Comment en sommes-nous arrivés là en immigration?

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Qui aurait pensé, il y a à peine quelques mois, que le Québec, qu’on citait partout dans le monde comme modèle d’accueil et d’ouverture à l’égard des immigrants, recevrait des félicitations de la part de Marine Le Pen ? Le premier ministre a eu beau les refuser, la réduction, contre toute logique, du nombre d’immigrants et la brutalité avec laquelle son gouvernement a déchiqueté les 18 000 dossiers des candidats à l’immigration ne peuvent que réjouir la droite xénophobe.

Comment en sommes-nous arrivés là ? Si la politique d’austérité du gouvernement précédent a certainement contribué à l’avènement de ce parti xéno-sceptique au pouvoir, les causes sont multiples et vont bien au-delà du contexte québécois. Depuis au moins vingt ans, partout en Occident, l’immigration est présentée comme une menace sur les plans culturel, économique et social, tandis que les musulmans sont perçus comme les ennemis premiers de la civilisation occidentale.

Le discours anti-immigration se nourrit aussi de mythes tenaces. Parmi les plus récurrents, il y a celui des hordes de miséreux prêts à envahir les pays riches, alors qu’il n’y a qu’une très faible proportion, à peine 3,2 % de la population mondiale, qui ne vit pas dans son pays de naissance. Qui plus est, les deux tiers ont migré d’un pays du Sud à un autre pays du Sud, étant trop pauvres pour rejoindre les pays riches. Ces derniers feraient mieux de tout mettre en oeuvre pour en attirer davantage car, selon l’ONU, les pays industrialisés auront besoin de millions d’immigrants, dans les prochaines années, pour maintenir un bon équilibre entre personnes actives et retraitées.

Un autre mythe, qui sert la cause des xénophobes, est celui de croire que les humains seraient potentiellement tous des migrants. Pourtant, l’émigration est rarement un choix. La pauvreté, les guerres et les persécutions (et bientôt les catastrophes climatiques) expliquent la quasi-totalité des départs. C’est le cas de l’Italie qui, après avoir connu des exodes bibliques à cause de la pauvreté, est devenue un pays d’immigration. Plus près de nous, lorsque, en 2015, des fonctionnaires canadiens sont allés recruter des réfugiés syriens, au Moyen-Orient, ils ont découvert que 94 % d’entre eux souhaitaient retourner dans leur pays, malgré les ravages de la guerre. Il y a de ces richesses qui ne se traduisent pas en biens matériels.

Non, nous ne sommes pas menacés d’invasion. Au Québec, le nombre d’immigrants sera le résultat d’une délicate négociation entre les xénophobes qui en veulent le moins possible, les nativistes qui préfèrent des berceaux locaux, le milieu économique qui manque de main-d’oeuvre et ce gouvernement de droite qui, sans le dire clairement (peut-être par manque de vocabulaire), souhaite agrandir son armée de réserve de travailleurs temporaires, sans droits et corvéables à merci, dans le plus pur esprit du néolibéralisme qui conçoit la vie sociale comme un processus sans fin de sélection naturelle des plus performants.

Quant au discours antimusulman, il a pris la voie détournée de la laïcité utilisée à des fins de contrôle et de domination surtout des femmes. Il s’est beaucoup radicalisé ces dernières années. En 1994, 62 % des Québécois étaient contre l’interdiction du foulard islamique, aujourd’hui il y en a au moins autant pour. Pourtant, il n’y a que 3 % de musulmans au Québec, dont seulement 15 % sont pratiquants. En outre, 84 % d’entre eux sont francophones. Il n’est pas impossible que les générations futures aient non seulement honte de nous, mais aussi que notre fixation sur le couvre-chef de quelques musulmanes leur paraisse aussi ridicule que la crâniométrie de Lapouge.

Les musulmans d’ici sont au moins aussi sécularisés que les Québécois d’héritage catholique, mais beaucoup plus scolarisés qu’eux (pas moins de 45 % d’entre eux sont détenteurs d’un diplôme universitaire contre 21 % pour les francophones). Un musulman montréalais a récemment confié à un journaliste du Monde diplomatique qu’il s’est fait refuser un emploi parce qu’il parlait trop bien et que cela risquait d’intimider ses collègues québécois. Y a-t-il de cela aussi enfoui dans la psyché québécoise ?

Plus le pays d’immigration est ouvert et accueillant, plus l’immigrant a tendance à s’y fondre. C’est la xénophobie qui fait l’étranger et l’islamophobie qui fait le musulman. D’où qu’il vienne, l’immigrant n’a aucun intérêt à s’isoler ni à reproduire le cadre de vie qu’il a quitté. Il serait dommage que des peurs irrationnelles et des calculs politiciens nous interdisent, à l’avenir, de parler du Québec, malgré ses imperfections, comme un modèle d’accueil et d’ouverture.

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McGill farming grad fears she’ll have to leave Quebec because of CAQ immigration plan

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Saturday morning while most people are still sound asleep, 24-year-old Sylvia Mann is tending to the cows on a farm about an hour south of Montreal in Saint-Chrysostome, Quebec.

She has been working at the farm for three years. Five days a week, she’s there at 6:30 a.m. to milk cows and feed the calves. She then returns in the evening to do the same thing. She also has a full time construction job.

“During the summer, I work construction for 10 hours, and then I do another 2 hours here. So it’s 12 hour days,” Mann told Global News.

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She studied farm management and technology at McGill’s Macdonald Campus and dreams of starting her own farm in rural Quebec.

