national plan to crack down on "modern-day slavery" in Canada - human trafficking. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose made the announcement in Ottawa Wednesday.
The feds have earmarked $25 million over four years for the plan, which is aimed at preventing, detecting and investigating trafficking offences.
But Toews said the ultimate goal of the strategy isn't necessarily to put more traffickers behind bars.
"I would like to see fewer cases in court because we have taken steps in order to ensure people are not exploited," he said.
Along with the dedicated team of RCMP and border services agents will be an education campaign for vulnerable communities as well as frontline workers, like border services officers, and a fund to help victims of traffickers.
It also boosts co-operation with law enforcement overseas to fight international traffickers.
Law enforcement officials acknowledge it's difficult to get a clear picture of the extent of the activity in Canada due to its clandestine nature.
But between 2005 and April of this year, there have been 25 convictions for human-trafficking offences, and 56 cases currently before the courts involving 85 accused and 136 victims.
The bulk of those cases were domestic trafficking, often girls and women forced into the sex trade.
But Toews warns it can also be forced labour and can happen everywhere; he's seen suspected cases in his hometown of Winnipeg.
"People come from overseas, they've been promised jobs, they work in a restaurant," he said. "They virtually work for a dollar an hour, long hours every day. That is modern-day slavery and should not be tolerated.
"It can happen in areas where people may not recognize it's going on."
Tory MP Joy Smith has spent years working to fight human trafficking in Canada and is championing a private member's bill that would make it easier to charge traffickers. It's currently before the Senate.
In 2007, the House unanimously passed a motion calling for a comprehensive strategy to fight the problem, a move Smith spearheaded.
She held a joint news conference in Surrey, B.C., to announce the action plan
Transforming the Immigration System
Ottawa, May 25, 2012 - The Prime Minister’s speech at the Davos Economic Summit and Budget 2012 make clear that immigration is a key priority for the Government of Canada.
While continuing to respect Canada’s significant humanitarian obligations and family reunification objectives, the Government’s goal is to build a fast and flexible immigration system whose primary focus is on meeting Canada’s economic and labour market needs.
Since 2006, the Government has pursued much-needed reforms to focus Canada’s immigration system on fuelling economic prosperity for Canada. For example, the Government has placed a high priority on finding people who have the skills and experience required to meet Canada’s economic needs. Temporary foreign workers have been given greater opportunities to contribute to the success of our economy, and provinces and territories now have the capacity to address their labour shortages through an expanded role in selecting immigrants.
To achieve a fast and flexible system that is responsive to the labour market and supports the country’s economic needs now and in the future, further transformations are required. The Government will, for instance, explore with provinces, territories and employers approaches to developing a pool of skilled workers who are ready to begin employment in Canada. To ensure that immigrants are ready to work, the assessment of educational credentials will be strengthened and the federal skilled worker point system will be reformed to reflect the importance of younger immigrants with Canadian work experience and better language skills.
The Government will also provide further incentives to retain educated and experienced talent through the Canadian Experience Class and introduce a new stream to facilitate the entry of skilled tradespersons. The Business Immigration Program will target more active investment in Canadian growth companies and more innovative entrepreneurs. The Provincial Nominee Program will be improved by focusing on economic immigration streams in order to respond quickly to regional labour market demand. In short, the Government is committed to strengthening the immigration system to make it truly proactive, targeted, fast and efficient in a way that will sustain Canada’s economic growth and deliver prosperity for the future.
Moreover, clear and decisive action is being taken to strengthen the responsiveness and integrity of our programs by eliminating the Federal Skilled Worker backlog, reforming the refugee system and addressing marriages of convenience.
This chart <notice-transform2.asp> provides further detail on action taken to date and our plans for the future.
Super Visa approval rate now at 83 percent
Ottawa, May 18, 2012 — More than 3,500 Parent and Grandparent Super Visa applications have now been approved since the Super Visa was introduced on December 1, 2011, with an overall approval rate of 83 percent, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
“The Parent and Grandparent Super Visa is a great success,” said Minister Kenney. “Our Government is committed to family reunification. I’m happy to see that the program is growing and that more and more eligible parents and grandparents are getting the opportunity to spend longer periods of time with their loved ones in Canada.”
