Racism Exists in Canada, whether our Politicians Wish to Admit It or Not

by Ronalee Carey Law

May 2021

When I meet with prospective immigrants, I often ask them why they wish to move to Canada.  Their responses vary, but economic opportunities and respect for human rights are usually at the top of their lists. 

Unfortunately, this rosy picture of what life in Canada will be like is often not based on reality.  Though life in Canada is very different than in many places in the world, systemic racism still impacts the economic opportunities available to those from the global majority (considered racialized minorities in Canada).  Further, skin colour often predicts treatment by government officials, the police, and members of the community.

In 2020, an 80-year old immigrant from Vietnam was assaulted by teenagers in her community of Pembroke, located in the Ottawa Valley.   This prompted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to interview Black, indigenous, and people of colour living in communities in the Ottawa Valley. 

Responses from the mayors of these communities were mixed.  The mayor of Pembroke admitted there was systemic racism in his community and vowed to address it.  However, the mayor in Renfrew denied the existence of any systematic racism in that community, only an hour’s drive from Ottawa, the country’s capital.  His constituents were quick to organize petitions and penned letters detailing their own experiences of racism to town councillors.  The mayor apologized for his remarks and committed to learning more about the problem.  In Arnprior, a community just half an hour from Ottawa, the mayor was found to have breached a code of conduct after having written an opinion letter to residents denying the existence of systemic racism in his community.

Racism is not confined to smaller communities in Canada.  Even in cities where populations are increasingly diverse, racism continues and is even increasing.  Data from the Ottawa Police Service for 2020 showed a rise in hate incidents against those of East Asian descent. 

I am the mother of three adopted children.  The younger two are Haitian, and the eldest is East Indian/Black.  My eldest remembers being told as a young teenager, ‘You’re pretty for a Black girl’.  My youngest, when she was old enough to go to our local shopping centre with her friends, would tell me that when she went with her white friends, there were never issues.  However, when she went with her Black friends, they would be tailed by security guards.

Recently, my youngest posted on Facebook about the impact she felt from years of microaggressions.  She wrote:

It is hard for me to express how I feel, but I need to be heard.  A lot of you may know me as someone who smiles, has a passion for cooking, etc.  This post may be shocking for some of you, and some may take it personally.  For a while now, I haven’t felt comfortable in my own skin at all.  It’s hard being a different race and for me being an African American woman is not something I’m happy about being at the moment.  I know it should be something I should be proud of.  It is extremely hard when people still make little unnecessary comments or even judge my choices such as how I wear my hair.  Judge me when you are perfect.  Choose your words wisely.  I would like the same respect as if I were your own child no matter the circumstances.  Both my parents who are Caucasian accepted me into their family.  Colour doesn’t matter to them.  But still to this day we have people who are uneducated and it’s hurtful.  A few times in my life I was scared to mention I was adopted, so I just let people assume my parents were Black.  But you know what, I’m human too.  Don’t treat me differently because of how I appear or make me feel out of place in this world.  I deserve to be here as much as you do.  I’m tired of people putting me down and because of that, not feeling okay in my own skin.  I don’t wish for anyone to feel this way.  If you can’t accept the way I feel you are free to leave, really, I don’t need that negativity in my life or around me.

This brave, strong young woman has the voice to speak up for herself.  Many others do not, especially those who came to Canada broken by war, domestic violence, political oppression, or any of the other reasons that cause people to seek asylum in other countries.

Canada needs immigrants.  We need immigrants to fill jobs, to allow Canada to grow economically, and to pay taxes to buttress our health care system as a wave of baby boomers moves into old age.  Canada hopes to bring over a million immigrants to Canada by 2023.  We must not bury our heads in the sand. Rather, we should recognize and address systemic racism in our institutions, our communities, and in our own beliefs, to make those immigrants feel as if they have come home.

Canadian Immigration Fire Sale on Now!

by Ronalee Carey Law

April 2021

In an attempt to make up for a pandemic-related shortfall of potential immigrants from overseas, the Canadian government will open temporary programs for individuals working in Canada.  There will be three streams available:

  • 20,000 applications for temporary workers in health care

  • 30,000 applications for temporary workers in other selected essential occupations

  • 40,000 applications for international students who graduated from a Canadian institution

In addition to these programs, three additional streams will be available for French-speaking or bilingual applicants.  There will be no intake caps for these streams.  Eligibility will be similar to the program for anglophones, but with the requirement of Canadian Benchmark Level 4 in French.  See essential occupations and international students.

