Archive | Travel

Province Cutting Cost to Ride the TTC in Half for People Paying to Ride GO Transit and UP Express

Posted on 13 October 2017 by admin

Ontario is lowering the cost of commuting for people in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) by introducing a 50 per cent discount for PRESTO card users who transfer between GO Transit or the Union Pearson Express (UP Express) and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), in both directions.

Premier Kathleen Wynne was at Union Station in Toronto today to announce that adult, senior and youth/student TTC riders will pay a TTC fare of just $1.50 when they use a PRESTO card to transfer to or from GO Transit or the UP Express. The discount will launch in January 2018, shortly after the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension will begin service to six new stations. For people whose regular commute includes GO/UP Express-TTC transfers, this step towards regional fare integration and more affordable transit options will save about $720 per year.

The new discount builds on a number of recent actions the government has taken to save people money, including a tax credit for seniors who use public transit, steps to make buying or renting a home more affordable and reducing residential electricity bills by 25 per cent on average.

Making public transit more convenient, available and affordable is part of Ontario’s plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25 through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.

QUOTES

” We’re building transit across Ontario to help people get where they need to be. But the cost of commuting can add up quickly. Making it more affordable to hop on the TTC is going to save people money and make the journey that much easier. It’s about delivering a seamless transit system that recognizes just how interconnected our region is, and making it as easy as possible for people to get where they’re going.”

- Kathleen Wynne

Premier of Ontario

” We are making fares more affordable for the many commuters who already use a PRESTO card to connect between GO Transit, UP Express and the TTC. We also hope that this will persuade more commuters to take transit all the way to their destination. Working together with our municipal partners, we are committed to creating a seamless and cost-effective travel experience for transit riders.”

- Steven Del Duca

Minister of Transportation

” Thanks to bold leadership at City Hall and Queen’s Park, we have found a way to give a discount to those who use a mix of our transit systems. Transit will now be more affordable for Toronto residents who ride a mix of the TTC, UP Express and GO Transit to get around the city. This agreement also moves us a step closer to make sure that SmartTrack will cost Toronto residents the same as the TTC. We need to make sure that the transit we are building and maintaining remains affordable.”

- John Tory

Mayor of Toronto

” Metrolinx is committed to working with our partners on a seamless and integrated travel experience for customers across the region. Our region needs fare integration. This discount is an important first step in breaking down barriers to fare integration across the network, making it easier and more convenient to take transit.”

- Phil Verster

President and CEO of Metrolinx

 

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FREE FAIR FOR IMMIGRANTS and REFUGEES IN TORONTO TO HELP THEM SETTLE AND SUCCEED

Posted on 04 June 2017 by admin

 [TORONTO – May 29, 2017] – For 2017, immigration levels will reach 300,000 newcomers, international student numbers jumped 22 per cent over the last year, and these pro-immigration trends will only continue to increase in the coming years given Canada’s ageing demographics, according to recently released Census figures.  But bringing in immigrants to Canada and seeing them integrate and succeed are not one and the same.

That’s where the Career, Education & Settlement Immigrant Fair comes in.

Canadian Immigrant magazine invites all immigrants, newcomers, refugees and international students to its signature, free fair on Saturday, June 3, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This free event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front St. W.) aims to help newcomers of all ages and backgrounds make connections and find strategies to succeed in Canada.

The free event includes:

- A tradeshow of exhibitors including employers (some hiring onsite!), settlement agencies and   educational institutes;

- Our popular day-long Resumé Clinic;

-Speed Mentoring by ACCES Employment and YMCA; and

- And inspirational immigrant speakers program including:

- Social media bootcamp

- Workshop on becoming a CPA

-Session on creating your professional brand

-Workshop on writing a resumé that get results

Learn more about the sessions and pre-register at www.canadianimmigrant.ca/careerfair/toronto.

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Study shows Canadian immigration system’s shift toward migrant workers

Posted on 01 April 2017 by admin

One out of five foreign workers becomes permanent residents, twice the rate from two decades ago, says a groundbreaking study that examines an immigration system increasingly geared toward temporary migrants.

Only nine per cent of temporary foreign workers who came in the mid-1990s successfully obtained permanent resident status, while some 21 per cent of them did by the end of 2014, according to the new Statistics Canada report.

