Interventions in Committee
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View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
Welcome, everyone.
I call to order the 167th meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. This is very likely our last meeting before Parliament rises, which is expected to happen this week.
I'd like to welcome a couple of new members to our committee today, temporary members Don Rusnak and Linda Lapointe.
Don, I'd like to thank you for your four years in Parliament. I understand you're not seeking re-election, but thank you for your service.
We'll begin with an opening statement by the departmental officials here to brief us today on the rural and northern immigration pilot, followed by normal rounds of questioning.
I understand there may be interruptions over the course of the next half-hour. We might be seeking unanimous consent to continue to pose questions to the witnesses until the time to vote, so that all parties will have an opportunity to participate in the debate.
Without further ado, I'd like to welcome Natasha Kim, Lara Dyer and Corinne Prince.
Ms. Kim, please proceed.
Natasha Kim
View Natasha Kim Profile
Natasha Kim
2019-06-17 15:45
Thank you.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and committee members. I'm pleased to be here with my colleagues to provide information on the rural and northern immigration pilot.
We have a presentation that will brief the committee on the approach and design of the new pilot. I believe it has been circulated in both languages. As honourable members may also be aware, the minister announced this past Friday the 11 communities that have been selected to participate in the pilot. This followed an open call-out to communities that ran from January to March earlier this year. We also provided copies of the press release for that announcement, so that committee members could have that for reference as well.
First, I'd like to start with the overall context for the pilot. As the committee is aware, rural and northern Canada offers important opportunities and benefits for Canada's economy. However, economic and demographic shifts in Canada are felt more acutely in rural areas, which can hinder their ability to seize economic opportunities. While part of the issue is certainly domestic out-migration of youth and other populations to urban centres, another part is that rural and remote areas have traditionally not benefited from immigration to the same extent as larger cities.
Immigration helps Canada's labour force continue to grow each year, and will account for up to 80% of labour force growth nationally by the end of the decade. Programs such as the provincial nominee program have been successful in spreading the economic benefits of immigration across the country. The ratio of immigrants landing outside our three largest provinces grew fourfold from 1997, with the first provincial nominee program, to 2017, thanks in part to significant growth in this program. However, a large majority of immigrants still do not settle in rural and remote areas. In 2017, almost four out of five new immigrants settled in Canada's 10 largest cities.
The rural and northern immigration pilot is really designed to address these trends that we see. It's clear that rural and northern Canada has much to offer newcomers, including career opportunities, a positive quality of life and a welcoming community. It's equally clear that there are opportunities for rural and northern communities to benefit from immigration, to grow their local labour force, to sustain and enhance community services by growing the tax base, and to seize economic opportunities for growth.
While many of our immigration pathways, including express entry and the provincial nominee program, can already be used by all immigrants, employers and communities of all sizes to attract and retain immigrants, the pilot will be using a new community-driven approach to empower communities to identify the newcomers most likely to economically prosper and develop roots in their community, and then to stay there in the long run with their families.
We'll explain a bit later in the presentation what this community-driven approach looks like.
Community-based supports will be developed with community partners to promote employment opportunities and to encourage the integration and retention of newcomers and their families. This approach was chosen to encourage immigration to smaller centres and to give communities the necessary tools to play an active role in immigration. It requires testing with new partnerships.
On slide 4, I'll explain a bit more about what we mean by new partnerships. As noted earlier, to select communities we posted a call-out for communities to express their interest in participating.
Natasha Kim
View Natasha Kim Profile
Natasha Kim
2019-06-17 15:49
To be eligible, communities had to meet the economic, geographic and settlement criteria that are detailed on this slide here.
The pilot won't apply to the Atlantic provinces, which are already participating in the Atlantic immigration pilot, nor to Quebec, which is responsible for selecting permanent immigrants in the economic category.
The pilot criteria were intended to reflect the goals of the pilot, including an approach that considered local economic development hand in hand with immigration and integration needs. Requirements included having an economic development plan—each community had to have an economic development plan—and clear job opportunities for newcomers, which would contribute to their local economy and strategic economic interests. The call-out also asked communities about themselves, about their sectoral and employment opportunities, their schools and community infrastructure, and why they wished to participate in this pilot.
While we received over 50 applications, only a select number of communities could be chosen, given the pilot nature of this initiative and the targeted approach we proposed. Consultations were undertaken with provincial and territorial partners, regional development agencies and other government departments, all who brought regional, economic or sectoral expertise to this process. Considerations also included departmental priorities—for example, the desire to increase francophone immigration—and other factors such as sectoral impact, the size and diversity of communities, as well as geographic distribution across the country.
I'll move now to slide 5.
The government will work directly with the selected communities to help them attract permanent residence applicants who best meet their unique economic development and labour force needs.
