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January 2003, Volume 10, Number 1

Canada: Immigration, Asylum and US

Canada admitted 250,346 immigrants in 2001, 53 percent from Asia and the Pacific, including 16 percent from China; 19 percent from the Middle East and Africa; 17 percent from Europe; and only eight percent from South and Central America. The target was 200,000 to 225,000 immigrants in 2001; it is 220,000 to 245,000 in 2003, and Immigration Minister Denis Coderre wants to raise the annual intake to one percent of the country's 31 million population a year.

Between 1986 and 2002, Canada admitted three million immigrants.

Canada has three major immigration categories-- economic immigrants, 153,000 in 2001, but only 65,700 were workers-the others were dependents; 66,600 family unification (spouses, fiancées, and children and parents and grandparents), 27,800 refugees, and 2,800 other immigrants. Beginning in June 2002, economic immigrants had to meet higher standards for education, skills, language, and "adaptability," which includes the spouse's education.

About 77 percent of Canadian immigrants settled in Toronto (50 percent), Vancouver, and Montreal; 44 percent did not speak English or French. The federal government is attempting to increase immigration but head off domestic opposition by channeling immigrants to less-populated areas--it has signed "provincial nominee" agreements with eight of the 10 provinces- not with Ontario, and Quebec has long selected its immigrants. Under a proposed plan, provinces could select economic immigrants and require them to live in the province for three to five years. If they moved out before then, to Toronto, for instance, their temporary visas would not be converted to immigrant visas. Advocates argue that such restrictions violate the mobility rights provided by Canada's constitution.

The purpose of the new temporary immigrant scheme is to fill a shortfall of one million skilled workers (Canada's work force is 16 million) by 2010. However, there is no evidence of such a shortage-- Industry Canada talks of a shortage of 50,000 skilled workers. The skilled immigrants already in Canada often do not work at the jobs for which they were trained- many nurses are waitresses because they cannot get their credentials certified in Canada. This is one reason why immigrants who arrived after 1985 worked 14 fewer weeks and earned 30 percent less than other Canadians in 1998.

Human Resources Development Canada announced a program in December 2002 to better assess and recognize foreign engineering credentials so that immigrants can more quickly become licensed professional engineers.

In Fall 2002, the authors of three books, journalist Daniel Stoffman, Fraser Institute senior fellow Martin Collacott and National Post columnist Diane Francis, argued that Canada is accepting too many immigrants. Stoffman recommended a ceiling of 200,000 immigrants a year, Collacott urged a reduction in family unification immigrants, and Francis takes aim at the procedure for assessing asylum applicants in Canada- the Charter of Rights grants most foreigners a hearing on asylum applications, and 50 to 60 percent of applicants have received asylum, one of the world's highest approval rates.

Asylum and US. The high percentage of persons of Middle Eastern origin among Canadian immigrants and especially refugees has increased tensions with the US government, which believes that some Canadians from the Middle East may have terrorist links. Canada has 650,000 Muslims, and the Canadian Islamic Congress has urged them not to travel to the US. As the US moves to implement entry-exit checks, Canadians are concerned that the $1.3 billion in daily trade, and the 200 million in annual crossings of the Canada-US border, could be slowed. Canada is pushing for a pre-screening system to allow frequent border crossers to enter and exit quickly.

In 2002, a third of the 45,000 asylum seekers in Canada entered via the US. Since June 2002, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, most asylum seekers who arrive in Canada by way of the US are returned to the US to request asylum.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada's Project Identity is detaining some foreigners who lack documents if they lack documents or are evasive with immigration officers. Since October 2002, 24 people have been detained, and 13 remain in detention. Detentions must be authorized by Irene Bader, the director-general of immigration for the Ontario region, and there is a review within seven days and another at 30 days.

Mary Janigan, "Immigrants," Maclean's, December 16, 2002. Douglas Turner, "Canada preparing to 'harden' border with United States," Buffalo News, December 4, 2002. Louisa Elliott, "Ottawa to stop refugees at US border," Canadian Press, December 2, 2002. Estanislao Oziewicz, "Canada plans to detain unidentified new arrivals," Globe and Mail, November 28, 2002. Stoffman, Daniel. 2002. Who Gets In: What's Wrong with Canada's Immigration Program--and How to Fix It. Macfarlane Walter & Ross. Collacott, Martin 2002. Canada's Failing Immigration Policies. Francis, Diane. 2002. Immigration: The Economic Case. Key Porter Books