New Canadian Media
Wednesday, 27 September 2017 21:52

McGill Students Root for U.S. Dreamers

By: Caitlin Atkinson in Montreal

On Sept. 5, in one of his cruellest acts yet, US President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was an immigration policy enacted by the Obama administration that allowed individuals who moved to America illegally as minors to remain in the country, given a certain set of conditions that ensure they make productive contributions to society. If Congress doesn’t find a way to legalize DACA and develop a plan in which DACA participants—affectionately known as “Dreamers”—can apply for US citizenship, upwards of 800,000 individuals face possible deportation to countries they barely know.

While Trump’s actions have led to an emotional outcry both within the US and internationally, at the same time, there exists a rising unwillingness to accept immigrants among Canadians. Under the presumption that an influx of Dreamers will attempt to migrate to Canada, some believe that the Canadian government should have the absolute power to admit only those with high academic or economic abilities. However, Canada’s approach to accepting thousands of Dreamers must reflect the diversity that Canada claims to embrace, and go beyond allowing only those the government subjectively deems as ‘the best.’ As Trump tries to rip these young people from all that they have ever known, Canada—and particularly its universities—has the humanitarian duty to provide a safe place and a legal channel for Dreamers to become citizens.

Though Canadians who oppose the northward immigration of Dreamers argue that it will overwhelm the country’s immigration system, it is incredibly unlikely that all 800,000 individuals in the DACA program will relocate to Canada. In a quote in a Vice article, Ontario Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar suggested that Canada should look to welcome 10,000 to 30,000 Dreamers. Canada, she argues, must capitalize on the opportunity to welcome a new wave of skilled workers, who will help to boost the economy.

Canadian post-secondary institutions should support the aspirations made possible by the DACA program in the first place, by accepting and helping to fund Dreamers’ transitions into Canadian society.

McGill students can surely empathize with the plights of Dreamers, especially those who are in the process of completing university degrees. Dreamers have spent the majority of their lives in the United States, and many have come to hope for the same type of social and financial success that McGill students aspire to. Now, they face the possibility of deportation, compromising their futures. Canadian post-secondary institutions should support the aspirations made possible by the DACA program in the first place, by accepting and helping to fund Dreamers’ transitions into Canadian society.

Huron University College in London, Ont. has already set an important example, offering $60,000 in scholarships to students affected by the overturn of the DACA program. At McGill, compensating for an increased number of transfer applicants when planning classes would allow for more space in programs to accommodate Dreamers. To further ease the transition, McGill students can start groups that lobby the administration to take action and recognize the unique circumstances of Dreamers and work to welcome them into the McGill community. By removing barriers to Dreamers’ enrollment in Canadian universities, Canadians can help to reverse the damage being done by the Trump Administration, and help to give these young adults a third chance at a future. Those who have already dedicated their time and energy into their schooling have a right to finish their education.

Morally, Canadians need to recognize the inherent abuse of power in the argument that the Canadian government should be highly selective in choosing which Dreamers have sufficient test scores or employability, and thus the right to immigrate to Canada. All should have the opportunity to apply and be fairly considered, without the constant paranoia of fitting narrow acceptance criteria. While, opposers of immigration harshly critique prioritizing citizens of other countries over born Canadians, its supporters argue that it is necessary for growth. What critics must recognize is the need for empathy, and to recognize the injustice that will occur if Canada does not provide social and economic opportunities.

Given that none of these individuals have criminal records, nor histories of violence, they deserve the opportunity to continue on their quest to achieve their goals, just like those fortunate enough to be born in Canada. Canada and its universities have the capacity to welcome Dreamers, and as a country that prides itself on compassion and diversity, we have a responsibility to protect the dream that Donald Trump is so desperately trying to crush.


Republished under arrangement with the McGill Tribune.

Published in Commentary
Thursday, 16 June 2016 14:06

Visa Officers Largely Bias-Free: Author

by Howard Ramos in Halifax, Nova Scotia 

In a country where over one in five people are immigrants and far more are children and relatives of immigrants, questions of who gets into Canada and how decisions are made on immigration matters are of central concern. For instance, does the immigration system profile people from particular countries or specific ethnic or racial backgrounds? How is family sponsorship evaluated? And why do some people get visas to visit while others don’t?