“I would like to start a goat farm! We’ll see what happens,” she explained.

These days, Mann feels like that dream has been shattered.

“I’m nervous, anxious, angry, all the human emotions all at once. It’s not the end of your life but it almost feels like it,” Mann said.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Mann has been in Quebec since she was 18. She applied for residency last year and has been working hard to learn French.

“I’ve been working with a lot of French guys. When I first started, my French was mediocre but now it’s better. I know my accent is funny, but my boss understands me and I understand him`,” she said.

READ MORE: Quebec immigration minister defends cancellation, says 18,000 immigration applicants can re-apply

Last week, Mann became one of the 18,000 people whose immigration application was cancelled after the CAQ tabled its new immigration bill. 3,700 of those applicants reside in Quebec, including Mann.

“My life is here. My boyfriend is here. I love him so I want to be with him and I know he loves me, so I’m not sure what the next step is,” she said.

Mann is a skilled worker, working in the regions in an industry that has trouble finding labour, according to farm owner Mathieu Vincent.

“I really find this a shame,” Vincent told Global. “This is someone who wants to establish herself in Quebec, someone who speaks French, someone who wants to pay taxes here and live here.”

For her part, Mann has started to look for jobs in upstate New York, where her family now lives.

“I’ve been starting to search for jobs in New York, but there aren’t too many farms hiring these days. There’s a different economy there. I’m not sure where I’d work, what I’d do, where I’d live,” she said.

Mann says her post-grad work permit expires in May. Without a Quebec selection certificate, she cannot get a new one.

She worries time will run out.

“The federal government will not have a basis to extend her work permit unless she gets a Quebec Selection Certification (CSQ),” said Neil Drabkin, a Montreal immigration lawyer.

READ MORE: ‘Tinder of immigration’: Quebec outlines plan for how to welcome newcomers

Mann may be able to apply under the new CAQ program that aims to match workers with employers in what immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette described as a Tinder-like system. Drabkin says that process takes six months, whereas Mann’s work permit expires in three.

If her application can’t be fast-tracked, Mann fears she may have to walk away from her dreams.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Immigration: 91 307 nouveaux candidats en attente au Québec

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Le nouveau système de recrutement des immigrants « Arrima » fait fureur. Depuis sa création il y a six mois, plus de 90 000 personnes y ont soumis leur déclaration d’intérêt, dont 1124 la semaine dernière.

Créé par les libéraux l’été dernier, le système de déclaration d’intérêt prend la forme d’une banque de candidats dans laquelle le gouvernement pourra piger en fonction de ses besoins de main-d’œuvre.

Les 18 000 dossiers qui font les manchettes depuis une semaine font partie de l’ancienne banque du ministère, qui fonctionnait selon le principe du premier arrivé, premier servi. Quand le ministre Simon Jolin-Barrette a annoncé jeudi dernier qu’il comptait les jeter, il a invité les personnes touchées à s’inscrire dans le nouveau système de déclaration d’intérêt.

Toutefois, contrairement aux 18 000 dossiers, les déclarations d’intérêt peuvent être déposées gratuitement.

Des mois avant de pouvoir être invité

Les personnes qui sont inscrites dans la nouvelle banque devront attendre plus de six mois avant d’avoir une chance d’être reçues toutefois.

En effet, le ministère doit d’abord lancer une « invitation » aux candidats en fonction de ses besoins de main-d’œuvre. C’est seulement après avoir été invités que les candidats peuvent déposer officiellement leur dossier.

Or, aucune invitation n’a été lancée depuis la création de la banque en septembre, et le ministre a confirmé mercredi qu’il ne pourrait pas le faire avant l’adoption du projet de loi 9 d’ici plusieurs semaines.

Le gouvernement de la Coalition avenir Québec s’est donné comme cible d’accueillir au maximum 40 000 immigrants cette année.

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Immigration: François Legault proteste contre le refus du fédéral

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Le premier ministre François Legault proteste contre le refus d’Ottawa de permettre au Québec de fixer ses propres critères de sélection des résidents permanents.

« Si M. Trudeau nous empêche d’arriver à cet objectif [de mieux répondre aux besoins de main-d’oeuvre et de créer des tests de connaissance du français et des valeurs québécoises], il va payer un prix politique », a averti M. Legault à quelque huit mois des prochaines élections fédérales.

Par médias interposés, il a pris soin de rappeler à son homologue fédéral, Justin Trudeau, le « mandat fort » de revoir le système d’immigration que lui a confié la population québécoise le 1er octobre dernier. « On a l’appui des Québécois », a-t-il insisté en marge d’une annonce à Beauceville, vendredi. « [M. Trudeau] ne devrait pas être surpris de la demande qui a été faite hier. […] C’était dans notre programme électoral et on a eu une belle victoire, solide », a-t-il ajouté.

Le projet de loi 9 accorde de nouveaux pouvoirs au ministre québécois de l’Immigration, notamment celui de déterminer les « conditions qui affectent la résidence permanente », qui est octroyée par Ottawa aux ressortissants étrangers établis au Québec, et ce, pour assurer « la satisfaction des besoins régionaux ou sectoriels de main-d’oeuvre » ou encore « l’intégration linguistique, sociale ou économique » du nouvel arrivant.

