My eBook, How To Immigrate To Canada For Skilled Workers: The Authoritative Guide To Federal And Provincial Opportunities is available now on Amazon and other online retailers. Get your copy of the essential guide to Skilled Worker class applications today!

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Also available is my new eBook, "How To Immigrate To Canada In The Family Class: The Authoritative Guide Including Québec And Super Visa Opportunities". Get it at Amazon or the other e-retailers noted above.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013-2014!

Well dear friends, another year has passed at The Expatriate Mind. Since 2005 I've tried to share my immigration journey with you with all the excitement and frustration that comes along with it. Each new year seems to bring changes to the Canadian immigration landscape, and this year has been no different. I expect the changes will keep coming in 2014, with the Tories still in control, a fresh Immigration Minister excited to flex his muscles (at least those Harper allows him to), and new challenges on both the Skilled Worker and Family Class fronts.

I enjoyed Christmas in the U.S. this year, but will be back home in Canada for New Years. Two and a half years into my permanent residency and Toronto truly is the home I always hoped it would be for all the years my Love and I patiently navigated the immigration process.

I want to encourage all my readers to have faith and be patient in your own immigration journey. It's unique for each and every one of us. The best advice I can give you is to pursue your goal with honesty, and give your application the best effort you can. Help those that make these decisions understand your commitment to Canada - one you are making even before you are welcomed here. Take the time also to learn about your new country, its history and culture and prepare yourself for the day when your visa arrives.

Happy holidays and New Year to all of you. God bless your Canadian dreams! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Year-end wrap up

My third Christmas as a permanent resident of Canada is upon me, and it is still hard to believe how quickly the time has passed since that wonderful August day in 2011 when I came to this country. It's a beautiful, snowy morning in Toronto, and I'm preparing for an evening flight back to Seattle to spend my first Christmas in three years with my parents and siblings. I am looking forward to the time there. This year has been one of unexpected blessings, for sure.

Probably the best thing to happen in the last year has been to feel more solidified in my career here as an author and writer - a career that started with this humble blog in 2005. This year I have actually been sought out to write on immigration issues and Canada in general, and it really is validating, when the traditional job market has been more than difficult for me to crack.

I am working on a new book, and contributing to a number of web sites. My current books on immigration are selling and more importantly, helping people who want to come to Canada. Not bad.

I thought this blog would transition more into "settlement" issues this year, but immigration news and events were just too juicy to ignore. Maybe next year? It's hard to say. Maybe I have the mix right already: immigration news, personal commentary, and here and there a glimpse into the everyday here in Toronto.

I hope you have had a wonderful 2013, and that the year to come is also full of blessings for you. Don't give up on your immigration dreams. It takes patience and perseverance to come to Canada. I can tell you from experience the choice to immigrate is a tough one, and the process will try and wear you out. But if you take care of your application, have faith and look to do everything you can to effect the outcome, you just may join me here one day. That is my New Year wish for you!   

Friday, December 13, 2013

Canada Goose time

It's been bitter cold for about a week now, and that means it's Canada Goose time. Canada Goose is the brand of parka that I wear. I have a Banff Parka and it's warm enough that the weather really has to warrant getting it out. In mild temperatures, the coat is simply too comfy-warm. But I've determined that from about -8C or below (with or without the windchill factored in), it's the only thing that keeps me warm.

I love my jacket, but I have one core criticism: the hood attachment and closure is wonky. The coat is sort of a convertible - you can take the hood on or off, and even take the fur trim on the hood on and off. When on, the hood closes in the front of the jacket over the collar with two small snaps. This is the part that really doesn't work very well. When you have a scarf on, and then you add the collar of the jacket that closes under the hood, it gets pretty thick around the neck, and those two little snaps just don't hold everything together very well. I think I'm going to take my jacket to a tailor and have them replace the snaps with two medium sized buttons and eyelets like the closures on the rest of the coat. That should fix it.

The only other thing I wish the jacket had was a wire armature in the hood. Some of their models have this feature, but I think it should be standard. Being able to mold the hood to the weather is really a plus when you've got 40-50km winds and snow hitting you.

Now in the winter months in Toronto you've got two issues to deal with: bitter cold outside and too warm inside. Christmas shopping can be a bear as you walk to a shop in the cold, go in and sweat, go out and freeze, in and sweat, over and over. The alternative is to constantly be putting on and taking off your outer gear, which is a pain in the you-know-what, but sometimes the only remedy.

I love the Canadian winter, and am grateful I can be out in it safely. Thanks to my Love, I have the parka to handle it.  

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Family class issues: conditional permanent residency

Those of you in the family class of immigration should be aware of a change to Canadian immigration laws that have now created two classes of permanent residency for this classification.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) introduced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (the Regulations) which apply to spouses, common-law or conjugal partners in a relationship of two years or less with their sponsor and who have no children in common with their sponsor at the time they submit their sponsorship application.

The sponsored spouse must cohabit in a legitimate relationship with their sponsor for two years from the day on which they receive their permanent resident status in Canada. If they do not remain in the relationship, the sponsored spouse’s status could be revoked. The conditional measure only applies to permanent residents whose applications are received on or after October 25, 2012—the day that the amendments came into force.

There are exceptions to this rule based on situations of spousal abuse, or in the case of the death of the sponsor.

Aside from the need to satisfy the two-year requirement, conditional permanent residence does not differ from normal permanent residence. These sponsored spouses have access to the same rights and benefits as other permanent residents. They will be allowed to work and study without a work or study permit; they will not be subject to different tuition fees in post-secondary schools; and they will have the same access to health coverage and social benefits, including social security (or income support).

If the conditions above do not apply to your situation, then you will be granted full permanent residence status when you finish the immigration process successfully, without the conditional status.

This amendment was created to fight immigration fraud, and you can't blame the government for attempting to stem any abuses of the family class. Legitimate families know how tough it is to immigrate to Canada. New families will just have to be patient when it comes to assuring the government they are legitimate. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Globe and Mail - Memo to Canadian ‘pot tourists’

I'm from Seattle. But I had immigrated to Canada by the time state of Washington voters legalized the possession of marijuana. Here's an article from the Globe and Mail to remind everyone that crossing the U.S. border INTO a state, is not the same as entering a state. You are entering the U.S. - and when you do, it's the federal laws they care about, not the state laws. In the U.S. possession of marijuana is still a federal crime. So take heed!

Read the Globe article here

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I'm an expert!

You might have noticed a new badge on the blog, it's from, who recruited me to become their Category Expert writer for Canada a few weeks ago. It's been a lot of fun putting my broader knowledge of Canada to work in my writing. While this blog and immigration matters that impact my readers is very close to my heart still, it's fun to explore other aspects of my new home.

Please take a moment and check out some of my articles at .

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Canadian Experience Class - Minister announces cap for 2014

Just weeks after their report to Parliament, the Tories continue their tinkering with immigration programs and levels.

 As reported by CIC News:

Last week, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced significant changes to the popular Canadian Experience Class (CEC) of immigration. Most importantly, an intake cap of 12,000 applications has been instituted for the upcoming year. The cap is effective from November 9, 2013 to October 31, 2014.

Read the entire article here

Monday, November 11, 2013

Back from the U.S.

I was in the U.S. for a few weeks and have just returned to Canada. I have to say, the culture shock continues to grow, the more I am away from my old home. Here's an example: I turn on the local morning news and they are very pleased to report that the city of Tacoma is training a SWAT team to take over the city's metro buses in case of an emergency. They showed the policemen in their paramilitary gear, masks and assault weapons charging onto a bus.

