Border Services Report Says Bogus Refugees From Hungary Could Cost Canada $222 Million A Year

Bill C-31 is expected to reduce the costs imposed by bogus refugee claimants

A recent report by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) estimates that each refugee claimant who has their application rejected by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), due either to lack of evidence of persecution in their home country or failing to show up to refugee hearings, costs the Canadian government over $50,000.

The country that produces the highest number of refugee claimants in Canada is Hungary, where 4,442 of the people who applied for refugee status in Canada last year hail from.

Virtually all applicants from Hungary had their refugee claim rejected, but before their cases were processed and they were deported, the cost of the welfare and health care provided to them by the Canadian government could have amounted to over $222 million last year alone according to the report, based on the $50,000 cost per failed claimant estimate.

Not only do provincial governments pay claimants welfare while they are in Canada, but also sometimes for up to seven months after they have left the country due to insufficient information sharing between the CBSA, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and provincial social services authorities, according to the report.

Most of the claimants from Hungary are Romani, a stateless ethnic minority who reside primarily in Europe and who are sometimes referred to as gypsies -though this term is considered derogotary by many Roma organizations.

The Canadian government has said that 40 percent of Hungarian Roma who claim refugee status are from a town called Miskolc, where a large-scale organized effort to send people to Canada to claim refugee status is centered in.

The federal government has taken steps to reduce bogus refugee claims and the costs they impose on federal and provincial governments in Canada with the passing of Bill C-31 in June.

The legislation gave the Department of Citizenship and Immigration the discretion to create a list of ‘safe’ democratic countries with a reputation of respecting human rights, and the authority to reject refugee claims by individuals from those countries and deport the claimants within 45 days, rather than the typical 1,000 days that refugee claims take to process.

This would enable Canada to place Hungary on the safe list and reduce the processing time of refugee claims from that country.

The bill also eliminated free pharmaceutical, vision and dental care for refugee claimants, which CIC argued was fair given those services are not available to Canadian citizens through Medicare.

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Charges Laid in Marriage Immigration Scam Involving More Than 600 People

The RCMP investigation into the alleged 'marriage of convenience' fraud has now moved to the stage of laying charges. (Vince Alongi)

The RCMP laid charges against 39 people on Tuesday for their part in a marriage scam involving Canadian women marrying North African men and sponsoring them for Canadian permanent residency, in exchange for money. The RCMP investigation has so far uncovered 315 marriages, involving over 600 people, that it believes to be fraudulent, and it’s possible more people will be charged in the future.

The group arrested on Tuesday are having a total of 78 charges laid against them, including for misrepresentation and procuring feigned marriage. The alleged organizer of the scam is unlicensed immigration consultant Amado Niang, who was indicted on 42 counts.

He allegedly found Canadian women, many of Haitian descent, and offered them an arrangement whereby they would get paid to marry men from North African countries who were in Canada and had visas that were close to expiry. Mr. Niang appeared in court in Montreal on Tuesday and has another hearing scheduled for October 23rd.

Project Conjugal, the RCMP investigation that led to the charges, began in 2009 with the purpose of investigating suspicious marriages that took place between 2007 and 2009, and lead to the dismantling of the alleged criminal organization behind the scam in February. The purpose of the investigation is now to lay charges against those allegedly involved.

Reform of Immigration Rules

In an effort to reduce marriage sponsorship fraud, the Canadian government this year changed spousal sponsorship rules to bar a sponsored spouse from sponsoring a new spouse for at least five years after they are granted permanent residence.

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has also proposed that Canada adopt the US-style sponsonship process of granting sponsored spouses a two year ‘conditional resident status’, after which they can apply for permanent residency if they have met all of the conditions required of them, instead of the current process of granting permanent residency to sponsored spouses immediately upon their arrival in Canada.

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Finance Minister Wants Corporate Canada to Spend its $525 Billion in Cash

The headquarters of the TSX, Canada's largest stock exchange. (Mike Russell)

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the Canadian economy needs Corporate Canada to start spending the $525 billion in cash and other liquid assets that it has on hand.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, Canadian corporations have been increasing their current assets in an effort to create a larger liquidity cushion to mitigate the risk from possible future economic volatility. The Finance Minister says spending or paying out as dividends some of the half a trillion dollars in cash and cash equivalents would boost the economy at a time when growth is lacklustre.

