Canadian Immigrant Magazine
November 2008

Naeem “Nick” Noorani

Dear Prime Minister Harper, congratulations on your victory in last month’s general federal election.

Before the election took place, we at Canadian Immigrant informed immigrants about their voting rights and the electoral process by creating a separate section online as well as in print. We also asked for their feedback in an online poll.

We discovered 69 per cent of first-time immigrant voters feel they are not being provided with the information they need to vote. For example, the poll found that of those voting for the first time, 72 per cent were not aware that they are legally entitled to take time off of work to vote! We need to get immigrants more involved in the political process in this country.

The fact is, immigrants’ lack of understanding about the voting process is indicative of a much broader issue. Immigrants to Canada are not integrating successfully and the statistics do show they need help.

In your campaign, you spoke about us being a “nation of immigrants,” shouldn’t our immigrants then feel as if they are integral to this country and all of its systems and processes?
Here are seven ways to help immigrants truly become an integral part of this great country:

  1. Bill C-50 has passed and frankly many immigrants have spoken to me about their suspicion about its intent. I was and am strongly opposed to this bill because of the amount of power it puts in the minister of immigration’s hands and the fact that it could be open to biases. The time has now come to put proper checks and balances into place to ensure fairness for would-be immigrants by creating the systems that will guide its daily implementation.
  2. While on the topic of who gets in, expand your successful Canadian Immigration Integration Project (CIIP) project launched last year in India, China and the Philippines. Informing immigrants about the challenges in labour market integration before they arrive is the right thing to do and I applaud you on this initiative. Consider web-based education on this initiative as well.
  3. Next I’d like to suggest that the points for English language skills are given more weight in the immigration application process. I consistently tell immigrants across the country that learning English is their number 1 strategy for success in this country. And for those immigrants who come here with lesser English skills, make learning the language at a high level a bigger priority. Immigrants often have to wait six months to get into a government-sponsored ESL class. And these lessons only teach basic English skills.
  4. Immigrants are underemployed in Canada and that is no secret. What can improve their penetration into the labour market? Consider providing employers with incentives for giving immigrants their first job in their field. (Diane Ablonczy spoke about this sometime back.) We know that Canadian employers tend to be risk averse, so incentives like a tax credit could help them give immigrant applicants a chance. Incentives are already given to several groups that need assistance, so why not to those who give us generations of taxpayers? This will hopefully reduce the number of skilled professionals who end up driving cabs in Canada!
  5. While the introduction of the Canadian experience class was a positive move for keeping international students and temporary workers with Canadian experience in Canada, too much emphasis is still being placed on bringing in temporary workers instead of focusing on integrating existing and new immigrants into labour areas in demand. Worse the amount of abuse these workers are subject to is a shame and goes against the very grain of what Canada stands for! And while you are at it, please look into the Canadian live-in caregiver program. So many caregivers live a life of fear. We as Canadians must not allow this abuse to continue!
  6. While you made good on your “national clearinghouse” for foreign credentials promised in the previous election, the issue of relicensing still plagues this country. I understand that credentials are a provincial jurisdiction, but you need to step in with leadership and guidance on how the professions can more efficiently test and relicense foreign-trained professionals. Those barriers must be dismantled – NOW!
  7. Finally, let’s improve the transparency of decision-making. For example, instead of having a consultation process by invitation to a select core, let’s bring the issue of immigration out in the open with more input from immigrants themselves. After all, who better than we can understand how Canada’s immigration system plays out in the real world, every day?


Reference: Canadian Immigrant Magazine