If you know anything about the city of Tacoma, you know they have much better uses for their money. Knowing their priorities are so backward in a city who's people are in need infuriates me. It did when I lived in the U.S., and it still does.

You get numb to this sort of thing in the U.S. - the police-state nature of things, the killing, the violence. Canada isn't perfect by any means (we all remember the G-20 meeting here), but, how to put it? The police aren't going to show off this sort of thing, and if the media does get a hold of it, they are likely to question it. In the U.S., no questions asked.

It's nice to be back home.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

No changes to immigration levels in 2014 - Annual Report to Parliament

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has presented the Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration for 2013, which sets out the government's plans for 2014. The Immigration Minister plans to welcome somewhere between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents in 2014.

One of the more interesting aspects of the report is a short section which describes ministerial powers granted under modifications by the Tories to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, "which authorizes the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to create small economic immigration programs to take advantage of economic opportunities or to test new program concepts without having to formalize them through a lengthy regulatory process. These programs, which are set out in Ministerial Instructions, are limited to a duration of five years, after which time the program must be discontinued or be made permanent through regulations." If you needed an explanation of all of the tinkering that the Tories have been doing, there it is.

Other highlights include:

  • Changes to the Canadian Experience Class - As of January 2, 2013, applicants require 12 months (reduced from 24 months) of full-time Canadian work experience, or the equivalent in part-time work, in high-skilled occupations and now have more time, up to 36 months, to accumulate that experience.
  • How the government eliminated the Skilled Worker (FSW) backlog - The report explains that portions of the Federal backlog were pawned off onto the provinces. If the applicants didn't qualify for Provincial Nomination Programs, they were eliminated. Next, they received permission to eliminate 98,000 applications received before 2008 by simply returning the application fees to the applicants. Finally, they simply stopped accepting FSW applications. 
  • Expression of Interest Program - this major modification to the FSW program is expected to be fully implemented by 2015.
  • Parent and Grandparent programs - The Super Visa program will become permanent, and CIC will begin accepting new applications for permanent residence for parents and grandparents in 2014.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Calgary Herald - Federal government launches business incubator immigration visa

OTTAWA — The federal government is expanding its new start-up visa program for immigrant entrepreneurs even though it has yet to issue a single visa since the program launched six months ago.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced Monday a new business incubator immigration stream to complement existing venture capital and angel investor streams.

As part of the program, entrepreneurs seeking permanent residency in Canada must first gain the support of an angel investor group, venture capital fund or new business incubator before they can apply for the start-up visa.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Globe and Mail - Obamacare vs. Canada: Five key differences

Antonia Maioni wrote an informative piece the other day about the primary differences between Canada's health system, and the so-called Obamacare system which has just debuted in full in the United States (as well as triggering both a showdown from the Republicans and a shutdown of the government's non-priority services).

To summarize, here are the five big differences Maioni noted, in my own words:
  •  It's way more complicated - and now even more so. Canada may have two-tiers of health care, but in the US, there are more tiers than an Ed Mirvish high rise project.
  • It's not universal - In Canada, every legal resident is entitled to health care. In the US, not so much. Not everyone gets care under Obamacare: the only thing everyone gets is the right to be able to purchase some level of health care insurance. Woohoo.
  • It isn't a "national" program - In Canada, we can expect a common level of benefit, no matter what province is administering the health care plan. In the US, there is and will continue to be a wild state by state variation on the type and range of coverages available to citizens. 
  • It's not fair - health care in the US is still a "pay to play" system. If you can't afford good care - you simply aren't going to get it. While we've got to wait in Canada, in general, we are all waiting for a high standard of care.
  • It will not contain costs - Obamacare will do nothing in the long run to reign in the cost of health care in the US. As Maioni notes, "Governments in Canada know that health care is a searing financial responsibility, but they have at their disposal cost containment measures – monopoly fee negotiations with providers, global budgets for hospitals – that remain unfathomable in the American context."

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Toronto simmers in anti-development animosity

There is an undercurrent to Toronto these days, and it's not a happy one. The city has been in a development boom over the last ten years that shows no sign of slowing. Looking out my window (as I've shared with you before in this blog), there are no fewer than ten construction cranes, marking the creation of new high-rises for residents and business. And this reflects just one view from just one part of the city. There are over 130 such developments going on city-wide.

The animosity that is developing in the city has to do with what citizens see as unchecked growth. Developers and business seem to get their way here, no matter what the citizens have to say about it. Currently there are a couple high-profile proposals that have the public on edge. One is the expansion of the Billy Bishop (Island) airport. Porter Airlines wants to be able to fly small jets out of the facility, which sits in the Toronto harbour, a short distance from the lake shore. The expansion of the runway to facilitate these jets would impact boaters' ability to navigate, and the noise would impact everyone.

There are thousands of residential condominiums at the lake shore - and all of them would have to deal with the noise that would begin with construction and never end with an increasing number of jet flights in and out of the airport.

The other construction related issue in this neighbourhood is the slow pace at which renovations are being made to a huge stretch of Lakeshore Blvd. This infrastructure project seems to be happening part-time at best, while impacting residents and commuters who use this key city street.

I have only described two of over 100 major development and infrastructure projects going on in the city right now. Residents are upset with unchecked growth, with construction that never ends, and with the city seemingly ignoring the impact of these projects on anything but the tax base.

Whether anything will slow the train of progress is hard to say. Political will at the municipal level seems almost non-existent. But that's life today in Canada's largest city.  

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The fifth season of the year

In almost every country around the world, people experience four seasons. We all know them well - Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. But in Canada, there is another season. It lasts from late September until late May or early June, bridging Fall, Winter and Spring. Just what is this season called? Why, Hockey Season, of course!

And it started last night.

Hockey is Canada's national sport. It eclipses all other professional sports, and is enjoyed by boys and girls, men and women of all ages. Canada has a long and storied history with the sport. During the season, you can find a large percentage of the population in front of their TVs every Saturday night for "Hockey Night In Canada" on the CBC. The play by play announcers, host Ron McLean and not forgetting "Coach's Corner" lead Don Cherry are household names in this country.

If you are planning on becoming a permanent resident of Canada and want to understand something about the culture and values of Canadians, you could do a lot worse than by learning about the sport of hockey, and just as importantly, the "values" of hockey.

Dale Rosenberger, in an article for the United Church of Christ noted 11 life lessons that can be learned from hockey. I find all of these lessons can also be found in the character of Canadians

  • Grace and strength meld beautifully.
  • Team play is the best kind.
  • Brace and protect yourself against a world of trouble before you engage.
  • Diversity doesn’t always look like a UNICEF card.
  • Courage can be learned only in the crucible.
  • If you want to feel a deep glow inside, achieve a goal.
  • Biggest doesn’t mean best.
  • It is unhealthy to hide human wrongdoing and sweep it under the rug.
  • Politeness and passion mix well.
  • Life is uneven; deal with it
  • Be approachable.
Happy Hockey Season!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

CIC's "Expression of Interest" program - welcome to the dating game

Pick an analogy: The Dating Game,, e-Harmony...The CIC's proposed next step in modifying the economic immigration stream, the "Expression of Interest" program feels like a bad date just waiting to happen.