We will also help communities prepare for new immigrants as a partner with local service providers, employers and others to provide settlement services that foster welcoming communities and encourage long-term retention. This will include providing space in our levels plan for economic immigration for this pilot. This new pilot offers a pathway that communities can use to attract new immigrants. The department itself will be providing training as well as a dedicated service channel to help communities navigate the immigration process. We also provide, as part of this pilot, that connection into the government, both federally and provincially, and connection to different agencies and departments who can provide their own expertise as well. This tailored approach will test how matching immigrants to meaningful economic opportunity and providing them and their families with settlement support encourages the attraction and attention of newcomers to smaller centres and keeps them there.
Let's move on to the next slide.
The pilot seeks to achieve one objective of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which is to promote the benefits of immigration across Canada.
Given the experimental nature of the pilot and how the program will run in the community, participants will be asked to collect data to assess the pilot's performance. The lessons learned from the pilot and the Atlantic immigration pilot will be used to develop future immigration programs.
With this pilot as well as the Atlantic immigration pilot, we're really testing some new approaches here with immigration—economic immigration in particular—to see how we can promote retention in the long run and really grow local economies.
Slide 7 provides a bit of an overview of the program design. In the design, there would be two stages in the application process. In the first stage, the community endorsement stage, the community would be responsible and would be empowered to assess the community fit of the candidate. Each community would have its own endorsement factors, but these would be established in partnership with IRCC. We'd consider such things as the local immigration and economic priorities of that community and how the candidate fits with its strategic interests. The slide provides some examples of what could be considered there.
Second, federal criteria would apply. When the application comes to IRCC, we'd be looking at economic establishment in particular and at factors that support the longer-term economic success of immigrants in Canada. These can include minimum language and education criteria, the need for a full-time year-round job offer and the availability of settlement funds for the immigrant and their family. Of course, federally we'd also be assessing any admissibility criteria.
Slide 8 presents the role of community economic development organizations, as well as those expected of the other partners we are engaging with as part of this pilot. A key role of the local community economic development organizations who will be our partners in administering the pilot will be to convene and coordinate local actors with both an economic and labour market focus—this could include employers, local chambers of commerce and other partners—and to look at the settlement side of the integration process for this pilot. This might mean bringing together service provider organizations who deliver settlement services in the community or local immigrant partnerships who advise and coordinate around settlement services. Really, the core of it is trying to bring together that economic development opportunity lens with the settlement and integration lens as well.
Individual community members are also expected to play a very important role—i.e., volunteering to be matched with and to mentor newcomers. We think of this as a bit of a sponsor approach to economic immigrants, which we haven't really done before, to support their integration into the local community. We like to think of it as a bit of a buddy system. Provinces and territories have also been closely engaged throughout the development of this pilot. We'll continue to consult with them as we implement it. We'll be engaging with both provinces and territories as we reach out and help train our communities who have been selected to participate.
The federal government obviously plays an important role in this as well. It's not just our department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, but also our federal partners. Certainly, regional development agencies will be key partners in providing economic development expertise on how this pilot fits with broader strategic objectives around economic development for different regions. Departments such as Agriculture Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada have also been key partners as we have developed this pilot.
The next slide sets out the expected roles and responsibilities in more of a process flow. I won't go through it in detail, but it shows where partners can best apply the expertise that they will bring to this pilot throughout the design, delivery and monitoring stages.
The last slide shows the next steps in the implementation of the pilot.
The department and our partners will begin training and capacity preparedness with the selected community organizations shortly. This will continue throughout the summer and fall of this year. Once ready, community partners will implement their promotion and recruitment strategies and can begin to assess and endorse candidates for immigration into their communities. We don't expect landings under this pilot to happen until about 2020, just because of the time it will take to gear up communities to build the capacity to endorse candidates, and also because people need time to move to a new country.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to provide that brief overview of the pilot. My colleagues and I would be happy to take any questions from the committee.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for coming today and sharing about the new pilot. We have heard testimony before and are looking forward to positive results from this pilot so we can further enhance our economic development in certain places that need it the most.
First, what data collection tools and measurements are in place to collect adequate data and to measure the level of success of a community-scale project?
Natasha Kim
View Natasha Kim Profile
Natasha Kim
2019-06-17 15:58
I can begin, and then my colleague may want to jump in.
Certainly, we have our usual data collection tools here at IRCC. They include our longitudinal immigration database, which uses administrative immigration data to track who has applied, who has entered the country, who has become a permanent resident, where they intend to stay and where they file tax returns in subsequent years. With these types of tools we can assess in the long term whether or not people have stayed in the area where they originally intended to reside. It's our retention data.
That said, and as I mentioned in the presentation, I think that for this pilot we'll be looking to get some more granular and real-time data from communities themselves. As part of that partnership with community development organizations, we'd be asking them to collect some data as we go along so that we can use that to inform any evaluations of the pilot and take those lessons as we develop future programming.
Lara Dyer
View Lara Dyer Profile
Lara Dyer
2019-06-17 15:59
If I may just add, some of that will depend on the capacity of the communities themselves. Now that our 11 communities have been selected, we'll be starting to meet with them to determine what tools they have available. Some of them may have used tools in the past. We will be working with them to see what they're able to provide for the pilot.