Questions like these are tackled head-on by McMaster sociologist Vic Satzewich in his prize winning book Points of Entry: How Canada’s Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In. He offers a comprehensive overview of Canada’s immigration system by looking at the overall social and political context driving immigration, the organizational structure of the Immigration department, and most interestingly, how immigration officers on the ground make decisions on individual applications and prospective immigrants. [We have excerpted a section of the Introduction to give readers a flavour of the kind of dilemmas visa officers face.]

Biases in the system

The professor visited 11 visa office abroad between 2010 and 2012 across all regions and also met with officials in Ottawa several times. In his visits he tagged along with visa officers to see how they do their jobs, reviewing field operating notes and discussing with them about how they make their decisions.

He was particularly interested in examining the discretion that immigration officers have in their decisions, and their role as, what he calls, street-level bureaucrats. Their discretion and ability to make on the ground decisions have led some to question whether there are biases and hidden agendas in Canada’s immigration system.

Satzewich found no direct evidence of discrimination in approval and refusal rates across visa offices around the world, nor did he observe it through the practices of immigration officers. In fact, he found little variation in rates across regions and source countries, with officers very aware of the need for consistent application of policies. He drilled down into specific visa categories by looking at decisions made around spousal and partner sponsorship, decisions on those applying under the skilled worker program, as well as those seeking visitor visas.

Satzewich found no direct evidence of discrimination in approval and refusal rates across visa offices around the world, nor did he observe it through the practices of immigration officers.

Continual change

His analysis of the family pathway offers important insights on the Canadian government’s concern with marriage fraud. His analysis is vivid and colouful, with descriptions of what goes into case processing and an explanation of how immigration officers identify anomalies they want to investigate and then ultimately the interviews they conduct with prospective immigrants and their sponsors.

His analysis of skilled workers offers a similar level of insight.

During his field research, Canada’s immigration system was in a period of rapid and constant change. Former immigration minister Jason Kenney tweaked how the system worked on a regular basis, ultimately leading to fundamental changes to the immigration system. Satzewich tracked those changes and how it affected the system and on the ground decisions by immigration officers.

One significant change documented is the increased importance of visitor visas over permanent residency with the introduction of a super visa for parents and grandparents, the rise of temporary foreign worker applications, and a move towards attracting more international students.

Another important change was the previous government’s move to rationalize the processing of immigrants and speed up the processing time.

Increased pressure

Rather than finding overt bias and discrimination in the immigration system, what Satzewich found was an increased pressure on immigration officers stemming from a move towards immigration processing targets, faster deadlines, increased use of impersonal evaluation criteria, the auditing of their decisions and a move away from interviews and discretionary autonomy.

... Satzewich found was an increased pressure on immigration officers stemming from a move towards immigration processing targets, faster deadlines, increased use of impersonal evaluation criteria, the auditing of their decisions and a move away from interviews and discretionary autonomy.

Despite all the changes, Satzewich did not find a nostalgic longing for “old times” among the immigration officers he spoke with. In part, this is because of generational turnover, with fewer and fewer officers having worked in the immigration system when their on-the-ground decisions carried more weight in the evaluation of files.

His research ultimately shows that Canadian immigration officers are highly dedicated to their jobs and recognize the weight of the decisions they make on a daily basis.

CLICK FOR EXCERPT:

  • Maria enters the interview booth with a broad, confident smile. Brenda, the visa officer responsible for reviewing her application, smiles back and asks her to close the sliding door behind her. There is no chair on Maria’s side of the small, six- by eight-foot interview booth, so she takes a few seconds to put her bag on the floor and try to get comfortable for the interview. She ends up leaning against the small ledge in front of the bulletproof glass window that separates visa applicants from visa officers. A few years ago, Canadian embassies installed the special glass in their interview booths because of safety and security concerns. People sometimes get angry when their visa application is refused, and in this day and age, you can never be too careful.

    Brenda points to the telephone on the wall and gestures to Maria that she should pick it up. She welcomes Maria and introduces herself as “the visa officer responsible for your case.” She asks Maria in English if she can understand what she is saying. Maria nods in agreement, but Brenda asks her to please say “yes” or “no.” Maria says “yes.” Brenda needs a verbal response because she has to document her decision-making process by keeping notes of the questions asked, Maria’s replies, and her own assessment of the answers. Brenda then asks if she is comfortable conducting the interview in English, and since Maria lived in the United States for several years, she says “yes” but asks that Brenda “speak slowly.”

