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Report of the MD Toronto Seminar, May 12-14, 2005: Immigration and Integration Issues in Canada

Immigration and Integration Issues in Canada
Philip Martin and Jeffrey Reitz
May 15, 2005

The 13th Migration Dialogue seminar was held May 12-14, 2005 in Toronto, a city of five million, including 40 percent immigrants. Migration Dialogue seminars provide an opportunity for European and North American opinion leaders to learn about migration issues in concrete settings, as in discussions with employers, government officials, migrants and advocates.

Canada, a country that aims to increase its population of 32 million by one percent a year via immigration, is unusual among OECD countries in having high levels of immigration and high levels of public satisfaction with immigration, as suggested by public opinion polls that find most Canadians in favor of current or higher levels of immigration. Satisfaction with immigration in Canada was traced to five major factors:
· Canada's geography, including its isolation from all countries except the US as well as little Latin American or irregular migration,
· a point system for selecting immigrants likely to be economic contributors.
· over half of all immigrants are in families in which the head got a visa because he or she had enough points for attributes thought to signal success in Canada--education, language ability, work skills and youth
· social institutions that emphasize collective welfare and thus speed labor market and social integration,
· the autonomy of Quebec and Canada's dual language French-English society, which helps to increase acceptance of diversity, and
· an official policy of multiculturalism that is evolving as Canada becomes a nation with significant visible minorities.

The three major political parties support immigration in principle, with only the Conservatives advocating restrictions that would reduce numbers somewhat, but there are worries about the declining economic performance of recent immigrants. Immigrants arriving in the 1990s were 60 percent from Asia, 20 percent from Europe and 11 percent from Latin America. On average, they were better educated than persons born in Canada, but their labor force participation rates and earnings were lower and their unemployment rates higher than comparable Canadians. In 1980, newly arrived immigrant men earned 80 percent as much as Canadian-born men, but the ratio fell to 60 percent by 1996. Declining immigrant earnings raise questions about the point system's ability to select successful immigrants. If not reversed, this could erode public acceptance of high levels of immigration.
Waves of Immigrants
Since Confederation in 1867, Canada has welcomed immigrants to populate its vast land area. Immigrants arrived in waves that closely mirrored economic swings, with a major peak at the beginning of the 20th century. Significant Canadian immigration legislation was enacted at about the same time as in the US, e.g. both nations enacted their basic immigration laws in 1952. Canada abandoned selection based on national origins in 1962, but whereas the US (which made the change in 1965) emphasized a system favouring those arriving to join family members and those desired by US employers, Canada introduced a point system to favour the entry of skilled worker immigrants in 1967. This point system as well as negligible illegal migration allowed Canadian immigration authorities to "micro-manage" immigration to spur economic growth, a sharp contrast to the US, where immigration authorities focused on protecting the borders from unauthorized foreigners.

Immigration to Canada became more diverse in the 1970s, with the European share of newcomers falling from 80 percent in the 1960s to 20 percent by the 1990s. Today, Asia provides 60 percent of Canadian immigrants, including almost a third from China. Immigrants in Canada are far more concentrated than in the US, with three cities--Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver—receiving 75 percent of the newcomers, including a third in Toronto.

There are two basic approaches to selecting "needed immigrants." The supply approach used in Canada awards points to individuals seeking to immigrate on the basis of six criteria, including education, age, experience and knowledge of French or English, with those scoring at least 67 points on a 100-point scale eligible for a skilled worker immigrant visa in 2005—the family members who accompany a selected immigrant are not screened In 2002, Canada announced seemingly contradictory plans to both raise the pass mark on the points test and to increase the number of immigrants admitted, that is, to take in more immigrants likely to be economically successful.

The demand approach as used in the US relies on employers to find foreigners who they think can best fill vacant jobs; the government's role is to ensure that local workers are not available to fill these jobs. The two approaches can converge when e.g. points are awarded for those with job offers (Canada provides up to 10 points for an offer of a permanent job) or if employers may request only foreigners with at least a college degree to fill certain jobs, as with some categories of employment-based US immigrant visas.

Canada has favored the admission of immigrants over the recruitment of temporary workers. Employers seeking guest workers must have their need for migrants certified by Human Resources Development Canada (HRCD). As in other OECD countries, guest worker policy aims to attract the skilled and rotate the unskilled, that is, facilitate the entry of temporary IT specialists, nurses, and other professionals and allows them to adjust to immigrant status while working in Canada and simultaneously using bilateral agreements to ensure that unskilled farm workers return to their countries of origin at the end of the season.