It was the first study ever that examined Canada’s national policies around attracting and retaining temporary foreign workers as immigrants.

Under the former Conservative government, Canada shifted toward an immigration system that absorbs migrant workers who first come to the country on temporary status to meet labour market needs, compared to the old “nation-building” model that let migrants in immediately as permanent residents.

The new approach was adopted to ensure the employability of newcomers and address the “doctor-driving-cab” immigrant conundrum, but has fuelled concerns that it creates a two-tiered system, where migrant workers don’t have the same protections as others and can be trapped in abusive and exploitative conditions in pursuit of permanent status.

The Statistics Canada report was released before Wednesday’s federal budget, which is expected to include further reforms to Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs.

The number of temporary residents entitled to work in Canada, including migrant workers and those under the international mobility program such as intra-company transfers, has tripled since early 2010s to more than 500,000, surpassing the 260,000 permanent residents settling here per year.

However, the share of higher-skilled foreign workers declined dramatically from 67 per cent in the late 1990s to just 40 per cent in the late 2000s.

The transition rate from temporary to permanent status varies dramatically for various classes of foreign workers, with live-in caregivers enjoying the greatest success despite a drastic drop from 83 per cent to 56 per cent in the last decade.

Among other groups, 31 per cent of low-skilled workers who arrived between 2005 and 2009 successfully became permanent residents compared to 23 per cent among their counterparts in higher-skilled occupations. The transition rate was less than 3 per cent among seasonal agricultural workers.

Temporary foreign workers from less developed countries were also more inclined to seek permanent residence in Canada, given expected increases in their standard of living.

Those from countries with higher gross domestic products per capita, such as the U.S., U.K., France and Japan had much lower transition rates than workers from the Philippines, India and China.

Four out of five of low-skilled workers obtained their permanent residence through the PNP program that allows provincial governments to select its own immigration candidates to meet local labour market needs.

About 38 per cent of higher-skilled workers got their status through the PNP program and half through the federal skilled workers program. The only option available for migrant farm workers is through marriage with Canadians.

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Immigration fuels Canada’s population growth of 1.7 million in five years: latest census

Posted on 15 February 2017 by admin

Immigration, urbanization and a burgeoning west.

That’s the story of the nation, revealed Wednesday as Statistics Canada began its year-long roll-out of data collected in the 2016 census.

Statistics Canada counted 35,151,728 people in its May 2016 census, a 5 per cent increase over the 2011 national count, and 14 million private dwellings, up 5.6 per cent.

Toronto held its title as Canada’s largest city, with 2,731,571 residents, 7.8 per cent of the country’s population. That’s one million more than Montreal, the second-place city, with 1,704,694 residents.

Four cities in the Golden Horseshoe — Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton and Hamilton — ranked among the top 10 largest Canadian cities.

The new numbers reveal that Canada’s population grew by 1.7 million people since the last census in 2011. Immigrants accounted for two-thirds of the increase and the so-called natural increase — the difference between births and deaths — accounted for the rest.

Over the coming years, newcomers to Canada will account for more and more of the country’s population growth due to low fertility and an aging population.

Canada’s population growth slowed in the last five years, compared to the previous census period when the country grew by 5.9 per cent, but still led all G7 nations.

In the census done five years ago, the story was of a nation growing and going west. That’s the story this time around too, with Canada’s surging western provinces all recording above-average increases in population.

Population growth accelerated in both Manitoba, up 5.8 per cent, and Alberta, which led all provinces with an 11.6 per cent increase, despite the oil patch slowdown that has slowed its economy.

Urban areas in the west were also fast-growing with Canada’s fastest growing urban areas were in the west with Calgary leading the way (up 14.6 per cent), followed by Edmonton (13.9 per cent), Saskatoon (12.5 per cent) and Regina (11.8 per cent).

Ontario — Canada’s most populous province with 13.5 million people — grew by 4.6 per cent. It’s the second census in a row that the province’s growth rate has been below the national average.

“Are we seeing a new pattern for Ontario where growth will be slightly lower than the national average? Who knows,” Martel said.

Still, Guelph, Oshawa, Toronto, Barrie, Ottawa and the Kitchener-Waterloo region were among the larger Ontario centres that saw above-average growth.