    Brenda already knows a lot about Maria and her circumstances from the spousal application for immigration that she and her Canadian sponsor submitted eight months ago. Maria’s husband wants her to join him in Saskatoon, and as part of the application, couples are asked to tell the story of their relationship. Brenda reviewed the application about a month ago, but something about the couple’s story did not add up. Her program assistant contacted Maria to schedule the interview so that Brenda’s concerns could be addressed.

    Visa officers do not interview every applicant for admission to Canada. In fact, headquarters in Ottawa likes them to keep the number of interviews down and encourages them to make their decisions solely on the basis of the information in the application. Interviews take a lot of time, and time in a visa office is in short supply. Officers are trained to make their decisions to approve or refuse visa applications relatively quickly. Brenda has two or three dozen files stacked on the corner of her desk and on top of two filing cabinets in her office. Her program assistant is working on a couple dozen other files at various stages of processing. Globally, there are thousands of applications in what Citizenship and Immigration euphemistically calls its “inventory,” which is its code word for “backlog.” The more time Brenda spends on one file, the longer other applicants must wait for a decision.

    Officers must also meet their yearly visa issuance targets. It is early December, and Brenda’s office has not yet met its target for family class spousal visas. If Brenda fails to meet it, this will reflect badly on her and on her boss, the immigration program manager. Headquarters in Ottawa will also be unhappy because it will have to find another visa office to pick up the slack. All the other offices are also working hard to meet their own targets, so a last-minute request to increase a target because another office has not met its own quota means that something has gone awry. If no other office manages to fill the gap, the overall target for family class admissions will not be met, and the immigration minister will want to know why. The minister announced the targets the year before in Parliament and will be held accountable by the Opposition if the number of visas falls far below, or far above, them. Since politics are politics, Opposition colleagues can be rather unforgiving in their assessment of a cabinet minister’s performance and will relish any opportunity to cast the minister as incompetent or as failing to control his or her department.

    In a family class spousal sponsorship case, such as that of Maria, Brenda must be “satisfied” that the relationship between Maria and her husband in Canada is “genuine” and that its primary purpose is not for Maria to gain permanent resident status in Canada. Upon reviewing the file a month earlier, Brenda suspected that this might be a marriage of convenience. She uses the interview to figure out whether the relationship is real and whether its primary purpose is immigration.

    After asking a few simple, factual questions – Maria’s full name, date of birth, and other matters that already appear on the application – Brenda starts to focus more closely: “It says on your application that you lived in the United States for fifteen years and that you returned to Guatemala three years ago. Why did you return to Guatemala after living for so many years in the United States?” Maria explains that she missed her family and returned to Guatemala to be closer to them. This sounds odd to Brenda, who thinks to herself, “Why would someone voluntarily leave the United States to go back and live in Guatemala?” She suspects that Maria is concealing something, so she pointedly asks, “Were you deported from the United States?” After pausing for a moment to reflect on her answer, Maria admits that she was slated for deportation but chose to leave before the American authorities put her on the plane. She does not explain why she was going to be deported, but Brenda puts two and two together and surmises that Maria probably overstayed her original visa and then somehow caught the attention of US immigration authorities. For Brenda, Maria’s original evasive answer to the question of why she left the United States confirms her concerns and prompts her to dig deeper.

    She moves on. “How did you meet your husband?” Maria explains that they first met at the birthday party of a mutual friend when they were both living in Los Angeles. They dated a few times, but nothing really came of the dates. A few years later, they met again at another birthday party of a mutual friend, this time after she had returned to Guatemala.

    Brenda also knows a fair amount about Maria’s husband. She has access to the Field Operations Support System database, which contains information about the application history of everyone who has applied for admission to Canada in the past several years. Before the interview, Brenda pulled up the file for Maria’s husband, which told her that he, too, is from Guatemala and that seven years ago he submitted a successful refugee claim in Canada. He had lived in the United States for several years but then crossed the border into Canada at Surrey, British Columbia. She suspects that he, too, was scheduled for removal from the United States and that rather than return to Guatemala, he decided to take a chance with the Canadian refugee determination system. When he crossed at Surrey, he must have uttered words to the effect that “I am a refugee.” As soon as Canada Border Services Agency staff heard the word “refugee,” a complex refugee determination process came into play. Ultimately, Maria’s husband convinced the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board that he was genuinely in fear of his life in Guatemala, so he was granted permanent residence status in Canada.

