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June 1999, Volume 6, Number 6

Canada: Refugees, Labor

Refugees. Canada in 1995 began to charge immigrants a landing fee of C$975 to cover administrative costs and to cover the cost of some integration services. Refugee advocates capitalizing on the arrival of Kosovars to create an exemption from landing fees for refugees, say: "It is ludicrous to offer them financial assistance through resettlement on the one hand and then force them to go into debt in order to pay this head tax on the other."

In addition to the landing fee, there is also a $500 administration fee for adults who apply for permanent residence and a $100 fee for dependents. A family of four normally pays $3,150 to enter Canada as legal immigrants and the Canadian government spends an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 to resettle each family. Refugees, who are exempt from administrative fees but not landing charges, can borrow the money from the government to pay landing fees.

Canadian officials granted special exemptions in 1998 to 1,453 people who, because of criminal records or medical conditions would otherwise have been barred from entering Canada. The exemptions, known as minister's permits, were given to a total of 2,600 people, more than half of whom had a criminal record. The permits are issued for a limited period of time and can be revoked at any time by the immigration minister.

Labor Market. Immigrants to Canada seem to be having a harder time integrating into the labor market despite the higher education and language requirements established in 1993, when the government modified the point system to give higher priority to immigrants with more education and English or French. Many of the foreign professionals who immigrated are unable to find jobs in their profession in Canada, especially minority professionals (11 percent of Canadians were visible minorities in 1996).

The share of recently arrived immigrant men aged 25 to 44 who were employed in Canada fell from 81 percent in 1986 to 71 percent in 1996; the employment rate for recently arrived immigrant women fell from 58 percent in 1986 to 51 percent in 1996--in both years, the unemployment rate was 9.6-9.7 percent. The percentage of immigrant men who had BA degrees or more rose from 31 to 36 percent for men, and from 25 to 31 percent for women. About 90 percent of recent immigrants reported they spoke English or French.

In 1996, 18 percent of Canadian-born men aged 25-44, and 20 percent of Canadian-born women, had BA degrees in 1996; 84 percent of all men 25-44 and 73 percent of the women were employed in 1996.

A study using census data was especially pessimistic, concluding that for visible minorities: "The poverty they experience in Canada is close to what they have had in their home countries," and that the children of these immigrants often wind up poorer than their parents.

Chinese. The single largest source of immigrants to Canada is mainland China, and Chinese immigrants are having a major effect on the Canadian economy. There are 380,000 Chinese-Canadians in the Toronto area, many from Hong Kong, and they have had major impacts, building 50 shopping malls in suburbs. One report estimated that there are 10,000 persons employed in the 1,200 Chinese restaurants in the Toronto area. More than half of the garment shops in the Toronto area are owned by Chinese; and they employ at least 15,000 workers.

Over 140 employees of the 4,000-employee Canadian Immigration Department are being investigated following allegations of widespread visa fraud at consulates in Los Angeles, Islamabad and Pearson Airport.


Mark MacKinnon, "Give us your highly educated," Globe and Mail, May 24, 1999. Allan Thompson, "Head Tax on Refugees a Headache: Liberal cabinet of two minds on need for $975 fee," Toronto Star, May 17, 1999. Tony Wong, "New Canadians with Global Connections," Toronto Sun, May 10, 1999. Tom Godfrey, "140 checked for visa frauds," Toronto Sun, May 7, 1999. Joel-Denis Ballavance, "1,453 immigrants enter on special permits," National Post, April 30, 1999.