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How Cold Does it Get in Toronto?

21 Apr

“The other day, when it was so cold, a friend of mine went to buy some long underwear. The shopkeeper said to him, “How long do you want it?” And my friend said, “Well, from about September to March.”

That’s a quote from Mary Poppins, for anyone who didn’t watch the film so many times as a child that they can still recite it line-by-line.

Having just emerged from the longest, harshest winter of my life, I wonder whether Uncle Albert’s friend had been planning a trip to Toronto.

How cold?

Warning: This section contains detailed information about the weather. If that’s likely to bore you, please feel free to focus on the pretty pictures below and ignore my meteorological musings:

Friends in the UK started asking how cold it was here as soon as we moved to Toronto last July. “30C!” I replied, gleefully. And there it stayed, more or less, for the next two months.

I relished the predictability of hot summer days and nights, though feared the inevitability of plunging winter temperatures.

The impending seasonal shift intrigued me: How cold does it really get here? Is it dangerous? Will my contact lenses freeze to my eyeballs (Google told me probably not)? Should I overcome my aversion to furs?

The slideshow below tracks how the climate’s changed since we’ve been here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the pictures show, a roasting summer led to a progressively cooler September.

By Thanksgiving weekend in the first week of October, it was bitter, at around -6C with wind chill – and even colder in cottage country.

“Fall” was a cold and short-lived, but stunning, season of fiery hues of yellow and orange warming the bluey greens of lake and sky.

After Christmas, it suddenly bucketed with snow, turning the weather unpleasantly “frigid”, as they like to say on this side of the pond (teehee).

For over a month, -25C wind chill wasn’t out of the ordinary. Industrial slabs of cracked ice paralysed the harbour and jagged frost sprouted like cacti over our windows.

After admitting during an ill-advised walk in a snowstorm that my “warm winter coat” was nothing of the sort, I embraced the ubiquitous Toronto uniform of snow boots and goose down jacket – a small sartorial (and not insignificant financial) decision that truly rocked my world. Venturing outside during the Toronto winter is totally plausible with the right outdoor gear.

There’s also the PATH system, effectively 27km of interlocking shopping malls and food courts, which keeps you warm – and well fed – as you wander from A to B in the city centre.

While it may have been a cold winter, it wasn’t a damp, gloomy affair. There was a ton of sunshine, it hardly ever rained and the snow made for fun weekends spent skiing, tobogganing and ice skating at the free outdoor rinks dotting the city.

March and April have dragged on a bit. There’s been the odd moment of T-shirt weather interspersed with snow, hail and – more recently – lots of rain (boo).

This has been the first week in which temperatures have climbed into the 20s, and the city’s already undergone a tangible transformation.

The other day I watched a bare-legged girl absently ripping juicy chunks from a whole mango on the bus. I inhaled BBQ smoke seasoning the downtown air and darted out of the way of puffing joggers patrolling the waterfront in micro shorts. The party boat’s back in its summer mooring and yachts are zipping around the harbour once again.

The trees may still be shorn of their leaves, and yep, it actually snowed yesterday, but something strange and rather wonderful is definitely afoot. If I’m not mistaken, it’s Spring.

The Dragon’s Den Canadian Visa

11 Apr

Toronto Canada immmigration expat

I’ve written an article for on Canada’s Start-Up Visa, likened by one lawyer to “the Dragon’s Den of immigration”.

The visa’s aimed at enticing entrepreneurs looking for venture capital, or angel investor, funds. The government believes the promise of investment – and a permanent visa – will encourage foreigners to move here to build their tech start-ups.

I’m not so sure. Take the Conference Board of Canada report, which placed the country 13th of 16 peer nations for innovation. Canadian firms were “rarely at the leading edge of new technology,” it said. Canada also ranked poorly on barriers to competition, which won’t surprise anyone who’s tried to buy a phone contract, broadband package or bottle of wine here.

The UK, meanwhile, was deemed to have the lowest barriers to competition and received the top score for “ease of entrepreneurship”.

In Canada’s favour is its comparatively strong economy and the UK’s decreasing levels of venture capital investment. This report provides an optimistic view of entrepreneurship in maple leaf land.

Interested in finding out more? The government’s giving away up to 2,750 of the new visas annually for the next five years. Time will tell whether they turn out to be the Reggae Reggae sauce, or the DriveSafe glove of the immigration world.

