My eBook, How To Immigrate To Canada For Skilled Workers: The Authoritative Guide To Federal And Provincial Opportunities is available now on Amazon and other online retailers. Get your copy of the essential guide to Skilled Worker class applications today!

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Also available is my new eBook, "How To Immigrate To Canada In The Family Class: The Authoritative Guide Including Québec And Super Visa Opportunities". Get it at Amazon or the other e-retailers noted above.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Just like the CBC...

Hi readers,
just like the CBC, it's the holidays here in the blogisphere and The Mind is busy getting ready for Christmas and New Years. And that means - vacation! While I'll try and keep up some posts over the break, I wont make you any promises.

I do hope God blesses each and every one of you this Christmas, and brings you a wonderful New Year, full of amazing adventures.

And what do I want for Christmas? To come home to Toronto, of course! And I'm excited that it wont be too much longer before I know if that is going to happen or not...

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 03, 2007

A little time together

My love came out to Seattle for a nice visit this last week - the planning for and enjoyment of which may explain the lack of posts. We had a few nice days playing tourists in Seattle: dining at wonderful restaurants, staying in a couple nice hotels, but it all passes by too soon.

I'm so glad to be back in line, with the hope that soon, vacations together like this will end with both of us boarding Air Canada together to return to Pearson - no longer a family separated, but instead one reunited.

I hope your holiday season is off to as wonderful a start as mine has been, and you too can share it with the ones you love.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Part of the solution - some sites providing immigrant resources

I was thinking the other day that sometimes I tend to rant a little on this here blog about how difficult it is for immigrants to find out what they need to know to make a successful transition into Canadian life. I guess no one (except, sometimes, the government) ever promised us a rose garden...

Then I thought, you know, J - you can use this here blog to gather some of those resources and help people who may not have stumbled onto them yet. So, in that spirit, I'll try and be better about posting the sites that I find here on The Mind.

My caveat will be that what I post may be a bit Ontario/Toronto-centric - but why that is should be obvious!

Here we go - I hope these are of assistance to you. - a cool site for those of us heading for Ontario, full of helpful information on getting oriented. Employment, education, housing, health and more are covered.

World Education Services - need your education credentials verified? This firm has been awarded the contract to do just that for Ontario.

Access to Professions and Trades - this portal will help you understand the often complicated and difficult road trained professionals in other countries must follow in order to put their hard-earned professional skills to work in Canada. Try not to get irritated...

Directory of immigration resources - The BC government has put together this resource guide - very complete and helpful! Way to go BC!

Immigration resources - A nifty little set of links (BC oriented) for those starting their journey.

One Stop Canada - this site claims to either have it all, or have it linked! Too exhaustive to even dent, this one will keep you busy and get you informed.

Please let me know if these sorts of posts help you!

Monday, November 12, 2007

...days and counting!

What day is today? It's the day our application was submitted to Immigration Canada!

After the work and worry and wait for everything to be just right, proofed and considered again, the application is complete and ready and the courier came to our Toronto lawyer's office and delivered it to the CIC.

I'm so nervous and excited. So here's my prayer - I believe if you read it and agree with it, then God will continue to remember it. If you are in this process too, may this also be your prayer:

"Lord, please bless this application. You said in the Psalms, "Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this." The desire of my heart is to be able to build a life in Canada with my love, whom you brought to me. Please place this application in compassionate hands. Please open the hearts of those who would pass judgement over my love and I. Please, in your mercy, allow this application to be successful, that I may be united with my love soon. Thank you for your mercy and for the love you have brought to my life. Thank you for every good thing you have always done for me. Thank you for your son, Jesus, who gave everything for me and my love. Lord, hear my prayer."

Thank you everyone who has been so encouraging to me through the years of this blog.

Here we go! ....days, and counting!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Update: reasons to leave the US - slave labor

I posted a few weeks back about the US having attained the unenviable position as the top country in the world for imprisioning it's own people. Through "get tough on crime" initiatives, mandatory minimum sentances which take away the descrection of judges, and "strikes" laws (one, two, three - you're out - sorry - you're IN for LIFE), one in every 31 American adults is now in jail or prison.