Managing migration for economic gains has produced enviable Canadian databases. The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) is designed to study how new immigrants adjust over time to living in Canada. The first wave involved interviews with about 12,000 immigrants aged 15 and over in 2001 and 2002, about six months after their arrival. The second wave was released in the fall of 2005.

Canada normally gives newcomers immediate access to its social welfare system, but charges immigrants C$500 to apply for visas as well as a landing fee of C$975. The Canadian government provides C$600 million a year for immigrant settlement, but settlement programs are administered locally, which makes an evaluation of their effectiveness difficult. During the 1990s, there were media reports that some foreigners were abusing the asylum system by applying to obtain social services and appealing negative decisions long enough to win the right to stay in Canada on other grounds, including hardship if removed because of their Canadian-born children, but the asylum system has since been streamlined to deal with appeals sooner.
Socio-Economic Integration
The emphasis among those who "manage" immigration is to ensure the continued economic success of newcomers, which is believed to undergird public acceptance of the one-percent target. Government administrators make multiyear plans for immigration and have the authority to adjust the "pass mark" in the points test in response to the Canadian labor market and measures of immigrant success.

The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) is designed to study how new immigrants adjust over time to living in Canada. The first wave involved interviews with about 12,000 immigrants aged 15 and over in 2001 and 2002, about six months after their arrival. The second wave was released in the fall of 2005. Of the immigrants who arrived in Canada in the 1990s, for example, 15 percent did not complete high school, versus 18 percent of the Canadian born. On the other hand, 11 percent of 1990s arrivals had an MS degree or more, versus three percent of Canadians. Canada's selection system helps boost immigrant educational levels by favoring the more educated but, for immigrants from many countries who arrive in both Canada and the US, those immigrating to the US have higher levels of education than those immigrating to Canada.

A major issue is whether newcomers are integrating successfully. The point system has helped to raise the educational levels of immigrants (45 percent of adult immigrants arriving in 2000 had university degrees), but the education levels of Canadians with whom immigrants compete, especially in major immigrant destinations such as Toronto and Vancouver, have risen even more.

The result is sometimes "brain waste," the term used to describe immigrants with professional qualifications who are not using their skills in Canada, as when immigrants trained as doctors and engineers in India and China drive taxies in Canada. A quarter of the recent immigrants with a university degree are working at jobs that require only a high school diploma or less, and only half are working in Canadian jobs that use their credentials three years after arrival. Brain waste is estimated to cost the economy C$2 billion a year, meaning that Canadian earnings would be this much higher if the immigrants worked in the occupations for which they had qualifications.

Immigrants earn more relative to natives in Canada than in the US, but the earnings of immigrants relative to comparable Canadian-born workers have been declining. University-educated immigrant men 25 to 54 who arrived in Canada between 1990 and 1999 earned an average C$41,700 in 2000, while comparable Canadian-born men earned an average C$66,500. There are concentrations of Chinese immigrants in science and technology, and of Black West Indians in health care.

Canadian labor markets tend to provide relatively higher wages to lower-skilled workers, reducing the earnings gap between immigrants and natives. Despite generally rising levels of education, immigrants arriving during Canada's early 1990s recession seem to have fared especially badly in the Canadian labor market—their arrival during a period of high unemployment seems to have left a permanent scar that could lower the lifetime earnings of this cohort.

Not all immigrants who arrive in Canada stay in Canada, but neither Canada nor the US have data on emigrants. Some Canadian economists argue that Canada has been on the losing end of a competition with the US for the "best" immigrants. For example, if Canadian immigration policy aims to fill vacancies in health care, business management, and other sectors due in part to the emigration of Canadians to the US, it may be replacing its "best and brightest" with immigrants who are not as qualified. Some Canadians argue that there is a revolving door through which some of the best immigrants arrive in Canada, obtain citizenship after three years, and then move on to the US, with Canada retaining the "second best."

Revolving door migration may be one explanation for the rising gap between immigrants and Canadian-born workers in the 1990s. Other explanations involve credentials, points, and racism. First, it is argued that Canadian employers do not value education and work experience gained abroad, which helps to explain why newcomers with professional qualifications have such a hard time getting jobs that utilise their skills in Canada. The government has announced a variety of initiatives to speed up the recognition of newcomer credentials. For example, the International Pharmacy Graduate Program offers gap-filling courses to those trained outside North America so that they can more quickly get licenses to work in Canada. However, many Canadian employers continue to insist that the workers they hire have Canadian work experience.