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney backed Flaherty’s view last week, telling a Canadian Auto Workers union audience that the corporate cash reserves are “dead money” and that “[the corporate executives’] job is to put money to work and if they can’t think of what to do with it, they should give it back to their shareholders.”

Not every one agrees with Mr. Flaherty and Mr. Carney’s assessment. Mark McQueen, President & CEO of Toronto-based Wellington Financial, and a regular contributor to financial analysis website SeekingAlpha, provided his dissenting view in an article published yesterday:

The international financial crisis is still a very recent memory for most in business, and it cannot be denied that Greece, Spain and Italy currently appear to be the sovereign versions of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley circa August 2008. Telling a CFO to “get out there and spend” with that backdrop is kind of like advising a heart patient who recently went through an angioplasty procedure that he should rush headlong back to Bardi’s Steakhouse for his favourite 24 ounce Rib Eye.

Then there’s the specific details of these allegedly high corporate cash levels. … When you tally up the debt figures, it tells a different story. None of these poster children have net cash on hand. Whether or not they are underlevered or overlevered entities depends upon their business fundamentals: such as trailing and forecast EBITDA, net income and free cash flow. Those metrics, and their sustainability in the face of a global recession, are the only way to truly gauge whether or not these three media examples are cash rich or digging their way out of an earlier debt hole.

Canadian non-financial corporations have historically held cash with a combined value equivalent to 10 percent of GDP, much less than the 30 percent of GDP that it is worth today.

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Financial Posts Advises Canada Follow Australia’s Lead in International Students Policy

The Financial Post article is one in a series of high profile endorsements of shifting education and immigration policy to attract more international students and give them an easier path to Canadian permanent residence (CICS News)

An article in today’s Financial Post by Diane Francis applauds recent changes that have made Canadian immigration policy more similar to Australia’s and recommends that Canada go further in emulating the other nation’s policies.

It notes that a recent report by a government advisory panel has called for a doubling of international students in Canada and, like Australia, creating an easier path for foreign graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions to stay in Canada:

Australia’s success has been widely disseminated and last week a blue-ribbon federal task force in Canada released a report that would emulate its policy. The number of foreign students allowed entry into Canadian institutions should nearly double in a decade and those who graduate from Canadian institutions should be eligible to remain, rather than having to return home and wait years to get in.

Francis writes that the success of Australia’s international student policy owes in part to a superior national marketing effort. She suggests Australia provides better information resources for prospective foreign students in the studyinaustralia.gov.au website, and that the federal government should make studyincanada.com a comparable resource.

The article goes on to note that Australian universities charge international students more than Canadian universities, but that they provide the benefit of immigration eligibility upon graduation. Francis says that doing the same in Canada would attract more highly skilled immigrants who have a greater likelihood of being successful in Canada’s job market due to their Canadian credentials.

Francis also criticizes the current combination of low tuition for international students enrolled in Canadian medical schools, immigration laws that prevent foreign graduates of Canadian medical schools from staying in the country to practice medicine, and the difficulty foreign trained doctors have in becoming licensed to practice in Canada, in encouraging Canadian students to go abroad to become doctors and creating a shortage of licensed doctors in Canada:

Worse yet, there are inadequate places for Canadians at Canadian medical schools and the result is that hundreds of Canadians go to Australian medical schools, and virtually all stay, according to University of Melbourne Professor and immigration specialist Lesleyanne Hawthorne.

(This points out another needed immigration reform. As Canadians go abroad to become doctors because foreigners have taken their places, foreigners who study here cannot stay to practice medicine because they must go home and re-apply. No foreign credentials, Australian or even American, are recognized by Canada’s protectionist medical profession.)

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By offering eligibility with an education, universities here can up their fees substantially, and provide more spaces for Canadians.

Next, the article praises Australia’s immigration policy for selectively picking international students with credentials that are in demand for permanent residence eligibility, and rejecting those students who “have not adjusted to the culture or who have not behaved properly”.

Finally, the articles warns that in making the path to immigration for international students easier and working to double the number of foreign students in Canada, the potential exists for “private-school rackets” that hand out low-quality credentials to crop up in greater numbers, and that the federal government would need to prevent this by monitoring institutions that cater to international students.