Once the convicted have served their time, the new industry of background checks (driven by the insurance industry) keeps anyone with a criminal record from ever getting a decent job again.

So what does the US population think of this? Well I can only tell you about my state, Washington. In a state election on Tuesday, voters approved a measure that allows the state to contract with private employers to provide prisoners for the production of goods.

See - the prisoners owe the state restitution for their crimes - often amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. Since they wont get a job on the outside to pay what they owe, the state wants them to work it off on the inside.

Now in principal this would be fine (job training, the ability to earn a living), except that the state only pays the prisoners pennies per hour for the work they do - NOT the state's minimum wage, and that the firms that hire the prisoners INSIDE will never hire them outside, once they have completed their sentances.

What this amounts to is state-sponsored slave labor.

I don't recognize my country anymore.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Just when you think

Just when you think everything is ready to go, there's always one more form to sign, one more person for your lawyer to consult with. We thought we'd have the paperwork in a month ago, but it's not the case. A few more things to do, it seems. Of course, we want it to be done right - we want the application to be successful, so the message is, "take your time and get it right." The extra weeks wont matter if there is a "yes" at the end of this road.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Forums connect real people involved with immigration issues

Even though there are literally a few hundred thousand of us all over the world working on our Canadian immigration, sometimes you just feel so alone. I know I do. This blog helps me connect to be sure, but sometimes I need a little but more.

In those times when I want to hear from real people in their real-life situations, I check out some web forums. These are very much like bulliten board services with threaded discussions, where all kinds of topics and situations are explored.

People also often ask for advice on these web forums, which I wouldn't reccomend. Remember that everyone's situation os unique and that fact makes ALL the difference. If you have an immigration issue you are unsure about, contact the CIC or get a qualified lawyer.

Here are a couple forums that are fun and active:

- Immigration Issues
- Canada Visa Immigration Forum
- Canada Immigrant Job Issues (this one is a downer - lots of horror stories, but interesting)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another online publication for immigrants

Reading the Star this morning and what should pop up but an ad for a cool online publication I was unaware of. It's called Canadian Immigrant (the online version of a Vancouver based publication available by subscription, or picked up free at many locations, including 7-11's) and while it's a bit light on the journalism side, I can't say I've seen another collection of information and resources like it.

The site aspires to "inform, educate and motivate", and contains articles and links covering areas of interest to immigrants like careers (tips for resumes, finding work, overcoming obstacles), money, business, culture, education, getting settled, and more.

The publication claims research showing that it takes 10 years on average for a new immigrant to assimilate into Canada, and the goal in publishing this journal was to attempt to cut that time down by addressing issues of interest to most new residents of Canada.

Most of the content on the site is made up of brief, short articles - nothing too deep or heavy; but it makes the site sort of like a primer on Canada and immigration. There is nothing wrong with broad brush-strokes once in awhile and this site is a place to get a big picture of the immigrant landscape.

Check it out, as you're sure to find a few things of interest.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Put your body where your mouth is

In an article in today's Star , the issue of permanent residence is explored. The issue is that many PR cards are due to expire and those that hold them haven't spent the prerequisite amount of time in Canada since they were issued. The permanent residents in question aren't family class, but instead, skilled workers who, though issued their Canadian credentials, never took up permanent residency. Instead, the status served as a way to obtain subsidized educations for their children, or a safe landing for those who didn't wish to return to third-world countries after finishing stints with firms in countries where obtaining residency is much harder.

I am one who believes that those who are granted permanent residency in Canada should live in Canada and attempt to work in Canada. If they can't find work and want to work in another country, then give it up. I know it is hard for skilled workers to find work in their professsions in many cases - I have noted that fact many times in this blog. However, I believe coming to Canada should be about living in and contributing to the country, not about taking advantage of it. Hard to make a living in your profession - then use your voice in the country to work for change. Really want to work for change? Then live in Canada for three years and become a citizen - and vote!