À Ottawa, le ministre des Affaires intergouvernementales, Dominic Leblanc, a balayé du revers de la main la demande du gouvernement québécois de fixer ses propres conditions à la délivrance, au maintien ou au retrait du statut de résident permanent canadien de tout nouvel arrivant sur le territoire québécois. « Plus d’analyses sur le projet de loi 9 sont nécessaires, mais de prime abord, nous ne sommes pas favorables à la réintroduction de la résidence permanente conditionnelle », a-t-il indiqué moins de 24 heures après le dépôt du projet de loi 9 à l’Assemblée nationale. « Ce n’est pas un non. Ici, c’est une invitation à discuter, puis travailler ensemble », a dit de son côté le ministre fédéral de la Famille, Jean-Yves Duclos.

Le chef parlementaire du Parti québécois, Pascal Bérubé se désole de cette deuxième rebuffade infligée par Ottawa au Québec en une semaine : non à une déclaration de revenus unique traitée par le Québec, non à davantage de pouvoir en matière d’immigration. « On propose au gouvernement de la CAQ un projet emballant qui mettra fin à ces refus : l’indépendance du Québec », a lancé la députée de Joliette, Véronique Hivon.

L’élection d’un gouvernement « nationaliste », « autonomiste » se traduira nécessairement par des « gains » pour le Québec face à Ottawa, a réitéré M. Legault vendredi. Quels sont les gains réalisés depuis la prise de pouvoir de la CAQ ? lui a-t-on demandé. « Je viens d’arriver », a rétorqué le premier ministre, avant d’ajouter : « Je pense qu’on a obtenu de l’argent sur un certain nombre de dossiers du gouvernement fédéral… »

Consensus québécois ?

M. Legault a demandé vendredi à tous les partis politiques de serrer les coudes afin de « protéger l’autonomie du Québec ». À ses yeux, la demande faite à Ottawa de « ravoir le pouvoir de fixer des conditions dans le choix des nouveaux arrivants, ce qui avait été obtenu par Robert Bourrassa en 1993, [mais] laissé par [Philippe] Couillard et Kathleen Weil il y a quelques années » devrait faire l’objet d’« un consensus » à l’Assemblée nationale.

Même s’il n’appuie pas la réforme du système d’immigration proposée par le gouvernement caquiste, l’élu de Québec solidaire Andrés Fontecilla revendique « tous les pouvoirs au Québec en immigration comme dans tous les domaines ». « Le projet de loi de la CAQ semble traiter les humains comme de la marchandise et jette à la poubelle 18 000 dossiers, qui représentent 60 000 personnes, 60 000 projets de vie ruinés, dont un certain nombre vivant déjà au Québec depuis quelques années », a-t-il déploré.

Contestation judiciaire ?

M. Legault a soutenu vendredi que l’annulation des 18 000 demandes en attente au ministère de l’Immigration, qui est prévue dans le projet de loi 9, est légale. L’auteur du projet de loi, « Simon Jolin-Barrette est lui même un avocat », a-t-il fait remarquer. « Je n’ai pas d’inquiétudes. »

De leur côté, des avocats spécialisés en immigration « évalu[ent] les recours » juridiques des quelque 50 000 personnes dont la demande d’immigration serait annulée au lendemain d’une éventuelle adoption du projet de loi 9.

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Immigration: la quadrature du cercle

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Le ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion, Simon Jolin-Barrette, a révélé cette semaine que son ministère avait accumulé plus de 18 000 dossiers d’immigration à traiter, qui portent sur plus de 50 000 personnes, au moment où son gouvernement sabre le nombre d’immigrants admis et où il doit réformer en profondeur sa méthode de sélection. C’est un énorme casse-tête qui soulève des enjeux administratifs, certes, mais aussi d’équité.

En vertu de l’entente Canada-Québec sur l’immigration, Québec sélectionne quelque 70 % des immigrants, en grande majorité dans la catégorie de l’immigration économique, soit des travailleurs qui sont en principe choisis pour répondre aux besoins en main-d’oeuvre. Or le système fonctionne mal. C’est d’ailleurs le constat qu’avait fait le gouvernement précédent, qui s’était engagé à le remplacer.

La sélection est basée sur une grille de pointage qui se solde par une note globale que le candidat doit atteindre pour être sélectionné. Or cette grille est mal arrimée aux possibilités d’emploi qui s’offrent aux nouveaux arrivants. En outre, compte tenu des longs délais entre le dépôt du dossier par le candidat et son admission — trois ans, voire cinq ou six —, les conditions du marché du travail peuvent avoir changé. Et ce sont les dossiers qui traînent depuis le plus longtemps qui ont préséance, même si le profil du candidat ne correspond plus aux besoins, si, d’aventure, ce fut un jour le cas.

Le Québec doit donc se doter d’un nouveau système de sélection basé sur ce qu’on appelle la déclaration d’intérêt. Finie la règle du premier arrivé, premier admis et finie la liste d’attente. La sélection sera faite à même le bassin de déclarations d’intérêt soumises par les candidats et en fonction des besoins en main-d’oeuvre courants. C’est une formule éprouvée dans d’autres pays et elle permet de réduire considérablement les délais d’admission.

Le ministre s’est engagé à régler d’ici six mois le problème des dossiers à traiter d’ici, mais il n’a pas dit comment. S’il y va pour un traitement accéléré et tributaire de la grille, il se retrouvera à sélectionner des candidats qui auront du mal à trouver un emploi dans leur domaine. Qui plus est, il retardera de plusieurs années l’implantation du nouveau système de sélection. En outre, comme le gouvernement Legault a réduit de 31 000 à 24 000 le seuil d’immigration pour 2019, c’est d’autant moins de dossiers qui pourront se clore.