Here's the CIC explanation:

A major next step in building a fast and flexible immigration system will be the creation of a pool of skilled workers ready to begin employment in Canada, a commitment made in Economic Action Plan 2012.

Inspired by an approach developed by New Zealand – and now also being used in Australia – an Expression of Interest application system is the model the Government of Canada plans to use to create this pool of skilled workers.

Under an Expression of Interest system – or EOI – prospective immigrants fill in an online form indicating their “interest” in coming to a host country as permanent residents. The form can include information that relates to, for example, language proficiency, work experience and assessed education credentials.

Assigned a points score and ranked, these expressions of interest would then be entered into a pool from which candidates that best match a country’s national and regional skills needs can be drawn and invited to submit an immigration application, subject to priority processing.

In effect, the EOI form submitted by a prospective immigrant is not an application itself but only a first stage in the assessment of a potential candidate. Not all candidates who file an expression of interest are invited to apply for a permanent resident visa.

Consultations with provinces, territories and stakeholders on the development of an EOI system for Canada are underway. Of interest to CIC is the potential for a larger role for employers in the immigration program, leveraged through EOI.

As part of ongoing consultations, CIC has held roundtables with employers in a number of cities to discuss how such a system could help meet employer needs. A report on these recent discussions will be available on the consultations section of the CIC website soon.

With the elimination of the Federal Skilled Worker backlog, CIC anticipates being able to move to an EOI system that will: avoid the build-up of inventories and improve processing times; and make the immigration system more responsive to labour market needs and increase the likelihood of skilled immigrants’ success.

So, you're a potential immigrant: you put your name into the program by spending some money on things like proof of language proficiency and credentials (components of the current Skilled Worker program), let the program know your skills, and then? You wait. You wait, passively, until some employer or recruiter spots you out of the thousands of others who will put their names into the pool.

I don't know many economic immigrants who are passive by nature - do you? Was it passive immigrants that settled the prairies? That built the railroads? That mined the coal? That squeezed the tar sands? Will they wait for Canada, or take their skills to a country more willing to accept them?

The government says that they will identify candidates that "best match a country’s national and regional skills needs", but if you think the Tories who are designing this program are going to bring more individuals in who don't have jobs lined up, you haven't been paying attention to the immigration issues in Canada.

So, you're a potential employer: are you going to really shop for a new employee from this pool? Or are you going to use your regular recruitment methods? After the ruthless elimination of the Skilled Worker backlog, the "fast track" will be the standard track for Skilled Worker candidates. As it stands, a job offer in Canada puts you at the head of the queue.

This dating game is stacked in favour of no one. In my opinion, immigrants wont benefit, and employers wont use it. It's a shell game for the uninformed. It gives the impression that economic immigrants will have a better chance at success if they come into the country through it. What do you think the real impact of the program will be?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

UPDATE 2013: Changes to the Skilled Worker program and their relation to my eBook

Since I published my eBook, How To Immigrate To Canada For Skilled Workers: The Authoritative Guide To Federal And Provincial Opportunities in April of 2012, there have been some modest changes to the Federal Skilled Worker program. None of these changes have made the book obsolete - it is as valuable to skilled worker applicants as ever. The adjustments the government has made simply re-balance the program's points system to be more in keeping with studies that show younger applicants, and those with strong language proficiency have the best opportunity to integrate into the Canadian economy. 

There is only ONE new requirement not covered in the book, which is the Educational Credential Assessment. CIC now is requiring applicants to prove  their foreign educational credential is authentic and equivalent to a completed credential in Canada. 

Here's what's changed in the Federal Skilled Worker Program since the publication of my book:

  • There are currently only 24 approved occupation categories  that skilled workers must have experience in, in order to apply (these can change at any time, as the government tries to estimate market demand for these skills).
  • New language proficiency threshold: Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 or Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) 7 in all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) is the new level applicants must achieve.
  • Arranged Employment - Previously, employers have applied for an Arranged Employment Opinion (AEO) from Human Resources Skills Development Canada when they wished to hire a foreign national on a permanent, full-time basis and support their employee’s application for permanent residence through the FSWP. Starting on May 4, 2013, CIC will no longer accept AEOs in support of an FSWP application. Instead, most offers of arranged employment will require a Labour Market Opinion.
  • NEW Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) - Another important change that takes effect on May 4, 2013, is the introduction of the educational credential assessment (ECA). Prospective applicants may start the process of getting an ECA before May 4 if they are planning to submit a foreign educational credential. However, applicants should keep in mind the other program eligibility requirements listed above, i.e. whether they have a qualifying offer of arranged employment or are applying under the PhD stream or eligible occupations stream; and if they meet the minimum language threshold through a designated third-party test. Applicants who have Canadian educational credentials do not need to get an ECA, unless they are also submitting a foreign educational credential in support of their application. You can read more about this new requirement here
Good luck with your Skilled Worker class application!    

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Canada & The United States: Bizarre Borders Part 2 by CGP Grey

This great little video explains the border between Canada and the US in hilarious fashion. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Preparing for the Canadian citizenship test

In a little over a year, I'll be applying for Canadian citizenship. I'm excited by the possibility of becoming a citizen of my new country, and there is the added benefit that I don't have to give up my US citizenship unless I chose to.

One of the major parts of the application process is the citizenship test. Any individual between 18 and 54 who meets the basic requirements for citizenship has to take this test.

There are lots of ways to prepare for the test, including classes, books, even apps (like in the Google Android Play store). In order to prepare, I have been using two apps that CIC offers. One is the app version of Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. This study guide is offered in many forms, including print and PDF. The app makes the content available, in a primitive way, to smartphones and tablets. I am also using CIC's sample test generator, How Canadian are you , eh? 

Why am I using just the CIC's tools? Simple. It is only the content found in Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship that you will be tested on. Any other material you might learn about will be good for you and your understanding of Canada, but you will only be tested on the content of that study guide.

The guidebook is a challenge. It's poorly written, with fact after fact jammed in one on top of the other. And the test might ask you about any of them, in a number of ways. For instance, here's a fact from the guide:

The Vikings from Iceland who colonized Greenland 1,000 years ago also reached Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. The remains of their settlement, l’Anse aux Meadows, are a World Heritage site.

And that fact could be part of the test in the following ways:
  • What peoples reached Labrador and Newfoundland 1,000 years ago?
  • Which Canadian site is listed as a World Heritage site?
  • Where did the Vikings who reached Labrador and Newfoundland come from?
  •  How many years ago did Vikings first visit Canada?

So, you have to know this material inside and out. That's why I'm only focusing on the CIC materials. If you are taking a class, be sure that they teach from this source as well. It really is the information, the only information, that the test will be based on!

Friday, September 06, 2013

Not being there

You have to understand I love pets. I love dogs and cats. I've raised a few and they are really, as predictable as it sounds, like your own children. My brother's puppy passed away suddenly last night of natural causes. He was almost 14 - and that's a long life for a beautiful, large dog as he was. My last few years in the US, he was like my dog too - a wonderful companion. One of the most difficult things to cope with emotionally when leaving the US was leaving him, and knowing he wouldn't understand why I wasn't there anymore. And now I'm also not there to give my brother the support I wish I could. This too, is part of the immigrant experience, and something that troubles the expatriate mind.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fraser Institute report - Immigrant selection process should make better use of private-sector employment needs

The Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank, released a report today, Canada’s Immigrant Selection Policies: Recent Record, Marginal Changes, and Needed Reforms, advocating that Canada's Immigrant selection process "should make better use of private-sector employment needs to ensure new immigrants can succeed economically."