    After this, he returned to Guatemala to visit some old friends, where “by chance,” he met Maria again. Since he planned to be in Guatemala for a month, they started dating, and this time they fell in love. Within two weeks, they were married at a small civil ceremony. A few close friends attended. Though his mother and two brothers lived in Guatemala, they were not at the wedding. Maria explains that they lived “far away” and could not travel to Guatemala City for the wedding. She adds that her mother and sister stayed away because they thought that her husband was not “good enough” for her.

    As Maria explains the circumstances of how she met and married her husband, Brenda looks through a pile of thirty or forty photographs that the couple included in the application to support the story of their relationship. The photos show the marriage ceremony and the small reception that followed it. One shot shows about twelve guests seated at a large restaurant table, all happily toasting the bride and groom.

    The other pictures are of the wedding night and the honeymoon. The wedding night photos show the couple in the bedroom. She is wearing lingerie; he is in a bathrobe with his chest exposed. They are lying on a bed, smiling directly into the camera and toasting with champagne. Brenda looks at these pictures and cracks a barely visible smile. She thinks to herself, “Why on earth would they have a photographer in their bedroom on their wedding night?” The honeymoon photos show the couple on a beach in Panama. Maria explains that they chose Panama because they got a good deal on a package offered by a local resort. Shortly after their honeymoon, Maria’s husband returned to Canada and began the process of sponsoring her for permanent resident status.

    Brenda then turns to the issue of children. “It says on your application that you have a child in the United States.” “Yes, she is grown and goes to college.” “Were you ever married before?” “No, this is my first marriage.” Finally, Brenda moves on to questions about Maria’s relationship with her husband. “It says on your application that you talk to your husband every day for about twenty minutes.” Also included in the file are a stack of phone cards that Maria says she uses to call her husband in Saskatoon. The cards provide no information about the numbers that were dialed or the length of the calls. Since, in themselves, they are not evidence of much, Brenda asks, “So what do you talk about with your husband when you call?” Maria says that they talk about how much they love and miss each other, and how they can’t wait to be together again. Brenda smiles, but then asks, “Okay, but you can’t talk about love all of the time. What else do you talk about?” “We talk about our lives and our future life together, things like that.” At this point in the interview, Brenda starts to drill down, to look for specifics. In her view, real couples talk about more than just love: genuine partners have some knowledge of each other’s past and everyday lives and circumstances.

    “Where does your husband work?” “A trucking company; I think its name is On Time Trucking, or something like that.”

    “What is the name of your husband’s boss?” “I don’t know.”

    “What are the names of some of the people he works with?” “He does not really have any friends at work.”

    “What are the names of his non-work friends?” “He sometimes talks about a guy named Sam, who lives in the same apartment building.”

    “What kind of apartment does he live in, and how many bedrooms does it have?” “I don’t know.”

    “What is his favourite meal?” “Hamburgers.”

    “What does he like to cook for himself?” “Hamburgers.”

    “What was the last movie he saw?” “Friday the Thirteenth.” “So, he likes scary movies?” “Uh huh.”

    This back-and-forth about Maria’s knowledge of her husband and his life in Canada lasts about ten minutes, and then Brenda asks, “Are you looking forward to moving to Saskatoon?” “Yes, very much.” “What is Saskatoon like?” “I don’t really know, but it seems it is a lot like California.” Brenda, visibly surprised by this answer, says, “Really? What makes Saskatoon like California?” Maria pauses for a moment and replies, “There is shopping there, it is clean, things like that.” “Have you ever seen any pictures of Saskatoon in the winter?” “No.”

    The interview lasts for about an hour, and after the last question Brenda takes a few minutes to review the overall application and digest Maria’s answers. She then tells Maria that she is not satisfied that her relationship with her husband is genuine, and that she believes that the primary reason for her marriage is to gain permanent resident status in Canada. She details the “concerns” that have led to her assessment. Maria listens with apparent surprise that her story is not believed and spends the next few minutes trying to address each of Brenda’s concerns by repeating what she has already said. After listening intently, Brenda says, “Thank you, I am ready to make my decision.”

