2011: The year in Canadian immigration, by Marco Campana, Gregory Johannson, & ZS Worotynec

Top Canadian Migration Stories in 2011

2011 had many events, policies and debates/discussions on the theme of migration in Canada. These are a selection of what 3 of us* believe to be among the top stories. For each item, there is a brief introduction, some background and links and other resources that may prove useful.


2011 was a year for changes and consultations leading to changes in Canadian immigration policy, from temporary foreign workers, to family reunification, to refugee processing and more.

A series of changes with potentially long-term impacts on Canada’s immigration policy and regulations occurred in 2011. There have been consultations, the results of which we may see over the next few years. One thing appears certain, the shift from an immigration policy focused on family reunification and concerns to one focused on economic and security considerations continues.

The federal government introduced a parental sponsorship embargo and something they’re calling “Super visas”. The Super Visa is a multi-entry visa valid for 10 years that will provide multiple entries of up to two years each. No new parent/grandparent sponsorship applications will be accepted until Nov 5, 2013. The government plans to consult during this time to determine how the parent/grandparent sponsorship program should be redesigned.

Initial responses to this moratorium on parent/grandparent sponsorship, replaced with an extended visa offer, have been positive. However, there have been some concerns about the realities of medical insurance for inviting families, including costs and limited health care coverage. Time will tell how this change will impact the parent/grandparent backlog and quality of family reunification.

See also: Government of Canada to cut backlog and wait times for family reunification – Phase I of Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification.

Regarding refugees, Bill C4 and the Refugee Determination System are covered in other sections, but there are some additional policy-related items that are worth noting.

Notice of Intent Regarding Changes to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program The government is seeking input into proposed regulatory amendments in the private refugee sponsorship program.

“Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act has received Royal Assent. These reforms will improve Canada’s asylum system, resettle more refugees from abroad and make it easier for refugees to start their lives in this country.” Implementation of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act has been delayed until June 2012.

According to Peter Showler: “radically alters Canada’s refugee claim system and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) was confronted with an enormous administrative task to prepare for the new system. The IRB has been charged with hiring and training hundreds of new staff to serve as Interview Officers and Refugee Protection Division members who will be public servants under the new act. In addition the Board was in the course of creating an entire new division, the Refugee Appeal Division, to hear appeals of refugee decisions.”

Showler has also made recommendations of how best to implement Canada’s new refugee policy and processing system.

Regarding immigrant selection, a series of consultations have been held that look specifically at the types of immigrants Canada “should” be selecting. The consultations have a strong economic/employment/worker class focus. See the following links for more information:

Stakeholder Consultation on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Immigration Levels and Mix: Stakeholder and Public Consultation
The Federal Skilled Worker Program: Stakeholder and Public Consultation
Changes for live-in caregivers


A global trend has been a shifting focus to security concerns, which carries implications for immigrants and asylum-seekers. The Obama/Harper announcement on the Security and Economic Action Plan, and other political events in the year past raise concerns on how this trend will pan out domestically.

In Canada and elsewhere in the past decade there has been an increasing focus on security, which may come at the expense of immigrants and asylum-seekers. The unprecedented publication of 30 suspected war criminals in July by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is one example. Despite the consensus that war criminals should be prosecuted, this may represent an elevation of security concerns over the rights of individual immigrants and asylum-seekers. Regarding this publication, Amnesty International raised the concern that: “Canada overwhelmingly resorts to immigration enforcement measures rather than the criminal law.” With the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) being only a quasi-judicial agency, this can be problematic in that individuals are not afforded adequate opportunity to defend themselves against said charges, and – regardless of their crimes – that they may face cruel or unusual punishment including torture if deported.

A second issue that may result in the prioritization of security concerns over immigrant rights is the recent announcement of the “Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan”. On one hand, the agreement may assist in the determination of legitimate immigration and refugee claims; the report writes that it well help by “facilitating ongoing efforts to streamline procedures at the Canada-United States border”. Because the agreement was only recently announced there is limited analysis and discourse on the implications it may hold for immigrants and asylum-seekers. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association raises several issues that may impact refugees, namely the repercussions for refugees and asylum-seekers currently living in Canada, and whether Canadian legal and humanitarian obligations will can be upheld under the arrangement.

