New Canadian Media

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City, with files from Jonathan Hiltz

A proposed plan to track the admission categories of immigrants who respond to Canada’s newly reinstated long-form census could help fill gaps of information about Canada’s newcomers.

Current admission categories refer to programs under which immigrants are granted permanent residency, such as family reunification, refugees and economic classes.

“These admission categories are from IRCC [Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada], and are not well-known by the immigrants themselves, particularly for those who were granted permanent residency decades ago or as children,” explains François Nault, director of the Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division at Statistics Canada.

“It’s very hard to ask on a survey or let alone on a census, ‘Under what admission category were you granted permanent residency in Canada?’” he continues.

Nault says StatsCan is exploring the possibility of linking immigrant respondents to their IRCC admission files, building on work that was done to make these same sorts of connections with the 2011 National Household Survey.

“We have a whole process to put in place and to test, but if all goes well, we're confident about the quality of the data that will become available,” he says.

Improving information sharing

Nault says that knowledge of immigrant respondents’ admission categories not only provides information on how many people are in Canada under each group, but that this information can be used with other census data for policy and program analysis.

“It gives us their level of education, their knowledge of French and English, their employment status, their revenue. So all this information we get in the census, everyone will now be able to analyze according to how immigrants were granted permanent residency in Canada.”

"We're confident about the quality of the data that will become available."

Researchers and those who provide services to newcomers say they're eager to receive the 2016 census data to fill in the knowledge gap they incurred when the mandatory long-from census was replaced with the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS) in 2010. The Conservative Government said it made the change to protect privacy and reduce penalties for failing to complete the mandatory questionnaire.

Shortly after being elected last year, the Liberal Government announced it would reinstate the mandatory long-form census

“The government is responding to calls from citizens, businesses, municipalities, not-for-profit organizations and researchers for high quality information to support decision making,” says Marc Hamel, director general of the Census Program at Statistics Canada.

The long-form census and the NHS

The elimination of the census was criticized by settlement organizations and researchers, who predicted that immigrants, who typically do not respond to surveys, would not feel obliged to complete the NHS. They were concerned that this would create a gap in knowledge about immigrants and the services they need in some communities.

“We know that people without official languages, the poor and the rich, all had lower response rates for the NHS,” says Dan Hiebert, a professor who studies international migration at the University of British Columbia. Along with language barriers, immigrants may not understand why the information is being collected and how it will be shared. 

According to StatsCan, the 2011 NHS got a response rate of 68.6 per cent, compared to a 94 per cent response rate for the 2006 mandatory census. The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants said the results, released in 2013, do not reflect a true picture of immigration in Canada. 

The elimination of the census was criticized by settlement organizations and researchers, who predicted that immigrants would not feel obliged to complete the NHS.

“By implementing the voluntary NHS, the Conservative Government created a gap in our knowledge of what challenges new immigrants face in their economic and social integration,” says Ather Akbari, chair of Atlantic Research Group on Economics of Immigration, Aging and Diversity at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, N.S. 

He adds that the knowledge gap makes it hard to compare information gathered from the NHS to previous census results. 

“My recent research investigates economic integration of immigrants in smaller areas of Canada, such as in Atlantic provinces and urban and rural centres of Atlantic Canada,” he says. “Because the NHS was a voluntary survey and response rates from smaller areas is generally lower, it affects the reliability of results of any evidence-based results focusing on smaller areas."

Filling the knowledge gap

Big cities also rely on census data to track the economic integration of recent immigrants.

Susan Liu Woronko, manager of Employment Services at DIVERSEcity, a non-profit agency servicing culturally diverse communities in Surrey, B.C., says the city is growing at a rate of 1,000 new residents every month, based on the municipality’s past estimates.

“After collection and analysis, the picture could be very different,” she says. “The timeliness, or the lack of, is an issue for a fast-growing city like Surrey.” 

Liu Woronko says she works with local business operators who are looking to tap into the newcomers’ talent pool to solve their skilled-labour shortage. 

“The timeliness, or the lack of, is an issue for a fast-growing city like Surrey.”

“The census data is very important to these employers, as they plan how to market their products and where they may find their next employee,” she says. “This business-intelligence related info is also important for me, so I can best advise newcomers of up-and-coming sectors where opportunities exist.”

Organizations like Liu Woronko's have come to rely on IRCC for more up-to-date immigration data.

“With a real census . . . we [can] now look back and judge the quality of the NHS,” says Hiebert. “Do we throw away those data or are they still useful, and what happened in the past few years?”

StatsCan will send the 2016 census packages to every household starting in May, which can be completed on paper or online. 

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

Commentary by Pradip Rodrigues in Mississauga 

Canada’s Minister for Immigration, John McCallum, made a startling announcement in Brampton. on Tuesday, about welcoming a whopping 305,000 permanent residents by the end of 2016. This is a 7.4 per cent increase from the 2015 admission target.

