New Language Requirements For Canadian Citizenship Coming into Effect November 1st

The UBC English Language Institute is one of thousands of locations where individuals can take an IELTS exam. Citizenship applicants will be required to submit the results from CIC-approved third-party tests like the IELTS or provide evidence of completion of secondary or post-secondary education in English or French to be have their application processed.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced today that the majority of citizenship applicants will be required to demonstrate language proficiency in English or French when they apply, effective November 1st, 2012.

Currently, CIC assesses applicants’ language proficiency through the interaction their staff have with the applicant, and from the applicant’s citizenship knowledge test results.

Under coming changes, citizenship applicants will be required to submit the results of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, and score at least 4.0 and 4.5 on the speaking and listening portions, respectively.

In order for applicants to demonstrate French language proficiency, they will be required to submit the results of the Test d’évaluation de français (TEF), and score at least 181 and 145 on the speaking and listening portions.

Applicants can have the language test requirement waived if they can show evidence of having completed secondary or post-secondary education in English or French.

The new language requirements will only apply to applicants aged 18-54.

Canada Has Fastest Population Growth in G8, Driven By Immigration and Led by Prairies

The Prairie provinces, prospering from their abundance of natural resources, led Canada in population growth in the year ending June 30th, 2012. Two thirds of the world's potash reserves are near Saskatoon, pictured above, the largest city in Saskatchewan.

A Statistics Canada report released today estimates that Canada’s population grew by 1.1 percent in the year ending June 30 2012, giving it the fastest population growth among the G8 countries.

In comparison, the second fastest growing population in the G8 was that of the United States, which grew by 0.7 percent over the same period. Japan, with its shrinking population, had the lowest population growth rate, at negative 0.3 percent.

The largest source for Canada’s population growth was immigration, as the country has continued to sustain the highest immigration levels in the world as a percentage of its population.

Among Canadian provinces, Alberta saw the fastest population growth, at 2.5 percent, as the province, which has the highest per capita GDP in Canada, continued to lead the country in inter-provincial and international immigration and natural population growth.

The economy of Alberta has benefited in recent years from a booming oil sector as production in the Athabasca oil sands, which is one of the largest oil deposits in the world, continues to ramp up.

Other Prairie provinces also saw rapid population growth, with Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s populations growing by 2.1 and 1.2 percent respectively.

A recent Fraser Institute study found that Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have the best labour markets in Canada, with the lowest unemployment rates and fastest employment growth in the country, thanks to strong performance from their resource sectors.

Canadian Government Considering Electronic Bracelets For Refugee Claimants

CBSA and RCMP officers in Vancouver, Canada. The Standing Committee on Public Safety was told by a CBSA director that 80 percent of the 44,000 outstanding arrest warrants in Canada are for individuals who have had their refugee claim rejected and are evading deportation (2010 Legal Observers)

The federal government is considering requiring asylum seekers who are in Canada and awaiting a decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) on their refugee claim to wear electronic tracking bracelets as a condition of being released from detention.

On Tuesday, parliament was presented with the findings of a study conducted by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to determine the effectiveness, cost efficiency, and feasibility of electronic supervision in the correctional and immigration setting.

The study recommended further consideration of the extra security measure for asylum seekers in part due to testimony it received from a senior official at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

The Director General of the CBSA’s Post-Border Programs, Peter Hill, noted that a staggering 80 percent of the approximately 44,000 outstanding arrest warrants in Canada are for asylum seekers who had their refugee claim rejected and did not appear at their deportation hearing to comply with their removal order.

Hill testified that he believed electronic monitoring would be effective in improving enforcement of removal orders based on positive results the CBSA has had in the limited number of cases where it has used it, and proposed more analysis be done as a preliminary step to broader application of the supervision tool.

The Committee on Public Safety was persuaded by the testimony of Hill and other witnesses and recommended in its report that the CBSA review the cost-effectiveness of electronic monitoring.

Canada Most Tax Competitive For Corporations Among Developed Countries

The KPMG Competitive Alternatives report rates Canada as the most tax competitive developed country in a survey of 14 major economies

Canada’s corporate taxes are the second lowest overall, and lowest of any developed country, among 14 large economies included in a KPMG survey of international tax competitiveness.

At the other end of the scale, Italy and France had the least competitive corporate tax rates in the survey, while the US was in the middle of the pack, at eighth most competitive.

Four of the five developing countries included in the survey: India, China, Mexico and Russia, ranked in the top of five in tax competitiveness, at first, second, fourth and fifth, respectively. Brazil was the only developing country with a tax competitive rating in the bottom half, ranking eleventh.