The broader focus on security issues in Canada and elsewhere demands monitoring and scrutiny on behalf of all those impacted, especially immigrants and asylum-seekers owing to their particular vulnerabilities as newcomers to Canada.

Related resources

Full Report on Border Action Plan

Canadian Civil Liberties Association concerns

Canadian Border Services Agency outline of publicizing war criminals

Amnesty International concerns with publicizing war criminals


In June, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) was designated by the federal government to act as the regulatory body for immigration consultants and immigration lawyers. The ICCRC replaced the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC). Citizenship continued to be a hot topic, with the revocation of citizenship from almost 5,000 individuals at the end of 2011, due to widespread immigration consultant fraud, according to the federal government.

Related resources

Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC)

Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC)

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act


Bill C-4 seeks to impede human smuggling in Canada. It proposes mandatory imprisonment of asylum-seekers illegally entering Canada, among other provisions. Critics contend it entails harsh treatment of asylum-seekers and that it is inconsistent with Canadian constitutional law and international legal obligations.

Bill C-4, known as “Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act” seeks to discourage human smuggling and trafficking operations into Canada. A fear that has been expressed by groups including the Canadian Council of Refugees and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is that Bill C-4 less penalizes those responsible for smuggling and trafficking than it does individuals that seek asylum.

When the Bill was introduced in 2010, Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney stated it: “will help to prevent the abuse of Canada’s immigration system by human smugglers, while allowing us to continue offering protection to the world’s most vulnerable.” The press release issued to coincide with its introduction states that it will “[Ensure] mandatory detention of illegal migrants for up to one year to allow for the determination of identity, inadmissibility and illegal activity.” It is argued that provisions such as the detention of illegal migrants will discourage human smuggling.

Several objections that have been raised. In terms of international legal obligations, Canada is a signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, which states that parties to the Convention: “shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence” on individuals claiming refugee status, until their status is determined. Under Canadian Law, The Canadian Association of Refuge Lawyers contends the Bill infringes four sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including Section 7, which “provides that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person.”

There is also concern for the harm this will cause asylum-seekers. The CCR states that Bill C-4 will lead to arbitrary detention, create a discriminatory framework in its creation of different classes of refugees, that it punishes refugees and prevents their claims from being heard for at least a year. The CCLA outlines that detention would apply regardless of age (including both seniors and minors) or innocence.

Related resources

Bill C-4: Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act

Canadian Civil Liberties Association Introduction and Resource Page

Minister Jason Kenney Op-Ed in defense of Bill C-4 CCR Resource Page: http://ccrweb.ca/en/c4

Ministry of Public Safety Release on Bill C-4 (formerly Bill C-49)


Three issues gained salience in the Canadian refugee determination system in 2011: Patronage-based hiring processes for the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), divergences among Federal Court Judges in acceptance rates of appeal cases from the IRB, and the failure to implement the Refugee Appeal Division.

Peter Showler, a former Chair of the IRB stated in 2009 that: “the Conservatives are starting to do what the Liberals did a lot of, which is to appoint people not based on merit but based upon their connections with the Conservative Party.” In a 2009 audit, the Public Service Commission found a statistically significant number of appointments were not based on merit. In 2011 this issue regained significance when the PSC took over “investigating and fixing” staffing issues at the IRB, citing ongoing shortcomings. With research in 2011 demonstrating wide differences among IRB members granting refugee status (from Edward Robinson granting status to 4.29% of 140 cases, versus Stuart Mutch granting 81.29% of 171 cases), the integrity of the appointment process for the IRB has come under even greater scrutiny.

If denied refugee status, applicants have three options for recourse, one of which is to appeal to the Federal Court of Canada. Studies have shown divergences among leaves granted by Federal Court judges. In one study Sean Rehaag found that appeals made to the FCC were twice as likely to succeed if heard by Liberal-appointed judges than by Conservative-appointed judges. As an extreme, Justice Crampton (appointed by Harper) granted leave to 1.75% of applicants, while Justice Campbell (appointed by Chretien) granted leave to 62% of applicants. These numbers have caused concern to refugee applicants, those representing them, and organizations in the refugee advocacy sector.

