Evidence of meeting #74 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was brunswick.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Herb Emery  Vaughan Chair in Regional Economics, University of New Brunswick, As an Individual
Karl Flecker  Immigrant Employment Specialist, KEYS Job Centre
Roxanne Reeves  Author and Researcher, Intercultural Mentoring Specialist, University of New Brunswick, As an Individual
Penny Walsh McGuire  Executive Director, Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce
Amanda McDougall  Councillor, Cape Breton Regional Municipality
Katherine d'Entremont  Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick

4:05 p.m.

Vaughan Chair in Regional Economics, University of New Brunswick, As an Individual

Dr. Herb Emery

Again, you have not only the jobs on the pipeline, but you also have the entire service sector. There is lots of demand for transportation, which is a sector where immigrants have been increasingly filling roles where Canadians aren't driving trucks like they used to. It's just one of those big capital projects that tends to have a lot of labour demand spinning off it. We need trades. We need people with the ambition and the energy level to do those jobs. People in their 50s and 60s aren't doing the manual labour like they used to, and there's a real opportunity to bring immigrants into the construction trades driving trucks. When I lived out west it was always a big point because the transportation chain is a big one, and they pay $60,000 a year in the region for driving a truck. They can't fill all the positions.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Flecker, it's the same question. We want the immigrants to come, to stay at the job, to have opportunity. What part would you say job opportunities and employment play in the large role of retention of immigrants coming to the region? What are current job prospects in Atlantic Canada from your side?

4:05 p.m.

Immigrant Employment Specialist, KEYS Job Centre

Karl Flecker

Thank you for the opportunity.

With all respect, we can wait for the private sector, and we can go down a deregulated path in the hope that they will then create the jobs. We can also take a look at the track record that the private sector has had in following through with those jobs and their diversity or their inclusiveness in hiring. A lot of studies would show they are not so great at that, but we do have the public sector throughout the Atlantic region and the rest of Canada that creates jobs on an annual basis.

For example, in 23 cities in Europe and in Toronto and soon another one in Ontario, they're adopting a social procurement strategy at the municipal level. When the municipality puts out its bid for different goods and services that it wants to get from the community, they have to get a ranking. If they have a diversified workforce, which includes more immigrants in their workforce, they are going to score more points on the assessment, which means they're going to have a better chance at getting the contract. That's a retention factor to encourage the private sector through the public sector lever to be able to increase that retention, and a good public sector job, or working for the city, is another way to deal with integration. Social procurement strategies is one way to be able to do that.

Another is—

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Could you draw that to a close.

Thank you very much. That's your time.

Professor, you looked as if you wanted to comment on that last bit.

4:05 p.m.

Vaughan Chair in Regional Economics, University of New Brunswick, As an Individual

Dr. Herb Emery

No, not at all. I like the point.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

That's very good.

Madam Benson, welcome to the committee. You have eight minutes.

October 16th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Thank you very much.

I want to thank all the speakers for their comments and the shout-out to Saskatchewan, which is where I'm from.

Mr. Flecker, perhaps you could expand on some of the challenges. I think some people have used the term “on-boarding”, which is a corporate way of talking about bringing people into an organization. I'm not sure it's the same language we would use for bringing people into the community. You made a comment about improving the information prior to people coming to a community and how important that is.

I wonder if you want to talk about how that plays a role in helping people remain in the community in which they arrive.

4:05 p.m.

Immigrant Employment Specialist, KEYS Job Centre

Karl Flecker

Thank you for the opportunity.

Pre-arrival information services are huge. I deal with clients on a daily basis. There are currently over 600 clients on my load. Many of them are in the professional class or the semi-professional class. Most consistently we get folks not being aware of the credential recognition and licensure process, or some details about the community that are relevant to them, not just the job, but the social and cultural infrastructure that makes the second home a new home. Where is the mosque? Where are the community groups? Where can they buy certain foods? Who else is there? That often happens after a person arrives, but by pre-arrival information services connecting people with those institutions, connecting people with those networks—like my colleague was mentioning—host communities, relationships can develop. Of course, they're always better when they're face to face, but that is so easy to do now through digital technologies. Making that information available makes a big difference.