It irks me to no end to know that there are those taking up valuable CIC resources who have no real intention of making Canada their home.

I understand it used to be the case that you had to be able to prove that you had spent half of each year in country in order to maintain your status. I actually don' t think that's too bad. My intention is to become a citizen. These matters of statehood should come with obligation.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Learning more each day

I'm reading a book right now called "The Unfinished Canadian" by Andrew Cohen. It's an interesting read on cultural identity and what it means to be a Canadian today. Cohen so far notes that while Canadians are less distinct than they would like to believe, that distinction is still possible if the national will seeks it. I am learning about how Canada ignores the history of it's origns or plays them down for the sake of maintaining a clear multi-cultural appeal. I'm learning how America is a place to love to hate, ignoring that many opportunities the country has are actually afforded by the different responsibilites the big brother to the south takes on. I'm coming to understand more about the complex country I hope to call home soon. It's a place of contridictions, but it is never argued that it a place without a heart and a soul.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

On a more positive note - Happy Thanksgiving!

Looks like we'll be back in line within the next couple of weeks. Our submission is being finalized and it's all very exciting for me...Funny to think about once again revisiting those feelings of expectation once the application is out of our hands and off into the void...I'm not looking forward to it, to be honest. I am also going to try to make the active choice of not worrying - leaving the result in God's hands, and trusting that in hearing this open prayer - that I may be allowed, in this specific time and with this application, to be granted Permanent Residence in Canada, to make a life with the woman I love, whom He brought into my life - that He will be honored. For all of you who may wonder if God does answer prayers, that I can report one day soon to you, and to His glory, that YES - He does!

God bless you all this Thanksgiving eve.

Friday, September 28, 2007

One more reason to leave the US - the emergence of a "prison state"

"The numbers are staggering, the facts chilling. According to official DOJ (US Department of Justice) statistics, by 2004 the U.S. had already taken a leadership position as the Worlds Worst Prison State. DOJ reports more than seven million people in the U.S. were serving sentences by 2004, that's ten times more than any other nation in the world and more than those jailed in all the other nations combined according to the International Centre for Prison Studies."

That is 1 in every 31 US adults.

On the television news yesterday, I heard a report stating that if you are black or latino, you have more of a chance to go to prison in the US than to get into college. That is simply wrong.

I don't want to live in a country that makes it easier to go to prison than to college. I don't want to live in a country where the concept of justice is "one-strike and you're out." I don't want to live in a country without compassion. But that is the US today. Run by a few rich and fear-filled "haves", determined to, in Dickens' words, "decrease the surplus population..."

While I don't agree with everything the author states, if you're curious to read more of this disturbing information, get it here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The barrier of "Canadian Experience"

Now that I'm back working on coming to Canada again, I'm thinking once more about issues of employment once I arrive. As such, an article in The Star caught my attention. In the article, "Employment breakthrough" The success of a Toronto and Vancouver based internship program is described.

The program is, "Career Edge, a private non-profit agency that links qualified immigrants with employers that provide them with paid internships to gain valuable experience and mentoring for periods ranging from four to 12 months."

I can't say I've ever understood the "Canadian experience" barrier. I guess because this sort of thing doesn't exist in the US. Here, we don't really care where your experience or skills come from. If you have them, and can do the job, then you have a chance. It's not a case of having every qualification possible and then someone asking, "and do you have US work experience?" It simply isn't an issue.

But in Canada, it is. Crazy to think that new immigrants, even skilled immigrants would come to a new country with work experience in the country. And talk about a 'Catch 22" - that you need Canadian work experience to get a professional job in Canada, but you can't get the experience, because you need it to get hired!

The only way through this is paid or unpaid internships...and this is where programs like "Career Edge" help.