Beyond options noted, there has been a further legislatively-defined but unimplemented recourse in place since the 2001 Immigration and Refugee Act – the Refugee Appeal Division – which would hear appeals from the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB within the IRB apparatus itself. Consecutive governments have sought to implement the Division, but have not done so. Jason Kenney announced in 2011 that the Refugee Appeal Division would be implemented in the near future (possibly in December), but it has yet to materialize.

Related resources

Audit of the IRB: http://www.psc-cfp.gc.ca/adt-vrf/rprt/2009/airb-vcisr/airb-vcisr-eng.pdf

2001 Immigration and Refugee Act: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/I-2.5/FullText.html


It’s been a year of much media and community discussion about the role and value of immigrants, racialized communities (v. the more contentious term “visible minorities”) in Canadian society. Are we achieving true integration/inclusion, or is the commitment to diversity merely political lip service? Let’s look at a few stories.

The May 2011 federal election highlighted the so-called “ethnic vote” and the political party’s jockeying to garner that vote. It’s believed that traditionally, the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) had the ethnic vote tied up, but in recent years, aggressive outreach by the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) – and in particular, immigration minister, The Honourable Jason Kenney’s, efforts proved beneficial to the CPC. Indeed, Kenney garnered the praise of many pro-immigrant advocates for his relentlessness in insisting newcomers ‘fit in’, get acclimated to Canadian culture and values, and participate fully in Canadian society. Of course, criticisms were made in response on several levels. Many newcomers come to Canada because they have a skill, education and experience in a profession or trade. When they arrive, all too often, they are denied practice in their field due to a lack of “Canadian experience”.

While the “political coming of age” of immigrant voters may appear to have arrived, it has not yet for diverse political representation. DiverseCity Toronto’s Counts 4 report outlined how the diversity gap in elected office is deeper and wider than previously thought.

Another story in 2011 that asked the question about accommodation of diverse communities was sparked by a complaint brought forward by the Canadian Hindu Advocacy when they learned about the Toronto District School Board‘s (TDSB) religious accommodation policy – and practice in one its schools. Children in a school in North Toronto had a scheduled prayer session (and room) during school hours to allow Muslim students to pray. The school defended their action by citing the absenteeism of Muslim students, who left school grounds to pray. In simple terms, offering the prayer session at the school was a practical solution to an absenteeism problem. This story brought much attention to the question of what are the limits to religious accommodation? School boards are expected to take appropriate steps to provide religious accommodation for students and staff. Much discussion centered on whether or not this particular accommodation went too far.

The specter of “honour killings” again made the news in what has become to be known as “the Shafia trial.” It is alleged that Shafia, his son, and his second wife, plotted to murder the daughters, who were warming to western ways and rejecting fundamentalist Islam practices (talking to boys, not observing hijab).  CBC provided a “history of honour killings”.

For many community observers, 2011 was a strong year for islamophobia, with the Prime Minister Harper stating that ‘Islamicism’ is Canada’s biggest security threat.

Minister Kenney’s latest salvo was his announcement that women wearing a niqab at citizenship ceremonies would be denied their certificates. Kenney unilaterally declared that no one’s face could be covered at Citizenship ceremonies, which was a direct challenge to the wearing of the niqab. Shortly before this pronouncement, a woman was assaulted at a Toronto mall for wearing a niqab. And, a Supreme Court case was looking at whether or not a court witness could keep her face covered when offering testimony.

In all of these cases, the niqab was the target and public sentiment on the topic, especially in online comments, was ugly.

The city of Gatineau, Quebec, published a guide for new immigrants, including a “statement of values.” Many found the publication insulting and degrading.

The year ended with a strong call to work on inclusion by Ratna Omidvar of Maytree:

Related resources

Real Inclusion, please and thank you

Alan Broadbent’s Three I’s of Immigrant Integration

Robert Latham’s proposal for “multiversalism” v. “multiculturalism


Economic and labour market integration of skilled newcomers has been an ongoing issue for Canada and, in general, for all receiving countries. Ontario has formally been looking at this issue since 1989 when the provincial government released what is a seminal report on the topic. Many of the issues outlined in this report are still issues we’re talking about and dealing with – credential recognition, licensing, among others.

The issue is very much with us, in spite of government efforts such as bridge training programs, work placement/intern programs, the creation of immigrant employment councils.