Immigrant settlement is behind much of the regional differences in population growth.

“We know that the geographic distribution of immigrants has changed slightly over the last few years. More are going towards Saskatchewan and Manitoba and less to Ontario and that explains in large part why the population growth in Ontario has decreased,” he said.

New Brunswick was alone in seeing its population actually drop, falling by 0.5 per cent. The population of Saint John fell by 2.2 per cent, blamed on people moving out of the province.

Indeed, Atlantic Canada’s share of the population has dropped over the years because of lower population growth. In 2016, 6.6 per cent of Canadians lived in the region, compared with 10 per cent in 1966.

Population growth slowed in Ontario and Quebec but the two provinces still accounted for 61.5 per cent of the Canadian population.

Nunavut took top spot as the fastest growing province or territory, seeing its population jump by 12.7 per cent, to 35,944 residents, thanks to the highest fertility level in the country. Women in Nunavut give birth to 2.9 children on average, compared to the national average of 1.6 children.

The census numbers track the changing fortunes of towns and cities across the nation. Warman, Sask. took the prize as the country’s fastest growing town or city with a 55 per cent jump in its population to 11,020. Shelburne, Ont. saw its population jump by 39 per cent.

At the other end of the scale were towns like Bonnyville, Alberta, Flin Flon, Manitoba, and the Ontario communities of Espanola, Kirkland Lake and Elliot Lake, which all lost residents.

Still, the latest census data confirms the continuing urbanization of Canada with 83 per cent of its population now living in cities. And the large urban areas grew by 7.9 per cent, faster than the overall growth in population.

“Canada was a rural country 150 years ago at Confederation. Now, we’re among the countries in the world with the largest proportion of the population living in metropolitan areas,” Martel said.

The census data also shows that population growth was higher in so-called peripheral municipalities (up 6.9 per cent) compared with central municipalities (5.8 per cent). “This is very valuable information for those who are planning public transportation,” Martel said.

Canada had just 3.9 people per square kilometre in 2016, compared with 35.3 people per square kilometre in the United States. But the country’s population is highly concentrated with two out of three people living within 100 kilometres of the U.S. border.

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Ottawa’s new cap on refugee applications upsets sponsors

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

The federal government will cap new applications for private sponsorship of Syrian and Iraqi refugees at 1,000 in 2017, due to a backlog and long wait times faced by those whose applications are still being processed.

But some feel the move, announced earlier this week by Citizenship and Immigration Minister John McCallum, betrays the positive global perception Canada has seen since late last year when the Liberals took office and committed to accepting more refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

“The government’s playing politics here, on the one hand saying we should be celebrated for being welcoming, and then on the other hand stopping people from being able to get to safety,” said Lesley Wood, a sociology professor at York University who has sponsored two Syrian refugee families.

The government’s policy, which came into effect Dec. 19, places a limit of 1,000 sponsorship applications for the next year by groups of five people or more and community sponsors such as organizations.

It “forms part of a broader strategy to address the large backlog and long wait times in the Privately Sponsored Refugees category,” according to the government.

Nearly 39,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since November 2015, of which 13,700 have been privately sponsored. But Canada4Refugees, which represents private sponsorship groups, estimated earlier this month fewer than one-third of refugees who applied before April have arrived in Canada, with more than 5,000 applications still being processed.

Wood helped sponsor a family of six who are from near Aleppo and arrived in Canada this past June. The Syrian government took full control of the city, once the stronghold of the rebellion, on Thursday, marking President Bashar Assad’s most significant victory over opposition fighters since the uprising began five years ago.

“They’re worried about their family members,” said Wood. “We’re just starting a new sponsorship to try and raise the money for the woman’s sister, who’s got six kids, so a family of eight. News like this makes us wonder whether we’re going to be able to bring her and her kids. It’s absurd.”

Wood also helped sponsor a second family of four individuals who lost two children in the war. However, she said, they are stuck right now in Jordan because their applications haven’t been processed.

“We were expecting them a year ago, so even when the numbers were moving fast, they weren’t moving fast enough for people whose lives are in danger,” she said.

Seher Shafiq of Lifeline Syria, an organization that matches Canadian sponsors with families trying to flee the war, said their group alone has a backlog of about 2,000 refugees.