Autre complication : un nombre grandissant d’immigrants proviennent du Programme d’expérience québécoise (PEQ) — les candidats sont déjà au Québec, ils occupent un emploi et parlent français — et ils ne sont pas compris pas dans les dossiers accumulés. Même avec un traitement accéléré, guère plus de 10 000 des candidats en attente par an, sur les 50 000, pourront être admis.

L’autre solution consiste à vérifier rapidement lesquels, parmi les candidats, souhaitent toujours émigrer au Québec et à exiger de ces derniers qu’ils présentent une nouvelle demande sous forme de déclaration d’intérêt. Or ils perdraient leur préséance, ce qui n’est guère équitable pour eux. Enfin, le gouvernement pourrait choisir de les rembourser, comme l’a fait Ottawa il y a quelques années. Pour l’ensemble des dossiers, qui, chacun, représentent des frais de 1300 $ à 1800 $ pour les candidats, la note avoisinerait les 25 millions.

C’est la quadrature du cercle : le ministre Jolin-Barrette doit à la fois préserver la réputation du Québec à l’étranger, dans un souci d’équité envers les candidats soumis aux règles existantes, tout en nous débarrassant d’un processus inefficace qui nuit à la sélection des meilleurs candidats à l’immigration.

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Trudeau’s ‘all are welcome’ immigration system damages its integrity: Scheer – National

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the prime minister damaged the integrity of Canada’s immigration system when he tweeted two years ago that Canadians will welcome all those fleeing persecution, terror and war.


READ MORE:
Scheer says Canada ‘can’t afford four more years of Justin Trudeau’

“In terms of illegal immigration, we have seen this problem grow for the past few years. We all remember Justin Trudeau’s famous tweet where he couldn’t resist jumping in on Twitter and tweeting out all are welcome,” Scheer said Friday at a town hall in suburban Vancouver held by the Surrey Board of Trade.

“Well, people have taken him up on his word. The problem is that that damages the integrity of our immigration system and people who are trying to come to Canada the right way are now having to wait longer,” he said to applause from members of the audience.

In January 2017, Trudeau posted on Twitter: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”

WATCH: Scheer says PM fooling Canadians with carbon bill bigger than savings






He made the post shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning entry of citizens from seven countries with majority-Muslim populations for 90 days.

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada says 34,854 refugee claims were made by irregular border crossers between February 2017 and September 2018 and of those 3,142 – or nine per cent – were accepted. Some 2,429 were denied and 28,314 are pending. It says there has been an “influx” of irregular border crossers.

Trudeau recently warned people to be wary of fear-mongering about immigration, suggesting the issue will be a hot-button topic during the federal election campaign this fall.


READ MORE:
Scheer ‘cash-for-access’ fundraiser comes under Liberal scrutiny

Scheer said he has met people who spent years in a refugee camp waiting to enter Canada and don’t understand why someone can enter through upstate New York.

The parliamentary budget officer recently reported that the influx of asylum seekers at the border is on course to cost Ottawa more than $1 billion, he added.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan has criticized the Conservatives and Liberal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen for using the word illegal to describe people crossing the U.S. border seeking asylum. Hussen said he was using the word to describe the act of crossing the border outside of a normal point of entry, but he had never described asylum seekers themselves as “illegal.”

WATCH: Everyday Canadians can’t afford 4 more years of Trudeau: Scheer






Asked by a reporter about his use of the word illegal, Scheer said there’s a sign at the border that says it’s illegal to cross into Canada outside of regular checkpoints.

He said when he talks to new Canadians, they express frustration at how long it took them to be allowed into the country compared with people crossing the U.S. border.

“To see a government that allows people to come and jump the queue and skip the line, that frustrates them,” Scheer said.


READ MORE:
Andrew Scheer says Justin Trudeau is Canada’s most divisive prime minister

The Conservatives were probably planning to highlight immigration policies in the election, but the new People’s Party of Canada led by former Tory MP Maxime Bernier is likely causing them to double down on the issue, said political scientist Hamish Telford of the University of the Fraser Valley.

“It’s going to be a wedge issue and it’s going to place the Conservatives and the People’s Party on one side and the Liberals and the NDP on the other side,” Telford said in an interview.

Asked whether the People’s Party is pushing him farther right on immigration, Scheer replied: “It’s not about left or right on this issue. It’s about what’s right for Canada. I’m going to continue standing up for principles and not be worried about the politics of it.”

Bernier’s party has promised to reduce the total number of immigrants to 250,000 a year, increase border security and end reliance on the United Nations for refugee selection.

WATCH: Scheer says Trudeau won’t say how much carbon tax will cost






Telford said Trudeau’s 2017 tweet and welcoming stance toward Syrian refugees likely haven’t lost the Liberals any supporters and may have actually gained them some progressive voters. But it has also produced an angry reaction among those who oppose the Liberal policies, he said.

The electorate has become more polarized since 2015, he said, noting that in the last general election campaign the Conservatives floated the idea of a hotline to report immigrants bringing in “barbaric cultural practices” and it was poorly received.

“Since then, I think that people who are … tough on immigrants or refugees have frankly been emboldened by the Trump administration in the United States and perhaps movements in Europe as well.”

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Is there a better way to reunite families? Thousands left in lurch by chaotic immigration application process

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The chaos around a new application process to bring parents and grandparents to Canada has left advocates and would-be applicants wondering if there is a better — and more fair — way to reunite families.

