Thank you very much for having me here. My name is Elizabeth Long. I'm an immigration lawyer. I've been certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in immigration law. Throughout the last 14 years, I've worked with thousands of workers to help them immigrate to Canada.
I would like to start by telling you about my first experience in an immigration office. It was when I was a child. My father had applied for permanent residence through one of the first skilled worker programs in the eighties. In those days, in order to pass, we had to go for an interview. At the interview, the officer asked my father, “Why should I let you stay?” My father provided him with his thesis on artificial intelligence, which he had completed for his Ph.D. program at Simon Fraser University. The officer threw that to the side and said, “That doesn't matter.” My father said, “I've been offered a position at Memorial University in Newfoundland as an assistant professor.” The officer said, “So what?” It was then that our immigration lawyer stood up, looked the officer dead straight in the eye, and said, “If you don't want these people in Canada, who do you want in Canada?”
This is the question that underlies the basis of the economic immigration programs in Canada: Who do we want in Canada? I would submit that a formulated points system is not as good an indicator of desirability as is the Canadian labour market itself. Let me first point to a few problematic assumptions that plague the current economic immigration programs today.
Let's first look at how the points system is determined. Analysts who have set the criteria for such programs as the express entry and caregiver programs have told me that one of the main tools to make decisions on desirability is to compare the income tax statements of two groups. For example, high-skilled workers as a group earn more than low-skilled workers; therefore, only high-skilled workers are needed in Canada. Immigrants who speak a higher level of English earn more money than do people who speak a lower level of English; therefore, we need only people who speak a higher level of English.
The assumption that only rich workers are valuable to Canada is clearly faulty. Taking that faulty assumption and using it, then, to formulate the criteria for our immigration programs leaves behind many people who are wanted and needed in Canada.
Another problematic assumption is that there is a clear line between high-skilled and low-skilled work, and that only high-skilled workers are valuable in Canada. The NOC codes that define high-skilled and low-skilled work were never created for immigration purposes. They were created by a group of people in Service Canada for statistical analysis. They were then adopted by the immigration department, which perceived this as an easy way to determine desirability. Surely we need only high-skilled work in Canada, right?
So what's “high-skilled” and what's “low-skilled”? Let me list a number of occupations and see if you can figure out which one is high-skilled and which one is low-skilled. Let's take an office situation. A receptionist? Low-skilled. Secretary? High-skilled. Bookkeeper? High-skilled. Accounting clerk? Low-skilled. Medical assistant? High-skilled. Dental assistant? Low-skilled. Hairdresser? High-skilled. Esthetician? Low-skilled.
As you can see, it is not altogether clear why one occupation is considered high-skilled and another is considered low-skilled. There are also clear gender biases in the categorization. For example, personal support workers, who require college certification, and sewing machine operators, who need extensive training, are low-skilled workers. Construction workers, such as house painters and drywallers, who often haven't even finished high school, are high-skilled workers.
Furthermore, how can we assume that we need only high-skilled workers in Canada, when oftentimes some of the most-needed workers in Canada are those working in jobs that Canadians can't or won't do, such as truck drivers, caregivers, farm workers and the list goes on?
In the end, one of the best indicators of who is needed in Canada are people who are already working in Canada, have done so for an extended period of time, and have permanent job offers. They are clearly able and willing to settle in Canada, and clearly wanted in Canada. To subject them to the rigmarole of having to undergo English exams and a competitive process like the express entry system, which pits them against people who have never set foot in Canada, leaves many workers without the ability to obtain permanent residence. This simply does not make sense.
My proposal would be to have a category to allow to immigrate those who are already working legally in Canada, who have done so for a year and who have permanent job offers. They should not have to undergo the English exams or prove that their work fits into one of the arbitrary categorizations of high-skilled or low-skilled work in order to gain permanent residence.
As you may well have heard in the rallying cry of businesses, unions and workers throughout Canada, if someone is good enough to work, they should be good enough to stay. Thank you.
The point I was going to make was that apart from the refugees Canada resettles from UNHCR camps abroad, such as the Syrians we hear so much about, there are voluntary or what we can call “self-selecting” refugees who make it to our border, either through the United States—the “irregular” arrivals we hear about—or through arriving on some kind of visa and then making a refugee claim.