While I believe this is an admirable position to take on behalf of Skilled Worker immigrants (who make up over 60% of all immigrants to Canada on a yearly basis), I also maintain the position that it is incredibly short-sighted.

The Institute notes that current Skilled Worker class immigrants have been largely unsuccessful, and their burden on Canada's various support system equals a heady $20 billion per year. "To fully eliminate the current fiscal burden, Grubel (the report's author) recommends abandoning the points system and replacing it with pre-arranged contracts for work in Canada as main selection criterion for economic immigrants."

Maybe in days gone by - days of big manufacturing - an immigration policy that was tuned in fully to the market needs of employers might have made sense. But modern employers currently seek highly specialized workers for specific economic opportunities. When those opportunities are gone, so is the job - there is no long term loyalty given, or frankly, expected. The no-longer-critical employee is released, and Canada is left with an immigrant with a very specific skill set who can't get another job in their area of expertise.

I believe Canada's immigration policy in the area of Skilled Workers should reward and fast track applicants with arranged employment. That makes a lot of sense. But it needs to be balanced with applicants who bring a range of expertise and adaptability as well.

I know in my own situation that the opportunities here are much different than the ones I had in the US - even putting the barriers to employment in Canada aside. But I have been able to carve out a living - because I adapted. Canada cannot afford to undervalue the worth of immigrants who are eager to build a life in this country, and able to adapt to its economic realities. These are the ones that start new businesses, innovate - because they have to.

Read the Fraser Institute news release and get the full report here

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Super Visa popularity - a good thing for Canada?

According to the CIC, The Parent and Grandparent Super Visa program is an overwhelming success. More than 1,000 visas a month are now being granted under this program.

The Super Visa is a multiple entry visa that is valid for up to ten years, offering holders the option of staying in Canada for up to two years at a time. This reduces the need for frequent visitors to renew their status during an extended family visit.

But is this success a good thing? One thing the program does not offer is a path to permanent residence for parents and grandparents. Family reunification is one of the foundations of Canadian immigration programs, yet this category of immigrant has been cut off for over two years while a huge backlog of applications has been cut down. The program starts up again in 2014, but at that time, only 5,000 applications a year will be accepted.

The Super Visa demand illustrates that families want to be reunited in Canada, and provides the illusion that they are: however, these visitors, no matter if they are here a few months, or ten years, are still just visitors, with none of the rights of permanent residence, without the ability to work, without healthcare or any social support.

The Super Visa program puts a huge stress on sponsors, and robs Canada of motivated, mature individuals who could otherwise contribute to the growth of our nation.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Life on The Esplanade

Looking west from a city park on The Esplanade
I had a quiet morning with work I needed to deliver for my clients in the States, so I decided to get some exercise and go shoot some basketball down the street from me. As I walked east down The Esplanade, it was hard not to recognize how good I've got it here in Canada.

Here's a little about my neighbourhood with some help from Wikipedia:

The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood I live in has been here since 1793 (though The Esplanade was underwater at that time - the shoreline of Lake Ontario being Front Street). The area was infilled to provide more land for port and industrial uses adjacent. St. Lawrence was the first industrial area of York. The first parliament buildings in Upper Canada in 1793 were constructed on the southwest corner of Parliament and Front Street.

A Saturday farmers' market began operation at Front and Jarvis in 1803. The current Market building, south of Front, is open daily, selling foods and other goods, while the Saturday farmers' market operates in the north building, on the north side of Front Street.

In 1834, Toronto's first city hall was built on the southwest corner of King St. East & Jarvis St. at the old 'Market' building from 1834 (the year of Toronto's incorporation from the former town of York) to 1844.

The former city hall was converted into and expanded into the market gallery or 'South Market'. The old council chamber is all that remains of the original city hall and is located on the gallery's second floor.

The Esplanade, a 100 feet (30 m)-wide road, was proposed, just south of Front Street, with new water lots made from cribbing and filling of the shore to the south. The waterfront was extended to a survey line from the point of the Gooderham windmill west to a point due east of the old Fort Rouille. In exchange for 40 feet (12 m) of the Esplanade, the railways underwrote the infilling of the harbour. The Esplanade (my street) and infill project was complete by 1865.

Walking along the street today and the most prominent features are the blocks of parks and social housing. The parks stretch for six city blocks, and the housing is so well integrated into the neighbourhood that you'd never realize what is private and what is public. This mix of incomes makes my home diverse and exciting. I meet people of all ages and races when I'm out and about - not something that occurs in the more tawny neighbourhoods of Toronto.

Near Parliament Street is a basketball court I play at. There are usually a few kids shooting hoops too, but they don't seem to mind an old man joining them.

I love my home, if you can't tell. If you're coming to visit Toronto, be sure and come to our part of town, You'll love it here too.

Monday, August 19, 2013

South Asia Mail - Canada welcomes first immigrants under new Federal Skilled Trades Program

Toronto, ON, August 16, 2013 — Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today officially welcomed one of the first permanent residents under the new Federal Skilled Trades Program: Eric Byrne, originally from Ireland. 

“Our Government remains focused on job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity,” said Alexander. “The new Federal Skilled Trades Program enables us to attract and retain skilled workers—like Eric—so we can address regional labour shortages and strengthen Canada’s economy. It gives me great pleasure to personally welcome one of Canada’s first successful immigrants through our Skilled Trades stream.” 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Happy Anniversary

Two years ago today, I landed as a permanent resident of Canada at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, and my life changed forever. As I noted in my last post, I am so grateful to be here in the country I love, with the woman I love.

So how am I spending my anniversary? Like a lot of other Canadians, I'm painting the condo!

I hope you treasure your landing day the same way I will always remember and celebrate mine. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Two years in Canada and counting

Toronto - my home of two years now!

In a few days, I will complete two years as a Permanent Resident in Canada. I've said it before - time flies. So am I happy with my choice to leave the US to live here? The answer, with some caveats, is "yes."

Because I moved here for love, not for work, I think its easier for me to be content with my situation here. My love and I share a beautiful home in a fantastic city, and between us we do very well by anybody's measure.

Toronto is a fantastic city, full of culture and diversity, and I take full advantage of it, getting around as much as possible, enjoying free events, site-seeing like a tourist, and creating a routine and memories each day. In the mornings, I walk my love to her office, then I return home where I work (and write my books and this blog). I get out an exercise at some point most days: skating at Harbourfront Centre in the winter, playing hoop at the playgrounds on The Esplanade in the nice weather. Weekends are for chores, grocery shopping at the St. Lawrence Market, catching up on reading, or adventuring around Ontario.

If I had come here for work, I know after two years, I would have a different view of Canada. Frankly, its been hard to find any work in my former field of expertise. I had my share of interviews where the dreaded "how much Canadian experience do you have?" question was raised. Once that comes up, you pretty much know you wont get the gig. But I have continued to find whatever short term opportunities I can here, and have strung them together into a living. I'm sure many immigrants have the same experience. Maybe because I didn't expect the opportunities here to be the same as I had in the US, I'm more accepting of the reality that they are very different.

One area that exceeds expectation is the health care that is available to me. While the facilities are nowhere near the modern level I experienced in Seattle (mind you, a very wealthy US city), they are very good, and best of all, I have access to them when I really need them. This was not the case in the US. I take better care of myself here because its not always an economic decision to do so. That's quite a change for the better.