For the healthcare and essential occupations programs, applicants must have at least one year of work experience in Canada within three years of application, and be employed in Canada when they apply (but not necessarily in healthcare or an essential occupation).

For the international students program, applicants must have completed a post-secondary program of study in Canada, and be employed in Canada when they apply.

The programs contain some innovations long requested by the immigration legal community:

  • Medical doctors in a fee-for-service arrangement with a local health authority may apply, even though they are technically self-employed. Other self-employed work will not be considered for the programs.

  • Minimum language requirements are low – Canadian Language Benchmark level 4 for the essential occupations stream and level 5 for the international graduates stream will be required. This will allow a greater range of applicants to apply.  Language tests evaluate the ability to perform well on language tests but do not necessarily reflect being able to succeed economically in Canada.  They have long caused disadvantages to those learning English or French after already having acquired several other languages. They also cause difficulties for those with learning disabilities, and for those too busy working in Canada to have the time to take test preparation courses. 

  • ‘Lower skilled’ occupations are being recognized as ‘essential’, including cashiers, pest controllers, taxi drivers, harvesting labourers, and janitors. Until now, there was no pathway for individuals with experience in these fields to apply for permanent residence.

There are a few shortfalls to this bonanza.

  • Applications will only be accepted until quotas are met, or until November 5th, whichever comes first. Those who already have completed language tests will be at an advantage. I checked both the CELPIP and IELTS websites the evening of the announcement; both were down, likely overwhelmed with people trying to book test dates.  Whether or not you will make the quota before the program closes may very well depend on if you can get a test date in time.

  • Refugee claimants need not apply. Refugee claimants are not granted ‘temporary resident status’, a requirement of the programs.

  • Those without status or outside of the restoration period (90 days of their status expiring) also may not apply. This is not a government fix to the issue of the many undocumented workers in Canada performing essential services.

  • These programs are only for those who will live outside of Quebec.

  • Graduates of private institutions are for the most part shut out.

  • This is a one-time deal. Though innovative, it is limited in scope.

This is a limited-time offer!  The sale starts May 6th.  Be sure to apply early!

Transparency and Efficiency Please:  Making the Express Entry System Work for Canada

by Ronalee Carey Law

March 2021

Last month, I told you about a historical draw from the Express Entry pool, where 27,332 Canadian Experience Class (CEC) applicants were invited to apply for permanent residence.

Unsurprisingly, thousands of people have submitted Express Entry profiles in the past weeks, hopeful that another large draw would occur.  162,120 individuals were in the pool in mid-March; only 152,714 were in the pool prior to the February draw. 

                             CRS score distribution of candidates in the Express Entry Pool

    CRS score range                                                        

 Number of candidates as of February 8, 2021 (prior to the large draw held on February 13, 2021)

Number of candidates as of March 15, 2021 (prior to the CEC draw held on March 18, 2021)          

601-1200

603

 155

501-600

1,027

 1,714

451-500

26,177

 29,648

491-500

603

 995

481-490

1,555

 2,493

471-480

3,823

6,208 

461-470

9,047

 9,837

451-460

11,149

10,115 

401-450

47,731

 43,293

441-450

11,371

 8,970

431-440

11,352

 9,379

421-430

7,818

7,148 

411-420

8,079

8,272 

401-410

9,111

 9,524

351-400

48,585

 54,345

301-350

25,297

 28,336

0-300

3,294

 4,629

Total

152,714

 162,120

Taking into consideration the number of people drawn from the pool in February, and the Provincial Nomination Program draws earlier in March, a total of 37,592 individuals set up profiles between February 8 and March 15. 

Unfortunately, many of those hopefuls were disappointed with the draw on March 18th, when IRCC issued 5,000 invitations to apply to individuals eligible for the CEC.  The lowest-ranked candidate had a score of 449.  That wasn’t much lower than the January 21st CEC draw, which saw the lowest score of 454.