“We’re encouraging people to fundraise so that we can match some of these cases to sponsor groups and put them in line to be processed by the government,” said Shafiq. “When the picture of Alan Kurdi came out, we had overwhelming amount of sponsors, so many so that we couldn’t match them quick enough to our cases, but now we have an opposite situation where we’ve had people, some of them almost a year, waiting for sponsor groups.”

Shafiq said the organization has helped bring 400 privately sponsored refugees to Canada, while another 800 have been matched with sponsors and whose cases are being processed by the government.

“There’s definitely a perception that we’ve done a lot and the job is done. We definitely should be proud,” she said. “Canada has been recognized on the world stage for taking action for this crisis but at the same time the need is so great that we often forget there’s still so much to be done.”

Syed Hussan, an organizer with immigrant and refugee group No One is Illegal, called the government’s new policy a “tweak” to an already “disappointing” system.

“The Liberal government has taken a piecemeal approach and has therefore been unable to adequately respond to the needs of global refugee flows,” Hussan said. “There’s millions of refugees, millions, and Canada’s taking so very few either as percentage of its population or as a percentage of its size.”

The backlog is because the Liberals “have simply not hired enough people to process the applications,” according to Hussan. He said those trying to flee the war will face the harshest consequences because of this.

“The key challenge is going to be that people will keep looking for alternative venues for safety and dignity,” he said. “Syrians . . . who are stuck, who are going to try and make the journey they can through the perilous Mediterranean crossing and face death.”

While it’s unclear how the government will select which 1,000 applications to process next year, the cap has would-be sponsors feeling that raising the necessary funds might be an urgent matter — if, for example, applications are picked on a first-come, first-served basis.

An application cannot be processed until a certain minimum amount is raised, depending on the number of refugees one wishes to privately sponsor. It takes at least $12,600 to sponsor one individual and $27,000 for a family of four, according to Shafiq.

Wood is aiming to raise about $60,000 that will be needed to bring the family of eight to Canada.

“We know it’s going to be a long process even when the numbers are favourable but this could really slow things down,” she said. “The worry is that they’re in a conflict zone and as their kids get a little bit older, they get dragged into fighting. They’re in danger both from the bombing, but they’re also in danger of being dragged in against their will.”

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Couple accused of having fake marriage — despite their child

Posted on 21 December 2016 by admin

Would people go so far as to cheat Canada’s immigration system by having a baby to cover up a marriage of convenience?

Three different adjudicators presiding over a Brampton woman’s long-drawn-out spousal sponsorship application apparently think so, even though the couple has a daughter together.

Since 2008, Saranjit Kaur Sandhu has made three failed attempts to bring her spouse, Kulwinder Singh Sangha, to Canada from India — twice the Federal Court of Canada overturned the negative decision and sent the case back to the immigration appeal tribunal for reconsideration.

“The birth of a child does not definitely prove that a marriage is genuine. Each case will turn on its own facts, although there is much to be said for the presumption that ‘the parties to a fraudulent marriage are unlikely to risk the lifetime responsibilities associated with raising a child,’” wrote Justice Yves de Montigny in rejecting the second tribunal decision in 2014.

“(T)here is no evidence that having a child was a ploy to enhance the applicant’s husband’s chances of obtaining permanent residence in Canada.”

Sandhu’s appeal has recently been rejected by the tribunal for the third time and she is back before the Federal Court for another intervention.

“The focus of the past decisions has been the conclusion that the child of the marriage was conceived to bolster the relationship for immigration purposes,” wrote tribunal adjudicator Elena Rose in the latest rejection of the couple’s sponsorship appeal.

“The panel does not believe that the mere continuation of a purported relationship during a sponsorship and an appeal period, nor a shared child, is necessarily evidence inconsistent with a primary goal of immigration on entering the marriage.”

Sandhu, 35, was sponsored to Canada by her first husband in 2005 but the couple separated after six months “because he became abusive towards me and I could not take the sufferings any longer,” according to her affidavit filed with the court.

After the divorce, Sandhu remained in Canada. In 2008, she wed Sangha in an arranged marriage, set up by her family in India. However, her sponsorship application was rejected in the same year. Her battle with the immigration appeal tribunal ensued.