    In the end, what decision do you think Brenda made? Did she grant Maria her family class spousal visa, or did she refuse the application? Was Maria in a real relationship, or was it a fake? Did she get married primarily because she wanted to become a permanent resident in Canada or because she loved her husband and wanted to start a new life with him?

    Canadian visa officers must answer these kinds of questions every day. They make decisions about who should, and should not, be issued a visa to enter Canada, both as permanent and temporary residents.

    Excerpted with permission from Points of Entry: How Canada’s Immigration Officers Decide Who Gets In, by Vic Satzewich, 2015, UBC Press, Vancouver and Toronto, Canada.

Howard Ramos is a Professor of Sociology at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on issues of social justice including the non-economic elements of immigration and examination of family and non-economic streams of immigration to Canada. 

Published in Books

AN 18-month transition period is now over for post-secondary institutions in British Columbia to obtain the recognized quality-assurance designation, Education Quality Assurance, in order to host international students. “All post-secondary institutions and language schools in British Columbia that enrol international students on study permits must have Education Quality Assurance designation,” said Advanced Education Minister […]

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Published in Education
Tuesday, 01 December 2015 14:12

Foreign Student Enrolment in Canada Rising

by Selina Chignall in Ottawa

A Statistics Canada report shows foreign student enrolment at Canada’s universities and colleges rose 2.5 per cent in 2013-2014, with international students accounting for roughly 10 per cent of all students enrolled in post-secondary institutions. 

The bulk of foreign students are enrolled in universities and colleges in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, Statistics Canada reported. Those from Asian countries made up the bulk of foreign students, with China the top country of citizenship.

International students filling gaps 

The Dean of Business at the University of New Brunswick, Fazley Siddiq says there are many reasons why universities are looking to recruit international students.

One reason is the shortage of qualified domestic students, due to declining birth rates. He says that post-secondary institutions have enrolment targets they try to meet, and if there aren’t enough domestic students, international students help fill in those gaps.

Students from abroad also bring an additional plus to educational institutions — extra revenue.

“This is happening right across all post-secondary colleges, including community colleges,” he said. 

Students from abroad also bring an additional plus to educational institutions — extra revenue.

According to Statistics Canada, those from abroad paid an average of $20,477 in 2014 to 2015 for undergraduate — an increase of 6.8 per cent from the year before. This is three times more than what the average Canadian student paid in tuition in 2014-2015, which was $5,959.

David Robinson, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said most provinces have deregulated student fees for international students. Therefore, universities can charge whatever they want. “They can be quite astronomical,” he said.

Not just the universities benefitting financially 

International students bring a diversity to student bodies, but Robinson is concerned that they are mostly valued “for the money they bring onto campus.”

But Siddiq says international students are a necessity. Without them, many universities, especially in Atlantic Canada, would be in economic hardship, as they face declining government support and rising costs. “It’s much needed cash for universities.”

[M]any students abroad are willing to pay those fees because receiving a degree from a North America school is seen as prestigious.

“We are looking for our revenues from all sources, and in the declining public funding environment, you have to do your best to increase your revenue, and international students do help us do that.”

It’s not just the universities that benefit financially from international students. The Canadian Bureau for International Students’ reported that in 2014, the economic boost from international students poured $8 billion into the Canadian economy.

Despite the sky-high costs of attending post-secondary school in Canada, Robinson said many students abroad are willing to pay those fees because receiving a degree from a North America school is seen as prestigious.

Also, in many countries like China and India, there is a growing demand for these degrees, but there is not enough space in schools to meet the demand. Therefore, many students look abroad to attend school.


Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Education
Tuesday, 06 October 2015 03:01

International Residents Talk Politics

Vancouver is home to people from all over the world, but international workers and students often stay only temporarily and are not eligible to participate in political decision-making. SFU Masters student Alexander Beyer and temporary work permit holders Eduard Barcélon, Yulia Hadi and Kirstin Keuder open up about their approaches to politics in Canada and…

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Published in Politics
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 14:32

Nova Scotia Aims to Lead in Immigration

by Kelsey Power in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia now has the ability to fast track an additional 300 immigrants through new express entry streams.