I know when I get to Canada, even if I am still working on projects for my US clients, I am going to contact this organization right away.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Personal journey commences again

Dear blog readers,
The summer is nearing it's end, but as with all endings, they also trigger beginnings. In this case, today marked the day that I sent the balance of my submissions to my lawyer in Toronto, who is preparing my application for permanent residence - the beginning, God willing, of my homecoming to Canada and my beloved Toronto and most importantly, to my love.

I don't pretend it's going to be any easier this time around than the last, but I have great faith in God that spending the rest of my days in Toronto is the plan He has for me.

I face this path again as many around the world have. Those of you who are on it know of the anexity, the fear, the emotions that get invested as you hope for the kindness and sympathy of a mature and understanding review. You hope you have done all you can to clear the questions and objections away. You hope you've done everything possible to be allowed to make a life in the country you love.

If those of you who read this could take even a moment to say a prayer for me - that this time around I will be granted a permanent residence permit, and that the process will go ahead without troubles - I would so appreciate it.

I just want to be home again with my love in Toronto. I just want to become a good Canadian. I just want this particular journey to a new Canada....can begin.

Monday, August 06, 2007

More Americans heading North...including me - News - More Americans heading North

Saw this article in the Star and had to pass it on to all of you, even though I'm still oficially on Summer break. It's interesting to see more Americans than ever choosing to make a new life in Canada - the highest number in 30 years, actually.

But while 10,942 US residents moved to Canada in 2006, 23,913 Canadians moved to the US in the same year. What is it about the US (other than jobs and cash and nice people - yah - US citizens in general are pretty nice) that would cause a Canadian to move? Maybe it is that it's such a massively complex, complicated, contridictary place? Maybe it's to make good - make it rich - live the "American" dream? For whatever reason, Canadians make the US a better place to live.

As for myself...well...I'm getting back in line again! In just a few weeks actually. God willing, I'll be able to detail a sucessful conclusion to my immigration oddesy. I love Canada. I want to spend the rest of my life in my beloved Toronto. And best of all...My love wants the same thing!

More Americans heading North? Count me in!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Lost in Migration" - The Star's good start

Taking a break from my Summer blogging vacation to alert you to a must-read series in the online version of the Toronto Star. "Lost in Migration" is a three-part series detailing the abuses rampant in the immigration "industry" in Canada, and in particular, by so-called Certified Immigration Consultants, who are overseen by the quasi-governmental Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC).

Having suffered a loss of thousands of dollars myself at the hands of a boilerplate consultant, it was great to see these individuals exposed for what many of them are.

Now, if only the Star would expose the capriciousness of the entire immigration process, we might really get somewhere. Here's an example: say your application is rejected. If so, you have the right to appeal. The appeal is heard by ONE appeals Minister, who is not required to take notes and no record is kept of the proceedings. The minister then makes a ruling, based on their recollection of the hearing (not based on evidence or fact). If the ruling goes against you, then you can appeal to the Federal Court. If the Federal Court agrees with your appeal, you would think that would be it - that you would be done and in...but not in Canada. In Canada, if the highest court in the land agrees with your appeal, then they send you back to the SAME appeals court that heard your case before, with the same lack of rules or accountability.

Investigate that, Star!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Summer vacation

The Mind will be on hiatus (much like your favorite CBC programming) for a good chunk of the next few months. Should anything too juicy to pass up come to light, we'll be sure and take note, but for now the weather is just too darn nice and my personal immigration story is still going nowhere fast. You'll of course be the first to hear if the situation changes!

Have a lovely Summer!

- J

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Top 5 Toronto - site seeing

Back to the Top 5! Now what I think you should see aren't necessarily what the tourist board would recommend. Still I think if you check these five destinations out, you'll be very pleased with your Toronto experience.

Younge Street (between Front and Bloor) - Take a stroll from south to north and you're eyes, ears...well, all your senses are in for a treat. There is everything from weird little bargain electronics shops to SAM SAM the Record Man, to great pizza and pan Asian food to souvenir and boutique shops. The street is usually bustling with activity and it is just this messy commerce that I love. You will too!