It is difficult to understand the government’s strategy.  In a news release the day of the February draw, IRCC stated that a large number of invitations were made in an ‘effort to help more skilled workers stay in Canada and bolster our economic recovery’.   On February 16th, RBC Economics predicted that Canada would only approve 275,000 new permanent residents in 2021, far short of its 401,000 target.  It is unfortunate that IRCC does not publish data on the breakdown of candidates in the Express Entry pool by program of eligibility.  This would give us a better understanding of how many CEC candidates were in the pool prior to the last draw.  But surely there were more than 5,000.  If IRCC is committed to reaching its immigration goals for 2021, why weren’t more than 5,000 CEC applicants invited? 

Further, I fail to understand why approved permanent resident applicants cannot travel to Canada, so long as they respect quarantine measures upon arrival.  Excluding qualified Federal Skilled Worker Program applicants, while allowing temporary foreign workers and international students to continue arriving in Canada is nonsensical. 

This is not the time to be turning off the taps.  The pandemic has created a major hurdle in the government’s original plan to increase permanent residents in the upcoming years. According to Statistics Canada, immigration is at its lowest since World War I.  As my favorite columnist Doug Sanders recently wrote, populations are declining in the countries we rely on for immigrants.  We have a limited time to bring our population to a level that will support future economic development.

What we need is transparency.  Enough with uncertainty in Express Entry draws.  Give me the information I need to honestly advise prospective immigrants about whether they should invest their resources into setting up an Express Entry profile.  Then, provide information about when applicants will be invited to apply for permanent residence, and how many will be invited for each program.  This will allow applicants the time needed to write the language test and have their education assessed.  Hire enough staff and invest in the technology needed to process applications in a timely fashion.  Let those who were approved come to Canada, after their pre-flight and arrival negative COVID tests, mandatory government-approved hotel quarantines, and self-quarantines.  With transparency regarding intake and efficiency in processing, Canada will continue to attract the skilled immigrants it needs.

Addendum: Large Canadian Experience Class Draw may have been a ‘one-time draw’

March 2021

In a recently published transcript of the March 10, 2021 meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Caroline Xavier, associate deputy minister, made a statement which will be devastating news for many:

Mr. Han Dong (Don Valley North, Lib.):
I was very excited about the announcement about cleaning up the express entry pool, our inventory, back at the beginning of, I think it was mid-February or the first week of February. I was really excited about that because I know over 20,000 applicants have been waiting patiently and were very anxious about the effect of COVID.

They are now actually receiving a surprise invitation from the ministry. I know that over 70% of those applicants scored over 400 points, which is quite impressive. This means that they have a lot of work and study experience in Canada. It will help them integrate really well into our workforce.

I guess my concern is whether we have enough staff power to process, I think, upwards of 27,000 applications. Is it going to cause a lengthy delay or backlog in the system?

Ms. Caroline Xavier:
As the minister stated, and as you are well aware, we have a very ambitious mandate to meet in this calendar year. We're committed to achieving it as much as we can. The call that was just put out in the express entry, as you mentioned, involved 27,000 invitations. It's definitely going to help achieve that goal.

As you've outlined, these are very qualified candidates who have been in Canada and who will be able to continue to assist us in improving our recovery and our economic prosperity.

Absolutely, we continue to see this as a priority. With regard to ensuring that we meet the levels planned, we feel comfortable that we are going to be able to continue to process those applications for those we sent the invitations to, and do so in the time necessary to be able to achieve the landings in this calendar year as per the expectation of the plan.

Mr. Han Dong:
That's really good to know.
Are we expecting this type of announcement will be going forward as a normal practice by the ministry?

Ms. Caroline Xavier:
At this point in time, this was a one-time draw, because of the times we're in. These are not normal times as you can all appreciate. Our hope is that the border restrictions will eventually ease because the public health measures will permit it. We will be able to resume being able to bring others from overseas to come and land in Canada. They are also feeling that their lives have been disrupted, as I know you can appreciate. At this point in time, it was a one-time draw. I do feel that our provincial and territorial colleagues who have provincial nominee programs and really want to be able to draw from those in Canada, in particular, are happy to know that this was a one-time draw.
 