The immigration department’s new first-come-first-serve online application process launched Monday saw 27,000 “expression of interest” spots snapped up in mere minutes, leaving tens of thousands of other potential sponsors frustrated and angry at being shut out.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office said more than 100,000 people tried to access the digital form to express interest in sponsoring their parents or grandparents when it went live online at noon on Monday.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office said more than 100,000 people tried to access the digital form to express interest in sponsoring their parents or grandparents when it went live online at noon on Monday.  (PATRICK DOYLE / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

“Whatever system we have, there’s always the question of fairness,” said Surrey, B.C., lawyer Marina Sedai, chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration division. “No one can come up with a perfect solution that satisfies the needs of all Canadians.”

For decades, any Canadian citizen or permanent resident interested in sponsoring parents and grandparents could apply in an “all-in” system where they simply waited for their turn, based on the order applications were received. However, due to overwhelming interest and limited resources, the backlog had grown to 165,000 people and applicants had to wait for up to eight years for their relatives to arrive.

In 2011, the then-Conservative government suspended new applications for two years before reopening the process and, in 2014, imposing a cap of 5,000, to be accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis. Paper-based applications had to be sent by mail or registered courier to a single government processing centre in Mississauga and were assessed in order of their time stamp. Applicants complained that this forced them to spend large amounts of money on couriers each year in an attempt to make it into the top 5,000 spots.

In 2016, the Liberals raised the annual quota to 10,000. And in January 2017, Ottawa introduced the lottery process. Sponsors were asked to submit an expression of interest form, and from that pool, people were randomly selected to continue with the application process. That year, some 95,000 would-be sponsors vied for the 10,000 spots; only 6,020 applications were completed because some were deemed ineligible, others never completed the process, and multiple entries by the same applicants were discarded.

Read more:

Frustration builds as 27,000 spots to sponsor parents, grandparents snapped up in minutes

Immigration minister unveils program to attract newcomers to rural areas

Marina Sedai, chair of the Canadian Bar Association's immigration division, said the debate over fairness is bound to continue unless Ottawa is ready to raise the annual admission quota for parents and grandparents.
Marina Sedai, chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s immigration division, said the debate over fairness is bound to continue unless Ottawa is ready to raise the annual admission quota for parents and grandparents.  (SUPPLIED PHOTO)

‘Recasting’ needed in global response to refugee crisis, report says

This year, applicants had to compete to fill out a 10-page interest-to-sponsor digital form and only the first 27,000 submissions were accepted. Based on the time of receipt, the first 20,000 eligible ones will be invited to submit a formal application for sponsorship.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said more than 100,000 people attempted to access the digital form when it went live online at noon on Monday but “no technical issues” were reported. In less than seven minutes, the quota of 27,000 was reached. Failed applicants took their frustration and anger to social media, blasting the government’s efforts.

Toronto immigration lawyer Clifford McCarten said people were unhappy with the old lottery system because they didn’t want to be subjected to a random process where they could miss out repeatedly and be separated from their family perpetually. “People want predictability,” he said.

McCarten offered three alternatives as possible solutions:

  • Taking in everybody and pre-screening them for eligibility before sponsors could bid for a place in the lottery;
  • A hybrid system where equal spots would be allotted for a lottery, for first-come-first-serve, and for humanitarian screening based on personal circumstances and factors such as the number of previous failed attempts;
Behnam Esfahanizadeh says he has made three unsuccessful attempts to bring his wife's parents here from Slovakia.
Behnam Esfahanizadeh says he has made three unsuccessful attempts to bring his wife’s parents here from Slovakia.  (SUPPLIED PHOTO)
  • A point system similar to one used to rank skilled immigrant applicants on personal attributes to decide which parents and grandparents were more deserving to come here.

Heather Otto, one of the would-be sponsors left in the lurch on Monday, said the good thing about the lottery was that everyone had an equal chance.

“They said it’s first-come-first-serve, but I was excluded right off the bat on Monday,” said the Toronto computer programmer, who would like to sponsor her parents here from South Africa. “I had everything ready by noon and started refreshing my computer every few seconds. By the time I saw the (apply) button at 12:08 p.m., it said the program had already closed.”

Otto said she wasn’t sure how a point system could work for parents and grandparents, but everyone interested in getting in the pool should be asked to pay the $1,040 fee ($75 for sponsorship, $475 for processing and $490 for the right of permanent residence) upfront so only serious applicants would get a chance.

Natalya Sakhno, another disappointed sponsor, said she preferred the lottery system to the mad-rush chaos on Monday, which ended up being a race of who had the fastest keystrokes and internet speed.

“Every system has its positives and negatives,” said the Toronto human resources professional, who wants to bring her father here from Ukraine. “It’s a gamble.”

Another failed applicant, Behnam Esfahanizadeh, said a real first-come-first-serve system is when the process is open to all and everyone waits in order.

“They just have to get the applications in line and let everyone wait for their turn,” said the Toronto IT consultant, who has made three unsuccessful attempts to bring his wife’s parents here from Slovakia.

Sedai said the debate over the “fairness” issue is bound to continue unless Ottawa is ready to raise the annual admission quota for parents and grandparents and deploy more resources to process applications.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

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Hundreds of nonviolent immigration detainees sent to max-security jails as part of ‘abhorrent’ government program

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Canada’s immigration authorities locked up nearly 1,500 nonviolent immigration detainees in maximum-security jails last year, the Star has found.