I urge the committee to be aware that a lot of people who come this way, and who we as refugee and immigration lawyers often see, are often very sophisticated people. They're very well-educated people. They can even be wealthy people, because the persecution in their home countries that causes them to leave has nothing to do with poverty. Very wealthy, very smart people can be saying the wrong things about their government. They can be asserting rights that we consider fundamental rights in this country. They risk persecution because of that, and they choose Canada as a place to go and to try to seek protection in. In that sense, they have a lot of agency about where they will go and where they will seek protection.
There are some specific recommendations I can make in the context of their experiences. For example, the nature of the system sometimes creates odd outcomes. You can have a child who, because of her own risk, independent of her parent's risk, is accepted as a refugee but the parent isn't. That parent is often the sole provider for that child as their caregiver in Canada. In this instance, an eight-year-old girl has every right to remain in Canada, but her mother has no automatic mechanism to stay, because her own risk, as assessed by the tribunal, is not seen to be significant enough to grant her protection. This causes the parent to have to apply for permanent residence through humanitarian grounds, which again engages the bureaucracy in an application that will almost certainly be approved.
That raises the question of why we are forcing this parent to engage the resources of the government in an application that will almost certainly be approved because of the facts. We don't have a mechanism for a person like that to stay with their child, who is recognized to be a convention refugee.
There's another thing I often hear in this context. Often families can't make it to Canada together. For example, a father will make it here, but his wife and their children will remain abroad. The father will be accepted as a refugee. As an accepted protected person, he can apply for permanent residence and bring his family here once that PR application is processed and approved, but that can take at least a year. During that year, the family members who remain in the country of origin can be at great risk. The persecution doesn't stop, and it often involves the entire family. Again, there is no mechanism for those family members of a recognized and accepted refugee to come to Canada until the entire family's permanent residence application is processed. It's very ad hoc. It relies on trying to track down the officer who is working on the PR application, urging them to speed it up, essentially relying on their goodwill and discretion to maybe push it along a bit faster. That's something I often hear.
The next point touches a little bit on what the previous witness spoke about. Although refugees, once they have made a claim, have a right to apply for a work permit and work in Canada, the system is designed in such a way that the work experience, regardless of what it is, low-skilled or high-skilled, can absolutely not be used in an application to stay through an economic program. Once you've come here and asked for protection, that is the only way you can stay. You have to rely on that refugee claim. There is no way to stay by transitioning to another immigration stream.
You're waiting for your hearing, you've been working, you've been contributing to Canada's economy and to society, but there's no way for you to rely on that to apply for PR and get out of what I'll call the protection system.
Again, it's because of this idea that the refugees who come here and ask for Canada's help are purely a drain on our resources, and that we're doing it purely for humanitarian reasons. There is very little recognition that even though they're not selected for these points systems and the economic streams, they actually make a significant contribution to society.
I'm about at my seven minutes, so I'll stop there.
I've been at the Conference Board, I have to confess, for a very long time. I'm in the forecasting business, if you like. It's a tough business, and people often criticize how we can get the next few quarters or the next year right, or how we can guess what the next economic scuttlebutt will be, based on tariffs or trade or whatever other issues. I would turn that around. When we start thinking about the longer term, about the demographics of the economy—what we call the supply side of the economy—that tends to be a lot more solid.
I remember when we started to do long-term forecasts all those years ago. One of the first issues that came up was that, in our models, our unemployment rate would start to go south and all of a sudden turn negative, which in fact can't happen, so we knew we had a problem. Since then, we have focused very much on issues around productivity and immigration, because of this looming baby-boom cohort exodus that is essentially going to drive down economic growth going forward.
The report that we will submit looked at what Canada would look like in a no-immigration assumption. We know that's impossible. Economists are always trying to imagine crazy, hypothetical scenarios. However, it allows us to look, in the baseline scenario, at the contribution of immigration to the economy and, in a higher immigration scenario, at how that changes and looks going forward.
I'll give you some highlights of what we found.