It is great to hear that the 27,332 individuals who were invited to apply for permanent residency in February will have their applications processed in 2021.  Hopefully, those who applied previously, like my client who submitted an Express Entry application in December 2019, will also see their applications processed by the end of this year.

However, those who missed out on the February draw will be heartbroken to hear this news.  Once again, draws will number only a few thousand, and candidates in the Canadian Experience Class will have to either compete against those from outside Canada or for limited provincial nominations. 

But how will they hear this news?  IRCC has made no announcement.  Very few people read House of Commons committee reports.  Hopeful individuals will continue to set up Express Entry profiles, even if their score is too low to be competitive.

Inviting 27,332 applicants to apply for permanent residency, in one swoop, with no advance warning, does not come across as coherent immigration policy.   Even Ms. Xavier alludes to what the draw was really intended to do – help the Canadian government meet its immigration targets for the year.  Fairness has taken a back seat to political expediency.

27,332 CEC Applicants Just Got Invited to Apply For Permanent Residence, And I’m Not At All Happy About It

by Ronalee Carey Law

February 2021

In an unprecedented and shocking move, the Canadian government has just invited 27,332 individuals who qualified for the Canadian Experience Class to apply for permanent residency in Canada.  The comprehensive ranking system score of the lowest-ranked candidate was 75.    You read that right, seventy-five.

At first, I thought it must be a technical error.  Invitations to apply for permanent residence are sent out electronically.  On Twitter, a colleague posted that she thought IRCC’s computers must have been hacked.  But then I did the math.  Someone with 1 year of Canadian work experience in a NOC B level position, with Canadian Benchmark Level 5 in all areas on their language test would have a score of 64.  In one swoop, all or at least most individuals with an active Express Entry profile who qualified for the CEC won the lottery for the Canadian dream.

Why am I not happy about this gift handed to thousands?  Don’t take me wrong, I’m very happy for all those who were selected today.  It’s just that very few of them are clients of mine.

As all reputable lawyers do, I advise prospective immigrants whether they are likely to be invited for permanent residency based on their CRS score, IRCC’s immigration levels plan for the year, and past draws.  To tell people to set up a profile when there is no reasonable prospect that they will be selected would be professionally negligent.  I have had people come to me asking me how to improve their score when an ‘agent’ took thousands of their dollars to set up their profile.  For the price of a consultation fee, I dash their hopes and dreams.

What IRCC has now done is stir up more hopes and dreams.  Thousands and thousands of individuals who qualify for the Canadian Experience Class will set up profiles, hoping that IRCC will do another large draw.  But IRCC has not made any commitment to do so, only justifying the draw by saying it was to ‘acknowledge their contributions - many on the front lines’. 

And what of self-employed applicants who have been working in Canada, but who don’t qualify for the Canadian Experience Class?  Physicians paid directly by government health insurers are self-employed.  They are on the front lines of the pandemic, and yet will not be rewarded with permanent residency.

Even the timing of the draw is suspect.  Why a Saturday of a long weekend?  There is simply no transparency. 

Having now invited 27,332 individuals to apply for permanent residence, IRCC will now have to process those applications.  I have a couple who applied under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class on August 17, 2018.  The sponsored partner is an international student, working on her Ph.D.  She has no medical issues or criminal records.  The sponsor was approved in April 2019.  And yet, we still wait for a final decision.  I have clients who submitted Express Entry applications in 2019 who are still waiting for their permanent resident status.  

IRCC had hoped to approve 341,000 individuals for permanent residency in 2020.  The final numbers aren’t out yet, but we know it was substantially less.  To compensate for 2020’s low numbers, the target for 2021 is 401,000.   With the pandemic still affecting international travel, it is understandable that bold moves will be necessary.

I would like assurances that those with applications already in process will be prioritized.  I would like the 27,332 new applicants to be given a realistic timeframe for processing of their applications.  I would like potential CEC applicants, those rushing today to set up profiles, to know whether there is a chance for them too.  I would also like recognition that self-employed experience is still experience, and if gained in Canada, should come within the Canadian Experience Class. 

And then, maybe I’ll be a little happier.