The second explanation is that the point system is not testing for the "right" factors needed in the Canadian labor market. Most immigrants to Canada do not have English or French as a mother tongue, and the tests used to determine language ability may not capture the inability to communicate at the level expected by Canadian employers. The third explanation emphasizes that most new immigrants to Canada are visible minorities. To counter perceptions that the newcomers do not "fit in," some employers such as the Bank of Montreal have launched efforts to serve the Chinese immigrant community with Chinese immigrant employees.

Immigrants to Canada have higher poverty rates than Canadian-born residents, so that in 2000, about 20 percent of immigrants were below the low-income cut off versus 14 percent of Canadians. The poverty rates for recent arrivals are higher, about 35 percent for those who arrived between 1991 and 2000 were poor, as were almost half for new arrivals in the Montreal area.
Canada is a bilingual and multicultural society, with the goal of achieving unity between English and French speakers the focus of Canadian politics for much of the past several decades. Many French-English policies also affect immigrant integration. With immigrants tending to integrate into English-speaking Canada even if they arrived in French-speaking Quebec, the Quebec government since the early 1960s has had agreements with the federal government to manage immigration and settlement in a manner designed to bolster the number of French speakers in the province. Since 1970, Quebec has largely controlled its immigration with its own point system, although many of the immigrants selected by Quebec continue to move on to Ontario and British Columbia.

Official multiculturalism has its origins in French-English relations and worries about the decline of French in Quebec, so that multiculturalism emerged from debates over bilingualism and biculturalism, not the integration of newcomers from abroad. Multiculturalism, enshrined in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedom in 1971, fosters a mosaic rather than a melting pot. Along with gun control and universal health insurance, multiculturalism seems to be distinctively Canadian in comparison to the US. 'There are no studies showing whether official multiculturalism has improved inter-group relations, though one study suggested that the program may have helped increase naturalization.

'Canada had few racial or visible minorities until the 1970s, but the 2001 census showed that visible minorities had become more than 13 percent of residents, and with projections to 20 percent by 2017. Canada does not have the panoply of federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws and agencies established in the US to reduce discrimination against Blacks and later other minorities, and in the mid-1990s, the Ontario government repealed the previous government's equal job opportunity legislation.
Refugees and Asylum
Canada resettles refugees who have fled from countries where they face persecution and are awaiting resettlement in another country. In addition, foreigners come to Canada and seek asylum. Two groups of asylum seekers have been of special concern: Chinese who arrived by ship on Canada's west coast in summer 1999, and foreigners who travelled through the US and applied for asylum in Canada.

About 600 Chinese arrived in summer 1999 with the help of smugglers and most said they planned to apply for asylum in Canada and then enter the US. Canada sought Chinese government cooperation to prevent more ships from sailing. China first said that Canada's lengthy asylum application process was encouraging Chinese to be smuggled into Canada, but an agreement was soon reached, and no more large groups of Chinese have been detected arriving by ship.

The second issue is foreigners who arrive in Canada and seek asylum. In April 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees everyone on Canadian soil, including asylum seekers, the right to fundamental justice, including an oral hearing. The Immigration and Refugee Board was created in 1989, and soon had to deal with a backlog of 115,000 cases while staffed with political appointees. By 2005, most of the IRB judges were professionals, and the backlog was reduced to 26,000. There were 25,000 asylum applications in 2004, when IRB judges granted asylum to 40 percent of the applicants. The IRB's annual budget is about C$100 million

Foreigners make asylum applications to CIC officers, which normally opens the door to work permits or welfare benefits. The IRB conducts a hearing based on the applicant's information about why protection is needed. Failed asylum applicants can try to stay in Canada by asking for a review based on unusual hardship if removed, ask a Federal Court to review mistakes in law made by an IRB judge, or request a pre-removal risk assessment, which can find that the foreigner would face torture or danger at home. About 60 percent of the hardship appeals result in the foreigner being allowed to stay in Canada, and investigations take an average 30 months, reportedly giving incentives to parents to have "anchor babies" that improve their chances of staying in Canada. A majority of Canadians in opinion polls say they want to end automatic birthright citizenship.

