CIC Releases Audio Book Version of Citizenship Test Guide

The Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship guide is now available as an audio-text eBook (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced the release of a downloadable audio eBook of the Discover Canada citizenship test guide on Friday.

The eBook allows a reader to listen to an audio version of the guide while they follow along by reading the text on any digital viewer.

Since launching in 2009, almost one million hard copies and 400,000 digital copies of the guide have been distributed, which CIC says makes it one of the most widely read government publications in Canadian history.

The audio portion of the eBook includes readings by well known Canadians Adrienne Clarkson, Ian Hanomansing and, in the French version, Jean-Benoît Rainville.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced the new integrated audio eBook to coincide with Canada Day:

“I’m pleased to launch the audio eBook version of Discover Canada just in time for Canada Day. This is yet another way those studying for the citizenship test can learn about Canada’s history, values, symbols and important institutions.”

The new guide could help improve the pass rate of Canadian citizenship exam takers, which has fallen in recent years as the test has been made more difficult.

New Statistics Canada Report Shows High Education Levels Among Immigrants

Canadian immigrants hold slightly over half of all STEM university degrees in the country according to a new Statistics Canada report (Chris Moncus, CC-BY-SA-2.0)

A new Statistics Canada report on the educational attainment of Canadians shows once again that the country’s immigrants tend to be highly educated and educated in demanding fields of study.

The report’s most striking finding is that immigrants hold about half (50.9 percent) of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) university degrees in Canada.

With adult immigrants making up about 25 percent of the adult population of Canada, this indicates that immigrants are about twice as likely to hold STEM degrees as members of the general population.

These findings are likely a result of Canadian immigration selection criteria, that over the last few decades, has favoured applicants with occupational skills and experience that are in demand in Canada, which, like doctors and engineers, tend to require a STEM education.

Consistent with this explanation and demonstrating the high standards applicants for Canadian immigration are held to, the report found that over two-fifths of doctorate degrees held by Canadians were earned outside of Canada.

Despite these impressive figures, new Canadian immigrants earn substantially less than the average Canadian, with the gap growing since 1980 despite immigrants gaining on the general population in average level of educational attainment.

One possible cause of this discrepancy is a shift, that started in the 1970s, in immigration source countries, away from English-speaking countries at similar levels of economic development as Canada, to less developed, non-English-speaking countries.

The educational credentials from less developed countries are often not as valuable as an equivalent degree in Canada, while immigrants from these countries often require an adjustment period to adapt to Canada’s culture and become proficient in its official languages.

Immigrants from developed, English-speaking countries on the other hand often have an easier time adopting Canadian culture and integrating economically in the country.

Canadian Foreign Service Officers Picket in Front of PM Office

Members of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) picketed in front of the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday (GOOGLE MAPS)

Canadian diplomatic staff belonging to the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), a union for foreign service officers employed with the Canadian government, held a picket outside the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday to draw attention to their strike.

The dispute is over claims by PAFSO that foreign service officers receive less pay than public servants in similar position in other departments of the federal government.

For example, a foreign service officer on the level-2 pay scale starts out making $65,304 per year, which can increase to up to $82,630 with experience. The Treasury Board has offered to raise the maximum pay for foreign services on the level-2 pay scale to about $87,000. PAFSO says this is still not enough, as it is about $11,000 less than comparatively experienced employees at the same level in the commerce division.

The federal government says that positions in Canada’s foreign service are highly sought after, and earn benefits not available to other public servants, like partial reimbursement for dry cleaning, a vehicle, and an incentive allowance for working outside the country.

PAFSO members say these overseas benefits are available to all federal public servants that work overseas, including those working in federal departments which have employees that receive higher salaries than comparable foreign service officers, so don’t compensate for the pay deficiency of foreign service officers relative to other federal employees.

Strike action by PAFSO is affecting services at Canadian missions in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Jakarta, Bangkok, Washington, Delhi, Chandigarh, Bogota, and Sao Paolo.

There is concern that delays in processing visas as a result of the strike will hurt Canada’s tourism industry

CIC Releases Immigration Information Through New Open Data Portal

The new Open Data Portal provides data under the ‘Open Government License’, which allows use, modification and re-use of the data by anyone (Government of Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) joined other departments of the government of Canada last week in the launch of the groundbreaking Open Data Portal, which promises to make much of the data collected by the Canadian government freely accessible to the public.

Praising the new data portal, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said:

“The new Open Data Portal is a remarkable tool that enables Canadians to easily access important information about immigration to Canada, and use this information to spur innovation and economic growth. I encourage all Canadians to visit our datasets if they have not yet done so as the information is useful and relevant, and there is great potential for its use.”

CIC says that its datasets are already among the most popular, with the six most downloaded belonging to it. Among the types of information included are the countries of origin of Canadian immigrants, the number who were admitted through each immigration program, the cities and provinces where immigrants settled, and application inventories and processing times.