These detainees have been incarcerated in the most restrictive conditions possible alongside sentenced criminals and those awaiting trial on serious charges.

Ebrahim Toure, pictured here at the Central East Correctional Centre in February 2017, spent the first four-and-a-half of his five-and-a-half years in immigration detention in a maximum-security jail. A year before his eventual release a Superior Court judge ordered his tranfer to a less restrictive immigration holding centre, saying that holding Toure in a maximum-security jail was “grossly disproportionate” to the risk he posed and the reason he was being detained.
Ebrahim Toure, pictured here at the Central East Correctional Centre in February 2017, spent the first four-and-a-half of his five-and-a-half years in immigration detention in a maximum-security jail. A year before his eventual release a Superior Court judge ordered his tranfer to a less restrictive immigration holding centre, saying that holding Toure in a maximum-security jail was “grossly disproportionate” to the risk he posed and the reason he was being detained.  (Anne-Marie Jackson / Toronto Star file photo)

While they may have criminal records, the detainees were not considered dangerous by the Immigration and Refugee Board. Almost all were detained solely on the grounds that they were unlikely to appear for their immigration hearing.

A Star analysis of government statistics from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, found that 80 per cent of immigration detainees held in provincial jails — rather than less restrictive immigration holding centres — were not detained on the grounds that they were dangers to the public. Data from the months since then shows the rate is unchanged. All provincial jails are maximum security.

“It’s abhorrent for the government to be placing people in maximum-security jails that it acknowledges are not a danger,” said Subodh Bharati, an immigration lawyer at the Community and Legal Aid Services Program at Osgoode Hall Law School. Bharati said that by the government’s own description, immigration detention is explicitly administrative and not punitive. “But incarceration in a maximum-security jail is punitive by its very nature.”

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has for several years repeated his government’s commitment to “minimize the use of provincial jails” for immigration detainees as part of an overall plan to create a “better” and “fairer” system for immigration detention in Canada.

While the Liberals have reduced the use of jails — roughly one-third of all immigration detainees were sent to provincial jails under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, compared to 20 per cent last year — the latest statistics show that more than three years after Goodale’s Liberals took power, Canada continues to routinely use them for nonviolent detainees.

“Among that population is people who have been trafficked and asylum seekers who may be recovering from trauma of one kind or another,” said Jared Will, an immigration lawyer who has long challenged Canada’s immigration detention system. “You’re putting them in a terrifying and sometimes objectively dangerous environment when there’s no justification for doing it whatsoever.”

Goodale declined to be interviewed for this story, but a spokesman provided a written response to the Star’s questions, saying the government has made a number of changes and continues to work to “dramatically reduce” the use of provincial jails for immigration detention.

Scott Bardsley cited the expansion of alternatives to detention, revamped risk assessments of detainees and the ongoing upgrades to immigration holding centres as among the government’s efforts. “We are implementing reforms in an effective and orderly way that maintains public safety.”

The use of jails and the “co-mingling” of immigration detainees with criminal detainees has been repeatedly cited by human rights groups, detainee advocates and the United Nations as a major problem with Canada’s immigration detention system.

“We would never take these sorts of measures against citizens,” said Hanna Gros, a lawyer at the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program. “But somehow it’s okay to take these measures against non-citizens, who are often not criminals and most certainly not serving time for any criminal behaviour.”

Ebrahim Toure, who had no history of violence and was not considered a danger to the public, spent the first four-and-a-half of his five-and-a-half years in immigration detention in a maximum-security jail. The Canada Border Services Agency said he was a “higher risk” detainee due to his “criminality” in the U.S., which consisted of a decade-old conviction for selling pirated CDs and DVDs, an offence for which he served no jail time.

A year before he was eventually released from detention, Superior Court Justice Alfred O’Marra ordered Toure’s immediate transfer to an immigration holding centre, saying that detaining him in such restrictive conditions was “grossly disproportionate” to the risk he posed and the reason he was being detained. O’Marra noted that Toure had spent more time in maximum-security jail “than someone convicted of a serious crime of violence.”

Immigration detention in Canada occurs in two types of facilities: federal immigration holding centres, of which there are three across the country, and provincial jails.

Immigration detainees are not criminally charged, but when they are sent to a provincial jail they are treated the same as any other prisoner. They wear orange jumpsuits, are regularly strip searched and are subject to frequent lockdowns — when they are confined to their cells without being able to shower, go outside or see visitors. Sometimes a lockdown lasts days or weeks.

Immigration holding centres are medium-security facilities exclusively for immigration detainees. Detainees are not locked in their rooms, are able to move much more freely within the facility and have easier access to phones and visitors. There is one in Toronto, one outside Montreal in Laval, Que., and a short-term holding centre at the Vancouver airport that will soon be replaced by a new facility in Surrey, B.C. None of the immigration holding centres are at or near capacity.

The Canada Border Services Agency has the power to indefinitely detain non-citizens on one, or a combination, of the following three grounds: They are a danger to the public; they are unlikely to appear for their deportation or other immigration matters (what officials call “flight risk”); or their identity is in doubt.

After a person is detained, they have a quasi-judicial hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board, where the CBSA makes its arguments and a government-appointed adjudicator decides whether detention should continue. Some detainees have lawyers, but many represent themselves at the hearings, which occur after the first 48 hours, seven days and then every 30 days thereafter.