The second point is to have those kinds of infrastructure in the community, the social, cultural, political infrastructure that helps people feel welcome. I'm talking about everything from the food, fashion, fun festivities that allow people to dance in ethnocultural racial garb and sample different foods, but something also a bit more sophisticated than that, that shows genuine appreciation for different people's cultures and experiences.

I'll give you a quick example. On June 20, World Refugee Day, we held an event in our local community. We had the local refugee community tell their stories of where they had left behind. It was decorated with pictures of their story. They told their personal story. We had music from those particular places. The room was packed. What it demonstrated to folks is people were concerned. They were aware of the global context. There was a sense of welcomeness. Simple events like that go a long way.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

I wonder if the others would like to comment on that important piece of.... We often focus on the people themselves, and helping them—for lack of a better word—fit into the community, but what about the other side of that, and that is the readiness of a community to be able to support newcomers?

Dr. Reeves.

4:10 p.m.

Author and Researcher, Intercultural Mentoring Specialist, University of New Brunswick, As an Individual

Dr. Roxanne Reeves

I think there's a real appetite there; I've been hearing it on the ground. For example, I heard a conversation about the creation of an app to highlight newcomer businesses, but the people who are speaking to the creation of this app—so you can find newcomer businesses if you want to support them—are not the newcomers themselves. They are people who have been in New Brunswick for ages and who recognize that we need to start rallying around our newcomers and their businesses and what they're bringing to the community. They would like an app populated by our newcomers with their businesses so that they can reach out to them, and support them, and go to them. There is a sense that it's changing.

In the past, we've said there's a balance, that we're going to be welcoming communities and our newcomers need to integrate, but in reality, in the past, most of the onus has been placed on the newcomers. I see that changing, and if we champion it and speak about it more, and we give people the authority to move forward with their ideas—this app is a really great example—then on the ground that retention element will be changing, I would expect, because that's really a concrete indicator that New Brunswickers who have been in New Brunswick for a long time want to reach out and do business with our newcomers.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Okay.

Maybe I'll put this to you, Mr. Flecker, because there's one thing in my province that is an issue, and you talked about it in some of your comments. That is the temporary foreign worker program, and helping people, as they come to a community as temporary workers, to become permanent residents in the community. That has to be an issue around retention.

Maybe you would want to comment on some of that, as a pathway.

4:10 p.m.

Immigrant Employment Specialist, KEYS Job Centre

Karl Flecker

Thank you for that opportunity, but before I do, Roxanne just reminded me that in our community, small things go a long way. The local community city councillor has a lawn sign that has a message on it, “No matter where you're from, we're glad you're our neighbour”. We're printing 500 copies in four languages and it's going to be distributed all over the city. That's a very clear message, alongside the app, coming from the city council itself saying “we're glad you're here”. It's also a very direct counter to the xenophobia that we know comes along with that.

On the temporary foreign worker program, this has been a disastrous program dating back to 2006 and then the just shy of 10 years of ramping up the program with inadequate compliance, monitoring, and enforcement measures. Getting to your question, we now have a situation where the government has issued 635,000 temporary work permits under the two streams of the program. It far outstrips the number of permanent residents we accept, and yet 22% of the people who are on temporary foreign work permits actually gravitate toward PR status. You can't help but look at this and say something went awry. Folks who are on a temporary work permit need to be able to move toward permanent residency with some dignity, with some accessibility, and without the various striations that currently exist. The seasonal agricultural workers will never see an opportunity, despite the fact that some have been coming here for 30-plus years. People who are on spousal work permits, who are dependent on their spouse finishing their academic status, too often slip into the undocumented status.

In my case load alone, I have more than two dozen clients who arrived with proper legal status but because of the flaws in the system have slipped into undocumented or flux systems. Many of them are temporary foreign work permit holders. We need to revisit this. There's a huge pool—the number I just gave you, 635,000, is a big number—and a good chunk of that, far more than 22%, could be moved into PR status if there were some more flexibility in terms of recognizing what has gone wrong with that program.

There are not enough minutes to do a proper response.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you.

Ms. Zahid, you have seven minutes.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to all three witnesses for their important testimony today.