What's really timely is that we've just received, I think yesterday, the new immigration targets for the next three years. They align very much with our getting to the 1% immigration assumption scenario. Those targets are looking at getting to 350,000 by 2021, which is essentially what we have in this report. That's about 0.9% of the population. It's certainly a little higher than what we've had in the past. In the last 15 or 20 years, we've had in-migration at about 0.8% of the population. That's adding a little bit. We're heading toward 1%, but that's in a scenario, a background, where essentially the aging of the population is causing the natural rate, that is, births less deaths, to contribute less and less.
Currently, immigration contributes to about 70% of overall population growth. By the time we get to 2034, immigration will forcibly account for all of population growth. If you have immigration at 1%, there's also emigration, so you can think that we're going to be between 0.8% population growth and 1% population growth, depending on those numbers, but probably around 0.8% or 0.9%. That would be a slight decline, but it would be fairly stable population growth compared to what we've had in the past.
In our assumptions, we looked very carefully.... In fact, in those same targets, we've assumed that the share of economic versus family versus refugee stays about the same. Those shares are about 58%, 26%, 16%, in order. We've made those assumptions in our scenarios as well. We look very carefully, and we track. As immigrants come in, we know that they make a certain percentage less than the average wage in Canada in year one, year two, etc., depending on the class. We track that all the way through the immigration streams that we're adjusting over time. We've done a careful job there.
What that allows us to do, then, is look at these scenarios. For a set of economic indicators that may be of interest—for example GDP, which is essentially just income, as I'm sure you all know—we can look at indicators such as the number of workers to retirees—dependency ratios, if you will. We can look at one of the biggest challenges for Canada, which is health care costs as a share of revenues—which is obviously a provincial issue—and other indicators, such as GDP per capita, etc.
What are the challenges? Let me start with the health care challenge. I think what we see with the higher immigration assumption versus immigration as is—the status quo scenario—is that essentially we have health care costs now as about 35% of provincial government revenues, and no matter what, they're going to increase.
In a low immigration scenario, they would increase to about 43% of provincial government revenues. In a 1% immigration world, we could bring that down to about 39%. This is by the time we get to 2040, so this is a long-term perspective. These are important challenges because as you eat up more of this share, it leaves less ability to do other things with your revenues.
We think that in a 1% scenario, GDP would stay in line with recent history: that is, about 2% of the economy. Remember that our trend GDP used to grow closer to 3% just in the early 2000s, so this demographic change around the labour force is having a very important impact on our ability to grow revenues. We can't get away with that, no matter what, but we can dampen the effects by looking essentially at how immigration plays in that role.
I'll just give you a quick example. I talk to organizations and people in the private and public sector who are looking at the challenge around hiring. The challenge around hiring is a very high rate of retirement, and that's only going to continue to climb. We think all baby boomers are out of the workforce; that's absolutely not true. It's just the front-end boomers, a small cohort. In recent years, the retirement rate has increased from about 0.95% of the labour force to 1.2%. That means 170,000 retirees just a few years ago, in 2010, and today we're at 230,000 to 240,000 retirees. For organizations looking to grow their workforce, it's essentially about one for one: For every one net new person you add to your workforce, you also have to add an additional person to replace a retiree.
Here are some of the other ratios. The worker-to-retiree ratio currently in Canada is 3.6 workers per retiree. Again, no matter what, that is going to grow over the next decade and a half, but with a 1% immigration scenario we mitigate that to about 2.6 workers per retiree. We go from 3.6 to 2.6, rather than 3.6 to 2. That's just another statistic to give you a sense of how important these changes are.
There are a lot of details in the report, but also some important observations we've done in previous work. It's not just growth for the sake of growth; it's growth for these reasons that I've talked about. It's not just bringing in immigration in terms of numbers. It's also very important to ensure, as some of the prior testimony has indicated, that people have the ability to participate more fully in the workforce.
We know this is a problem. We've looked at some of those costs, and we think that things around credentialing alone cost the economy and the individuals—I'm macro, always thinking about the big picture, but obviously this is an advantage for both—around $13 billion to $17 billion a year.
We did build a no-immigration scenario. Again, it's counterfactual, but essentially we see GDP or income growth slow to about 1%. I think there are significant costs that we need to be aware of beyond just growth for the sake of growth. I talked about some of them. These kinds of ratios with respect to labour markets dependency are very important pieces that would only get worse in a zero-immigration scenario.