The survey only looked at corporate taxes and did not factor in taxes paid by individuals directly like the personal income tax and sales tax.

KPMG’s Canadian managing tax partner, Elio Luongo, lauded Canada’s standing in the survey in an interview with the Globe and Mail: “This helps our attractiveness around the world and helps us compete .. We need this to compensate for other costs.”

Recent Immigrant Feared for His Life After Call From Crooked Immigration Official

Former CIC official Barriero plead guilty to three counts of breach of public trust on July 3rd for asking immigration applicants for bribes. He was sentenced to 44 months in prison on September 20th.

An article in The Star recounts the experience of an applicant for permanent residence in Canada who was called by an immigration official who was recently convicted of breach of public trust.

George Gonsalves Barriero, who worked for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for a total of 12 years, was promoted to a senior position with the authority to approve applications or refer them for further risk assessments in 2005, and that is when a court found that he began asking permanent resident applicants in the hispanic community for bribes.

Sidnei Ramalho, who had applied for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, told The Star that he feared for his life when he received a call from the immigration official in charge of his case, Barriero, who told him he would come by Ramalho’s home to pick up the money Ramalho needed to pay to get a “good letter” from him: “I don’t know him, I don’t know what he’s capable of .. I was really afraid he could send some guy here to kill me.”

Mr. Ramalho told his immigration consultant about the incident who advised him to not communicate with Barriero and let the RCMP investigate. The altercation with Barriero has left him living in fear:

Since the ordeal, Ramalho has installed cameras in his apartment, extra locks on his door — which he keeps a steel bar behind — and doesn’t answer calls from phone numbers he doesn’t recognize.

Mr. Barriero was sentenced on September 20th to 44 months in prison on three counts of breach of public trust.

Economist Tells Business Forum That Canada Faces Labour Shortage

Speakers at the 2012 Global Business Forum, held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, included the US ambassador to Canada David Jacobson and Boom, Bust and Echo author David Foot (Hedwig Storch)

In a talk that could nudge policy makers toward increasing immigration levels, Toronto economist and demographer David Foot told an audience of business executives, academics, diplomats and government leaders that Canada will face a severe labour shortage over the next two decades as millions of Canadians enter retirement.

“Canada will have more old than young people and no amount of immigration can change the figure,” said Foot.

Foot is the author of Boom, Bust & Echo, a book that forecasts changes to Canada’s economy and way of life as the population ages.

At the talk, he counselled that Canada invite more international students to settle in the country, and suggested Mexico, which has the youngest population in North America, as a good place to “recruit”.

Focusing Canadian immigration on international students has been a recurring recommendation over the last year, which makes a change in immigration law that makes it easier for foreign students to become permanent residents more likely.

Foot was one of 25 speakers who gave speeches at today’s Global Business Forum in Banff, Alberta, an event hosted annually by the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Scam Targeting New Canadians By Threatening Deportation

The Palais de justice, a courthouse in Montreal, Canada. Montreal police told an intended target of the scam, Siddharth Kashyap, that there was nothing they could do because no crime had been committed since he had not sent the fraudster money (Jean Gagnon)

According to a report by the CBC, a new fraud is being perpetrated against new Canadians by scam-artists pretending to be lawyers with the Supreme Court of Canada.

The scam involves fraudsters contacting recent immigrants by phone and telling them that they had failed to fill out a form during their immigration application, and were therefore facing charges of immigration fraud that would result in their deportation.

The scam-artists then tell the intended victims that their court hearing had already been scheduled in Ottawa in a few days, and that before the court hearing, they would have to travel to India and fill out the form they had missed before, or wire money to a lawyer at the Canadian consulate in India to do it for them, or face conviction for immigration fraud and eventual deportation.

After one of the intended targets, Siddharth Kashyap, reported the fraud attempt to the Montreal police, they told him that since he hadn’t sent money, no crime had been committed, and there was nothing they could do.

The number given by the scam-artist was based out of Colorado. A recording of a call to the fraud perpetrator by a CBC reporter posing as a scam target can be heard here.

Italy to Represent Canadian Government in Iran

Italian embassy in Tehran, Iran. Italy has announced that it will represent Canada's interests in Iran following the closure of the Canadian embassy in the country. (Google Maps)

Italy announced this week that it will represent the Canadian government in Iran following the departure of Canadian diplomats from the Middle Eastern country. The Harper government announced on September 7th that it had closed the Canadian embassy in Tehran and ordered the Iranian embassy in Canada closed and Iranian diplomats to leave Canada within five days.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, known to be a strong ally of Israel’s hard-line Likud government, said that diplomatic relations with Iran were being cut because “[Iran] routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide”.