The process for getting a Parent and Grandparent Super Visa is simple and straightforward. Applicants for the Super Visa must submit proof that the host child or grandchild meets a minimum income level, demonstrate that they have purchased comprehensive Canadian medical insurance and undergo the Immigration Medical Examination. Ninety-nine percent of Super Visa applicants who met these requirements also went on to meet all other standard admissibility criteria which are required for all visa applicants.
When the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa was first launched, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) pledged to issue Super Visas, on average, within eight weeks of the application. As of May 13, CIC continued to meet that processing-time target.
Private partners join Federal Internship for Newcomers Program
Ottawa, May 10, 2012 — The Government of Canada is expanding its internship program for newcomers to include private sector companies, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
CGI Group Inc., a leading provider of information technology and business process services, and CIBC, a leading Canadian-based financial institution, will partner with CIC to hire newcomers through the Federal Internship for Newcomers (FIN) Program.
Delivered in partnership with regional immigrant serving organizations and hiring departments and agencies, the FIN Program is a Citizenship and Immigration-led initiative that offers newcomers to Canada the opportunity to gain valuable temporary work experience.
“Lack of Canadian work experience can prevent many newcomers from successfully integrating into the labour market,” said Minister Kenney. “This program is an excellent example of the federal government’s leadership role in helping immigrants enter the Canadian workforce.”
“We hope these new partnerships serve as a model for other private sector companies who are eager to tap into the strong talent pool of newcomers this program provides,” he added.
Through the FIN Program, CIC will provide CGI and CIBC access to newcomers who have been screened for employment readiness to fill temporary and permanent positions in their companies.
“As a global company, we recognize the richness that the diversity of professionals from the FIN program can bring to the company and our clients,” said Alain Brisson, Senior Vice-President, National Capital Region, CGI. “CGI gives its professionals the freedom to innovate, to be entrepreneurial, to achieve their full potential and to chart their own career.”
“At CIBC our workforce needs to continue to mirror the diversity we see within our communities, and we want to recruit the best people,” said Sharon Wingfelder, Vice-President, Diversity and Resourcing. “CIBC is proud to partner with the Federal Internship for Newcomers Program to help immigrants establish a strong new start.”
The announcement was made at the 2012 FIN graduation ceremony in Ottawa where more than 60 newcomers celebrated the end of their eight-month internship with federal government organizations.
Since September 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has provided work placements for more than 130 newcomers in 20 federal departments and agencies.
Amendments to the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act
Ottawa, May 9, 2012 — Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney today announced that the Government is proposing amendments to Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act.
“Over the past few weeks, I’ve listened to parliamentarians and witnesses,” said Minister Kenney. “We have always said that we were open to amendments that make Bill C-31 stronger and help us to fight human smuggling and to protect Canada’s immigration system. These amendments do just that, and make for a stronger bill.”
For example, some critics feared that the measures originally proposed in Bill C-31 with respect to the cessation of permanent residence status might be used in a way never intended by the Government. Others speculated that the Government would seek to remove permanent residence status from refugees who have become well-established in Canada, but whose rationale for refugee status ceases to exist due to improved conditions in their country of origin. The Government is introducing an amendment to clarify this section and to explicitly limit the application of this section of the legislation.
The proposed amendment would make it clear that where the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) determines that an individual’s protected person status has ceased to exist solely due to a change in country conditions, that individual would not automatically lose permanent resident status. This was the original purpose of the provision in the bill, and the new language should make that purpose clearer.
Under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, individuals with a final negative decision from the IRB were barred from applying for a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) for 12 months. This is because a PRRA is duplicative of the IRB decision, and a core purpose of the bill was to reduce redundancy and unnecessary delays in the removal process for failed asylum seekers.