Hearings are conducted with a judge or decision maker, the applicant and his/her attorney, and an interpreter. Most are concluded within several hours, with a major issue the applicant's credibility, since most of the assertions made by applicants cannot be checked. Canada grants asylum to those who face persecution because of their sexual orientation, so a gay man who could be attacked because the police did not protect him can be eligible for asylum in Canada. In such cases, the credibility issue is whether the applicant is indeed gay and whether he has genuine reasons to fear persecution because of his sexual orientation in his country or origin.

Between 1995 and 2001, a third of the asylum applicants or refugee claimants in Canada entered from the US. The Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, which went into effect in December 2004, requires foreigners at land ports of entry apply for asylum in the first country they reach, Canada or the US. There was an initial rush of foreigners in the US who applied for asylum in Canada, which created considerable stress on Canadian asylum officials at ports of entry. The agreement has reduced the number of asylum applications from an average 30,000 a year to an expected 17,300 in 2005.
Temporary Workers
Canada's Commonwealth Caribbean and Mexican Agricultural Seasonal Workers Program is widely considered a model program for managing seasonal guest workers. In March 2003, then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien told Mexicans: "This program, where your farmers can come and work in Canada, has worked extremely well and now we are exploring (ways) to extend that to other sectors. The bilateral seasonal agricultural workers program has been a model for balancing the flow of temporary foreign workers with the needs of Canadian employers." Carlos Obrador, Mexican vice-consul in Toronto said the program: "is a real model for how migration can work in an ordered and legal way."

On the basis of an MOU between labor ministries, Canadian farmers have been allowed to import foreign workers for up to eight months a year from the Caribbean since 1966, and from Mexico since 1974. About 80 percent of the migrants admitted are employed on fruit, vegetable and tobacco farms in Ontario, where the average stay is four months and migrants fill about 20 percent of the province's seasonal farm jobs.

Mexicans are 60 percent of the almost 20,000 guest workers admitted each year. The Mexican Ministry of Labor responsible for recruiting workers unless Canadian employers specify the workers they want by name, which 70 percent do. Canadian farm employers apply to local Human Resources Centers (HRCs) for certification that they need guest workers, and hire any qualified Canadian workers available. Mexicans guest workers are guaranteed at least 240 hours of work over six weeks, free approved housing and meals or cooking facilities, and the higher of the minimum (C$7.15 an hour in Ontario in 2004, projected to rise to C$8 by 2007), prevailing or piece-rate wage paid to Canadians doing the same job.

An organization funded by farmer-paid fees, Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS) arranges their transport to Canada and to the employer's farm. Guest workers are on probation for two weeks, and farmers provide written evaluations of each worker at the end of the season; these employer evaluations are placed in sealed envelopes and delivered by returning workers to Mexican authorities.

Most of the Mexican migrants are married men who leave their families behind and arrive in Canada in debt for the costs of transportation to Mexico City, health checks, visas etc. In Canada, the migrants are often isolated on the farms on which they work, so they report spending little money, enabling them to save an average C$1,000 a month from their average C$1,400 pay, earned for working 50-hour weeks. There have been protests over wage deductions and a strike on April 29, 2001 (Ontario farm workers do not have the right to strike) led to deportations and complaints made on behalf of the migrants by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which calls the program "Canada's shameful dirty secret."

Canada admits more temporary nonfarm workers in occupations ranging from nurse and caregiver to engineer and IT worker. The Software Pilot Project, which gave "blanket validation" or "confirmation" of easy entry to employers seeking foreign IT workers who met the qualifications established for entry has been the IT Workers Program. Under a 2001 immigration law, temporary workers with skills, unlike farm workers, may adjust to immigrant status while in Canada, as can foreign graduates of Canadian universities with job offers from Canadian employers.

There are no "official" estimates, but there may be 200,000 to 300,000 unauthorized foreigners in Canada. In response to employers and unions saying that unauthorized construction workers in the Toronto area were vital, the Construction Recruitment External Workers Services Program expedites the admission of foreign construction workers to Toronto. There are also provincial guest worker programs that admit nurses in B.C., sewing machine operators in Manitoba, and welders in Ontario.
Canada is a nation of immigrants that is being shaped and reshaped by newcomers, most of whom are from Asia. Isolation and few illegal workers mean that Canada can select legal newcomers; the question is whether Canada can refine the selection system to bring in knowledge workers more likely to be successful in employment, or else find better ways to integrate immigrants into the globalizing Canadian economy. If Canada is successful, it can maintain rising incomes and labor force growth despite declining birth rates; if not, Canada may create disadvantaged minorities via immigration.
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