Many in the Canadian diplomatic community, including three former Canadian ambassadors to Iran, have criticized the decision however. Kenneth Taylor, who was Canadian ambassador to Iran from 1977 to 1980 and famously helped American diplomats escape Iran during the hostage crisis, said about the move: “I really can’t see the rationale of this move … It’s a very bold stroke to sever diplomatic relations and close the embassy within five days.”

Former Canadian ambassador to Iran from 1972 to 1977, James George, said in an interview with the Globe and Mail that having a Canadian embassy in Iran was important “in defending our citizens who are on death row in Iran, and not have to go through another embassy that has other priorities.”

Mr. George, who is 93, said the move makes a Middle East war more likely: “[the embassy closure] fuels speculation about a possible attack, adds to the tension and the likelihood that something will happen. I think it was the wrong move for that reason.”

John Mundy, who was Canada’s ambassador to Iran until 2007, also weighed in with strong words about the decision:

“This is the first time in decades that a Canadian prime minister, Liberal or Conservative, appears to be advocating approaches that reduce diplomatic opportunities for peace during an international crisis”

Despite the criticism, the move has been received positively by the majority of the Canadian public, with 72 percent of Canadians in a recent Angus Reid survey saying they supported cutting diplomatic ties with Iran.

Canada Ranks 5th in World Ranking of Economic Freedom, US Falls to 18th

Canada is now ranked as having the freest economy in North America, thirteen places ahead of the United States, the historic symbol of economic freedom in the world (NASA/GSFC)

Canada tied Australia for fifth freest economy in the world in the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of the World report, released yesterday. Canada improved its position by one spot while the US saw its ranking drop by ten spots from last year’s index.

The Fraser Institute’s economic freedom index scores countries’ degree of economic freedom by five criteria:

  1. Size of Government- a measure of how much government spends as a percentage of GDP, how much of the economy is directed by government-managed firms rather than the private sector, and income and payroll tax rates.
  2. Legal System and Property Rights- the extent to which private property ownership rights are protected and contracts are enforced by an independent judiciary and impartial court system.
  3. Sound Money- how well a country’s central bank maintains a low and stable inflation rate, and the freedom of people in a country to user alternative currencies and foreign bank accounts.
  4. Freedom to Trade Internationally- the degree of freedom people in a country enjoy from international trade barriers set up by their governments.
  5. Regulation- the extent of freedom from government restrictions on mutually voluntary activities. Countries with fewer regulations like minimum wage restrictions, dismissal regulations, and mandatory acceptance of collective bargaining requests score higher in this area.

The economic data used in the index is from 2010, as that is the most recent comprehensive data available, and comes from external sources like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.

For the sixteenth year in a row, Hong Kong and Singapore ranked first and second place in the index. The two East Asian economies have the lowest levels of government spending in the industrialized world, at approximately half that of Canada as a percentage of GDP, and the fewest restrictions on trade, labour and business activities of any of the 144 countries and territories included in the index.

Like most industrialized countries, Canada received a low score in the Size of Government component, ranking 73rd in the world, due to high levels of government spending and high marginal tax rates, but ranked near the top of the index in the areas of Legal System and Property Rights (12th), and Regulation (6th), thanks to a strong rule of law providing secure rights to property, and few regulatory barriers in credit markets and on labour and business activities.

The US’s overall ranking suffered due to an increase in government spending, and a reduction in its scores in the areas of Rule of Law and Freedom to Trade Internationally.

Edmonton and Calgary to Have Fastest Economic Growth in Canada

Suncor Energy Centre in Calgary, Alberta. Edmonton and Calgary are expected to have the fastest economic growth in Canada according to the Conference Board of Canada’s Metropolitan Outlook-Autumn 2012 (Chuck Szmurlo)

The Albertan metropolises, Calgary and Edmonton, will have the fastest economic growth in Canada this year, followed closely by Regina, Saskatchewan, according to a forecast by the Conference Board of Canada’s Metropolitan Outlook-Autumn 2012, released today.

Alberta is expected to benefit from high levels of energy-industry-related investment for the next four years, which will help fund economic growth of 3.8 percent in Calgary and 4.6 percent in Edmonton in 2012.

Saskatchewan’s cities, also enjoying a resource-sector-led boom thanks to the province’s large oil and gas, potash, uranium, and lumber resources, will see strong growth over the next four years according to the report. The provincial capital, Regina, is expected to lead the province with economic growth of 3.6 percent in 2012.

Perhaps surprisingly given the city’s real estate slowdown, Vancouver is expected to have one of the best performing economies in Canada in the coming years, with economic growth of 3.1 percent in 2012, and average annual economic growth of 3.3 percent forecast for the next four years.