The announcement made by Premier Stephen McNeil and Immigration Minister Lena Diab earlier this month came after the federal government gave into the province’s pressure.

It’s great news, we have worked extremely, extremely hard in this province and that’s recognition that the federal government and CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) has seen that,” Diab told New Canadian Media. “We want to be seen as the hardest working provincial jurisdiction in the country when it comes to immigration.”

Nova Scotia will now be allowed to nominate 1,350 immigrants under the provincial nominee program (PNP) this year, nearly double the 700 nominees the province was previously capped at.

Originally 350 spots had been reserved for the express entry streams, and they were already filled at the time of this increase.

It was also recently announced that Nova Scotia’s PNP will now include two new streams: the entrepreneur stream and the international graduate entrepreneur stream.

“It’s important to poke at the notion of how much things are increasing or decreasing,” says Howard Ramos, a political sociologist who is a professor at Dalhousie University. “We’re not talking about a huge increase here, 300 more spots under express entry is not a large number of people.”

Despite this, Ramos does view the announcement positively. 

“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province.”

“Anything that can improve or increase the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia is going to help the province,” he says. “I think that it will mean change, but change is a good thing.”

Express entry applicants bringing their families, buying property and engaging in other markets and services is a step towards solving Nova Scotia’s demographic and economic issues, explains Ramos, but it may not solve the province’s rural needs.

“I think the intent is to spread out migration to all the parts of the province, but if the jobs are actually in Halifax I’m not so confident there will be so much of a spread as people may hope for,” says Ramos.

According to Gerry Mills, director of operations for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), approximately 25 per cent of people coming into Nova Scotia have said they were interested in settling outside the urban area of Halifax, but many eventually have to move to the city to find employment.

“I think there are communities across Nova Scotia who really see immigration as part of the solution to their demographic challenges,” says Mills. “The reality is that immigrants come from large urban centres. They’re risk takers and they want to move to urban centres.”

Nova Scotia’s pioneering streams

The national express entry system is an electronic system that was introduced in January to better manage how skilled workers apply to immigrate to Canada. It prioritizes people based on their ability to settle and take part in Canada’s economy, rather than the first come, first serve system.  

Its main improvement has been decreasing application processing times, although it also aims to fill labour shortages.

The three federal economic immigration programs it is tied to are: the federal skilled worker program, the federal skilled trades program and the Canadian experience class.

“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada.”

Nova Scotia was the first province to create its own associated streams. Under the PNP, these are Nova Scotia demand, created last January, and Nova Scotia experience, introduced in May.

Both streams, like the national express entry system itself, are aimed at highly skilled immigrants. Ideal candidates for Nova Scotia would be individuals already living there and contributing to the economy – like international graduates.

“When we launched the Nova Scotia experience express entry stream in May 2015, it was innovative, it was not anywhere else in Canada,” recalls Diab. “We received numerous calls from other provinces looking for advice on how we’re doing what we’re doing, which is actually wonderful.”

The program was launched specifically to help students working in Nova Scotia to become permanent residents, aiding both international graduates and their employers.  

“This is exclusively for Nova Scotia graduates who are working for Nova Scotia employers in jobs where these employers are saying these are the people that we need and want because they have the skill that we couldn’t find in other graduates,” says Diab. “It’s a win for everybody.”

Benefits of a provincial stream

When an express entry candidate is nominated through any PNP they are invited to apply for permanent residency.

These applicants must have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy of the province or territory they are applying to and must want to live there. There is no requirement as to how long they must stay.

“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream."

The difference between applying to the provincial express entry systems versus the national one is if the candidate is nominated by a PNP he or she gains a higher Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. This is the tool used to evaluate an express entry individual’s profile credentials.

A PNP nomination, and associated job offer, garners 600 of a possible 1,200 points.

Without the direct nomination, hopefuls must apply to the Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) job bank in search of one. The idea is employers in provinces and territories would then search through this pool for candidates.

Nine months later, though, the job bank is still not operational.  

“In terms of actually getting in, it would always be faster to go through a provincial stream because you get those 600 points, which now automatically gets you in because the numbers are so low,” explains Mills. “It’s like a cream rises to the top situation: in January you had to have 700 and something points, last week it was 400.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

 

Published in Top Stories
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 17:16

Promising Prospects for B.C. Students from Mexico

by Aurora Tejeida in Vancouver

Though its diaspora community in British Columbia might not be the biggest or most visible, Mexico is Canada’s third largest trade partner and the ninth largest contributor of international students.