Court report: Latest on the immigration backlog cull

19 Jan

The Canadian government was taken to court last week over its decision to scrap thousands of immigration applications from people who’d been waiting for up to eight years to hear whether they could move here.

I covered the case, heard at Toronto’s federal court from Monday to Wednesday, for Canadian Immigrant magazine:

CA screen grab

The lawyers representing the would-be immigrants, all of whom had submitted their applications before 28 February 2008, argued that the government acted unconstitutionally.

They told of families that had put their lives on hold in order to pursue their dreams of moving to Canada, passing up jobs and delaying buying properties as processing times for immigration files got progressively longer. I spoke to a British applicant with a similar tale for a story published last year on

The government, for its part, hit back that parliamentary sovereignty gave it the power to make decisions that were in Canada’s best economic interests.

Terminating the old files would help to speed up the immigration process for newcomers who applied under updated criteria and more closely matched the country’s labour needs.

But the authorities were also accused of discriminating unlawfully against applicants from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, in favour of countries that were “more like Canada”.

This was based on figures that Mario Bellissimo of Bellissimo Law Group said had been obtained from officials, showing the proportion of files that different visa offices around the world managed to process between 27 February 2008 and the June 2012 cut-off point. Those that weren’t processed by that date have been cancelled.

I’ve visualised this below (click on image for the interactive version, works best with Internet Explorer):

Proportion of backlog processed in different visa offices Many Eyes
More than half – 57 per cent – of all backlogged files were processed between February 2008 and June 2012, leaving 97,715 applicants (or 278,391, including dependants) out in the cold. But, as the map shows, applicants’ chances varied significantly depending on which visa office they applied to. No data was available for the Middle East.

The judge presiding over the case, Justice Donald Rennie, is mulling over all the evidence and is expected to make a ruling in around a month’s time on whether the cancellation was lawful.

Have you been affected by the backlog cull? Let me know your thoughts below.

Expat jobs far, far, away

24 Dec

Cocooned in my family home back in England, having started the day with an eggs ‘n bacon breakfast, I’m watching the sploshy London drizzle and thinking about the cucumber sarnies we’ll be enjoying later for afternoon tea, which we’re having  in a hotel that’s home to one of the country’s only tea sommeliers.

Oh, and later, we’re doing a spot of morris dancing, popping into a pie n mash shop, visiting a pearly King and Queen and doin’ the Lambeth walk – oi! Some of that might be made up.

It’s great to be surrounded by loved ones, enjoying home comforts. Toronto feels a long, long way away.

No doubt most readers are similarly holed up with their nearest and dearest, or preparing to be.

But for those whose relatives’ eccentricities spark less than fuzzy feelings, or those who are just fed up of the damp weather, or are re-evaluating life with 2013 just round the corner: have you ever considered emigrating to somewhere warm and far away with a wealth of expat opportunities?

You have?

How about Azerbaijan?

| Azerbaijan, baku city |

Courtesy of mohammad sadeghmo

According to a survey I’ve written about for, expats are having to increasingly set their sights further away from home to land the best jobs and most generous packages with school fees included.

As countries in Eastern Europe and traditional expat destinations in Asia build their home-grown managerial talent, there are better deals to be snared in emerging markets, which also include Mongolia and Armenia. These countries need experienced managers who are culturally sensitive, can build teams and are able to operate with little in the way of support functions. In the words of one headhunter I spoke to: “If a company needs someone in the Gobi Desert, they’ll pay whatever’s going to get people there.”

So, Gobi Desert; How about it?

Gobi desert Landscape shadows

By frenchster

First Five Months

12 Dec

Facebook’s inviting users to: “See your 2012 in review: Look back at your 20 biggest moments from the past year.” According to the site’s handy photo memo, I’ve spent much of the year with a drink in my hand and/or wearing questionable hats or wigs. Usually while pretending to be a pop star.

Personally, I’d have included emigrating to another continent, fulfilling my dream of travelling to Alaska and making the huge decision to leave my magazine job  in a list of 2012’s “biggest moments”, but Facebook’s  clever algorithms don’t seem to have quite captured any of this.

You can’t blame Facebook for trying; at this time of year, everyone’s clamouring to get in on the “Review of 2012” action. This blog’s nothing if not bang on trend (even though the phrase “bang on trend” really isn’t), so I’ve created an interactive Dipity timeline of my experience in Toronto, which starts when my husband and I touched down in mid-July.