The launch of the Open Data Portal is in line with the Open Data Charter of Principles that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper promoted at the last G-8 Leaders Summit in Northern Ireland. The Charter calls on governments to release data they collect in online registries and give users unrestricted rights to use and re-use the data.

The Charter also includes standards to raise data quality and increase interoperability and comparability, as well as prioritizing the early release of high-value data types.

The federal government says that its practices currently meet or exceed the requirements of the Charter, which demonstrates the country’s commitment to transparency and Open Government.

The Open Data Portal is hosted on, and contains datasets provided by over 20 federal departments and agencies.

Crime-Fighting Immigration Legislation Becomes Law

The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act received Royal Assent on June 19, 2013, making it law in Canada (Steven W. Dengler)

The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act has officially become law, making it easier to deport foreign criminals from Canada.

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney welcomed the grant of Royal Assent to the legislation:

“This new law will keep Canadians safer by ending endless appeals and loopholes that were being used by dangerous foreign criminals to delay their deportation, during which time many committed more crimes.

Canadians can now feel more confident in the integrity of our immigration system because violent criminals and fraudsters will be kept out while genuine visitors are welcome.”

The legislation amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to:

  • Make deportation of foreign criminals from Canada easier;
  • Increase barriers to dangerous individuals entering Canada; and
  • Reduce hurdles for non-dangerous visitors to Canada.

The legislation has received the support of several organizations, including the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, the Canadian Police Association, and Victims of Violence and Immigrants for Canada.

Among the changes made by the legislation are limiting the access to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)’s Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) from foreign criminals, which CIC says will reduce the time criminals are able to stay in Canada by up to 18 months.

The Act also prevents foreign nationals who are deemed inadmissible on the grounds of being a threat to national security, being responsible for human trafficking or international rights violations, or being party to organized criminality, from appealing to remain in Canada under humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Another change made by the legislation is the grant of new “negative discretionary powers” to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to refuse temporary entry even in cases when an individual has not been deemed a foreign criminal or inadmissible on the grounds of being a security threat or having involvement in human trafficking, international rights violations or organized criminality.

This power is the most controversial, as it enables a political party to refuse entry for political purposes. Many have charged the Harper government with doing this in 2010 when it initially refused to allow anti-war British MP George Galloway to enter Canada, based on accusations that his anti-war statements amounted to support for terrorism.

Kenney has tried to reassure critics that the new Ministerial power won’t be used in this way:

“We’re not looking at some broad, generalized power to prevent the admission of people to Canada whose political opinions we disagree with but rather those whose hateful attitudes, if given expression in Canada, could potentially lead to hateful actions or violence.”

Whether in years to come, the political inclinations of Canada’s ruling political party, whichever that may be, could bias their determination of what is a dangerous “hateful attitude”, remains to be seen.

CIC Wants Input from Canadians on Immigration

Ceremony celebrating Citizenship Week. Citizenship and Immigration Canada is asking Canadians for their input to shape the country’s immigration program (Government of Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is asking Canadians for their input to decide on the country’s level of immigration and the mix of immigration programs used in selecting new Canadians.

The three main areas on which CIC is seeking feedback on are:

  • The right level of immigration for Canada
  • The best mix – or ratio – between the number of economic immigrants, family class immigrants and the refugee/humanitarian class immigrants
  • How immigration programs can best be structured to contribute to Canada’s economy

Currently the federal government has a target of admitting between 240,000 and 265,000 immigrants in 2013. While many argue this is too many, and placing pressure on Canadian workers, some provincial governments are calling for higher levels of immigration to meet their provinces’ growing demand for labour amid ageing population.

Determining the best ‘mix’ of the different types of immigrants admitted will require evaluating the values that Canadians want the country’s immigration program to represent.

Currently 40 percent of immigrants come through family class and refugee / humanitarian class programs, while 60 percent come through economic class programs, which include the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Federal Immigrant Investor Program (FIIP).

The family and refugee class programs are meant to meet Canada’s commitment to the values of generosity and humanitarianism, while economic class programs are administered to benefit the country economically through their focus on admitting only the most skilled and qualified immigrants.

Stakeholders invited to provide input include employers, labour, academia, learning institutions, professional organizations, business organizations, regulatory bodies, municipalities, Aboriginal groups, settlement provider organizations and ethnocultural organizations.

The online consultations are open from June 21 to August 31, 2013, and are taking feedback here.

Canada Top Country for Immigrant Businesses – Financial Post

Canada tops the list of countries to start a business according to a new article in the Financial Post (Martin Cajzer)

An article featured in last Friday’s Financial Post makes the case for Canada being one of the best countries in the world for immigrants to start a business.