All of this forms the background to ongoing immigration policy, which has, over time, shifted from a focus on family reunification to economic class immigrants. This shift has been accelerated under the current federal government. So, this year, a major theme has certainly been this question of what’s the best way to bring immigrants into Canada to ensure that our economic development continues, while we continue to successfully integrate newcomers into our communities?

The federal government ran public consultations earlier this year to review these issues:

Stakeholder Consultation on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Immigration Levels and Mix: Stakeholder and Public Consultation

The Federal Skilled Worker Program: Stakeholder and Public Consultation


Temporary Foreign Workers vs. Skilled Worker Class vs. PNP vs. Canadian Experience. Which is best, which will lead us to more success, and also ensure the ongoing success of our skilled immigrants and their families? Results Are in: Federal Skilled Worker Program Works “Prepared by Maytree, this short document summarizes the recent evaluation of the skilled worker program conducted by the federal government. Following the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), occupation-specific criteria were removed from the point system, and the evaluation finds that this was largely successful. Still, the federal government returned to an occupation-specific model, and the skilled worker class continues to be one of the few economic classes which does not receive priority processing.”

CIC Evaluation of the Federal Skilled Worker program: “The findings from the IMDB analysis and the client surveys demonstrate that FSWs become established economically and meet the needs of employers.”

Naomi Alboim, The Maytree Foundation released the report Adjusting the Balance: Fixing Canada’s Economic Immigration Policies. It suggested that federal policy shifts had altered the landscape for economic immigration and that these shifts represented troubling trends that were unlikely to serve Canada well in the long term. Since the report was published, the shifts identified have continued. Earlier this year, Maytree published a series of six discussion papers to provide updates and commentary on recent immigration policy developments, evaluating recent changes that relate to the recommendations presented in Adjusting the Balance.

Naomi Alboim, The Maytree Foundation released The Federal Government Should Re-assert Its Role in Immigrant Selection

There’s also been musings about creating a tech entrepreneur class – with some sort of a Startup Visa. The proposed “Startup Visa Canada Initiative would create an additional new visa program that:

  • would allow for an investment of $150,000 into a newly formed Canadian technology startup to qualify in place of the minimum asset provisions.
  • would enable approved local investor(s) to endorse qualified entrepreneurial immigrants to obtain their temporary work permits which.  This permit would only allow the immigrant to work for a newly formed company, and thus not take jobs away from qualified Canadians.
  • would require immigrants to have at least a third equity position in their companies, be active in management and create at least 3 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs over the course of a 2-year program period.”


2011 saw funding increases for settlement programs from CIC in every province & territory except Ontario. What is the long-term impact on newcomer settlement and they cities where they settle?

In November, 2011, Minister Kenney announced Ontario settlement funding: “We believe it is only fair that settlement allocations across Canada should be based on the share of newcomers that provinces and territories have,” noted Minister Kenney. “Most provinces and territories will receive an increase in settlement funding as a result of adjustments to Ontario.”

The percentages for funding tend to be allocated by an immigrant’s expressed port of entry, which may not necessarily mean where they end up living. In this case, the numbers have certainly decreased for Ontario and, more specifically, Toronto, which has borne the brunt of funding cuts to settlement agencies. While this appears equitable on the surface, there is the ongoing issue, oft discussed, rarely quantified, of secondary migration after an immigrant lands in Canada. There is also the ongoing issue in Toronto of the racialization of poverty, which has had an inordinate impact on newer immigrant communities who tend to come from source countries made of “visible minorities.”

So, a question that occurs is what the long-term vision is for settlement funding, what happens to newcomers once they begin to settle in cities, which lack sufficient funding to adequately deal with the ongoing ebbs and flows of migration, etc. What is the actual funding formula (which includes a vague “capacity-building amount added for each jurisdiction”)?

Is a funding model and formula that merely takes into account expressed ports of entry enough? Or does it need to also look at long-term economic realities in arrival cities (such as the rise of racialized poverty in Toronto), economic realities facing newcomers there, which will impact their settlement process, and the level of supports provided to cities to ensure that the burdens of poverty and infrastructure development are adequately supported?

As newcomer settlement patterns shift and change, it makes sense that funding for immediate settlement needs also shifts. However, settlement, especially in difficult economic times, takes demonstrably longer and is more complex. Funding regimes need to match this complexity as well.