As I've said before, and this doesn't change - I miss family and friends I've left behind. Being an immigrant can be lonely many days. And there's no counting that phenomenon of change that occurs at home which causes it to become more and more unfamiliar, coupled with the fact that you are in a long process of learning about your new country. Feeling lost between two worlds happens more frequently the longer you are away.

I love Canada. I love Toronto. I love my life here with my love. I am a year away from applying for citizenship, the next step in my immigration journey. Yes, in spite of the challenges, life in Canada is the best life I have had.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Asian Pacific Post - Canada's New Immigration Realities

The past 5 years have seen dramatic and widespread changes to Canada’s entire immigration program, whether it be for Economic Immigration, Family Class Immigration, or Canada’s Humanitarian/Refugee Program.

In recent years, we have seen some pretty quirky legislation such as the “Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act” and the “Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act”.

Both of these pieces of legislation, brought in strict new provisions.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Globe and Mail - Temporary foreign workers flood into Canada as youth can’t find work: Conference Board asks why

The Conference Board of Canada can’t fully answer the question, but it does wonder why Canada is importing so many temporary foreign workers when its own young people can’t find jobs.

In the final piece of a three-part look at the post-crisis labour market, the group cites the fact that the number of temps from outside the country reached almost 340,000 by December of last year, up from 150,000 in 2006.

This, as Canada’s unemployment rate continued to climb, particularly among young people.

The jobless rate stood at 7.1 per cent last December, with some 1.4 million Canadians out of work. Unemployment was far high for the country’s youth, at 14.1 per cent, with more than 400,000 young people without jobs.

Read the article here

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"...we recommend looking for other options for a trip that do not include a stop in Canada"

...rotating foreign-service strikes have extended the wait for Canadian visas, to four weeks, six weeks, sometimes more. So the Canadian embassy in Bogota is politely advising people it’s best to stay away.

“All Canadian visa offices around the world are working at reduced capacity and processing times for visa applications are uncertain at the moment. So we recommend looking for other options for a trip that do not include a stop in Canada,” an official in the embassy’s immigration section stated in what appeared to be a rote Spanish-language reply.

Read the Globe and Mail article here

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Reflections from the USA

In just over a month I will mark two full years since my immigration to Canada from the US. It really is confounding, how quickly time flies. I am currently back in "the old country", visiting family and friends in Seattle, and having a good time of it.

What I notice when I come back home (yes, it will always be home too) are a couple things. First off, life goes on without me. No matter all the emotion I built into leaving, almost like dying; the truth is that people adjust, get on with their lives, and don't miss you nearly as much as you think they should! I always make an effort to let people know when I'll be back in town, and it still saddens me, how few make an effort to make time to see me during my brief visits. But its okay - I'm getting used to a different set of expectations.

The other thing I notice is very environmental. Toronto and Seattle are both cities on bodies of water: for Toronto, it's Lake Ontario; for Seattle, it's Elliot Bay, but there is a distinctly different feel. The difference is due to the salt air in Seattle. A little geography: Elliot Bay is a salt-water bay on Puget Sound, which is connected via the Strait of Juan De Fuca to the mighty Pacific Ocean. The salt air from these bodies is ever present, and the feel and smell of the air is distinct from the brine of Lake Ontario. When I come back, the air is something I miss a lot.

If you're an immigrant, please share some of your observations. I know from letters I receive that many people benefit from our shared experiences.

One  more thing I notice, is that after I time here, I want to get back home to my Love - and that is Toronto. I'm happy there, and so grateful Canada welcomed me.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Happy Canada Day!

I've been in the US traveling the last week, and without an internet connection, so forgive my lateness in wishing all my readers a Happy Canada Day! I hope permanent residents like myself are celebrating in appreciation of the country that welcomed them; new citizens in recognition of those that came before them; and native Canadians in a simple show of love of country.

To celebrate Canada Day 2013, CIC held over 30 special citizenship ceremonies in communities across Canada. These ceremonies welcome new citizens and highlight the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens. Citizenship judges highlighted our heritage as a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.

CIC has granted Canadian citizenship to nearly 200,000 new citizens each year at almost 2,000 citizenship ceremonies across the country.

I hope in a couple years to be a part of one of these ceremonies.

Happy Canada Day everyone!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer travels

This mind is now on our regular summer hiatus - travel and vacations call! Check back soon for news and commentary - and enjoy the nice weather too!

Friday, June 14, 2013

CIC News - Canadian Citizenship Applicants Face Long Delays, Reforms Underway

According to recent statistics, individuals who are eligible for Canadian citizenship today may not become citizens in time to vote in the 2015 federal election. Delays in application processing, which range from 21 to 29 months, have left over 24,000 individuals waiting to take the final step in their journey to becoming Canadian.

Since 2006, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) says that an increase in Canadian permanent residents has led to a 30% increase in demand for Canadian citizenship. Without sufficient resources to process this growing demand, significant backlogs have formed. While the government is taking steps to ensure that processing times are reduced, change has been slow for those already waiting in the queue.

Sound familiar? Increased demand, staffing issues, growing backlogs? Minister Kenney and the Harper Government can't say they didn't see this coming.

One of their solutions to the backlog is to make citizenship actually take longer and make it more expensive for permanent residents. The expense and delay are a two-fold tool: proving your fluency in one of Canada's official languages now requires a third-party test (starting at $150.00 CAD if you can't prove your fluency by other means); the delay comes because you have to pass this test before you can apply. Should you fail the citizenship knowledge test, the delay you will experience comes in scheduling a make-up test. Previously, a citizenship judge would determine whether those who did not pass the Canadian knowledge test were still eligible for citizenship. Adding time and expense to any process are sure methods of creating attrition. The Harper Government plays this card well.

Read the article here

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jerk that knee - Harper government passes new regulations on temporary foreign workers

From The Globe and Mail:

Federal officials will have the right to walk into Canadian workplaces without a warrant as part of a tightening of the controversial foreign temporary workers program.

Changes to immigration and refugee protection regulations, published just days ago, give Human Resources and Skills Development Canada officials or Citizenship and Immigration Canada officers the right to walk in on businesses as part of a random audit or because they suspect fraud.

Upon entering a property, officials will have wide powers of investigation. They will be able to “examine anything on the premises,” question employers and staff, request documents, use photocopiers to copy records, and take photographs or make video and audio recordings.

Read all about it here

Monday, June 10, 2013

Frances Wooley - ‘Visible minority:’ A misleading concept that ought to be retired

In Canada, anyone who considers themself neither white nor aboriginal is classified by the government, for a number of purposes, as a visible minority. It is an artificial concept that has become unnecessary and counterproductive.

Ultimately, the dividing line is arbitrary. For example, Arabic people from North Africa and the Middle East are counted as “white” in the U.S. Census. Yet anyone who ticks the Arab box on Canada’s National Household Survey is counted as a visible minority – unless they tick both the white box and the Arab box. Then they’re white.

Read the Globe and Mail column here

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Globe and Mail - Temporary immigrants mean temporary loyalties

Read Ratana Omidvar's excellent piece on the changing nature of immigration in Canada, from the permanent to the temporary. Her article does a great job of exposing the Harper Government's radical changes to immigration policy, especially in relation to the Family Class and reunification.

Here's a taste:

Impermanence comes at a cost, both for us and those who find themselves in impermanent situations. By focusing on the temporary, we create transience. This discourages temporary residents from integrating into their communities and forming an attachment to Canada. In fact, it encourages the temporary to maintain and develop their loyalties elsewhere. It often separates families, sometimes for years at a time.