The Financial Post article is the third recent high-profile publication advising the federal government gear its immigration policy toward international students.

A report published by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives earlier this month and authored by the president of UBC recommends that Canada focus on attracting more international students from Asia, and a government advisory panel released its finding last week that urges the federal government to set a target of doubling the number international students that study in Canada within ten years.

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CIBC Economist: Immigrants to Boost Canada’s Housing Prices

CIBC headquarters in Commerce Court in Toronto, Ontario. A report published today by CIBC World Markets concludes that immigrants will help maintain housing prices over the next decade (Wikipedia)

A report released today by a major Canadian bank says growth in the 25-34 age group and increases in immigration levels will likely push housing prices up over the next decade.

The analysis, by CIBC World Market’s deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal, points to the propensity of Canadian immigrants to buy a home to support its conclusion.

Statistics show that nearly 20 percent of Canadian immigrants who have been in the country for three years or less are home owners, while home ownership rates among immigrants who have been in Canada for ten years or longer is over 70 percent, a figure higher than that of natural-born Canadian citizens.

The report says that owing to recent shifts in immigration targets by the federal government, immigration levels, already at historic highs in absolute terms, are expected to increase over the next few years, which will increase demand for housing.

A pdf of the report can be found online here.

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Canadian PM Promotes Resource Projects in Country’s North

Prime Minister Harper at a press conference in the Yukon during his annual Northern tour (Government of Canada)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says “tremendous economic opportunity” lies in tapping Canada’s northern resources, describing it as a key to the country’s prosperity. The comments came in a press conference in the Yukon, which he visited as part of his seventh annual Northern Tour.

The tour, which runs from August 20-24, is part of a long-term drive by the federal government to facilitate the development of resource projects in Canada.

The Prime Minister said the Canadian economy can outperform that of the United States, Japan and Europe by continuing to exploit its vast natural resources, much of which lies untapped in the North, and that there are more than 500 new development projects, worth half a trillion dollars, being proposed in the country over the next decade.

The Canadian economy is heavily reliant on natural resources, with $142.5 billion or 11.5 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP), and a staggering $200 billion in export revenue, amounting to over 50 percent of the net worth of all Canadian exports, being produced by the country’s resource sectors each year.

The announcement of a new Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) last week by the Department of Immigration was largely a reaction to the growing demand for skilled workers like welders, boiler makers and heavy equipment operators in resource extraction hubs, particularly in western provinces like Alberta, as the country’s energy and mineral sectors have boomed, and ageing workers in the skilled trades have begun to retire in greater numbers.

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Immigration Dept to Clamp Down on Student Visa Misuse

Citizenship and Immigration Canada is looking to reduce misuse of student visas to gain access to the Canadian labour market (CICS News)

The federal government plans on tightening rules for those on student visas to reduce inappropriate use of the visas to work in Canada.

The new rules will seek to prevent the practice of gaining entrance into Canada on a student visa, but instead of attending school, using the time in Canada to work.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says that while Australia and the UK have instituted rules to ensure that organizations that claim to be educational institutions are what they claim to be, and that foreign nationals on student visas are attending classes, Canada has no such safeguards in place.

Kenney said the Immigration Department is proposing that provinces create lists of “credible post-secondary institutions”, and that only student visa applicants that enrol in a listed school be accepted. The proposal further calls for monitoring of foreign nationals on student visas to verify they are attending classes.

The proposal would also eliminate student visas for education programs that are less than six months in length, and would restrict work permits for those on student visas to work relevant to their courses, like co-ops.

The proposed restriction on work permits would eliminate one of the competitive advantages that a report by a government advisory panel says Canada has over its main competitors in attracting international students.

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Details of Revised Federal Skilled Worker Program Released

Skilled tradespersons in eligible vocations like construction work will be able to apply for Canadian permanent residence under the new Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) (Paul Keheler)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) unveiled information on Friday about the new Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) that will be launched in the new year.

The revised program will have more demanding language requirements, more selective credential assessment, and will give preference to Canadian work experience over foreign work experience, among other changes.

CIC placed a temporary freeze on the acceptance of new applications for the FSWP on July 1st to give the immigration department time to instate change that it said were needed to address shortcomings in the program.