In the meantime, the couple had a daughter, Arshleen, who was born in Canada in 2010 before Sandhu took the then 4-month-old baby to India to be looked after by grandparents.

In the latest rejection, adjudicator Rose wrote she didn’t understand why Sandhu remained in Canada after her marriage broke down, given she had no ties to Canada. She also pointed out that the applicant had failed to specify grounds for the divorce as cruelty.

“Given the alleged difficult circumstances that the appellant had encountered with her first husband, her quick return and immediate embracing of a second marriage, without even considering any other candidates seemed curious,” Rose wrote.

She also questioned why the husband, a never-married 40-year-old would marry a divorcee, 35, whose divorce, by her own admission, put her into a “‘low’ place in society,” the adjudicator wrote.

Although the couple provided supporting evidence detailing their relationship — calls, photographs and Sandhu’s yearly visits to see Sangha in India — the panel concluded that “while corroborating evidence is often helpful in establishing genuineness, it can also be fabricated to bolster an appeal.”

The adjudicator also took issue with Sandhu sending her daughter back to India temporarily while working three jobs — as a cleaner, at a bakery and a plastics factory — in Canada to support her husband and girl in India.

She also suggested Sangha memorized details about his wife’s life, including her address and postal code, “to show he is knowledgeable about her.”

“There is no evidence of a genuine sharing of responsibility for the welfare of the family,” said Rose in dismissing the couple’s appeal. “The evidence throughout was clear that the applicant’s marriage exists for him if he comes to Canada, reunification with his wife and daughter are very secondary.”

In an interview, Sandhu said she insisted on remaining in Canada so she could raise her family and give her child a better future. Being in Canada by herself, she said she had no choice but to send her newborn daughter to her husband’s family back home. However, she did bring the girl back to Canada in 2013.

“I had to leave my daughter with my husband so I could work and earn money to pay for immigration litigation, my own living expenses and travel to and from India,” said Sandhu.

“Canada is a country of hope and good life if one works hard. This is my home. Since we came back, Arshleen often asks me why her father is not with us and why he does not take her to school.”

In the 2014 Federal Court decision, Justice de Montigny said that the fact Sandhu has spent a few months every year with her husband indicates their established relationship.

The tribunal’s decision “must rest on a reasonable assessment of the evidence and cannot be the result of irrelevant factors, peripheral considerations or, even worse, prejudice and insensitivity to cultural difference,” said the judge.

With all that her client has gone through, Jaswant Mangat, the couple’s lawyer, hopes that this time around the Federal Court will take the rare move to order officials to approve Sandhu’s sponsorship of her husband instead of deferring to the tribunal for redetermination, again. A court date is pending.

“No one would persist like this couple has just to bring someone over unless it is a bona fide relationship,” said Mangat. “They have suffered enough.”

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Legal aid faces financial crunch in serving refugee claimants

Posted on 17 November 2016 by admin

Legal Aid Ontario is faced with an unprecedented funding crisis that has sparked fear among lawyers and advocates that coverage and representation of refugees at asylum hearings could be compromised.

In August, LAO introduced a new vetting system of coverage on asylum claims based on country of origin as a measure to keep spending on refugee and immigration cases in check.

“The LAO has experienced significant financial pressures at the moment and our immigration and refugee program is not immune to those pressures,” said Andrew Brouwer of Toronto’s Refugee Law Office, a LAO-funded legal clinic that specializes in asylum cases. “One of the steps we have taken is to revisit our requests of coverage.”

According to Brouwer, the financial crunch on LAO’s refugee program stems from skyrocketing asylum claims in the past year, years of flat-lined federal funding and a dwindling expedited program at the Immigration and Refugee board.

Francisco Rico Martinez said he was shocked when a client came to his office at the FCJ Refugee Centre crying, saying her asylum hearing might not be covered by legal aid because she came from Morocco, a country on LAO’s merit assessment list.

Martinez said the woman was allegedly trafficked to Canada by relatives to be a caregiver, had her passport taken away and was abused.

“You can’t use country of origin as a base to determine what asylum cases will be reviewed for coverage,” he said. “This is a prejudiced approach.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board has seen a significant growth in the number of asylum claims, with an approximate intake of 23,000 projected for the year, more than double the volume in three years. The claims come from all over the world and no one could explain the recent surge.