From slide 6 of the presentation, you will have a sense of the kinds of outcomes and indicators we'll be looking at. In addition to the sources Natasha mentioned, we might do employer surveys or those kinds of things as well.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
In your opening statement, you said, if I'm not mistaken, that nine out of 10 immigrants will leave to go to the 10 largest cities in Canada. I was looking through the slides. We've looked at the Atlantic pilot project, too, looking at retention rates. I'll concentrate on just the Atlantic coast. Do we have measurements in place? You mentioned that when communities are applying, they must have an economic development plan. Along with that, do we have a plan for the retention of immigrants to ensure they're not just leaving for the larger cities in Canada?
Natasha Kim
View Natasha Kim Profile
Natasha Kim
2019-06-17 16:01
I'm happy to answer that. Maybe just to clarify, the statistic I mentioned was that about 80% of immigrants intend to go to our 10 largest cities in Canada; so really, upon arrival, most are not going to rural and remote communities. They're going to large urban centres.
In terms of retention, obviously once someone becomes a permanent resident they enjoy the right to mobility under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What this pilot tries to do, and what the Atlantic immigration pilot tries to do in a slightly different way, is to promote retention in communities by having that settlement lens right up front. Really, the intention is to encourage and incent people to develop roots in those communities and to feel welcome there, such that they will want to stay.
Certainly, with the rural and northern immigration pilot, a big part of that is also having that economic opportunity. We know that immigrants won't necessarily stay somewhere if they don't have the job they need to support themselves and their families. Ensuring that the communities selected all had very strong economic prospects for growth was a key criterion for our pilot, but it was also that there were settlement services and supports available in the communities. We do hope that things like our matching and mentoring approach with community members will also create that connection for people and their families, so that when they settle there's more of a likelihood that they will stay and be retained in those communities.
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Also, regarding the eligibility and selection of these communities in northern and rural areas, I know that part of their eligibility relates to their population size and to the distance between them and another major city having to be so many kilometres. Can you elaborate more on the eligibility?
Natasha Kim
View Natasha Kim Profile
Natasha Kim
2019-06-17 16:03
Yes, I'm happy to. There's probably nothing quite so contested as the definition of what is actually “rural” in Canada. We used a definition that we thought promoted the goals of the pilot and also recognized some of the challenges that certain communities in Canada face in attracting and retaining immigrants.
There were two factors that we used. One was geographic: being a certain distance away from a major urban centre. Really, that was driven by the desire, the objective, of ensuring that bedroom communities or suburbs of larger centres were not included in the scope of the pilot, but just the communities that are eligible. There's also population size.
The third one that we factored in was the remoteness index. This is a measurement that Statistics Canada uses to measure the remoteness of communities. For example, there are some northern Ontario communities that are larger in population size, but are quite remote from our traditional immigrant-receiving urban centres. They were also considered eligible for this pilot.
View Larry Maguire Profile
Okay, I'll just run quickly through these, then.
I've been informed, or I just let the minister's office know that I copied both the parliamentary secretaries and the chair of this committee about a series of fraud cases in the Atlantic immigration pilot program. To make a long story short, the company in question was bringing people in through the program and immediately sending them from the Maritimes out to where I live in Brandon, Manitoba, which is most definitely not part of Atlantic Canada; so their status is in limbo, as you can see. I'm concerned that this sort of abuse might happen with this pilot program. If someone comes to Canada under the rural and northern immigration pilot, but leaves the designated community for employment in a major urban centre before receiving permanent residency, how will the IRCC respond?
Natasha Kim
View Natasha Kim Profile
Natasha Kim
2019-06-17 16:05
As to the specifics of the cases in the Atlantic immigration pilot, I wouldn't be able to provide anything on that other than to say that the Atlantic immigration pilot uses a slightly different model from what we're proposing here. AIP, as we like to call it, is considered an employer-driven approach: employers recruit and are responsible for retaining and promoting a settlement approach to immigration. Provinces are then responsible for endorsing candidates under the pilot to ensure that they're meeting their economic needs, and then we monitor that. That pilot is under way; we are learning lessons from it and will continue to do so.
The rural and northern immigration pilot, rather than being employer-driven, has a slightly more community-driven approach. We expect to be able to see through our community partners more directly if someone is staying or not in that interim period before they obtain permanent residence. It's possible they can arrive more quickly as temporary workers, but they will likely be on work permits, so—
View Larry Maguire Profile
We have a situation now where these folks have moved from the east to the west, and it's put them in jeopardy they weren't aware of with their employer; the recruiter is the one who sent them west.
I have a half a dozen questions here, Mr. Chair. These require just a yes or no answer.
I want to thank you for your presentation, by the way.
Do employers need to prove that they advertised their job postings before submitting an application for endorsement to ensure that Canadians will always have a chance for employment?
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