Queen Street West - Another great shopping street in Toronto, but this one, chock full of designer furnishings, clothing and second-hand stores, is a funkier section of town. Check out events at CHUM's CityTV building (at John Street), where Much Music is often putting on events, or have your say at Speakers Corner (a loonie is the price of admission for your own rant on, well, whatever you want!). Queen is also serviced by the Red Rocket street cars, so if you get tired you can hop on one. As you head west, the street calms down and there are some nice parks and restaurants to explore.

Nathan Phillips Square - The heart of Toronto, so to speak, Nathan Phillips Square is a model of a public space to be admired. It is the site of Toronto City Hall, but more than that, with its wide open spaces and skating rink/wading pool/reflecting pond, it is also a place where people gather to meet, socialize and celebrate community events (it's the site of the city's New Year celebration). Added bonus - the blue poutine truck that parks on Queen Street!

St. Lawrence Market - Yummy meats and veggies especially cheese, cheese, cheese! St. Lawrence Market on Front Street is the place for fresh food stuffs. Some vendors make sandwiches and prepared foods for you to eat on the spot or take home, so if you don't have a place to cook, you can still enjoy the food. Don't forget to check out the lower level too!

Eaton Centre - Now THIS is a shopping mall. Three levels of shops and restaurants, with a range of services inside as well, Eaton Centre (the Eaton's store has since been taken over by Sears) is where Toronto goes to shop. By Dundas Square to the east (off Younge Street) there 's always some sort of activity happening - it's also a good place to start because right inside the entrance is a bank with cash machines :). You always seem to run into someone you know at Eaton Centre, which is especially beautiful come Christmastime.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Happy 25th Anniversary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Twenty-five years ago today, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms became law in Canada. This document has laid the foundation for the development of a modern, multi-cultural Canada that offers opportunity to many who cannot find it anywhere else in the world.

The Charter covers everything from human rights to democratic, equality, and mobility rights, as well as defining the two official langauges of the nation.

Learn more about this remarkable document here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Top 5 Toronto - restaurants

I decided to have a little fun now that Spring is here and lighten the mood in celebration of the return of the Sun! SO here we go - a Top 5 series for you to help in your enjoyment of my favorite city, Toronto. This post covers my Top 5 restaurants.

Messis - 97 Harbord Street, Toronto Phone (416) 920-2186. Try the Oven-roasted marinated Atlantic salmon with a soy ginger sushi rice tower, sesame sautéed julienne fennel & bok choy, and a citrus carrot sauce ($17.95), or the Halibut when it's in season - yum! For dessert, don't you dare miss the Wild blueberry & white chocolate phyllo strudel with Tahitian vanilla ice cream.

Bar Italia - 582 College Street, Toronto, ON, Canada - (416) 535-3621. While the service has been known to be sketchy, with servers playing tag-team games (the person who seats you will not get you water, the person who gets you water will not take your order, the person who takes your order will not serve you, the person who serves you will not check in on you, the person who checks in on you will not bring you your bill, the person who brings you your bill will not bring you your change...), the food IS yummy and the atmosphere is stylin'. Try one of the many pastas or the gnocchi.

Spring Rolls - 691 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, Canada - (416) 972-6623. Pan Asian at it's best, with oodles and oodles of noodles. Don't miss the Pineapple Fried Rice too! The Younge Street location insures lots of action on the street too. This list is making me hungry...

Fran's Diner - 20 College Street, Toronto, ON, Canada - (416) 923-9867. I'm not the only one who loves this diner (try the Waffles and Ice Cream!) - here's a quote from another best-of list: "If you want to begin your day with a standard, no-frills breakfast, head to Fran's, a Toronto institution. Fran's offers the usual breakfast choices, including eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee.Choose from traditional breakfast dishes or made-to-order omelets and waffles. People of all ages enjoy Fran's!" Good enough for Glen Gould? Good enough for me.