Information from government releases and backgrounders:

“Settlement funding allocations are determined by the national settlement funding formula, which is based on the number of immigrants in each province and territory, outside Quebec, (giving additional weight for refugees to account for their unique settlement needs), along with a capacity-building amount added for each jurisdiction.”

“The 2012-13 allocations mark the first time since the end of the Canada Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA) that this formula has been fully applied to Ontario. Under COIA, which expired March 31, 2011, the level of settlement funding was pre-determined in 2005, regardless of the number of immigrants in Ontario. However, the proportion of immigrants to Ontario continues to decrease, while immigration to other provinces and territories, such as Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta, has continued to rise.”

“This formula now applies in all provinces and territories except Quebec and reflects that, when compared to the other provinces and territories, Ontario’s proportional share of new immigrants in Canada has gone from 64% in 2005 to 52% in 2010, as more newcomers have chosen to settle in Western and Atlantic Canada.”

Related resources

CIC’s Modernized Approach to Settlement Programming: A Brief Description

Statement from Charles Sousa, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

The Maytree Foundation: Settlement Funding Cuts: Short-term Vision, Long-term Pain


Research on, about, for and with immigrants is critical to Canada. Good research helps shape proactive and positive policies on settlement, funding, and on bigger questions about integrating and becoming Canadian.

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and a consortium of agencies and departments of the federal government, primarily led by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the Metropolis project consists of five centres that conduct, gather and share research on immigration, settlement, integration and diversity. Affiliated with local universities, the five Metropolis Centres are:

Vancouver: Metropolis BC

Edmonton: Prairie Metropolis Centre

Toronto: CERIS The Ontario Metropolis Centre

Montreal: The Quebec Metropolis Centre

Halifax/Moncton: The Atlantic Metropolis Centre

These centres are part of the international Metropolis network, focused on comparative research and public policy development on migration, diversity and immigrant integration in cities in Canada and around the world.

Together with the Metropolis Canada in Ottawa, the Metropolis Centres provide rich resources to students, practitioners, academics and researchers. Due to funding instability, by March 2013, the Ontario Metropolis Centre, CERIS, will cease operations. CERIS staff is currently investigating options for the future with community and academic stakeholders.

A cornerstone of critical immigration research is the ability to research, identify, and analyze trends over time. The Longitudinal Immigration Database is one example of a long-term useful research tool. Many respected reports and important analyses have come out of this tool, which have impacted policy, funding, community support and more.

2011 saw a big blow to longitudinal immigration research with the federal government’s ending of the mandatory long-form census. Citing prison sentences as too harsh a punishment for those who did not complete the long-form census, the federal government pulled it and replaced it with a mandatory short-form. This is now the only tool in the set of census surveys that reaches all Canadians.

The Canadian Council on Social Development, along with a number of other agencies has brought suit against the Government of Canada. Their campaign, entitled Fighting for the Equal Right to be Counted, says, “The Short form (little more than a head count) only asks 10 questions of Canadians, none of which determines one’s ethnicity and cultural heritage, Aboriginal status or disAbility. The exclusion of the important groups of Canadians is a clear breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Gaps in data of this measure will ensure that decision makers at every level, will not have the necessary information to serve these important groups of Canadians. Perhaps that’s the point, suggests the Canadian Council on Social Development: “is this marginalization by design”?

As the federal government conducts a consultation about open government data and Statistics Canada is soon to make all of its online data available for free, there seems to be a recognition about the importance of good data. The question will be how will this change in the census impact policy and political decisions regarding immigration.

An opportunity coming from this awareness of the importance of research and data is the vast amount of useful and practical data that community agencies have in their offices, yet lack the skills, resources and systems to more fully harness. Projects such as the Toronto Immigrant Employment Data Initiative (TIEDI) seek to bring academics and community agencies together, both to conduct original research, but also to analyze and share existing data in ways that meet the practical, day-to-day needs of agencies serving immigrants. Given academic, community and social planning council concerns about the census and realizations of the importance of good research, it’s possible that 2012 could see more developments in this area for and by agencies serving immigrants.

Related resources

Is Canada Becoming More Conservative? An article illustrating the importance of longitudinal research and analysis.