Beyond that, Canada is a big country, and I think one of the challenges for immigration is to see if we can get more immigration in areas where we're seeing slower population growth. We see the challenges faced by some of the Atlantic provinces, for example. Some have had success in terms of being attractive to immigration and holding onto their immigrant population.
Essentially, there are challenges with economies that have very weak economic growth or very weak population growth. It's much easier to get into a market where there is some economic growth and some potential for you to attract investment and people, rather than to try to take away market share from somebody else who's already there. We even hear about small towns having to close at some point. Shutting down a town is a huge cost. I think Canada has room for more immigration.
To go back to the perception issue, I think we need to be careful and we need to be aware of it. I think we need to better educate folks. This is part and parcel of what we're trying to do with some of the immigration research we put out. Also, I think we need to be flexible. If we see spaces where technology, for example, is replacing workers, we need to be aware of that and be proactive about it. If we see a business cycle hit us—and one will hit us sooner or later—I think we need to be able to adjust to those scenarios.
However, when it comes to immigration, it's important that people stay here permanently. Other witnesses said that some immigrants, and even refugees, see their stay as temporary because they eventually want to return to their own country. All of that has to be factored into a global perspective, which is that we want to make sure that we let in people who will stay as long as possible, since we invest in them.
You spoke about people's perceptions about immigration, and I understand that that is outside of your field of expertise. However, who should be responsible for influencing and changing those perceptions; is it politicians, the government, or economic councils, or business?
There is a shortage of jobs in Quebec but also elsewhere in Canada. In your opinion, what events would change things and allow us to convince the population of the job situation, and of the fact that we cannot meet our own needs?
Hello, and thank you to the committee for inviting me.
I'm a political scientist whose research and teaching focus on the relationship between public opinion and public policy, primarily in North America and western Europe, although I do occasionally look elsewhere.
As a beneficiary of Canada's generous immigration policy, I am quite grateful to the policy the way it exists, but I'm glad the committee is looking for ways to improve it and to respond to challenges that have arisen or are likely to arise in the future. In my comments today, I'm not going to offer any specific policy recommendations. I'll offer instead my thoughts on three big themes that I think are often underemphasized in debates and discussions around immigration policy in Canada.
The first theme I want to address is the extent to which the Canadian public is unusually tolerant of immigration or unusually enthusiastic about immigration relative to similar countries. In short, Canadians are people, and in any large group of people there will be a decent-sized chunk who are not very tolerant, not very excited about outsiders.
Canada is neither unusually tolerant nor unusually intolerant. Like many other countries, Canada is made up of some people who accept immigration, some people who are enthusiastic about it, and others who are not very enthusiastic. Measuring xenophobia and related attitudes is a notoriously difficult thing to do. We are not very good at it, but we try. I think a fair assessment of the evidence would suggest that Canada is somewhat more tolerant on average than typical wealthy countries, but only somewhat. It is by no means exceptional or an outlier.
One recent survey asked Canadians to evaluate the impact of immigration on the economy. Canadians were more enthusiastic, more positive than 18 European countries that were asked the same question. They were less enthusiastic than three. That same survey asked a question about whether we should accept more immigrants from poor countries. There, Canada was smack in the middle—more enthusiastic than 10 and less enthusiastic than 11. The majority of Canadians are satisfied with current levels of immigration, but a substantial group takes a dimmer view. About a third would be happy to see fewer immigrants arriving each year, and many Canadians, perhaps a quarter, would like to see a more racially or religiously discriminatory policy.
I'll turn now to the second theme I want to raise today: Policy matters for public attitudes, but only to a degree. Policy helps to improve acceptance of immigration, but only somewhat. Geography probably deserves more credit than institutional design for the relatively consensual immigration politics Canada has seen. Consider the attention that has arisen around the comparatively small number of asylum seekers crossing the border from the U.S. Those asylum seekers, plus all the refugees resettled under formal processes, amount to a very small per capita number when set against the large flows seen recently in countries like Germany or Greece, let alone countries like Lebanon or Turkey.
There are three big things that I think we know about how policy can shape public debates around immigration. First, events and particular policy failures matter. The most direct short-term and visible impacts of policy on public perceptions appear when something goes wrong. The public responds to perceived or real policy failures, to events that draw media attention and have clear narratives with villains, heroes and victims.