In fact, it sends the most international students to Canada of any other Latin American country.

It was in this context that Juan Navarro decided to organize the first Mexi-Can Forum. The event, which took place earlier this month at The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Robson Square, brought together leaders in education, innovation and entrepreneurship from both the public and private sectors.

“One of the main purposes of this forum was to make it clear that Mexicans in B.C. are contributing to Canadian society,” explains Navarro.

“I think this is a great time for Mexicans to prove we can be there for each other.”

Navarro is the president of the B.C. chapter of the Society of Mexican Talent — a global network that operates in 45 different locations around the world with each chapter focusing on different subjects.

According to Navarro, the B.C. group, which was only created a year ago, is heavily focused on education, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship – the same subjects that were broadly discussed during the forum.

“I think this is a great time for Mexicans to prove we can be there for each other,” says Navarro. “Not just because we share a culture and many of us are coming here and starting from zero. But because we can achieve great things.”

Mexico: A strategic ally

The forum opened with keynote speeches by Claudia Franco Hijuelos, Consul General of Mexico in Vancouver, Andrew Wilkinson, the Minister of Advanced Education in B.C. and Andrea Reimer, city councillor and Deputy Mayor of Vancouver.

During his keynote speech, Wilkinson noted that Mexico is a strategic ally in international education and that the province is interested in receiving more Mexican students. There are currently more than 400 signed agreements among universities and higher-education institutions in both countries.

[T]he number of Mexican students in Canada grew by 58 per cent between 2004 and 2013.

According to data provided during the conference by Mitacs, a non-for-profit research organization governed by Canada’s research universities, Canada ranks as the world’s seventh most popular destination for international students.

The number of international students grew by 84 per cent between 2003 and 2013, and Canada’s International Education Strategy aims to increase international students to 450,000 by 2022.

Specifically, the number of Mexican students in Canada grew by 58 per cent between 2004 and 2013.

A brand new Canada-Mexico International Education Agreement, which was announced in June, aims to invest $10 million to attract Mexican post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows to Canadian universities and research institutions, as well as give Canadian students the opportunity to diversify their research experience in Mexico.

Growing possibilities in tech

While this is an exciting time for Mexican students, one of the most noteworthy aspects of the forum was the evident optimism surrounding the fast growing technology sector in Vancouver and the employment possibilities this sector is creating for current and future talent – foreign or domestic.

In his presentation, Robert Helsley, Dean of the Sauder School of Business at UBC, made a point to highlight the importance of partnerships between growing industries and educational institutions. In the case of Vancouver, the fastest growing sector is technology.

“The most important thing is talent and the tech firms will come here if there is talent."

According to Helsley, the best way to know which industry is concentrated in any given city is through a measure called the location quotient, which is measured by taking the percentage of employment in a local industry and dividing it by the percentage of employment in that industry on a national level.

“The industries concentrated in a city lets you know what’s basic for the local economy,” explains Helsley. “In Vancouver, it’s data processing, motion picture and video industries, publishing industries (which includes software), water transportation, rail transportation, wholesaling and warehouses.” 

Helsley further explains that these industries are related to the city’s port and technology sector. Since the port sector is already extremely successful, the more likely candidate for growth in Vancouver is technology. 

The numbers support this. According to data provided by Helsley, in five years only 69,000 jobs were created in Vancouver; however, 12,400 of those jobs (20 per cent) were in the scientific and technical services industry. 

“IT is relatively concentrated and it’s growing quickly,” says Helsley. “The most important thing is talent and the tech firms will come here if there is talent. And that means that education is particularly important, especially in engineering and business.”  

This also means that the creation of a space like the Mexi-Can forum, which focuses on creating international partnerships in the technology, innovation and education sectors, is a step in the right direction. 

For Navarro, this year’s forum is just the beginning. He’s already planning next year’s. 