What is not discussed at the hearing is in what kind of facility the detainee will be held. That decision is made solely by the CBSA and is not subject to any external oversight. This aspect of the system was criticized by Justice O’Marra, who, when ordering Toure’s transfer to an immigration holding centre in 2017, said the current system “contains no mechanism to ensure proportionality between the flight risk which he has been found to be and the actual conditions of his detention.”

To determine where a detainee will be placed, a CBSA officer fills out a form known as a National Risk Assessment for Detention, which was revised last year. The Star revealed problems with the risk assessment forms in 2017, including officers leaving key areas blank and, in one instance, an officer admitting on the form that they had not been trained to fill it out. The new form has been in place since last February.

Detainees used to be classified as high, medium or low risk, but they are now graded on a point scale based on nine questions intended to assess their relative risk. A history of violent behaviour or associations with organized crime, for example, will lead to a higher risk score and a placement in a provincial jail. Detainees with no history or association with violence should score lower on the risk scale and be sent to an immigration holding centre.

The new form still allows considerable discretion. If a detainee scores between five and nine points, it’s up to the officer filling it out whether they are sent to a provincial jail or immigration holding centre. If an immigration detainee is apprehended outside of the greater Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver areas, they are often automatically sent to a provincial jail, regardless of the risk they pose.

The Maplehurst Correctional Complex, a maximum-security jail in Milton, Ont., is home to hundreds of immigration detainees each year. Last year it held 18 per cent of all the immigration detainees in provincial jails across the country.
The Maplehurst Correctional Complex, a maximum-security jail in Milton, Ont., is home to hundreds of immigration detainees each year. Last year it held 18 per cent of all the immigration detainees in provincial jails across the country.  (Anne-Marie Jackson)

The CBSA said it has “observed a significant reduction” in the use of jails since the revised NRAD form was implemented nearly a year ago. First-quarter statistics from the current fiscal year show the number of detainees sent to jails declined by two percentage points compared to the prior year’s rate.

The CBSA said they have been reviewing cases “on a regular basis to ensure that the placement of individuals is appropriate and in line with their determined level of risk.”

One of the most confusing explanations the government has given for why it has relied so heavily on provincial jails for immigration detention is that its own immigration holding centres were not equipped to handle the kinds of detainees its policies said they should. Detainees with nonviolent criminal records should be held in an immigration holding centre, not a provincial jail, according to CBSA’s detention guidelines. But Toronto’s Immigration Holding Centre needed to be renovated so they could accommodate such detainees. Renovations were originally scheduled to be completed last July, but now the agency says it will be spring before they are finished.

Meanwhile, new immigration holding centres in Surrey and Laval are expected to be complete by the end of this year and 2021, respectively. The new facilities, which will replace existing ones, will allow the CBSA to make them the “default detention location for most detainees,” Bardsley said. The government says provincial jails will still be used for the “highest risk” detainees and in parts of the country where there is no immigration holding centre.

The Central East Correctional Centre, a maximum-security provincial jail in Lindsay, Ont., is home to hundreds of immigration detainees each year, including many who have been detained for months or years. The so-called “superjail,” which can hold up to 1,184 prisoners, is notorious for its high number of lockdowns and incidents of violence. Last February, correctional officers at the jail walked off the job citing unsafe work conditions.

It’s where Toure, who was released in September on a number of conditions, spent the bulk of his half-decade in detention before his court-ordered transfer to the Immigration Holding Centre. He told the Star in a recent interview that he was randomly attacked by other inmates on two occasions during his time at Central East. In one instance, he said he was hospitalized after being sucker-punched. “When you’re in jail you never feel safe,” he said.

Toure said that while he was inside the Immigration Holding Centre, his quality of life was much better than it was at Central East. “When they put you in Lindsay, you’re a criminal,” he said. “Those guards don’t know who you are and they aren’t going to treat you any different.”

The harsh conditions of the jail included twice-a-week strip searches, when jail guards would order him to undress and then handcuff him before they searched his mouth and anus. Lockdowns were also frequent. Records entered as evidence in Toure’s court challenge showed that all of his lockdowns added up to nearly a year-and-a-half confined to a six-by-12-foot cell. Toure says he once endured a single lockdown of more than two weeks.

Immigration detainees in provincial jails are also subject to solitary confinement, sometimes for several months at a time. Forty-five immigration detainees in Ontario jails spent time in solitary confinement between April 1 and May 31 of last year, according to a snapshot of government statistics released in November as part of a legal settlement. One-third of those detainees spent more than 15 consecutive days in segregation, including four who had been segregated for more than 130 consecutive days. United Nations guidelines recommend a 15-day limit on solitary confinement. All four of the detainees who spent more than 130 days in solitary were segregated for “multiple reasons,” according to the data. All four also had a mental health “alert,” signalling possible issues with their mental health.

At Toure’s court challenge, a psychiatrist testified that Toure — who was never put in segregation — suffered from “major problems” with his mental health, including auditory and visual hallucinations. The psychiatrist could not say whether Toure’s mental health problems were caused by his indefinite incarceration in a maximum-security jail, but he said they were definitely exacerbated by it.

Toure says he only started hearing voices during his time in jail. He said he still has nightmares and often wakes up screaming.

Brendan Kennedy is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @BKennedyStar

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Andrew Scheer promises Quebec more autonomy over immigration – Montreal

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is promising to give Quebec more autonomy over immigration if he is elected prime minister.

But speaking in Montreal today, Scheer offered few details and wouldn’t say whether he agrees Quebec alone should determine how many immigrants it receives every year.