In the absence of such a key event, most people just don't think about immigration most of the time. Indeed, even major changes don't seem to move immigration attitudes in the aggregate or on average. Most events move some people one way and other people other ways. Neither the great recession of 2009-10 and the euro crisis nor the Syrian refugee crisis seems to have shifted the average immigration opinion in Europe in the places I study.
Instead, both of those big events changed the coalitions supporting immigration, changed which types of people supported immigration and moved political parties to more firmly tie their identity to their position on immigration, which has to some degree polarized or politicized the debate without changing attitudes on average.
A second big piece of the policy literature that I think is relevant here is that immigrant voices matter in Canada more than they do in most places. One form of what we call policy feedback is the long-term relationship between the citizenship or naturalization regime and the politics of immigration in the future. The comparatively generous naturalization policy here means that there are large communities of migrants whose voices and votes end up mattering in politics, and this makes it harder, though by no means impossible, for the ugliest forms of anti-immigrant arguments to rise to the top of the agenda. Since we know that public attitudes are profoundly shaped by the issues and arguments that political and media actors place on the agenda, this is an area where policy has undoubtedly contributed to reducing political conflict.
Finally, we have something that's been discussed already today. The selective nature of Canada's immigration policy targeting economic benefits does seem to matter and does seem to increase public support for immigration, though it does so only within a fairly small group of the public. The limited impact is attributed to the fact that some people don't know about the selective nature of the system. Some people don't trust the system to work as it is designed. Others simply take their position on immigration based on factors other than what they perceive to be the economic benefits. The effect of policy design on the politics of immigration is an open question that many scholars are working on. I am cautiously optimistic that we can continue to find ways of designing policy that will reduce the conflict and increase support for immigration.
The final theme I want to raise steps back a bit from the realm of immigration policy and considers the broader context of the policy arena. Particularly, I think the committee would be well advised to consider many other forms of policy that directly impact policy debates around immigration. As I am sure other witnesses prior to me have emphasized, labour markets, educational systems and social assistance programs all interact with immigration policy in important ways.
To those sectors, I'll add the importance of considering how policies that impact political parties and civil society matter for immigration outcomes. Political parties, religious groups, non-profits and trade unions have all played a role in the past both in promoting immigrant integration and in channelling public anxiety about immigration toward productive engagement rather than destructive resistance. These kinds of organizations have all, to some degree or another, seen their influence on public opinion wane in the last few decades. Policy-makers considering how to regulate, support or restrict the activities of those groups should consider how those actions might influence the ability of such groups to promote successful integration and consensual immigration politics.
Thanks for your time. I'm happy to answer any questions.
My name is Avvy Go, and I'm the clinic director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. With me is Jin Chien, who is our staff lawyer. We will be co-presenting this afternoon.
We are a community-based organization that provides free legal services to low-income members of the Chinese and Southeast Asian communities in Ontario. We thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to talk about the issue of migration this afternoon. We will be focusing on three specific groups of migrants: refugees, migrant workers and family class immigrants.
Ms. Chien will talk about refugees and migrant workers, and I'll deal with the family class immigrants.
I'll begin our presentation with three general comments that sort of align with what Professor Donnelly has just said.
First of all, many so-called voluntary migrants are forced to leave their home countries due to reasons beyond their control. Climate change, economic and social disparities, and the absence of democracy and the rule of law are just some factors that contribute to the increase in global migration. From our point of view, the categorization of non-refugees as voluntary migrants can therefore be misleading.
Second, in the face of the rise of anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric in the U.S. and Canada, how we talk about migration matters. We should avoid using divisive language that creates false dichotomies between immigrants and refugees and perpetuates an unfounded sense of crisis, which in turn inflames anti-refugee sentiment and encourages discriminatory behaviour.
Accordingly, we are calling on the government, through this committee, to change the narrative on migration by highlighting the positive obligation of Canada towards refugees, the critical role migrants have played in building our nation and the value of their contributions in shaping our collective future.
Third, in recognition of the fact that persons of colour represent an increasingly large proportion of immigrants across all classes, we ask the government, through the committee, to adopt racial and gender-equity lenses to evaluate the impacts of all immigration laws and policies on racialized communities.