Annoyingly, doesn’t like Dipity, but you can see it here:


The timeline includes loads of highlights that I didn’t get a chance to blog about, including (not in any particular order):

Toronto Nuit Blanche

Colourful speakers in Nathan Phillips Square blasting out choral music during Nuit Blanche

  • Nuit Blanche – Definitely one of Toronto’s cooler events.  An all-night contemporary art festival, with car parks, public squares, cinemas and municipal buildings converted into installations for the night.
  • Haliburton Highlands – When my parents came to visit in early October, we spent Thanksgiving in cottage country. The Fall colours were at their beautiful, golden, peak and we had a perfect weekend of games, wine, a cottage with a dock down to the lake, some silly canoeing and a day trip to Algonquin Provincial Park.  If my little sis had been there too, it would’ve been perfect. It wasn’t bad though (sorry sis):
Algonquin Fall Colours

Fall colours

  • Niagara Falls by helicopter – Every bit as cool as it sounds. Niagara-on-the-lake is a really pretty town to wander through, too. I’m sure the wineries will call us back.
  • Taste of the Danforth – A meaty cloud wafted over Greektown while crowds lined up at stalls selling grilled quail, souvlaki and fried calimari at the hugely popular (Toronto’s most popular, according to the website) August festival.
Taste of the Danforth Toronto

Grills line the street at Taste of the Danforth

You’ll have to check out the timeline for the rest.

Btw, this isn’t meant to be a “hidden gems of Toronto” guide – these diamonds are all very much on the  map. But it all depends on what map you’re using; I don’t think Nuit Blanche features in any of the guides I bought before arriving here, yet I’ve never seen Toronto’s streets so buzzing (in more ways than one, by the early hours).

Some of them are personal highlights, like passing my sailing practical exam.

And  there are so many great experiences that aren’t on the timeline. It’s just intended as a visual reminder of what a fantastic introduction we’ve had to our new city – and hopefully, a handy set of suggestions or reminders for anyone planning to be in Ontario next year.

I’d love to know what other people’s Toronto/Ontario highlights have been in the latter part of this year – and what a newbie can look forward to in the first half of 2013.

Desperately Seeking Sparkies

11 Dec

Thinking about moving to Canada? As the most reticent reader of this blog could surmise, I’d recommend it.

However, as less reticent readers will know, the immigration system over here’s being drastically overhauled and it’s increasingly difficult to get in unless you tick some tightly defined boxes.

But there’s a new box in town; step forward the sexily-titled Federal Skilled Trades Program.

As my story in today sets out, the Canadian government’s making it easier for skilled tradespeople to move here with permanent residency. They’re being tight-lipped about the full list of registered trades due to benefit from the fast-tracking, but immigration minister Jason Kenney’s name-checked electricians, welders, pipe-fitters and heavy duty mechanics.

For the article, I spoke to Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada CEO Cheryl Knight, who said the oil and gas industries also particularly needed millwrights, machinists, steamfitters and crane operators.

But she urged anyone thinking of making the move to do their research, warning: “They need an understanding of what trades are in demand and where the trades are in demand.”

She makes a moot point. Because, while lots of aspirant migrants think of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto as potential destinations, the in-demand jobs are often many, many miles away in remote corners of Canada.

Take Fort McMurray, home to the Athabasca oil sands in northern Alberta. It’s 450km from the nearest city, Edmonton. And Edmonton, with a population of 812,201, is hardly a giant metropolis. Fancy it?

Canadian Construction Association president Michael Atkinson said project managers and supervisors were also in high demand. But again, the jobs were primarily in less populated parts of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and the North (take your furs).

Newfoundland Canada Immigration

Some jobs are based in Newfoundland, in Eastern Canada. Courtesy of

If this sounds like your cup of tea, take heart: Benjamin Tal, CIBC World Markets deputy chief economist, said those with sought-after skills could expect competitive salaries, as Canada battles with Australia, the USA and the UK for the cream of the labour crop. In Mr Tal’s words: “They’re not lining up to be picked. They’re selecting us.”

The official list of occupations in the scheme is due to be announced before the program kicks in on 2 January.