The government is proposing to amend this provision so that the 12-month bar will apply as soon as Bill C-31 receives Royal Assent. There is no reason to delay the application of this provision, and the proposed amendment ensures there will be no such delay. The effect of this proposed amendment will be that individuals who received a negative decision from the IRB, or abandoned or withdrew their refugee claim, or received a negative PRRA decision within the 12 months prior to the date of Royal Assent would be barred from applying for a PRRA until 12 months after that decision.
The proposed amendment would also increase the temporal bar from 12 to 36 months for those from designated countries of origin who have received a previous negative decision from the IRB, abandoned or withdrew their refugee claim, or received a negative PRRA decision. This change will discourage failed asylum seekers from going underground and evading removal for 12 months, and recognises that country conditions and the threat of real persecution in a presumptively safe country are not likely to change in the course of 36 months. There is, however, a provision in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act that would allow the Minister to make exceptions to the bar on PRRA to quickly respond to sudden changes in country conditions.
Under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, the Government had initially proposed mandatory detention without review for up to 12 months for those who arrive as part of a designated irregular arrival. This would allow for the determination of identity, admissibility, or any other investigations to take place before members or irregular mass arrivals are released into the community. Persons would, however, be released from detention before 12 months, if they are found to be genuine refugees.
Opposition members have asked for amendments to this detention review schedule, so that these individuals would receive a review of their detention much sooner than initially proposed. They have, for example, suggested that a first detention review should occur within 14 days of detention, with subsequent reviews every 30 days. Other witnesses and critics of this provision of Bill C-31 have suggested other time periods, including an initial review shortly after detention, followed by subsequent reviews at least every 6 months.
After listening to parliamentarians, the Government is proposing a compromise, which would see a first detention review within 14 days and subsequent reviews after every 180 days. As before, a person would be released before this time, upon being found to be a genuine refugee. As an additional safeguard, the government will also propose an amendment to allow the Minister of Public Safety, on his own initiative and at any time, to release a detained individual when grounds for detention no longer exist.
"I believe that these amendments show that the Government is open to reasonable suggestions that improve our Bills," said Minister Kenney. "We have listened to parliamentarians on Bill C-31 and, as a result, we have a stronger bill that will continue to protect genuine refugees, while ensuring that bogus asylum seekers are detained, processed, and swiftly removed, and sending the message to human smugglers that targeting Canada will no longer pay."
Reform of the Interim Federal Health Program ensures fairness, protects public health and safety
Ottawa, April 25, 2012 — A federal program that provides health-care benefits to protected persons, refugee claimants and others is being reformed to ensure fairness for Canadian taxpayers while emphasizing the need to protect public health and safety, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today.
“Our Government’s objective is to bring about transformational changes to our immigration system so that it meets Canada's economic needs. Canadians are a very generous people and Canada has a generous immigration system,” said Minister Kenney. “However, we do not want to ask Canadians to pay for benefits for protected persons and refugee claimants that are more generous than what they are entitled to themselves.”
The Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) provides temporary health-care coverage to eligible protected persons, refugee claimants and others who do not qualify for provincial or territorial health insurance plans. With the current benefit coverage, the cost of the IFHP grew to $84.6 million in the 2010–2011 fiscal year.
The current IFHP provides basic health-care coverage, similar to what is provided through a provincial or territorial health insurance plan, as well as coverage for supplemental health-care services, including pharmaceutical care, dentistry, vision care and mobility assistive devices. Most Canadians, however, do not have access to government-funded supplemental health care.
The reformed program will end the coverage of supplemental health-care benefits. Medication and immunization may be provided in cases where there is a risk to public health or public safety. The program will provide health-care coverage for services and products of an urgent or essential nature for many IFHP beneficiaries.
After the changes are implemented, cost savings are projected to be about $100 million over the next five years.
“With this reform, we are also taking away an incentive from people who may be considering filing an unfounded refugee claim in Canada,”the Minister added. “These reforms allow us to protect public health and safety, ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely and defend the integrity of our immigration system all at the same time.”
The changes will take effect on June 30, 2012, and will apply to all current beneficiaries, as well as those who apply after that date.