For those who eventually come to live in Canada permanently, these interrupted family relations can hinder the adjustment of the children and the family to their new life. And from those who leave, we will bypass the most significant benefits that we currently realize from the second generation, who, studies show, are more likely to attend college or university than their non-immigrant peers and have higher earnings as a result. 

Read the article here

Springtime in Canada

Canada is a big country. And springtime in Canada is as diverse as the country is large. One simple example in today's nationwide weather forecast: In the Yukon, a winter storm warning for snowfall; in the prairies, a rainfall warning; and in the east, high temperatures in the upper 20's, with thunderstorms.

Over the weekend, the Maritimes experienced record snowfall. 

Springtime in Canada.  

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Globe and Mail - More than one-fifth of Canadians are foreign-born: National Household Survey

Sustained levels of immigration over the past two decades have literally changed the face of Canada.

The first report of the 2011 National Household Survey reveals that the percentage of people living in this country who were born someplace else is expanding along with those who consider themselves to be members of a visible minority.

Read the article here

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Taking a breather

Hi everyone - just wanted to let you know The Mind is taking a short hiatus in the U.S. for a couple weeks. We'll return with all the usual immigration news, commentary and more once we return. Thanks for your patience - and Go Leafs Go!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

South China Morning Post - Chinese numbers in Vancouver, Toronto to double by 2031

The Chinese populations of Vancouver and Toronto are set to double by 2031, helping push whites below 50 per cent of the population in both cities, says a report for Canada's immigration department.

The study, released this week, is titled "A new residential order?". It predicted that the populations in both cities would be more prone to segregate into racial enclaves with time.

Daniel Hiebert, a geographer at the University of British Columbia, concluded his report by saying that the two cities "are likely to have a social geography that is entirely new to Canadian society". He said the degree of racial segregation in both cities would approach that of between blacks and whites in America.

Both cities have a long history of immigrant populations, but it was only in the late 1990s that they developed what Hiebert called "ethnocultural enclaves" and a "new residential order".

Read the article here

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Passports - plan ahead

Somehow I thought I was done with the travel document issues, but with a visit to the U.S. coming up, I checked my Passport and what do you know - it expires in a few months! Not only that, but trips I have are scheduled such that I don't have 3-4 weeks to be without the document, which I would be if I mailed it in for renewal.

I need an expedited one.

So, bad planning is going to cost me an extra $60 ($170 total) to renew my U.S. passport. But I'll have it in five days.

I initially, mistakenly thought that I wouldn't only needed my U.S. Passport after I received my Canadian permanent residence card, but actually you need both those items. To enter the U.S. I need the passport and to re-enter Canada they ask for both the passport and the permanent residence card.

So remember, plan ahead and have the documentation you need to cross these ever more vigilant borders of ours.    

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Globe and Mail - Harper vows to reform temporary foreign worker program

But will he give those temporary workers who come here any chance at permanent residence?

Stephen Harper is putting Canadian employers on notice that the temporary foreign worker program has grown too large, forcing Ottawa to bring in new rules to ensure it is only used to fill the country’s most acute labour shortages.

The Prime Minister delivered his stern comments in Calgary, a city where hundreds of employers – from Boston Pizza to driving schools to a local soccer club – have turned to the federal program to fill jobs. Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail reveal that 33,000 organizations from across the country – including big and small businesses, universities and even federal government departments – have successfully applied to use the program in recent years.

Read the rest of the article here

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

RBC and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program

Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers of Canada writes in today's Globe and Mail:

An econometric study based on data through 2007 published last year in Canadian Public Policy concludes, “The expansion [of the Temporary Foreign Worker program] in Canada to all low-skill occupations without limit has had an adverse effect on the Canadian labour market.” There is reason to fear that adding more vulnerable workers to weak labour markets since 2008 has further worsened unemployment and undermined wages.

RBC provides a particularly compelling example of why the Temporary Foreign Worker Program must be reined in. It should be limited to areas with demonstrable skill shortages.

Before importing temporary labour, employers should have to meet a much higher burden of proof that they cannot find Canadian workers. Those temporary foreign workers who are admitted should have a clear path to permanent residency and citizenship, so that they can fully contribute to our economy and exercise the same workplace rights as other Canadians.

Monday, April 08, 2013

CBC - RBC scrambles to explain hiring practices to Canadians after CBC report

The Royal Bank of Canada was scrambling to explain its hiring practices to customers Sunday after a CBC report claiming the bank was employing foreign workers to replace Canadian staff prompted a flood of outrage.

RBC replaces Canadian staff with foreign workers

Canada's largest bank (TSX:RY) said it has not hired foreign workers to take over the job functions of current employees, but said it uses outside companies as one of its strategies to improve "operational effectiveness."

Zabeen Hirji, chief human resources officer, said the company is working to find suitable roles for 45 Toronto employees whose jobs are being outsourced.

This is the sort of news that causes average Canadians to oppose legitimate skilled worker class immigration. RBC certainly has some explaining to do - to the country and to the government.

Read the rest of the article here 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Is he a Minister or a Tinker? Kenney keeps messing with immigration programs

(From Canada's newest immigration policy — the Start-up Visa Program — is being lauded by analysts in the United States.

As April 1st, foreign start-up entrepreneurs can apply for immigration if they have a start-up business idea and a funding commitment from a designated Venture Capital Organization or Angel Investor in Canada.

It seems sometimes like this Minister is making things up as he goes along. Economic immigration to Canada is becoming a bit of a shell game. How can we measure performance when the target keeps moving? I pay attention to this subject on a regular basis of course, and I can't even keep up with the changes.

What does that mean to potential immigrants who are attempting to find their way through this confusion?

Kenney's manipulations of the country's immigration programs seem at times designed simply to obfuscate the landscape in such a way as to defer criticism and mask both the intent of policy and the performance of the programs. Rather than enhance the well-known Investor Class programs, Kenney has raised the investment requirement bar there, and added an entirely new class - Start-up, with a bizarre set of core requirements:

  • You must demonstrate intermediate knowledge in both English and French
  • You must have completed at least one year of Post-Secondary Education
  • Receive a minimum funding commitment of $200,000 CDN from a designated Venture Capital Organization (or $75,000 from an approved Angel Investor)
The Canadian government has allotted 2750 statup visas per year for start-up entrepreneurs and their families under this temporary (5-year) program.

Pay close attention to the shell game Kenney is playing with immigration in Canada. If he makes it confusing enough, and expensive enough to participate, no one will want to immigrate here.

Read more about the program   

Read the Yahoo article here

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Globe and Mail - New immigration guide issues stern warnings against ‘barbaric’ practices

Jill Mahoney and Ian Bailey write:

Newcomers to Canada are being bluntly told in a revised federal guidebook for immigrants that polygamy and forced marriages are illegal in this country.

The 146-page document, which also addresses human trafficking and gender-based violence, takes pains to spell out the country’s marriage customs.

“In Canada, there are laws against being married to more than one person at a time. You cannot come to Canada with more than one spouse even if you were married to more than one person in the past,” says the passage in Welcome to Canada: What you should know.

Read the article here

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Why Canada doesn't work - reaction to McLean's Magazine

The March 25th issue of McLean's Magazine includes an article titled, "Why Canada doesn't work", which discusses the employment environment in this country, and what is perceived as a trend toward "people without jobs, and jobs without people."