Turning now to the issues facing refugees, Canada has legal obligations, as we all know, towards this group under international law, particularly as a state party to the 1951 refugee convention. The government's policy in this regard must be guided by both treaty and domestic law, namely IRPA.
In response to the recent rise in the number of refugee claimants from the U.S., we call on Canada to rescind or suspend the safe third country agreement with the U.S. and to ensure that any reform to the refugee determination system continue to respect due process rights for all refugee claimants in a manner consistent with domestic and international human rights law.
On the issue of migrant workers, the Canadian immigration system heavily prioritizes economic migrants, as we've heard and as evidenced in the recent adjustments to immigration level targets for 2019 to 2021.
This group is comprised primarily of well-resourced, so-called high-skilled and highly educated workers. Those considered low-skilled, including caregivers and seasonal agricultural workers, come to Canada under the temporary foreign worker program and generally have no right to stay permanently. Their immigration status is often tied to time-constrained and employer-specific jobs, which makes them exceptionally susceptible and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. What's more, many of these so-called temporary jobs are more long-term in nature, and they're left vacant due to low domestic worker retention rates.
We submit to the committee that Canada should provide permanent residence to all migrant workers upon arrival in Canada and adopt the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as well as the ILO Convention 189, concerning decent work for domestic workers.
We also call on the government to develop and implement a comprehensive, transparent, inclusive and ongoing regularization program for all persons living with precarious status in Canada.
Family reunification is the pillar of our immigration policy and serves to make Canada a competitive destination for high-skilled immigrants. However, family class intake levels have been shrinking over the last two decades. Changes in the laws have also made family reunification much longer and more difficult for many Canadians.
The restrictions currently imposed on the sponsorship of parents and grandparents in particular have a disproportionate impact on racialized communities, which are more likely than others to embrace an extended family structure. They are also more overrepresented among the low-income households, and are therefore less likely to meet the minimum necessary income requirement for their sponsorship.
We are asking the committee to recommend lifting the quota on the parents and grandparents sponsorship, repealing the MNI requirement, scaling back the sponsorship period to 10 years and increasing the overall level of family class immigrants to 50% of the overall immigration intake. Given the importance of extended families, we also ask the committee to ask the government to redesign the family class program to allow for the sponsorship of siblings and other relatives to Canada.
In conclusion, Canada is regarded as a model for the world in regard to its immigration and refugee policy. Immigration is central to Canada's long-term economic strategy and growth. We welcome the very modest increase in the resettlement of refugees as well as family class members in the proposed 2019-21 immigration plan. However, these increases are far from adequate, in our respectful submission.
Canada can best sustain its leadership role by adopting immigration and citizenship policies that prioritize permanent immigration over temporary migration, remove barriers to citizenship and facilitate equitable access to the labour market for all racialized and other marginalized groups. As well, Canada should continue to demonstrate respect for human rights by accepting more refugees, ending indefinite immigration detention, and adopting concrete measures to address racism and other forms of discrimination against all people living in Canada, regardless of their immigration status.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you all for coming.
In preparation for today, I had an opportunity to see what Twitter was saying about the levels plan. I notice that Goldy Hyder, the president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, tweeted this:
Canada to increase annual immigration admissions to 350,000 by 2021. Talent is Canada's key strategic resource. Businesses know we have the talent & if not we can get it. Key consideration for investing in Canada.
I ask you both, in the context of levels and what can be absorbed in society, whether or not this target of around 1% is right.
In the case of Mr. Donnelly, how will Canadians or the public see a 1% target generally? Are they supportive or not, and should it be higher or lower? In the case of Ms. Go and Ms. Chien, you're asking for much more than that, so what target are you suggesting?
On a related topic then, Mr. Donnelly, have you tested how important fairness is to public confidence in the immigration system? You talked a little about whether political leaders are suggesting that it's good, attainable and doable, or whether political leaders are suggesting that it's not.
Is there a public perception about making sure that the system is fair and equitable? With thoughts around fairness and equity, such as saying that queue-jumping is something that would upset people, or taking resources away from local people or not integrating well, whereas integrating well, contributing to resources that everyone gets to enjoy together, and following the rules-based order...are two sides of three of the same issue.
How do those narratives affect public support for the higher levels of immigration that we're trying to get to?
Mr. David Tilson: Yes.