2011 marked 40 years of official policy of multiculturalism (within a bilingual framework) in Canada. A result of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, established by the Pearson government in 1963, the B & B Commission, as it came to be known, was tasked with engaging Canadians in a national discussion on the relations between the two so-called founding cultures; The French and the English. Pushback from the ethnic communities, especially in the West, who felt they weren’t recognized in the policy, lead to “official multiculturalism within a bilingual framework”.

Canada was the first country in the world to formally recognize multiculturalism as official policy. Entrenched into legislation in 1988, Canadian multiculturalism has been an ongoing debate ever since.

Of note in regard to this milestone, the The Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Ethnic Studies Association hosted their 2nd Joint Annual Conference in Ottawa, Ontario from Sept 30-Oct 1, 2011 and featured sessions that highlight the ongoing issues, debates and discussions around the issue of multiculturalism including: is it time to move away from multiculturalism to interculturalism or even multiversalism. These discussions are a result of the move from cultural pluralism (“acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage” (Multiculturalism Act, 1988 Section 3.1.a)) to integration (“Canada recognizes the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs” (Note, CIC, 2008)).

Media covered the marking of 40 years of official multiculturalism, including a good overview piece (just as one of many examples) with a look to the future of the policy by Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star editor emeritus, and useful links throughout the column.

Related resources

Canadian Multiculturalism Act.

Will Kymlicka’s site. Kymlicka is the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy in the Philosophy Department at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Kymlicka’s “research interests focus on issues of democracy and diversity, and in particular on models of citizenship and social justice within multicultural societies”.

Government of Canada website. “Through multiculturalism, Canada recognizes the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs”. This site includes links to the legislation, policy, events and other resources.


Biographies of *Contributors

Marco Campana

Marco Campana’s work has spanned numerous non-profit sectors, including newcomer settlement, employment, information and referral and community-based Internet projects. He currently helps Maytree staff harness the potential of web and social media in their project work.

Before joining Maytree as a Communications Strategist, Marco worked as a website content coordinator and, more recently, provided social media training and support for the settlement sector in Ontario. He has used online tools to provide information, service and connection to newcomers to Ontario, and to those who serve them. He has found that technology is valuable when it is connected and serves to enhance our daily work. Marco tweets @marcopolis and can be reached at marcopolis@gmail.com .

Gregory Johannson

Gregory Johannson completed his B.A. at Concordia University, writing his Honours Thesis on issues involving federalism and minority accommodation measures in northern Nigeria. He lived in Egypt through 2007-2008, studying development at the American University in Cairo while serving as a coordinator with a relief group that worked with refugees living in Cairo. Inspired by their resilience in the midst of difficult circumstances, he became passionate and engaged in the field of refugee and immigration advocacy in Canada and abroad, and intends to pursue a career in refugee and immigration law. He is currently completing a Certificate in Refugee Issues at the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University. Greg tweets @GregJohannson and can be reached at gregory.johannson@gmail.com .

Z Sonia Worotynec

Z Sonia Worotynec is the founder of immigrantchildren.ca – a site for collaboration and connection on issues related to newcomer children and their families. She is also behind sixtyseven.ca; a site that examines Canadian immigration from its history, current issues and the future. Sonia tweets on immigration @immigranttalk & @sixtysevenca.

17 Replies to “2011: The year in Canadian immigration, by Marco Campana, Gregory Johannson, & ZS Worotynec”

  1. Thanks Morgan. This is one of the most popular posts on the blog.

    It was great fun to work collaboratively with Marco and Greg on this and we did it all virtually.

    Are there other topics you’d like to see us tackle here (and elsewhere)?

  2. It was stated in the blog that “one thing appears certain, the shift from an immigration policy focused on family reunification and concerns to one focused on economic and security considerations continues.” I definitely think this can be said about Canadian policy in regards to migrant labourers. Canada accepts migrant labourers into our country to fulfill our labour needs. However, they are not permitted to bring their own family with them, nor do we provide adequate support to the family that was left behind, thereby potentially weakening their own family ties. I think this is highly revealing of where Canadian priorities truly lie.