What is covered in the article is the landscape from the point of view of employers who need skilled workers (in both the white-collar professional jobs and skilled trades), and the response to this need by educators and by government through the focus of education and immigration programs. It also discusses the barriers that employees, particularly skilled immigrants, face through the credentialing maze of requirements.

And while McLean's questions the government, and questions universities and trade schools about their responses to the demand and future shortages of workers to keep Canada moving forward, there is one glaring hole in their coverage: just what is the employers responsibility here?

Aren't employers the ones who's products and services are created and provided by the employees that fill these jobs? Isn't training a cost of doing business anymore? It seems that employers want that burden to be carried by the government or by the potential employee. The government; through programs that provide funding for training, or immigration opportunities to people with the right skill set for a particular job. The employee; through choosing the right education at the right time to get the right job - which is in all honesty, a crap-shoot.

I remember a time when the right person for a job was the person capable and responsible enough to learn what the work required, and diligent enough to show up for that work each day, providing value to their employer. Seems that's not the case any more. That situation required risk by the employer, coupled with an investment in training. I read recently that if you took into account the basic job requirements for open positions in the tech sector, neither Bill Gates, nor Steve Jobs would have a chance of getting hired for today's jobs. What does that tell you?

It's time that the government and the press pushed back on employers to challenge and change their mindset about who is truly eligible to fill the myriad of open positions in this country. Seems to me that if someone can dedicate their efforts to an undergraduate degree, or to a technical school education, that they are capable of learning and excelling in a wide range of jobs. It seems to me, that is someone is ambitious enough to leave their home for another to pursue opportunities, they would be ambitious enough to help a wide range of companies.

All they need is what we used to call "an opportunity".  

Monday, April 01, 2013

Harper Government opens thousands of immigration slots for immigration reduction researchers

It is a banner day for research professionals worldwide who are interested in bringing their scientific studies to Canada, as the Harper Government announced today that they were opening up 7,000 immigration slots for academics involved in the statistical discipline of immigration reduction.

"We are excited to open up these opportunities to researchers who can bring with them an immediate benefit to Canada through their research on how to best limit the number of immigrants we must allow into the country each year, " noted Immigration ministry spokesperson Guy LaBarrière. "Immigration reduction is an exciting new frontier in the statistical sciences, and Canada wants to lead the way in both the study and application of their breakthrough concepts."

One of the most promising areas of research deals with causing immigration levels appear to be statistically increasing, while in actuality, reducing the number of immigrants a country allows in.

The new class of immigration, named the Overall Class Reduction Action Program (O-CRAP) will be accepting applicants starting April 1, 2013.

(April Fools!)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Canadian Press - Tories tout lower immigration queue

OTTAWA — The Harper government says it has reduced Canada’s immigration backlog by 40 per cent.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the total wait list at the end of 2012 was down to 616,271 from more than a million the year before.

Kenney says there would have been more than two million people stuck in the queue by 2015 had the government not taken steps to deal with the problem.

Those measures include a moratorium on applications from immigrant investors and entrepreneurs, as well as parents and grandparents of immigrants.

However, the government plans to resume accepting a set number of applications under the family reunification program early next year, Kenney said.

“We will re-open that program for a limited number of new applications based on the new criteria in January of 2014 — I stress a limited number of new applications, to avoid an explosion of the backlog again,” Kenney said.

Next month, the federal government will also launch a new program aimed at luring start-up companies and entrepreneurs to Canada.

The government will grant a maximum of 2,750 visas a year for each of the five years of the pilot program. The program replaces two older immigration programs aimed at would-be business owners, which were put on hold after the government decided they weren’t luring enough real business to Canada.

The average time it takes for applications to be processed has also fallen, Kenney said.

“Behind every one of those numbers lies a human life, someone who has the hope and expectation of coming to Canada,” Kenney said Tuesday in Mississauga, Ont.

“We were doing wrong by them and wrong for Canada by making people wait for eight of nine years, and it would be even more wrong to force them to wait for 15 or 18 years, which is where we were headed in many of our immigration programs.”

Kenney dismissed suggestions that simply accepting more immigrants would reduce the backlog.

He says doing so would still leave more than a million people in the queue by 2015.

“Increasing the immigration targets, increasing the number of people admitted, would not have been a solution to the large and growing backlogs and wait times,” Kenney said.

“In fact, they would have continued to deteriorate without our government bringing in the action plan for faster immigration and controls on new applications.”

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

CIC Notice – Change to Offers of Arranged Employment in the Federal Skilled Worker Program

Here's a notice from the CIC - keep track of the acronyms if you can...

On December 19, 2012, the Government of Canada published regulations that will change the way Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) processes offers of arranged employment for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP).

Currently, employers seek an Arranged Employment Opinion (AEO) from HRSDC when they wish to hire a foreign national on a permanent, full-time basis and support their employee’s application for permanent residence through the FSWP.

Starting on May 4, 2013, most offers of arranged employment will require a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from HRSDC in support of an FSWP application, instead of an AEO.

LMOs are currently used in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, as employers often must apply for authorization from HRSDC before hiring temporary foreign workers.

LMOs assess whether there are Canadians or permanent residents available to do the job. This will not change.

Employers will be able to use a single application for an LMO, whether it is being used to support the issuance of a temporary work permit or a permanent resident visa.

AEO letters provided by HRSDC to employers under existing regulations will no longer be accepted by CIC if the FSWP application is received on or after May 4, 2013.

Read the rest here

Monday, March 25, 2013

Border Security - propaganda programming

The Harper Government is tough on crime. The Harper Government protects the Canadian border. Are you really trying to bring Washington apples into Vancouver? We're going to take you down. Hard!

That's the message sent by Border Security, a new ambush-style reality show on The National Geographic Channel.

But really - are Canada's border issues so dramatic to be worthy of a reality show?

CTV News notes:

Descriptions for 13 episodes of Border Security: Canada's Front Line on the National Geographic channel include "Officers wonder why a Korean tourist would bring his CV and school diplomas on a vacation," and "An injured American may be too ill to enter Canada."

Some episodes in the series have already aired and the National Geographic website promotes the program by saying: Border Security, the show that will make you think twice the next time you considering hiding anything in your luggage.

Joshua Labove, a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University who specializes in border issues, said the reality show is incredibly exploitative.

"You're saying to someone 'Hello, I am here to legally remove you from the country but would you mind signing this release so I can show your face on Canadian television?"'

Labove said the program is particularly problematic because it creates complicated and blurry lines between entertainment, information and typical government works.

"All of this just serves to remind people that CBSA has a very large mandate and a very large mission away from the border," he said, adding that the fact that the show is modeled after an Australian program -- Border Security: Australia's Front Line -- is worrisome.

"Australia is a country that has had a long history of deportation and immigration raids and inland enforcement. I'm not necessarily sure that's the kind of society Canadians want."

Read more here

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The rights of dual citizens in Canada

Now that I am a permanent resident of Canada, the next step in my journey, abet, another year down the line, is to apply for citizenship. To start, at least, I anticipate being a dual citizen of both Canada and the United States.

In Canada, according to the CIC web site, a person may have several citizenships at the same time. For example, a person who was born in a country other than Canada, who applies for citizenship and is naturalized in Canada, and then naturalized in a third country may be a citizen of all three countries. 