Among the factors that make Canada such a welcoming place for immigrant entrepreneurs are its business friendly environment and immigration program, says author Chris Riddell:

The World Bank labelled Canada the best place in the G-7 to start a business, and thanks to an open immigration policy, a comparatively easy one to enter. Add a strong banking system, growing job market, and high standard of living, and it’s no wonder it tops immigrant entrepreneurs’ list.

For many, the government’s Start-Up Visa launched in April is making Canada an even more appealing place.

For business people considering Canada as a destination for immigration, there are three points to consider:

  • The per capita income of new immigrants is well below the Canadian average, with the gap growing since the early 1970s despite the average level of education of recent immigrants increasing in the intervening time. The longer an immigrant is in Canada, the closer their income tends to be to the Canadian average.
  • Immigrants and first-generation Canadians make up a sizeable percentage of Canada’s millionaires, at 48 percent.
  • The average income of immigrants who are admitted into Canada through the business class immigration programs is slightly below that of immigrants admitted through the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), despite the former group having had to meet stringent capital and business experience requirements.

Taken together, it suggests that:

1) immigrants who arrive through economic class non-business immigration programs, like the FSWP, are likely not at a significant disadvantage compared to their business class counterparts in their chance of creating a successful business, that

2) immigrants are likely more entrepreneurial than the general population, and that

3) many immigrant business people fail for the few that succeed.

Matt Man, a successful immigrant businessman profiled for Riddell’s article, advises immigrants who are starting their business to try to get as much face-time as possible to improve their chance of success:

“Face to face can always make up for some of what I lost due to my accent or the way I’m communicating.”

Manitoba Premier: Western Provinces Ask for Increase in Immigration Limit

A crop field near Winnipeg, Manitoba. The western provinces of Canada called on the federal government to raise their provincial nominee program caps in a meeting on Monday (Shahnoor Munmun)

Canada’s western provinces called on the federal government to remove the caps on their provincial immigration programs on Monday, according to a recent Bloomberg News interview with Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger.

Selinger said the limits the federal government places on the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are making it difficult for them to fill their labour shortages:

“We’ve seen some changes that have potentially put a crimp in our ability to grow our economies and have people living in our communities.”

A PNP is a province specific program that allows the provincial government to nominate foreign nationals for permanent residency. Each PNP is limited to nominating a certain number of individuals per year, with each province’s cap being determined by the federal government.

Canada’s western provinces, which have one of the best performing regional economies in the developed world, have over the last decade been allowed to nominate a steadily increasing number of foreigners per year.

The first PNP started as a pilot project in Manitoba in 1997, and has subsequently expanded to all of the provinces, with the provincial governments looking to it as a way to counteract the ageing of their populations.

Ontario Government Objects to New Federal Job Grant Program

The new Canada Job Program will provide up to $15,000 per person for the training needed to qualify for a job. The Ontario government says the funding cuts required pay for the new program threaten other programs that vulnerable workers rely on (Tomas Castelazo)

The provincial government of Ontario says the diversion of federal funds from existing employment and training programs to the new Canada Job Grant program would threaten vulnerable workers including youth and new immigrants.

The Canada Job Grant program will spend $300 million in federal funds per year and will require matching funds from provinces and territories.

The program will provide grants of up to $15,000 per eligible individual to upgrade their skills for a new job. Employers will apply for the grants on behalf of unemployed and underemployed Canadians that they seek to hire for a job, and will contribute one-third of the grant money.

The Ontario government says that the $194 million in federal funding it currently receives supports many of its employment and training initiatives, including literacy and apprenticeship programs, and a reduction of this transfer to pay for the Canada Job Grant would hurt vulnerable Ontarians.

The federal government says that the new grants program will help 130,000 Canadians become trained for jobs every year, and that paying for it by reducing federal funding for other employment and training programs is necessary for its goal of controlling spending and balancing the budget.

The government is currently seeking the input of the provinces on ways to improve the job grants program.

Vancouver City Gov Introduces Universal Access Card for Recreational Facilities

The seawall that encircles Stanley Park. Accessing Vancouver’s recreational facilities will get easier with the introduction of the OneCard in September 2013

The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation announced last week that it will introduce a new universal access card for pools, rinks, fitness centres and community centres in the city.

The OneCard will replace over twenty separate cards used to access recreational facilities in Vancouver, making life more convenient for the city’s residents.

The universal access card will only enhance Vancouver’s stature as one of the best cities in the world for recreational activities.

Vancouver is one of the top destinations for new immigrants to Canada and is often rated at or the near top of international rankings for qualify of life, largely due to its many parks and recreational facilities and proximity to mountains, lush coastal forests and ocean.

The city is especially well known for its exceptional settings for outdoor activities. Stanley Park, a large park bordering downtown Vancouver, attracts approximately eight million visitors annually, and has been rated the sixth best park in North America.

The park has approximately 200 kilometres of trails and road, including a seawall encircling the entire peninsula which is used by an estimated 2.5 million pedestrians, cyclists, and inline skaters each year.