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WES Weekly Roundup September 6, 2023

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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.

This Canadian province wants to pick immigrants based on their nation. Is that fair, or a ‘slippery slope’?

The province of Saskatchewan is piloting the selection of skilled immigrants based on their country of residence. Through the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program, the province created six draws with the goal of inviting 542 skilled immigrants with various occupational backgrounds to apply for permanent residency. However only applicants from Czechia, Germany, India, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine, are eligible to apply. In collaboration with employers, professional regulators, industry associations and community-based partners, provincial immigration officials reportedly cite that this approach is simply meant to enable the province to target newcomers who are 'likely to succeed and stay in the province' and is based on credential compatibility and the province’s previous successes in resettlement programming and labour market integration strategies. Contrastingly, other advocates caution that this may lead to the return of ethnocentric immigration processes; an approach that Canada has left behind since the implementation of the points-based system. According to IRCC, the points system, in place since 1967, is meant to facilitate the selection of skilled migrants based on measurable competencies and achievements like academic credentials, language proficiency, and employment skills. In Saskatchewan, immigration officials expect to begin recruitment missions to target countries later this month.

We're welcoming record numbers of international students. Here's how they got caught up in the housing crisis

International students are particularly vulnerable to housing and affordability issues and are increasingly getting blamed for Canada’s housing and affordability challenges overall, which might result in a cap on their entry to Canada. The rapid increase in international student numbers stemmed from the federal government's International Education Strategy, which aimed to double international student enrollment by the end of the decade, which it surpassed in just four years; as well as key policy shifts in the early 2000s such as tuition deregulation, off-campus work permits, and the creation of pathways for permanent residency. Despite this surge, support for student housing has not increased, and some institutions face criticism for predatory recruitment practices such as deportation threats and fake admission letters. Students often take low-paying jobs to support their studies and are highly vulnerable to poor housing conditions which lead them to ask “are we really the problem?”. Housing Minister Sean Fraser plans to work with post-secondary institutions to address the housing shortage, however experts propose that an alternative route may be required: a reevaluation of public education funding and corporate tax rates to address the root causes of the issue. International students also seek a meaningful seat at the table to influence change in their conditions and well-being.

Migrant workers facing the dangers of wildfires need support

Migrant workers in Canada, particularly in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, face increased challenges during wildfires with limited support. These workers are already vulnerable due to their precarious legal status and often experience abusive workplaces and hazardous conditions. Research from the "Collective Care, Renewal, and Resurgence for the Post-Pandemic Future" project highlights some of the issues they face, including inadequate pay, unsafe housing, and limited access to healthcare. Migrant workers' vulnerability is tied to immigration programs, like the Temporary Foreign Worker program, that offer them few legal protections and rights. Despite some support during the wildfires, such as masks and evacuation assistance, most workers report ongoing challenges, including lack of protective equipment for the poor air quality, inadequate breaks, and lack of easy access to clean water. The article calls for urgent revisions to immigration policies to ensure support for migrants, regardless of legal status, during crises.

StatsCan to change how it counts non-permanent residents

Stats Canada is set to launch new data tables estimating the number of non-permanent residents (NPRs) in Canada. The news comes just after CIBC released a report arguing that Canada is significantly undercounting the number of NPRs. Stats Canada will revise their reporting using a new computing methodology going back to 2021. These tables will be updated monthly and will include breakdowns on permit type, such as study permits, compared to temporary work permits. The CIBC report details an underestimate of nearly one million non-permanent residents in the country. Ultimately, experts argue that the lack of an accurate figure for the NPR population restricts the ability to adequately assess implications facing services including housing. Undercounts, according to experts, are largely due to the more 'increased-than expected' influx of immigrants and a failure to account for individuals who could not return to their home countries during the pandemic and were granted extensions to work in essential sectors. Other cases may be inaccurate completion of censuses. In response, officials from Stats Canada say that they estimates are accurate and produced through robust mechanisms in partnership with provinces and territories and that evaluations are conducted regularly to consider fluctuations in trends and needs.

Further Reading

Canada’s Immigration Identity

Students and Housing

Economic Outcomes

BC: Migrant Workers, TFWs & Wildfires

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