Although legal aid expenses have gone up from $17.6 million in 2013 to $22 million last year, the federal government contribution has remained unchanged at $7 million, leaving LAO short by millions of dollars, lawyers said.

LAO currently pays lawyers a total of 16 hours — no more than $136.43 an hour to the most experienced counsel — to prepare the “basis of claim” forms for all asylum seekers and the refugee hearing.

A claimant, who meets legal aid’s income cutoff ($12,863 for a single person, but varies depending on family size), must then apply to have legal counsel covered at the hearing.

Under the new coverage assessment introduced in August, a panel of refugee lawyers only reviews the basis of claims from claimants on its country list to decide who will get counsel expenses covered at their hearings — to save the administrative costs of vetting claims from all countries.

Fifty-five countries, including China, India, France, the United States and the United Kingdom are currently on the list for vetting. All have an average refugee acceptance rate below 50 per cent — the criteria LAO used to come up with the list. According to LAO, 95 per cent of the cases reviewed in the past three months have been deemed to have merit.

“We do not believe this practice has any effect on the claimants’ hearings. Adjudicators have no way of knowing which claimants are being represented on legal aid certificates,” said LAO spokesperson Feroneh Neil.

“Even if they did know, adjudicators cannot draw any valid inferences about the strength or weakness of a refugee claim based on whether someone receives legal aid.”

Martinez said acceptance rate is not a fair measure because advocates have long complained about refugee judges’ systemic biases against claimants from certain countries such as Mexicans and Roma.

“Assessing merits based on the basis of claim is also a problem because it only provides very little information on a reason for asylum and it doesn’t give you details of the complete claim, with supporting evidence,” Martinez noted.

In the old days, lawyers had to put together an opinion letter setting out whether funding should be provided.

“That was problematic because it involved LAO paying lawyers to do work on a process that did not produce anything of benefit for the client, bur rather simply helped LAO administer its program,” said professor Sean Rehaag of the Osgoode Hall Law School.

“The new process is better because LAO pays lawyers to prepare a basis of claim, which the claimants submit to the refugee board and which LAO also uses for the purposes of merit screening.”

However, Rehaag is opposed to any merit screening of refugee claims to assess coverage.

“LAO does not use merit screening to decide whether or not it will pay to defend someone on serious criminal charges,” said Rehaag. “Why, then, does LAO do merit screening in the refugee law area?”

For years, the Immigration and Refugee Board would entertain requests to expedite processing of strong and solid claims to save time and costs. However, the expedited program became obsolete in 2012 when the then-Conservative government introduced tight statutory timelines with the unrealistic belief all asylum claims would be determined in six months.

Currently, only claims from Syria and Iraq are considered for expedition.

Refugee board spokesperson Anna Pape said asylum adjudicators’ decision-making is not influenced by whether or not a claimant has legal representation.

“The board is committed to fairness in its dealings with all those with proceedings before it, regardless of whether they are self-represented or are represented by counsel,” she noted.

“We had thousands of claims being expedited before. Now the board refuses to do it. The per-case cost and the length of hearing keep going up because of the demands made by members (adjudicators),” said Toronto lawyer Raoul Boulakia, president of Refugee Lawyers’ Association of Ontario.

“This isn’t sustainable. You can’t have too little funding plus more demands and a more costly litigation system,” added Boulakia.

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Sponsored refugees fare better than government-assisted peers, study shows

Posted on 02 November 2016 by admin

Refugees sponsored by community groups do better than government-assisted ones with fewer relying on food banks and social assistance, an evaluation of Canada’s much heralded resettlement program shows.

Some 65 per cent of government-assisted refugees reported using food banks, compared to only 29 per cent of their privately sponsored counterparts, according to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada report released this week.

Five years after their arrival, 41 per cent of government-assisted refugees relied on social assistance, compared to just 28 per cent among those sponsored by private groups. While six out of 10 of the former were employed within five years, the rate went up to 7 out of 10 for their privately sponsored peers.

The relative success of privately sponsored refugees is bolstered, in part, by the stability and guidance offered by relatives or sponsorship groups, advocates say.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said she was not surprised with the findings.