Pick n Mix Canadian News

10 Dec

In the past couple of weeks I’ve had several articles published on Canadian news issues, covering a range of topics. They’re summarised below in small, bitesized chunks for easy digestion (with all the rich food around this time of year, not to mention the woozy post-party heads, it seemed best):

Briton Fights Canadian Government for Residency

pr scr

The story’s about a legal battle being fought by a group of business owners who applied to emigrate to Canada through a scheme for people worth $1.6m, with $400,000 to invest locally.

The action was sparked by the would-be investors’ fears that their visa applications could be torn up due to immigration policy changes. This is what happened to 280,000 people who applied through the federal skilled worker scheme.

The story’s been followed up by CBC News today.


sunday telegraph

Mark Carney Attacked Bankers’ Windfall Pay Agreements

I wrote about the new Bank of England governor Mark Carney, and the approach he’s taken to bankers’ bonuses in his role as the Bank of Canada’s governor and chairman of the G20’s Financial Stability Board.

Mark Carney Telegraph Canada


British Medical Journal Santry Canada

Critics Attack Decision to Allow Federally Funded Researchers More Time to Publish Trial Results

The body that channels most of the $1billion of public funds given to medical researchers has relaxed the rules on how quickly they need to publish their results.

The decision’s being seen by critics as another sign that Canada is less transparent than it should be regarding health research, which many argue is leading to problems such as serious adverse events in clinical trials being glossed over or excluded from published studies.

Trudo Lemmens, chair in health law and policy at the University of Toronto, argues that Canada is behind Europe and the USA regarding transparency in medical research. Interestingly, he suggests that the well publicised problems with the health system south of the border lead to a complacency in Canada about the state of its own healthcare system and the need for tougher regulations.

What’s been your experience of Canadian healthcare?

Let me in! My latest Telegraph story

14 Nov

My latest story on the big immigration shake-up underway in Canada was published last week by It was based on the annual immigration report to parliament, along with more detailed figures published subsequently that set out the target quotas for all residency applications in 2013.

Interested in moving here? Wondering what’s going on?

Well, the quota for accepting foreigners isn’t actually changing. As in 2012, the target is for a maximum quota of 265,000 “economic migrants” – including those applying as skilled workers under the points-based system, students and young people doing temporary jobs abroad.

But the type of people they’re letting in is being modified. There’ll be fewer spaces for skilled types applying through the federal skilled worker program – and more for those who’ve studied or worked in Canada before.


It’s a “better the devil you know” approach that assumes people who’ve already integrated over here are more likely to succeed than those who haven’t yet made the move. The kind of risk-averse strategy that really gets Lord Sugar’s fingers waggling in the Apprentice boardroom.

But then, Lord Sugar doesn’t have voters to worry about. No doubt, immigration minister Jason Kenney will have paid close attention to the latest figures showing a hardening in public attitudes towards immigration. Even the famously tolerant Canadians have their limits, it seems.


But for every Canadian complaining about job-snatching newcomers, there are growing voices warning against xenophobia. Mr Kenney is keenly aware of this – so much so that his department reportedly spent nearly $750,000 over three years monitoring its coverage in the ethnic media.

He also felt compelled to brag last week that Canada was “the only developed democracy in the world in which there is no serious or organized anti-immigrant or xenophobic sentiment in our public discourse”. 

Is this true? The jury’s out, especially after the debacle in September, when parliament’s immigration committee invited  – then dismissed – two witnesses representing a website called Canadian Immigration Report. The site carries all manner of dodgy material, including a video from renowned Canadian white supremacist Paul Fromm.

Fromm’s chilling video (deliberately not linked) talks of the disappearance of a  “heartland” for European people and likens Canada’s traditionally welcoming attitude to  foreigners to  “ethnic cleansing and replacement”. There’s also  a distinct lack of subtlety to some of CIR’s own articles, such as one headed “White Canadians Going Extinct”.

I hope there aren’t any fascists reading my blog – aside from their unpleasant views they’re notorious trolls –  but if there are any here, I’ll just take a second to fuel their sense of impotent outrage by highlighting that Ryerson University’s Harald Bauder, an immigration policy expert, told me that all his research suggested Canadians were, in general, still incredibly welcoming towards migrants, compared with other countries.

Speaking for Toronto, you only have to walk around to see the extent to which people from different cultures and backgrounds have successfully settled here.