  3. Thank you for writing up such an informative post.

    The debate between “multiculturalism” and “interculturalism,” as highlighted in the final section, caught my attention. It would be interesting to see what has been said in favor of interculturalism supplanting multiculturalism. However, doesn’t one of the many questions lie in the definitions themselves? According to this source (http://www.riseofthewest.net/dc/dc278interculturalism00feb04.pdf), multiculturalism is “based on the notion of personal autonomy” and even cultural plurality, whereas in interculturalism, “host or majority cultures are influenced by immigrant or minority cultures and vice versa.” Though I wouldn’t go as far as saying that this is similar to the concept of the ‘melting pot,’ I do wonder what the implications are in regards to the notion of the ‘cultural mosaic’.

    Furthermore, the mentioned shift from cultural pluralism to integration raises a few concerns. By supplanting “all members of Canadian society” with “all Canadians,”, what does this mean for immigrants with no or pending Canadian citizenship under the policy of integration?

    In Canada we have one predominant culture: English/British. Acceptanced racial origins and customs is not “multiculturalism”, it is just tolerance. I think that the idea of “multiculturalism” is irrational. A society can be multicultural as much as a person can be multi-gendered. It spreads and absorbs other cultures by having a reputation of tolerance of other cultures. Multiculturalism is often over-used to describe Canada, but does multiculturalism really exist in Canada? I have found that Canadian culture does not truly reflect the diversity of the people here.

  5. Can’t say I agree with you, Greeshma, but I thank you for your comment. There are, I would also argue, people who think it is possible to be multi-gendered, but multiculturalism is not only a descriptor for Canada, it is official policy. We have legislation and regulations that support multiculturalism. I invite you to review it, if you haven’t recently:

    Thanks again for your comment.


  6. I fully agree with Julia’s comment about how when looking at immigration policies you see that the priorities of the policies have to do with bettering the Canadian economy, not the lives of the immigrant workers. A class I took this year focused on Immigration and work in Canada and we discussed how immigration policies heavily favour those who: are able to fill an immediate employment need, will invest heavily into Canada’s economy, have pre-existing work arrangements in Canada, have command of at least one official language and have a level of education or skill attainment that makes it possible for them to be employed in the future. While less emphasis placed on immigrants who: have less marketable skills, are claiming refugee status and have family in Canada as the only connection to the country. It seems as though those who create the policies place our economy first, and the bettering of the lives of immigrants second.

  7. The blog states in the immigration policy section: “however, there have been some concerns about the realities of medical insurance for inviting families, including costs and limited health care coverage”. Similar to Julia’s response, I believe that this shows where Canadians priorities lie. It is evident that we are more focused on economic considerations rather than family reunification. It is interesting to note that Canadians are more focused on health care costs rather than the idea of having strong family ties. I believe that the idea of the “super visa” has the potential to strengthen migrant workers family ties and ensure that they continue to be a part of their family culture and traditions.

  8. Although the rhetoric of Canadian Immigration Policy has no doubt shifted towards “economic and security consideration,” it seems as if it overlooks the importance of familial bonds and kinship for immigrants in terms of their contribution to the Canadian labour force. Many immigrants coming to Canada are immigrating with the impression that high skill, high education, and the willingness to work automatically equates to immediate entrance in the labour force. However, with problems such as credential transference, among other things, this is not always the case. Because of this, immigrants are often forced in to jobs in which they are overqualified for, earning barely enough to support themselves. With many of these immigrants hoping to bring their family overseas when enough money is earned, this strain not only adds to the negative experience they have in Canada, but also reveals the clear disparity between rhetoric and reality in Canadian Immigration Policy. More specifically, by overlooking the importance of family reunification and concerns, as well as the role that kinship plays, the Canadian Immigration Policy makes it more difficult for immigrants to reach occupational goals (for example, the poor working conditions of Filipino nannies and the strain it creates on their familial bonds overseas). This in turn weakens and takes away from the economic contributions made by these immigrants, seemingly maintaining a negative cycle within the Canadian immigration experience.