READ MORE: Trudeau grilled on immigration, environment at Quebec town hall

The federal official Opposition Leader says he’s willing to discuss all of Premier François Legault’s demands to Ottawa about a temporary reduction in the number of newcomers to Quebec.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he is willing to continue discussions with Legault about reducing immigration to Quebec by 20 per cent in 2019.

WATCH: Quebec moves forward with controversial plan to lower immigration levels






Scheer accused Trudeau of inaction on immigration and suggested if he wins the October federal election, he will be more receptive to Quebec’s demands.

Later today Scheer is scheduled to attend an event at the campaign office for his candidate, Jasmine Louras, who is vying to replace former NDP leader Tom Mulcair in a Feb. 25 byelection in the Montreal riding of Outremont.

READ MORE: François Legault lists Quebec demands ahead of federal election

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Relations Québec-Ottawa: cruciale immigration | Le Devoir

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Au sortir de sa rencontre, à Sherbrooke jeudi, avec Justin Trudeau, François Legault a dressé la liste des demandes que le Québec présente à Ottawa. Certaines revendications s’inscrivent dans le long terme, comme la déclaration de revenus unique administrée par le gouvernement québécois, d’autres doivent se régler d’ici le déclenchement des prochaines élections, à moins que le premier ministre canadien ne choisisse de faire campagne avec un caillou dans le soulier. C’est le cas de l’annonce des investissements pour les infrastructures, de la réduction des seuils d’immigration et des nouvelles règles touchant la sélection des candidats à l’immigration par le truchement du programme des travailleurs étrangers temporaires géré par le gouvernement fédéral.

Lors de son point de presse après la rencontre, l’ex-homme d’affaires, qui carbure à l’action et aux résultats, a montré des signes d’impatience. Non sans candeur, François Legault a laissé entendre que le moment était particulièrement bien choisi pour dégotter ce qu’il réclame à court terme, compte tenu de l’échéance électorale à laquelle est confronté son homologue.

En ce qui a trait aux infrastructures, Québec est en terrain solide : le gouvernement Trudeau a un avantage électoral évident à multiplier au Québec les annonces d’investissements publics d’ici les élections.

Les matières touchant l’immigration sont plus épineuses. La réduction des seuils d’immigration va à l’encontre des orientations du gouvernement Trudeau qui souhaite hausser le nombre d’immigrants admis à un niveau record. Mais dans la mesure où la baisse serait temporaire, Ottawa serait prêt à faire preuve d’une certaine souplesse, croit-on à Québec.

 

Là où les choses se compliquent, c’est avec le recours aux travailleurs étrangers temporaires, un programme auquel le gouvernement Harper a imposé des contraintes à la suite des abus qui ont eu cours dans le reste du Canada : les employeurs remplaçaient des travailleurs canadiens peu qualifiés par de la main-d’oeuvre étrangère moins onéreuse.

Il s’agit d’un changement majeur qui est proposé dans la sélection des immigrants dits « économiques », sélection qui relève du Québec. Il consiste à accorder le statut de résident permanent, ou d’immigrant reçu, aux travailleurs étrangers après trois ans s’ils réussissent des tests de français et de « valeurs ». Ces tests demeurent un problème dans la mesure où un échec peut conduire à l’expulsion. Du travailleur, de sa conjointe ? On ne le sait.

En revanche, miser sur les travailleurs étrangers temporaires qui ont un emploi assuré, avec un employeur qui s’est engagé à les embaucher dès leur arrivée, est une avenue à privilégier. Certes, il faut prévenir les abus : des employeurs sans scrupule ont pris certains de ces travailleurs en otages. Mais il ne s’agit pas d’une embûche insurmontable.

Cette avenue fut déjà préconisée par la ministre libérale de l’Immigration, Kathleen Weil. C’est un moyen efficace de pallier les pénuries spécifiques de main-d’oeuvre, notamment en région. Et c’est sans doute le seul moyen d’assurer la régionalisation de l’immigration, une politique définie il y a 30 ans mais qui s’est soldée par un lamentable échec. Encore aujourd’hui, 85 % des immigrants s’établissent dans la grande région de Montréal alors que les besoins en main-d’oeuvre sont criants en région.

Certes, le gouvernement Legault a du travail à faire pour définir les règles entourant cette nouvelle façon d’immigrer au Québec. Souhaitons toutefois que le gouvernement Trudeau montre une grande ouverture à ce sujet.

Là où les visées caquistes demeurent floues, c’est en matière de réunification des familles, un domaine qui relève d’Ottawa. Le gouvernement Legault réclame, à la faveur d’une réouverture de l’entente Canada-Québec sur l’immigration, le pouvoir de faire la sélection des candidats, d’en déterminer les seuils d’admission et d’exiger de ces nouveaux arrivants une connaissance du français. Quand on sait que, souvent, il s’agit de grands-parents trop âgés pour se mettre à l’apprentissage d’une langue, on ne voit pas quel objectif poursuit le gouvernement, d’autant plus que la réunification familiale, c’est avant tout une façon de traiter avec humanité des immigrants établis au pays depuis un certain nombre d’années. Heureusement, François Legault n’a pas fait de cette demande une priorité à court terme.

Si le gouvernement caquiste reçoit l’aval d’Ottawa pour amorcer sa réforme de l’immigration et du programme des travailleurs étrangers temporaires — dans la mesure où les aspérités de cette réforme sont éliminées —, ce serait déjà une réalisation dont il pourrait se targuer.

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