So troll away – you’re fighting a losing battle. Um, please don’t.

The future

Anyway…now we know the general shape of the federal skilled worker scheme and the number of people who’ll be let in. Still to come are the final details of the federal program and the fallout of other initiatives, such as the crackdown on sham marriages.

Watch this space.

Interview with immigration minister Jason Kenney; Unpublished extracts

3 Oct
Jason Kenney Toronto immigration

Jason Kenney

At the weekend, I interviewed Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney for a piece published today by the Daily Telegraph.

Kenney told me why he thought young, educated British people who may be looking for work overseas should choose Canada over Australia.

Although Canada’s one of the top destinations for British expats, a trip to sunny Oz is seen by many younger Brits, raised on a TV diet of Home and Away and Neighbours, as an essential rite-of-passage.

I can understand the appeal; I spent three months there after uni. And yes, I visited Summer Bay (the surf shack was closed but I did get to sit on the bench of woe), as well as the Neighbours set (disappointingly, just a suburban street).

Jason Kenney immigration Toronto

Me at the Summer Bay surf shack, back in the heady days of 2004. When pink and blue was apparently a good wardrobe option.

Kenney’s comments, and Australia’s official response, are covered in the Telegraph article. But other areas covered in the interview included:

*The thousands of foreign health professionals in Canada unable to practice their profession due to problems checking their qualifications

*Charges of xenophobia: “That just cheapens very important and loaded language”

*The controversial cancellation of 280,000 residency applications made before February 2008 that had been held in a queue for up to nine years

*Proposals to charge people to phone immigration call centres

Here are some selected extracts (Warning: You might like to skip to the bits that most interest you).

Cancelling the application backlog

JK:  “It was taking 7 or 8 years to process applications, which basically rendered the whole programme dysfunctional. The program was becoming, it was just broken from the point of view of attracting very talented and mobile people. Why would you wait in the back of a queue for 7 years if you could get to Australia right away? Well you wouldn’t. And I think that’s a large reason why a lot of Brits were choosing Australia over Canada, it’s just the speed of their system.

“…I feel badly for those people, I regret what happened to their applications, and I invite them to apply for a new and faster program. But at the end of the day, it was necessary. Otherwise it would’ve taken us a decade to get to a fast and responsive system. It wasn’t working for the immigrants or Canada or for employers.”

Why clearing the backlog of pre-2008 applications was predicted to take until “late 2017 or early 2018”

The reason this is important: In March 2012, the government decided to cancel 280,000 applications from foreigners who’d waited up to nine years for a decision on whether they could move to Canada through the skilled migrant programme.

The applications had all been received before February 2008. Legal challenges are underway.

The decision was justified on the grounds that it would’ve taken until 2017 to process them all, affecting Canada’s ability to deal with new applications effectively.

BUT: In November 2008, the backlog was estimated at 641,000 applicants. Three years later, this was halved. So why would it take 6-7 years from 2011 to clear the remaining 320,000?

JK: “It’s just a question of math really. We’re admitting 65,000 skilled workers per year, both principal applicants and their family members. And so, even if we were to completely freeze applications, it would take a few years…to bring that inventory down to zero.

“…The number of admissions in the skilled worker program have gone down as we’ve expanded other programs. We used to bring in 120,000 skilled workers a year. That’s down to about 65,000. And the difference has gone to provinces to select immigrants, which has been tremendously positive effect of a better geographic spread of immigrants across the country. So we, the government, ceded some selection power, to provinces, particularly in the west and Canada, there’s been a huge growth in these provincial nominee programmes, which brings in skilled trades people…and reduced the intake. And we were bringing in more skilled workers in the early years than we are now, hence reducing the backlog takes longer. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear before. If you’re sitting on a 320,000 person inventory, even if you’re taking in applications, it’s going to take us five years to draw that down, admitting 65,000 a year. It’s just a math problem. Sorry, I’ve never talked to journalists who are interested in this level of detail.”

Note: Following a supplementary question to Kenney’s office, I received the following reply:
“Our projections showed that it would have taken until 2017 to eliminate the backlog due to the volume of applications that had already been received, projected new applications, and operational constraints. Although the number of federal skilled workers processed each year has remained high, the government determined that having to process applications that were submitted as many as eight years ago reduces our ability to focus on new applicants with the skills and talents that our economy needs today. The government has placed top priority on attracting immigrants who have the skills and experience our economy needs.”