Dual citizenship may carry with it certain benefits, but it may also bring unexpected difficulties: legal proceedings, taxation and financial responsibilities, military service, denial of emigration, even imprisonment for failure to comply with obligations in one of your countries of citizenship.

On becoming a Canadian citizen, certain rights and responsibilities are inherited. They include:
  • Freedom of conscience and religion
  • Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of speech and of the press
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly
  • Freedom of association
Under the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian citizens are guaranteed:
  • Mobility Rights — Canadians can live and work anywhere they choose in Canada, enter and leave the country freely, and apply for a passport.
  • Aboriginal Peoples’ Rights — The rights guaranteed in the Charter will not adversely affect any treaty or other rights or freedoms of Aboriginal peoples.
  • Official Language Rights and Minority Language Educational Rights — French and English have equal status in Parliament and throughout the government.
  • Multiculturalism — A fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity. Canadians celebrate the gift of one another’s presence and work hard to respect pluralism and live in harmony.
In Canada, rights come with responsibilities. These include:
  • Obeying the law — One of Canada’s founding principles is the rule of law. Individuals and governments are regulated by laws and not by arbitrary actions. No person or group is above the law.
  • Taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family — Getting a job, taking care of one’s family and working hard in keeping with one’s abilities are important Canadian values. Work contributes to personal dignity and self-respect, and to Canada’s prosperity.
  • Serving on a jury — When called to do so, you are legally required to serve. Serving on a jury is a privilege that makes the justice system work as it depends on impartial juries made up of citizens.
  • Voting in elections — The right to vote comes with a responsibility to vote in federal, provincial or territorial and local elections.
  • Helping others in the community — Millions of volunteers freely donate their time to help others without pay—helping people in need, assisting at your child’s school, volunteering at a food bank or other charity, or encouraging newcomers to integrate. Volunteering is an excellent way to gain useful skills and develop friends and contacts.
  • Protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment — Every citizen has a role to play in avoiding waste and pollution while protecting Canada’s natural, cultural and architectural heritage for future generations.
Currently, dual citizens have all the rights of Canadian-born citizens. Citizenship cannot be revoked, though it can be renounced by the citizen via a formal process.

In future posts, I'll discuss a threat to dual citizens posed by the Harper Government, which proposes to create two classes of Canadian citizens - natural and foreign-born.

If you're a permanent resident of Canada, I want to encourage you to learn about becoming a citizen. I've been taking mock tests for years, myself!

Start your journey to Canadian citizenship here

Friday, March 15, 2013

Keep looking up

Be a tourist, no matter where you are.
It is said you can always tell who is a tourist and who is a local by the fact that tourists are always looking up and all around at all the new sights, while locals, used to their environment, keep their heads down on their way to their destinations. I think that is a pretty accurate truism.

But I also try to go against that tide every chance I get. Being a tourist in your hometown is simply good for your spirit and I have to believe for others as well. When I hold my head up and look around, I remind myself of why I fell in love with Toronto. If I hadn't looked up while I was here in the past, I wouldn't have had the deep well of memories of the city that sustained me when I was in my immigration struggle. The fact is, if I hadn't always looked up in Seattle, I wouldn't have the memories I have now that help combat homesickness as I adjust to living in Canada.

When you hold your head up, you can see so much; the variety of architecture, the cafe where that fresh bread smell is coming from, the queue at every Tim Hortons, the faces of your neighbours, the clouds rushing by, the sun reflecting off an office tower, the new construction, the ads for upcoming community events. You'd miss a lot if you kept your head down. I don't want to miss a thing.

If you are new to Canada, you're going to look up naturally at first - just a like a tourist; it's how you learn about your new home. I want to encourage you to never stop looking up - it's the surest way to connect completely with your new home. A year and a half in and I find myself wanting to put my head down like a local - but I pull it back up, and I'm always glad that I do.

If you are still waiting to come to Canada, I also want to encourage you to lift your head and look around as you go about your day. Fill you mind and heart with your original home - believe me, it will help to sustain you.

Keep looking up and you'll always be connected to where you live.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Asian Pacific Post - Honest counts in immigration process

There is perhaps no immigration issue more challenging to grapple with than misrepresentation.

When people ask what is the most serious immigration infraction, they expect to hear “working illegally, living underground without status, or being deported”.

But actually it is the consequences for misrepresentation.

The Immigration Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) sets out the criteria for misrepresentation as well as the penalties which are significant and can include loss of status, permanent separation from family members, fines and even jail time.

Furthermore the trend in the past few years for Canada Immigration is a zero tolerance policy towards misrepresentation with penalties likely to increase.

If you or somebody acting on your behalf directly or indirectly submits false information, false documents, or misrepresents facts relating to any aspect of your application, your application may be refused, you can become ineligible to submit an application for any immigration process for a period of 2 years and a permanent resident can lose their permanent resident status after the fact for finding of a misrepresentation.

Read the rest of the article here

Thursday, March 07, 2013

R.I.P. Stompin' Tom Connors

Stompin' Tom Connors
Over a decade ago, when I was first really learning about Canadian culture (outside of the high-level stereotypes that we were exposed to in the U.S.), I explored the popular music of this country. And almost immediately, I discovered Stompin' Tom Connors. I have never heard anything like Stompin' Tom: the man had an uncanny ability to make the simplest of melodies memorable, yet the songs were by no means simple, and all were sung with a voice as craggy as the pre-Cambrian landscapes of the Group of Seven. Like the best folk music, they wrapped circles within circles around themselves, and the stories he sang of uniquely Canadian characters were both entertaining and revealing.

Tom got his nickname from his habit of stomping the heel of his left boot to keep rhythm. Famously, he stomped his way through a plywood board during his performances, ending them by lifting the board to the audience and letting the sawdust he had created from it fall like snow.

Stompin' Tom Connors will probably always be best known in Canada for one song - "The Hockey Song", but he is dear to my heart for so many others too.

The kind of man Tom was is communicated in this final letter to his fans:

Hello friends, I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin' Tom."

"It was a long hard bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with it's beauty, character, and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world."

"I must now pass the torch, to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future."

"I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes, I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer into your lives from the work I have done.


Your Friend always,

Stompin' Tom Connors 

Learn about Stompin' Tom Connors, and you'll learn a little more about Canada. He was a true Canadian character and artist, and he will be sorely missed.

Read more about Stompin' Tom on The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

News Release — Canada Continued to Welcome Highest Sustained Level of Immigration in Canadian History in 2012

Ottawa, February 27, 2013 — For the seventh consecutive year, Canada continued the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history, according to preliminary 2012 data released today by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Canada welcomed 257,515 permanent residents in 2012, well within the Government’s planning range of 240,000 to 265,000 new permanent residents for the year. Each year since 2006, Canada has admitted an average of about a quarter of a million immigrants.

“Canada has been welcoming not only the highest sustained level of immigrants in Canadian history, we also have, on a per-capita basis, among the highest immigration rates in the world,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. “Immigration is a key part of the government’s plan to grow our economy, spur job creation, and ensure long-term prosperity for all Canadians.”

Over the seven years from 2006 to 2012, Canada averaged approximately 30,250 more admissions per year than in the decade previous, from 1996 to 2005.

“The government is continuing to move toward a modern and effective immigration system that attract the skilled immigrants that Canada’s economy requires,” said Minister Kenney. “This new fast and flexible system will respond more effectively to Canada’s labour market needs, support family reunification, and provide protection to genuine refugees.”