 “Privately-sponsored refugees usually have family members in Canada for support and they are not selected for their vulnerability like the GARs (government-assisted refugees) are,” she explained. “Clearly the report shows there is not enough support for GARs.”

The internal review examined all aspects of the refugee resettlement programs — government-assisted, private sponsorship, the blended-visa program, which is a blend of the two, and the resettlement assistance program — between 2010 and 2015, before Ottawa opened its doors to 31,000 Syrian refugees in December.

During the period, a total of 49,516 refugees were resettled in Canada, 53 per cent of them under the government-assisted program, 46 per cent sponsored by private community groups and just 1 per cent under the blended-visa program.

Thirty-nine per cent of government-assisted refugees were children, compared to just 30 per cent among their privately-sponsored and blended counterparts.

While two out of five privately-sponsored refugees know either English or French, the rate dropped to 26 per cent among the government-supported refugees. Those referred by visa posts under the blended program had the highest needs, with only 14 per cent speaking one of the two official languages.

Through interviews and analysis of data, the review found the level of the refugee assistance program’s income support is inadequate, with more than half of government-sponsored refugees saying the money did not cover their essential needs.

The majority of their income support goes to housing, leaving little for other basic necessities. While it took government-assisted refugees an average of 3.7 weeks to secure permanent housing, it took more than twice the time for private sponsorship groups to do so.

After 10 years, the review showed that the government-assisted group had annual employment earnings of $32,000 versus $33,000 for privately-sponsored refugees.

The evaluation also identified other problems and gaps in the resettlement programs: lengthy processing times for privately sponsored refugees and a lack of clear roles and responsibilities concerning the internal operation of the programs — issues raised in previous program reviews.

While government-assisted refugees are processed on average within two years, those sponsored by community groups often have to wait as many as 54 months — up 50 per cent from the 36 months in 2010.

Between 2010 and 2014, the backlog for the government sponsorship program went up by 29 per cent to almost 11,000, compared to an 8 per cent fall for private cases to 18,762.

About a quarter of the settlement agreement holders also said they had experienced at least one breakdown of a sponsorship relationship — a failure to meet the sponsorship arrangement of care for a refugee or family — in the past five years.

“There are a lot of groups that want to do private sponsorships as a result of the Syrian resettlement efforts. There is a lot of energy, opportunity and availability. If the government does not make it more responsive to these groups, we are going to lose them,” said Dench.

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Citizenship applications plummet as fees soar

Posted on 19 October 2016 by admin

The number of immigrants applying for Canadian citizenship has plummeted for the second year in a row in the wake of hefty application fee hikes Ottawa introduced in recent years.

The trend has prompted fears that the current citizenship costs — $530 per adult, plus a $100 right of citizenship fee — are creating a growing underclass of newcomers who can’t afford the fee and hence are prevented from full integration and participation in Canadian society, according to a report published in the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

According to the latest government data, only 36,000 citizenship applications were received from January to June in 2016, just more than one-third of the number for the same period last year.

In 2015, a total of 130,000 citizenship applications were submitted to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, compared to an average of 200,000 received in previous years.

“The decline is so significant that it cannot be ignored,” said retired immigration department director-general Andrew Griffith, who obtained the government statistics for policy analysis for the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy.

“I had thought the citizenship fee increases would provoke a decline in applications, but I was surprised by the steepness of the decline.”

Griffith’s report came just as Canada is celebrating Citizenship Week that runs Oct. 10 to 16.

The former Conservative government raised the citizenship fee to $300 from $100 per adult in 2014, and again to $530 last year — to fully recover the processing cost of applications. The fee had been held constant at $100 for almost two decades.

Although immigration officials said at the time the fee hikes would have no impact on the number of immigrants applying to become citizens, Griffith said the data clearly shows otherwise.

Besides the fee hikes, the only major change to the citizenship program was the new requirement for applicants between the age of 55 and 64 to pass the knowledge test.

Griffith said the group only represents 6 per cent of the new citizen population and the current 2016 data provides a clear picture of the impact of the fee hikes on their own.

“As the government considers further increases to the number of immigrants, current fees mean that fewer will apply to become citizens. If the current 2016 trend continues, we will have 300,000 new immigrants and far less than 100,000 new citizens,” Griffith cautioned.