The following are the major changes to the FSWP that were announced in Friday’s release:

  • Increasing the maximum points awarded for proficiency in an official language, from 16 to 24 points
  • Awarding a maximum of 12 points to applicants aged 19 to 35, and decreasing the points awarded until age 46
  • Reducing the maximum number of points awarded for foreign work experience from 21 to 15
  • Eliminating points awarded for spousal education and awarding points for spousal language proficiency instead
  • Awarding a maximum of 10 points for Canadian work experience
  • Awarding points for foreign education credentials based on an assessment of the foreign credential’s equivalent value in Canada as assessed by an organization that is designated to provide credential assessment and authentication

New Federal Skilled Trades Worker Program

In addition to the changes to the FSWP, CIC also announced the details of a new Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) that will be open to tradespersons skilled in eligible trade occupations.

The requirements announced for the FSTP are:

  • An offer of employment of a duration of least one year from up to two Canadian employers or a Certificate of Qualification from a provincial or territorial Apprenticeship Authority.
  • Proficiency in an official language
  • At least two years of work experience in an eligible skilled trade in the last five years
  • Required qualifications in the skill trade as described by the National Occupational Classification (NOC)

Changes to the Canadian Experience Class

As forecasted by CIC earlier in the year, the Canadian work experience required to qualify for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program will be reduced from 24 months to 12 months, to allow temporary foreign workers in Canada to more quickly qualify for Canadian permanent residence status.

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Government Panel Recommends Doubling Number of International Students

International students in Vancouver, Canada. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) projects the number of post-secondary students who study abroad to double from 3.7 million (2009) to 6.4 million in 2025. (CICS News)

Hot on the heels of a report commissioned by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives urging Canada to work to attract more international students, a government advisory panel released a report today recommending that the Canadian government double the number of foreign students it admits every year.

The report cites the annual $8 billion contribution international students make to the Canadian economy, the links those students create between Canada and other countries, and the boost they provide to innovation, as economic benefits that Canada accrues from being a top destination for international study. It also says that international students can help meet the labour shortages that the Canadian economy is expected to face as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement.

To enhance the economic benefits, the panel recommends working to attract a larger number international students to Canada, by taking advantage of the country’s competitive advantages over Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. These advantages include a reputation for “consistent quality at a reasonable cost”, the option international students have to work during their schooling in Canada, and the ability of students to apply for permanent residence in Canada upon graduation from a Canadian post-secondary educational institution.

Among the recommendations the report makes is setting a target of doubling the number of international students that study in Canada each year, from 239,131 last year, to more than 450,000, by 2022. It also proposes that the federal government create a International Mobility Program to sponsor 50,000 Canadian students to study abroad each year, to internationalize Canadian students, and help create stronger links between Canada and the rest of the world.

To retain more international students after they have graduated in Canada, the report recommends expanding and promoting the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program, which allows international graduates of eligible post-secondary institutions who have at least one year of work experience in Canada to apply for permanent residence in the country.

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Three Canadian Cities in Top 10 in World Liveability Ranking

Vancouver placed third in the Economist's annual liveability ranking for the second year in a row, after spending most of the last decade in first place

The Economist’s annual liveability ranking was published on Tuesday and it placed three Canadian cities, Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary, in the top 10.

Vancouver placed third for the second year in a row, failing once again to regain the first place position that it had held in the rankings for nine consecutive years until 2010. Ahead of Vancouver is Melbourne, Australia, which came in first, and Vienna, Austria, which placed second.

Other Canadian cities also placed well, with Toronto coming fourth and Calgary tying Adelaide, Australia for fifth place. The ranking, created by the Economist Intelligence Unit, evaluates a city’s liveability according to five indicators:

  1. stability, which includes threats of crime and war,
  2. the quality and availability of private and public health care,
  3. culture and environment, which includes qualities like absence of social and religious restrictions, average temperature/humidity, number of cultural events, and the availability of goods and services,
  4. the quality of public and private education
  5. infrastructure

The index does not factor in cost of living, which worked in favour of Melbourne, as it placed 15th worldwide in Mercer’s annual cost of living survey this year, far ahead of Vancouver and Toronto which placed 63rd and 61st worldwide respectively.

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