My first question is for Mr. Flecker to further expand on the foreign worker program. We heard in the earlier part of the study that it would be desirable to find a way to link temporary foreign workers to the pilot project, and I would add the international students to this consideration as well, to provide them a path to permanent residence and a recognition that they are already there and working. Are they more likely to be retained within Atlantic Canada? Is that something you see as both feasible and desirable, and expanding on that, what are the other challenges you see there?

4:15 p.m.

Immigrant Employment Specialist, KEYS Job Centre

Karl Flecker

There are ways and means to use the TFW program as the AIP is using it, to give a quick permit to employers who need somebody fast, so we're going to issue the work permit with the acknowledgement that within x amount of time the worker is going to move to a PR. That's an effective use of the program.

Will it lead to retention? Well, it's only going to lead to retention if there are a host of other factors that are in place, which I think we've talked about. They have to feel welcome. They can't be called racist epithets in the community. There has to be an opportunity that the job they've applied for is commensurate with their skills, and the wage that they're getting, as I think Dr. Emery has said, recognizes that skill quality and doesn't undercut them because of who they are or where they come from. That will lead to retention.

The temporary foreign worker program as it's currently structured, if we're going down this road, is about picking and using particular pieces of a badly designed program to try to fix something else. I don't know if that's the best way to go about fixing our immigration system.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

I'll ask Ms. Reeves to comment on how we retain the international students, because they are already here also. As well, how can we make it easier, like a path before them for the PR?

4:15 p.m.

Author and Researcher, Intercultural Mentoring Specialist, University of New Brunswick, As an Individual

Dr. Roxanne Reeves

Statistics and surveys have indicated that our international students are very eager to stay in Canada. In the past, you're right that it has been challenging. An additional opportunity now, with the pilot, is entrepreneurial if they have a business up and running while they're in either community college or other post-secondary.... It is a great opportunity for our newcomer students to stay. One challenge I see with this is that when I first saw the statistics of how many students wanted to stay, and then I saw this new opportunity, I made a leap that our international students were heavily enrolled in business programs, so this would be a natural fit for many of them. Then I dug up some statistics from the Atlantic universities. I can provide you with a study, but between community college and university, only about 20% of them are enrolled in business programs, and of that 20%, how many are enrolled in entrepreneurial-oriented business programs as opposed to human resource management or working within large corporations?

We've created this wonderful opportunity for our international students to transition into entrepreneurship as a pathway to permanent residency. In my mind, we need to figure out how to support that transition, recognizing that these young people are not natural entrepreneurs and we want them to be entrepreneurs. There needs to be something that catches them, at some juncture in their university or other post-secondary journey, that helps them transition and understand that this is an opportunity and also recognizes the fact that they're not natural-born entrepreneurs. Most people aren't. Most people need support. By doing that we can increase capacity there.

The wonderful thing about these newcomers who are students and that demographic is that they live in a global world beyond what we can imagine. They can be such a bridge between Atlantic Canada, Canada, and the rest of the world with regard to imports and exports and synergies. Because that pathway now exists, I think there's incredible opportunity. It's very new, so we need to figure out how best to support our international students because they report that they want to stay in Canada. The international students in Atlantic Canada want to stay in Atlantic Canada.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Flecker, earlier in our study we heard that it would be helpful for settlement programs to be accessible to the applicants sooner. Could you please comment on access by pilot participants to settlement services, and is there more we can do to help participants be more successful?

4:20 p.m.

Immigrant Employment Specialist, KEYS Job Centre

Karl Flecker

Just before doing that, however, I didn't adequately answer your previous question on what else you could do. We've seen some modest changes on the express entry program, giving more points to international students, for example, to get the invitation for PR status. Similarly, people who are holding the TFW permit, under certain conditions perhaps more points could be afforded to them to be able to get PR. That would be another way to increase retention, when people who are on temporary foreign worker permits can see a pathway to PR status.

As for what else the settlement sector can do, I am always impressed with my colleagues in the settlement sector. It's a caring field, and these people put out constantly. This morning, for example, we had a client who was offered employment, and at the last minute it was rescinded. He had just given up his other job driving a bus for school kids and now he's lost his afternoon shift. My colleagues and I rallied together, despite having to catch the train to come up here, to do something for this guy. That's just what the field does, but nobody pays the settlement sector for the kind of work we do.