Ms. Avvy Go: I think it's also important to think about how we can change the narrative. The assumption behind that sentiment is that family class immigrants are of no economic benefit to Canada. However, once again, I'm citing CIC's own study from 2015, which looked at both spousal sponsorship applications and sponsorship of parents and grandparents. It talks about the economic benefits of having parents and grandparents come to Canada. A very high number of sponsors are able to return to the workforce because their parents and grandparents are here, or their spouses are able to return to work.
We think of parents and grandparents as the only people who come through family class. I came from the family class sponsorship myself. Most of my siblings came through the family class sponsorship, because we have an eldest brother who came here in the sixties. Eventually, everybody moved to Canada as a result of that. We are all in professions. We are all doing whatever it is that Canadians would deem to be successful careers.
I think a lot of these assumptions can be changed with the right information to the public, just as assumptions about refugees as queue jumpers can be changed if we change the narrative ourselves.
The Chair: Mr. Maguire, go ahead.
Thanks for your answer. Welcome back.
It's good to see you as well, Mr. Donnelly.
To follow up on my colleague's question in regard to this perception of moving away from the economic stream and how that impacts economics, it seems to be fairly accepted. I think that's what you were saying and what my colleague indicated, but the recent Angus Reid poll showed that 49% of Canadians today have lost faith in the immigration system, as opposed to 36% in 2014. That's according to a survey they just did. That's quite a significant change.
You said that it's very hard to see that change, Mr. Donnelly. That's a pretty significant change right now. I guess I would say that there has been a move away. I want your opinion on what you think we could do to change that vision, if you will, of the Canadian population.
I'll let you answer that first.
What I meant was that 49% of people today want to see a lower immigration level.
We all know that we need immigration, as each of you has said, to grow our economy here in Canada and be responsible citizens in the rest of the world. We look at bringing in refugees. The numbers are there.
I'm interested in your comments, particularly with your experience, Ms. Go and Ms. Chien, as to the levels that we could use in those areas, and how best to find the areas where this work is required.
When bringing these people in, we can't just have them on a welfare system forever. They have to come in and be able to find jobs, and they do, on the immigration side. We need to make sure that we are getting them into areas where they can basically become more permanent residents, as opposed to temporary, as you said earlier.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I thank our witnesses for their presentations.
Thank you, Ms. Go, for your comment with regard to changing the narrative.
I'll just jump in and say this. If you devalue and dehumanize refugees and immigrants, of course there will be a backlash. We're seeing some of that, frankly, as a result of the U.S. President's discriminatory rhetoric and policies that are hateful and targeting segments of the community. When you have that, you allow for, I think, emboldened people who want to bring forward racism and really fan that fear.
That's another story for another day.
What I want to get into is the makeup of our immigration system. Ms. Go, you talked about that. One of the issues that I know are front and centre for many immigrant families is family reunification—parents and grandparents. We have a lottery system, which is absurd—to say that your ability to reunite with your family is based on the luck of the draw.
The government increased the number of applications: however, they did not increase with the levels' numbers. It's like saying that a thousand people can apply for this one job and at the end of the day there's just one job.
What are your comments about that, and what should we do on that piece?
I think right now there are a number of issues with the sponsorship of parents and grandparents. Even though the quota has been set, my understanding is, after talking to the minister himself, that oftentimes we're unable to even meet the quota.
I think one of the reasons is that many people will simply not qualify, or they will not apply, thinking that they do not qualify. At our clinic, we see a lot of those examples. Once again, OCASI did a survey of the agencies, and many of the agencies said that many of their clients do not apply because they know that they do not qualify. I think we need to change the requirements, as well as the quota system. If you change one without the other, you will still have the same problem.
Talking about the changing narrative, we need to think about the family class system as an integrated system. It's not just about the spouse or parents; it's also about the siblings and other relatives, which we used to have. People coming through the economic class, but with an assisted relative, were given an extra point. Some of my relatives and family came in through that way as well.
If you think of family class more broadly and treat all family members equally, then you will not have a system where some family members are being privileged over others. We need to rethink the whole family class system as well.
That's a good recommendation from you, to expand family reunification beyond parents and grandparents to include siblings, aunts, uncles, and extended family members. In fact, that's how I came, by the way. We were allowed into this country because my aunt sponsored my dad, and we came as a family.