“This sets the stage for a growing portion of Canadian residents who are not citizens and are effectively disenfranchised. From both a social inclusion and social cohesion perspective, this risks the overall success of the Canadian model of integration.”

Griffith said the increase of the application fee to $530 from $300 appeared to be the tipping point as the full cost recovery puts the financial burden of the program on citizenship applicants.

“Citizenship isn’t just a private good. There are broader benefits to society,” he said. “When you have a larger share of the population that has little or no interest and ability to participate in political life, you run the risk of greater exclusion, less inclusion and less commitment to Canada.”

The Liberal government is currently reviewing Bill C6 to amend Canada’s Citizenship Act, but there is no mention of any adjustment to the citizenship fee.

Griffith said Ottawa should split the cost and reduce the fee to $300 or at least offer exemptions and support to groups who are most affected by the financial barrier.

To be eligible for citizenship, a permanent resident must have been physically present in Canada for at least 1,460 days during the six years prior to the application. Those between 14 and 64 must also provide proof of English or French proficiency, as well as criminal clearances and pass a knowledge test about Canada.

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Immigration detention of children and families must end

Posted on 13 October 2016 by admin

As a psychiatrist who works with children and families, I am not supposed to cry. As a researcher, I strive to engage but remain an observer.

Nevertheless, while sitting across from two parents incarcerated in an immigration holding centre, as they described the agony of being separated from their two young daughters, I felt my throat tighten and tears roll down my cheeks. Their pain filled the small interview room; my job could not insulate me.

The parents told me how they had tried to convince their girls the reason they had not seen them in a month was that the parents were both working overtime. But the Canadian-born children, who were staying with relatives so the girls would not be detained alongside their parents, knew something was wrong and were frightened. They had seen their parents taken away in handcuffs.

“We are never apart,” wept the girls’ mother. The father, defeated and hopeless, told me with shame that he thought of suicide because he could not bear what the family was living through and his feelings of powerlessness.

This was one of hundreds of families who face immigration detention in Canada each year. What happens to young children when their parents are sent to immigration jails? Luckier ones can stay with relatives. Some go into the child welfare system. Others join their parents in detention facilities.

Our research shows all these scenarios have negative consequences for children’s mental health. When separated from their parents, children — who have often lived through war and trauma in their country of origin — deteriorate. Being incarcerated alongside their parents is no better. Some children stop eating, others stop talking, and most have sleep difficulties and show signs of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic symptoms.

Last month, the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law (IHRP) released a comprehensive report, “No Life for a Child,” on the legal and psychological realities of immigration detention for children and families. The report proposes a way forward for Canada.

Canadians have the opportunity to lead the world, as we have done with our welcome of Syrian refugees, by ending immigration detention of children and families and making sure our own policies do not exacerbate the suffering of those who, in many cases, have already suffered more than most of us can imagine.

Immigration detention is a deeply flawed tool for securing our borders. Evidence shows that community-based alternatives to detention are effective, more fiscally responsible, and far more humane. These alternatives will serve families as well as adults, who, as the IHRP’s 2015 report illustrated, are often caught in a “legal black hole” of indefinite and unnecessary detention.

For these reasons medical, legal and community organizations from across the country endorsed a statement calling for the end of immigration detention of children and families.

The voices endorsing the cessation of this practice include the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists, The Office of the Ontario Child Advocate, the president of the Canadian Bar Association, and many other organizations. Hundreds of individual health care providers, lawyers, and child advocates have also endorsed this statement.

The message is clear: stop detaining children, and protect them from harmful separations from their parents or guardians. As François Crepeau, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants asked last month: “Would I accept that my child be treated thus?”

Most Canadians do not face the prospect that their own children will experience incarceration or damaging family separation. What we do face is the question of whether we will accept it for some children in Canada, inflicted in our name.

A growing chorus of organizations — and health care professionals like me who see the consequences of detention up close — believe it is past time for this practice to stop. We call on the government to move quickly to end immigration detention of children and families to protect them from further harm.

Rachel Kronick is a psychiatrist with the child division at Jewish General Hospital and an assistant professor with the department of psychiatry at McGill University.

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