“We would like more people to come next year. There’s lots of space to grow, maybe branching to other provinces or making it a national forum.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Education
Wednesday, 16 September 2015 02:00

International Students Flock to Lower Mainland

by Leah Bjornson in Vancouver

As students in the Lower Mainland settle into their back to school routine this fall, they’re more likely than ever to find themselves sitting next to a classmate who is a citizen of another country.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, 20 per cent more international students arrived in the region this year as compared to 2013/2014, raising the amount of international student tuition earned by the Lower Mainland’s 11 school districts to a combined total of $113.8 million.

International students at both the K-12 and post-secondary levels spent almost $1.8 billion on tuition, accommodation, and other living expenses in 2010, generating almost $70 million in government tax revenue, according to British Columbia’s International Education Strategy (BCIES). 

With its diverse, multicultural population, Vancouver became an ideal destination for families who might already have connections to the city.

“Nobody went out to seek it. It came to us,” explained Barb Onstad, the Manager of International Education for the Vancouver School district when describing the influx of international students in the area.

According to Onstad, this trend began in the late 1980s when parents (mostly from countries in Asia) were looking to send their children abroad, either to the United States, the UK, or Canada. With its diverse, multicultural population, Vancouver became an ideal destination for families who might already have connections to the city.

Although it began almost 30 years ago, this trend shows no signs of slowing down today. Non-residents now make up 2.6 per cent of total Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) students, compared with 1.8 per cent in 2011.

Influx of revenue

In a time when Canada’s population growth is only sustained by immigration, these numbers are important for local school districts. “We’re in a declining enrolment situation locally here, so one of our goals is to invite students who would like to come and study here,” stated Onstad. “And with the mix of students that we get we can continue to provide a lot of the programs that we offer in our schools.”

Beyond compensating for declining enrolment, international students bring an influx of revenue into the Lower Mainland, each paying approximately $13,000 in tuition on average for a year of schooling.

“Obviously tuition fees are a big addition in revenue to all of the school districts across Canada that are hosting international students.”

 

The Vancouver school district attracted the most international students this year, with 1,511 full-time non residents enrolled, earning the district $19.65 million in tuition. This accounts for approximately four per cent of the district’s total operating budget.

The Vancouver School Board (VSB) uses a significant proportion of the revenue gained from the international student program to hire teachers and fund programs that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

For example, this year, the VSB will employ over 80 teachers whose salaries are directly funded from the program. “Obviously tuition fees are a big addition in revenue to all of the school districts across Canada that are hosting international students,” Onstad said. 

Benefits beyond dollars and cents

The impact of these students on the province’s education system does not stop here. According to BCIES, four out of every 10 international students who graduate from a B.C. high school start a B.C. post-secondary program within a year. For post-secondary institutions, the tuition earned from these students is critical, especially considering recent cuts to total operating budgets by the provincial government. 

“Expanding our international student base is just one of the ways that UBC is addressing current financial pressures.”

“We’re facing the challenge of increasing expenses because of the need to invest in learning resources and programs, inflation, the rising cost of electricity, etc. as well as dealing with reduced provincial funding and limits on domestic tuition,” explained Andrew Simpson, the VP Finance at the University of British Columbia (UBC). 

Currently, UBC enrols 11,965 international students, making up approximately 20 per cent of their total population and earning the university $127 million in tuition in 2014/15, approximately six per cent of its total operating fund revenue.

Although the university has been accused in the past of using international students as a means by which to balance the budget, Simpson stated that the university has been looking at a variety of means to offset costs.

“Expanding our international student base is just one of the ways that UBC is addressing current financial pressures,” he said.

“We are also doing this through property development through UBC Properties Trust and by working with our generous donor and alumni communities. More importantly, international students bring valuable and diverse perspectives to the campus that enrich the entire community's experience and open up global opportunities.”


Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

Published in Education

Vancouver’s post-secondary institutions draw students and faculty members from all over the world. SFU Masters’ student Daniel Mundeva, UBC Masters’ student Yimei Li, and UBC PhD candidate Felix Boeck relate their experiences of studying and working in Vancouver. Daniel Mundeva, who completed his undergraduate degree in Geography at UBC, is currently working towards an MA…

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Published in Education

A new $150,000 scholarship program that will benefit 120 students from China, Japan and South Korea ignores India. Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced the new British Columbia International Education Scholarships on Tuesday during his current mission to Asia. Under the program the ministry will provide each country’s students with awards totalling $50,000. Forty students from […]

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