With respect to another piece, related to temporary foreign workers, the principle is that if you're good enough to work, you're good enough to stay. Why not allow temporary foreign workers to come into the country as permanent residents on arrival? I'd like you to comment on that.
We used to have a program in Canada where people with different skill sets—medium, low and high—were allowed to come to Canada based on the immigration system, not a temporary foreign worker program. I wonder if you can comment on that, whether we should bring back something like that.
Sure. I totally agree with you that if people are good enough to work, they should be good enough to stay. I'm not the only one who says that. Even the Canadian Federation of Independent Business supports that. I think they also recognize that many of the jobs filled by temporary foreign workers right now, as my colleague has mentioned, are in fact permanent jobs that should be filled, but they are not being filled right now.
In a way, the employer takes the easy way out because temporary foreign workers are cheaper. They are tied to the employers. They are more vulnerable, so I guess they are more obedient workers to work with.
We lose because we are losing these people. Once they work here for four years and they are gone, the employer also loses. That's why so many of the employers are pushing for a permanent residence pathway for the temporary foreign workers. They have trained these people, and they want to keep them on.
Again, it's not just about the number; it's about the mix. Going forward, we should think about that. If you think of the economic class, it's not just about highly skilled and highly educated workers. We need workers in various sectors. The workers who are brought in as temporary workers are filling job requirements. They are filling jobs that need to be filled, so why not allow them to come in and stay permanently?
We should also be thinking about having a regularization process so that those who are here right now and are in the temporary foreign worker program would also be able to apply for permanent resident status. That can go toward the 1% or 2%, or whatever quota you decide at the end of the day.
Thank you to all three of you for being here. I know they provide a lot of great services to a lot of newcomers.
Ms. Go, you mentioned in your opening statement that we should lift the quota on parents and grandparents. In 2015, roughly 95,000 parents and grandparents applied, and only 5,000 were eligible. We increased that to 10,000. We recently increased it to 17,000, and in 2019 it will go to 20,000.
Why do you feel that we should be lifting that number now and having 100,000 individuals who are grandparents? They could be seniors. They could be older in age. Why do you think we should lift the cap and have these immigrants come to Canada?
I would like to slip in a question just before Mr. Maguire has his turn again. It's for Professor Donnelly.
I am so old that when I was a student at U of T, we didn't have a department of political science and we didn't have a department of economics. We had a department of political economy. The rationale that was given to us as students—and I believe it continues to be correct—was that there are no political discussions that are not economic, and there are no economic discussions that are not political.
I know you are a political scientist. I am wondering whether there is collaborative work going on on this issue that you either know about or might be called to do at some point where we look at the intrinsic relationship between the economics of migration and the political opinion, because I think we're circling around that.
The question I'll raise is about grandparents or parents and family class. I haven't seen a single study, but intuitively I believe that if we are getting a 25-year-old programmer or electrician or medical receptionist coming to this country, they have been educated—elementary school, secondary school, college, trade school, university. They've had a first job where they've made their mistakes and learned. They arrive here market-ready. The value of that person to this country is immense. If we attract them because we have a comparative advantage that their parents or grandparents may be sponsored later—so they don't go to New Zealand or Australia but come here because they have that hope in their pocket—the amount of money that senior could potentially cost even in the last 10 years of life is overwhelmed by the economic benefit we're getting by having that skilled, or even unskilled, worker coming into the country.
I'm not sure Canadians have thought that through, and I'm not sure we have the academic evidence. The Conference Board is back in the gallery still. I'm just wondering whether you know of that evidence and whether you can get it to this committee to help us understand that relationship.
That's my sermon, sorry.
You're adding to my time, so thank you so much.
First, I want to correct the record. I said 400,000. It should be 450,000. That was the number from the expert panel by way of recommendation to the former minister, John McCallum.
I want to ask a question about asylum seekers. Ms. Chien, you made a recommendation that the government suspend the safe third country agreement, given the situation in the United States.
We also have a situation now whereby if you are a child and you come with a parent as an asylum-seeker, you qualify under our current rules and laws to be an asylum-seeker, but your parent does not, so we're in the business of breaking up parent and child.
Do you agree with that policy, or should that be changed? If it should be changed, how so?