Labour shortages:
“There are huge shortages, especially in the west, for the welders and boiler makers and heavy equipment operators and I think there are a lot of people with those skills in Britain who’d find huge opportunities in Canada. But also, it’s right across the skills spectrum. For example, there are shortages in the IT sector. Just to give you one example, you’d think that a dream job for a lot of young guys would be programming video games. Well, there’s an acute shortage of video game programmers in the very large industry here, Montreal and Vancouver, so the opportunities are endless.”

Turning temporary jobs into permanent residency:
“For someone who doesn’t yet have a job lined up, and they’re not quite sure what to do, if they come through that visa [International Experience Canada] they then get to know how to find a job in Canada, they land something decent for 12 months, they could eventually stay as a permanent resident. They’ll often be working pouring pints in a pub in Toronto or in a ski hill out west for the first three or six months. But if they’re thinking long term, and they land a skilled job for 12 months, then we’re gonna invite them to stay permanently.”

Rising immigration
“We believe immigration is important to help fuel our future prosperity and to counteract our increasing age of our labour force. We have very acute labour shortages. We see immigration as a solution to that problem, but not the solution, because for us merely to maintain our average age through immigration would require that we more than quadruple levels to more than a million a year, about 4 per cent of population per year and there’s absolutely no public support for that.

“So even though Canadians are generally pro-immigration, welcoming towards newcomers, there are some real caveats attached to that. Canadians are four times more likely to say ‘cut immigration levels’ than they are to say ‘increase them’. So 45 per cent of the population say we should reduce levels, about 40 per cent say keep them around what they’re at and around 10 per cent say increase levels. I think it’s very important that we don’t end up disconnecting immigration policy from popular opinion.

“This is a mistake I think was made in European countries, where I think political elites became completely disconnected on immigration and this helped, I think to fuel the backlash that we see in many European countries…It’s very important to keep an attentive ear to the public’s sense of our capacity to integrate newcomers, which is large but limited. And so consequently, I think it’s unrealistic to see any significant increase in levels in the foreseeable future.

“My focus is more on quality than quantity. For three decades we’ve seen economic results for newcomers on the decline. Immigrants now make, on average, 60 per cent of the average income. It used to be, in the mid/late 70s, 90 per cent. The unemployment rate for immigrants is twice as high as it is in the general population, the unemployment rate for immigrants with uni degrees is 4 times higher than it is for Canadians with uni degrees. My focus is on turning those numbers around, selecting people who are more likely to find and keep good jobs or start successful businesses immediately upon arrival.

“If, over time, we see that the rate of unemployment for newcomers approaches that of the general population, and that the average income levels are increased to the general average, then I think argument might be raised for raising levels, but until then we’d be doing no-one any favours to increase the number of folks who end up being under-employed or under employed.”

The estimated 6,000 to 10,000 foreign doctors unable to work in their profession due to problems checking their qualifications
[Me; do you agree those figures are accurate?] JK: I suppose so. Of course there’s a joke in Toronto, the safest place in the city in which to have a heart attack is the back of a taxi cab because of all the underemployed physicians. It’s a much broader problem than just for physicians, this problem of credential recognition, and essentially we’ve been accepting huge numbers of immigrants through our skilled worker programme, often coming from developing countries, who‘ve come with the expectation that they’d be able to work in their licensed profession, only to find there’s a length and often very rigid process to get their credentials recognised by the college of physicians or engineers, and the other 40 regulated professions. This is a big issue in Canada. We’re working with the provinces, investing $15million in a process with the provincial governments, who are responsible for labour market regulation, to simplify and speed up the process for recognising those credentials.

“The problem is this, though. We want to give people a fair shot of getting their license to practice without lowering the Canadian standard, and the difficulty is that many people who come here, often from developing countries, don’t actually arrive at the Canadian standard for training and that’s one of the problems our immigration reforms are designed to fix, by in the future doing a pre assessment of the credentials of the people who want to work in licensed professions. This is what Australia started doing a few years ago….Because what’s the point of leaving wherever, your underdeveloped country where you’re working as a doctor, in order to drive a cab or work in a corner store in Canada?