  9. Thank you for such an enlightening blog post.
    I was not aware of the issues surrounding the topic of migration in Canada.
    It is unfortunate to see that they usually concern the government stating that they will aid foreigners who need help entering the country for different political reasons, but only later mentioning the ‘fine print’: there still seem to be many restrictions which stop people from entering the country even when they need asylum.
    The part that really upset me was the section about the Bill C-4. The Canadian government says it will try to help those considered as ‘the world’s vulnerable’ while it will harshly punish ‘those who abuse Canada’s immigratio system’. The thing is, how do they determine who is merely abusing the system, and who really needs help? Oftentimes, they happen to be the same people.
    Will Canada then impose harsh treatment, year long imprisonsements and unjust laws on people who they are not sure of the identity?
    This is blatant discrimination and naivete on the part of the Canadian government. Though I do not know much to go into detail, I feel that the consequences that can come out of these kinds of Canadian policies will mirror the issues that surround immigration laws in the U.S..
    Thank you again for the thought-provoking post; I will definitely keep this post in mind when reading future related news.

  10. Section 6 of this article really caught my eye. It seems that sometimes, secularity is simply a mask for racism, and after reading the “code of values” published by the city of Gatineau it seems truly tangible. However, if Canada is a secular state should it not be permitted to create a scheduled prayer time and room in a public institution such as a school?

  11. I really liked the overview this blog provides regarding the allocation of funds for immigrants as primarily going towards the port of entry, while disregarding possible relocation patterns. I also agree that this aids in creating racialized communities with very low income. This racialization allows for stigmas and stereotyping of these communities to occur which in turn perpetuates the ideal that those migrating to Canada are of lesser value. Do you believe the re-allocation of funding will ultimately aid these communities or do you think that the work required in order to follow migration patterns will be too great and thus nothing will change? Personally, I think the funding is going to port cities simply because it it the easiest to track, but ultimately the relocation possibility of immigrants to Canada is too great for the government to recognize it as being a significant piece of information that could be used to to help immigrants adapt to a new life in Canada.

  12. The blog states that “Many newcomers come to Canada because they have a skill, education and experience in a profession or trade. When they arrive, all too often, they are denied practice in their field due to a lack of “Canadian experience” this is something that is troubling to me. They come to Canada for i different future for themselves and their family’s and have hope of finding a descent job in their field once getting here but are forced to return to school for more “canadain” training or work a job that they are way over skilled and underpaid. I see this as the system failing the individuals. As Lori sated there is favor put on the individuals that have already have specific training. but they need pay to do training again in order to get a gob in their field, specifically i am talking about Doctors. As a hole this just seems to be something that is not beneficial or supportive of the needs to the immigrants.

  13. I was particularly troubled by the section regarding “Islamisicm”, and its assumed threat on Canada. I believe that as much as Canadians want to believe in multiculturalism, it is difficult for many to completely understand how to do this. I view it as a moral panic, which was largely inluenced by the events following 9/11. Due to the terrorism that occurred, Canadians created a moral panic surrounding how they viewed Islamic immigrants, and therefore created a negative identity for all immigrants assumed to be of Islamic descent as terrorists. They believed that allowing religious rights to immigrants would mean that it would allow immigrants to justify acts against Canadians. I think it is unfortunate, as the Shafia trial largely reinforced the ideas that religious freedom would ultimately lead to murder or terrorism. This feels to me like a double standard, as Caucasians commit acts of violence in their own country that are not necessarily seen as terrorism. I feel like as a solution, we can not generalize to a group of immigrants, but rather we should be accepting and welcoming of all groups, and we should not allow stereotypes to inform our opinions regarding religious rights of immigrants.

  14. I agree with what May has said about migration and it is unbelievable how strict the system really is with all of the restrictions on limiting the amount and the type of people who are claimed to be suited or appropriate to best accommodate the needs of the Country (economics). When reading the part about Bill C-4 about those who will be punished for abusing the system, I began to think about how we can choose who is abusing the system and who in reality truly needs the help and a safe haven. Detaining people for up to a year without accurate knowledge of their situation is extremely unfair.

  15. that highlight the ongoing issues, debates and discussions around the issue of multiculturalism including: is it time to move away from multiculturalism to interculturalism or even multiversalism. These discussions are a result of the move from cultural pluralism (“acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage” (Multiculturalism Act, 1988 Section 3.1.a)) to integration (“Canada recognizes the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs”

    I feel the issue of Canada’s perspective on multiculturalism is a touchy issue. Especially with regards to goals of integration. It is a hard issue to satisfy both sides of the argument between the nativism side and immigration side. This argument can cause tension and heated debates when brought up about those passionate about this subject.

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