What can the settlement sector do? We are working within a very rigid financial envelope, and sometimes we're not allowed, under our contract, to work with people who are undocumented. We're not allowed to provide services to TFWs, for people who are in flux. Fortunately, I have a lot of difficulty reading the fine print of some of those contracts when people are in need, but that kind of restriction that's come in with the contracts is not allowing us to deal with the complexities of the immigrants themselves.

What's needed is more money and resources, more funding for innovative services that take us beyond some of the traditional pathways, and being able to go outside the traditional categories of people who are designated for service. There's a big whack of people. As for the undocumented crowd, two parliamentary committees have already filed reports that estimate that number alone is well over half a million people.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

I need to end it there. Sorry.

We have Mr. Maguire for five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I appreciated all three presentations. Thank you very much. It's quite enlightening.

It's fine to bring the people in, but if they can't get jobs, I think, that's been a key discussion point here. Dr. Emery, you mentioned that one of the ways of looking at the opportunities for more employment in some of these areas goes along with capital investment in those areas. Could you expand on that? You mentioned some of the more major investment opportunities that are there but are not going ahead. I wondered what else you would look at and if you have some other examples of either provinces or countries, other regions of the world, that can utilize that example that has drawn in employment and provided jobs.

4:20 p.m.

Vaughan Chair in Regional Economics, University of New Brunswick, As an Individual

Dr. Herb Emery

It's a big problem that I'm working on in my chair. Perhaps you live in a region that has chosen not to take the easy path with its resource endowments in traditional trade and is looking for new products like clean tech. There's a big desire to see more entrepreneurship and innovation, so investment at that end could be job creating. You've heard the example before, as well, on public sector employment.

One area that's been growing for a lot of temporary foreign worker opportunities and other immigration has been the caregiving sector. We have an aging population. We're going to need a lot of caregivers in the region and we don't seem to be bringing in a lot of that kind of labour that we've seen in other regions.

Again, we're looking at, who is going to be the employer? Who's going to pay for the job? It's not private capital. The government can play that role. We just need to be talking seriously about how much more money we can bring into the system, say, through a federal long-term care strategy, that would create some of these employment opportunities. It's not always on the training. We have to think about who's going to be paying the wage bill. The public sector can do it through health care, in particular, because that budget is huge; it has loads of fat, and there are opportunities to think about making care systems better and taking advantage of newcomers who'd like to pitch in and work in that sector.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

I have good examples even in my own constituency of a number of these areas, whether it's the health care professionals who have come in, whether it's labour in the agricultural industry, the manufacturing industry, and a number of other areas, but these are public and private operations that are already established. I appreciate very much your providing the other opportunities here in the caregiving system.

The procurement purchases, I think, was one area that was talked about here as well. I wondered, Mr. Flecker, if you could expand on that a little to some of the procurement notices there.

4:25 p.m.

Immigrant Employment Specialist, KEYS Job Centre

Karl Flecker

Sure. I'll just repeat. We actually worked with the Queen's school of business to develop the approach, building on what's called the integrating immigrant cities charter that was started in Europe. Very simply, the way it works is it's a social procurement policy framework that says when the city has, in our case, a $200-million annual budget, and it bids on the website to give those contracts out, the ranking system is going to say, “Show us your numbers, and show us how diverse your workforce is for the delivery of these services. We want to know about how cost-effective you're going to be. We want to know about the quality of that service. We want to know that the people you have hired are both from the community and from different aspects of our community, because that matters.”

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Ms. Reeves, I really appreciate your comments in regard to the Atlantic pilot and business program, the mentorship program there.

I was thinking of some examples in my own area. As an example, the regional health authority brought in 37 nurses from the Philippines about eight years ago. They are still virtually all working in Manitoba and some of them aren't in the community that I was thinking of, but I know the mayor there, particularly the deputy mayor at the time, Ms. Chacun, provided special services, I guess you could say, to make sure that each of those five nurses who came to that region were housed. They all learned to drive. I think my own constituency assistant's husband was an ex-RCMP officer. He taught them all how to drive. They got special attention, if you want to call it that. I think it's the friendly Manitoba attitude that you remarked with the Maritimes. We're probably fairly similar that way. You just help them out because they need the help and they don't know where to get it initially.

Could you expand on that?