“…Some of the provinces who regulate the professionals and the health system have been quite creative in identifying foreign doctors who they know can work with a license on arrival. So they’re been going to places like South Africa, to recruit doctors to work in remote communities, basically on a contract. Because in a province like Saskatchewan, no one wants to go and work in a little medical clinical or a small rural clinic in a small rural town: When I say no-one, no Canadian doctors. So it’s an inducement to get those rural communities served.

“One last problem is that because of the rationed management of our health services by the provinces, they want to limit the number of licensed physicians who can bill because they regard each additional licensed physician with a billing number as an incremental cost for their systems that are becoming ridiculously expensive. So they’re rationing the number of residency positions that lead to licenses. ….We don’t even have enough residency positions for Canadian grads and Canadians who’ve done their residency abroad. Why would we be bringing in physicians from abroad to add to that category when there are not enough spots available?”

[Me; Can federal pressure be put on the provinces by holding back funding?] JK: “We’ve looked at that, there’s really no legal stick that we can use, in the constraints of the federation we really can’t. Because, after all, it’s the exercising of their constitutional authority over labour market regulations. We don’t have the constitutional authority to penalise them for allowing some of the professional bodies to maintain unreasonable procedures. There are 10 provinces, 40 licensed professions. We’re bringing each of those around the table to hammer out a streamlined, faster process. The explicit objective of which is to give applicants an answer on their credential recognition within a year of their application.”

Claims that Canadian immigration policy reflects xenophobia or underlying racism:
“Many of our significant immigration reforms have been misinterpreted by some people, typically on the left, as being somehow anti-immigrant. It’s manifestly absurd to say that the country with highest levels of per capita immigration in the developed world, the highest sustained levels in Canadian history, the highest naturalisation rate in the world, is xenophobic and anti-immigrant. It’s bizarre. That just cheapens very important and loaded language.

“…But the reality is, that too many newcomers have been struggling. Our old immigration system just dropped people into the general immigration market to sink or swim and many were struggling to keep their head above water. By the way, immigrants to Canada are more likely to say we should reduce levels then people born in Canada. This is not xenophobia, this is just a reflection of the public’s intuitive sense of our capacity to integrate people.”

Budget cuts affecting immigration services
“To be honest we’re a government bureaucracy, so we get a flat level of resources. [With] ever increasing demand for services, consequently people wait longer and don’t get the service they should. So I’m actually exploring ways that we can operate in a more sensible business-like fashion. For example, I’d like to maybe operate a call centre on a more commercial basis, so if you’re going to place a call it’s a $5-10 dollar charge, that reduces frivolous calls. That allows us to hire more people and provide a better service. Those are the kinds of solutions I’m looking at.”

New rules ‘make it harder’ for older Britons to settle in Canada – my story in the Telegraph

17 Sep

Today the Telegraph has published a story I wrote on the plans to change Canada’s immigration rules.

It was a really interesting piece to research, and one of the most striking comments I came across was straight out of the government’s regulatory impact assessment (always the best place for juice – news hacks will know I’m not actually being sarcastic).

The bit that caught my eye was: “Foreign work experience is largely discounted by Canadian employers when the immigrant first enters the Canadian labour market, and it is a weak predictor of economic success.” This was based on detailed research, but feels like a slightly weird message at a time when workers are more internationally mobile than ever and busineses are increasingly globalised.

Talking to immigration consultants and lawyers, it doesn’t seem to be that the foreign work experience is seen as intrinsically invaluable or irrelevant, but that Canadian employers just like to stick to what they know. Rather than tackling this rather inward-looking culture, the government’s opted to simply reflect the status quo in its regulations.

Experts I spoke to also said Canadian authorities often struggled to verify foreign credentials, leading to doubts over professionals’ qualifications and delays in securing work, including for UK-trained doctors.

But there’s good news for the would-be skilled migrant. The same studies also suggested that, once an employer takes a chance on a foreigner, all that experience built up in lands far, far, away starts to be taken seriously.  And, as the article highlights, the emphasis on English language skills is growing under the new rules, making it easier for (most) Brits to settle here – as long as they’re under 35 and/or well-educated, working in a recognised profession.

The advice from the lawyers? Apply as soon as the federal skilled workers scheme re-opens (expected to be in January 2013); the current freeze means Canada could be inundated with applications. One source said applications were unlikely to be processed until 2014 unless they were submitted in the first three months.

John Howson

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