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WES Weekly Roundup November 30, 2022

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World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. The weekly roundup includes research, stories, and events of interest to the Canadian immigration and settlement community. This content has been created by WES and is reproduced here with their permission, in partnership.

Toronto Social Capital Study 2022 (Toronto Foundation)

Measuring various aspects of social capital including social networks, civic engagement, social trust, neighbourhood support and well-being, this report looks at how COVID-19 has affected various Torontonians and their feelings of connectedness. The study reveals that several groups in the city are particularly vulnerable, have greater needs but have less access to support of family and friends and feel less connected to supportive organizations and access to services. For Torontonians with lower incomes, those who are unemployed, those with disabilities or who identify as LGBTQ2S+, they may feel these realities more acutely.

Approximately one in twelve Torontonians report having no close family members they can call for help or talk to, and in a city of six million people, this is a large number of individuals who lack this social support. It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic deeply affected the social connection, civic engagement and well-being of Torontonians. Declines in civic engagement is an added layer to the complexity of pandemic recovery as decreases in volunteering, charitable giving impact community organization’s abilities to support growing needs.

The report provides several recommendations to various stakeholders to prioritize building connectedness and inclusivity in Toronto. Among them include:

  • For Donors & Funders – Reinvest in community and social service organizations that are addressing increased needs with fewer resources.
  • For Organizations & Businesses – Prioritize improving youth mental health through increased awareness and expansion of programs. With greater focus on areas such as better coordination of services and supports, improved access and more culturally appropriate approaches.
  • For Government & Policymakers – Engage residents, particularly low-income communities to engage in the neighbourhood planning processes more meaningfully where they can influence decisions and benefit from the impacts of change processes.
  • For Torontonians – Support young adults as they seek to establish careers and families in an ever more challenging world. 

Promoting Fairness in Canadian Immigration Decisions (CIMM)

A recent report from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) recommends several changes to current immigration processing and standards that contribute to bias and discrimination. Through evaluation of visa decisions within the immigration system, CIMM found that applicants from certain populations are systematically discriminated against based on characteristics including race and country of origin. As part of CIMM's 'commitment to anti-racism, equity, and inclusion' the committee has raised several recommendations that include: 

  • IRCC to provide funding to settlement agencies to enable service provision to non-permanent residents such as temporary work permit holders and refugee claimants
  • Implementation of a widened Anti-Racism Quality Assurance process for VISA Officer Decisions to examine the potential effect of systemic racism and bias on decisions and refusal rates 
  • Government of Canada creates an independent oversight body for the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and amend current mandate to address racism and race-based complaints involving the agency 
  • Recording of applicant interviews to assist in application challenges or re-determinations 

Canadian postsecondary enrolments and graduates, 2020/2021 (Stats Canada)

For years, post-secondary enrollments in Canada were driven primarily by international students. However, the global pandemic’s lockdowns and travel restrictions impacted many international students’ ability to obtain permits to study in Canada. In 2020-21 there was a decline of 22% in college-level enrollments (including college certificates, diplomas and degree programs). As a result, many higher education institutions increased their virtual learning options and international students studying outside of Canada ballooned from 1,323 (2019-20) to 5,439 (in 2020-21). This report also emphasizes the impacts the pandemic had on programs with work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities for students. Educational programs that had WIL were far more affected by COVID-19 than any other learning activities that were more easily offered virtually. In particular, the biggest impact was observed in college level programs that frequently offered a work-related placement. For healthcare programs in particular, this drop was more apparent (-10.3%) where many students could not complete in-person clinical placements and fulfill their program requirements to graduate.

Refugee Resettlement Spotlight

One in three Ukrainians with visas have reached Canada as applications approach 700K (City News) 

Since the onset of the Russian invasion into Ukraine in early 2021, the Canadian government has received nearly 700,000 applications from Ukrainians to travel to Canada under the CUAET special authorization visa program. However, IRCC reports that approximately 420,000 applications have been approved and only 117,000 have actually arrived in Canada, a majority via air travel. It is unclear what has contributed to these gaps but internal reports indicate that it has taken an average of 72 days or more than 10 weeks for CUAET applications to be processed. Some critics emphasize that these numbers could be inflated due to multiple applications submitted. Nevertheless, the Ukraine Ambassador to Canada has confirmed that to date, the embassy has received 14,000 applications a week and over seven million civilians have fled the country.

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