All this comes during a time of rising unemployment — namely, 7.2 per cent. Youth unemployment hovers at 13 per cent and the projected economic growth in 2016 is expected to just exceed one per cent.  

So, against this gloomy economic backdrop, the announcement of record high immigrant and refugee numbers leaves many, including me, wondering if there should be some co-relation between economic growth and immigration. 

While economic immigrants are made up of highly-skilled workers and caregivers, who may not be highly skilled but will still make up the majority of newcomers, McCallum's number will include 60,000 sponsored spouses, parents and children as well as 20,000 parents and grandparents by the end of the year. 

Historically, Canada has admitted between 251,600 to 262,200 immigrants every year, a number that was seen as striking the right balance between population and economic growth.

Going forward, it’s clear that the Liberals will be shifting the focus away from the economic class and placing a greater emphasis on bringing in more family-class immigrants, seniors and refugees. 

Skilled workers forced to take survival jobs

University of Toronto economist Peter Dungan points out in a Globe & Mail article that if Canada were to double the number of economic-class migrants only, average entry wages for all immigrants would rise by between five and six per cent. 

I am not sure how bringing in immigrants with lower skill sets will help either the country or these newcomers in a rapidly evolving Canadian economy. Will a significant number of them be condemned to working at minimum wage?

I immigrated to Canada in 2000 under the now-defunct points system under a category of Writer/Journalist. Lawyers at that time encouraged people like me to find a “good job” on the understanding that after a short struggle, we would land well-paying employment. 

Reality struck when I got to Canada and heard heartbreaking stories about men and women who held good jobs back in the old countries, only to be crushed and broken after being forced into survival jobs in order to put food on the table. 

I am not sure how bringing in immigrants with lower skill sets will help either the country or these newcomers.

I've met dozens of former doctors, engineers and accountants working in factories or other dead-end jobs simply because their credentials weren’t recognized. No one would give them "Canadian experience". For many educated immigrants, toiling in warehouses or driving taxis was all they got.

Then Harper’s Conservatives came along in 2006 and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney drastically overhauled the immigration system, bringing in skilled refugees and calibrating immigration to support the country’s specific economic needs

I am sure that if I applied for immigration under the revised system brought in by the Conservatives, I might not have been eligible to immigrate to Canada. That would've been fair, because, looking back, letting hundreds of immigrants into the country like myself when there were no real jobs now looks like a case of false advertising. 

Concerns over competition and economic burdens

When I speak with new Canadians who’ve struggled to find their professional footing in Canada about more immigrants, seniors and refugees being accepted as permanent residents, they aren’t very thrilled by the news. Unless, of course, they’re sponsoring family or senior parents. 

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that an acquaintance who spoke out against bringing in more seniors had herself sponsored her parents ten years earlier to Canada. 

In previous estimates, a set of grandparents can cost the system $400,000. Statistics have pegged sponsored parents and grandparents as receiving, on average, $6,262 in Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) payments plus $1,381 in other government transfers each year.

For many educated immigrants, toiling in warehouses or driving taxis was all they got.

Many Canadians, new and old, who are struggling to keep or find jobs are wary about having to compete with new waves of job seekers. One parent I spoke to thought it might be a good idea to reduce immigration numbers until the economy improved. She was also opposed to foreign student workers because they’re often willing to work for less than minimum wage. 

And in any case, a large percentage of the almost 350,000 international students currently studying in the country have every intention of becoming permanent residents. For many South Asians and Asians in particular, coming to Canada as an international student is just another way to immigrate. 

Many immigrant parents with university-going children stay awake at night, worrying that their children may not find jobs once they graduate. How are they supposed to feel optimistic about Canada bringing in more immigrants who will likely compete with them as well as their children for a limited number of jobs?

Considering this, economic indicators should also be factored in when setting annual immigration quotas.

Bringing newcomers into a broken system

I often wonder how practical it is to have a large number of immigrants come in without taking into account the state of the economy. While I get it that Canada needs immigration in order to keep its economic engine running, I worry that the immigrants and refugees now being admitted into the country could end up being a burden on the system.

How can an immigrant contribute to the economic success of the country if he or she is not working at their full potential or is not working at all? That will be the likely fate of so many new immigrants in the years to come.

Meanwhile, it is the over-burdened taxpayer who is obliged to pitch in at a time when their own job security is shaky.


Pradip Rodrigues is currently the editor of Can-India, a weekly newspaper and website catering to the South Asian diaspora in the GTA. He immigrated to Canada in 2000 and currently lives with his wife and young son in Mississauga. Prior to coming to Canada, he was the Assistant Editor at Bombay Times, then the city section of the Times of India. 

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

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Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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