Sugar Cafe - 942 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, Canada - (416) 532-5088. Another great brunch spot. Try the french toast and a couple cups of coffee before you begin a day of shopping on Queen Street West. It's small and lovely and personal and if you don't mind the eclectic furnishings (chairs of different heights and tables that may need a matchbook or two to make the legs even), could even be considered stylish!

Let me know if you hit up any of these spots and agree with me that these are five of the tops!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Reader's Choice - what would you like to see covered?

For two years now I've been covering the immigration scene in Canada, my personal ups and downs with it, and the pros and cons of the system Canada has set up to accommodate those seeking a new home.

As I enter my third year of exploring the expatriate mind, I'm wondering if there are any areas that you, the reader, would like me to explore or pay more attention to?

Maybe you enjoy the cultural commentary - my music video selections or comments on places to see and things to do in my beloved Toronto? Maybe the political commentary is what you're interested in? Tracking down resources for immigrants? Whatever it is that you want to see covered here at The Mind, just drop me a comment and let me know.

And thank you again for taking the time to read. It's nice to see the hit counter go up each day, and I hope the last two years have meant something to you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ontario unites immigration resources

Ontario Immigration is a great website put together by the Province to help immigrants at all stages. They have done an excellent job in organizing and linking information from many different sources and acting as a portal for a range of core questions that immigrants have to address.

At the site, presented in (of course) both French and English) you will find information aimed to deal with issues both before (like how to apply to immigrate, which links you to the pertinent sections of the CIC web site) and after you arrive in Canada (like how to get your Social Insurance card), guides to Ontario, information on immigrant assistance programs, finding housing, health insurance, banking, jobs and more.

This is a fantastic site and a must-have bookmark for those at any point in their immigrant journey.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ontario gets it right - "Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act" passed

You wont see any news about it, other than the mention with this article - - News - Another first for Augustine, but the "Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act" was recently passed in Ontario, as championed by Minister Mike Colle.

Under the new legislation, measures will be implemented for ensuring the regulatory bodies that oversee various professions are "fair and open" to qualified newcomers.

To that end, audits of the registration practices of regulated professions will be conducted to make sure they are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.

While the successful passing of this legislation didn't make the press, here's part of a backgrounder from 2006 outling the key elements of it:

Ensuring Fair Practices
The proposed Act would require regulatory bodies to adopt fair and transparent registration processes by:

- Reviewing their requirements for registration including academic courses and work experience.
- Providing information about documents and credentials required to support an application or alternative options if an applicant cannot obtain documentation for reasons beyond their control.
- Providing complete information about how the registration process works, the approximate amount of time it would take to get a decision, fees required, and the criteria for acceptance into the profession.
- Deciding whether an individual is successful or not in obtaining a license within a reasonable amount of time.
- Providing applicants with written reasons for the decision.
- Ensuring applicants have the right to an internal review or appeal if they don’t agree with the decision, and receive a written response to a request for a review or appeal.
- Ensuring officials making decisions on registration, internal reviews or appeals are trained so that they have knowledge of the processes.

Way to go, Ontario!

Immigration fuels Canada‘s growth - we have a problem

Immigration fuels Canada‘s growth

"Two-thirds of Canada‘s rapid population increase over the past five years came from immigration — a force that in coming decades will account for almost all of the country‘s growth, according to census figures released Tuesday."

The article noted chronicles a unique situation. Canada's birthrate is slowing. Soon, the only net gain in population will be through immigration.

So what's the problem? Barriers to immigrating is one - the backlog of applicants continues to grow, without a plan in place to manage it.

The second problem is the one of employment access, as noted before. While some Provinces, like Ontario (who bear the brunt of immigration by a huge margin) are proactively putting programs in place to take advantage of the economic capital flowing into the country associated with highly educated new immigrants, there is still no cohesive Federal plan in place.

It seems Canada can do one of three things - stay the course, create more restrictive policies to stem the flow of immigrants (ala the US) or embrace the future and take advantage of those who truly want to build a new future in a wonderful country.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Application wait times examined - permanent residence

You have to dig a bit on the CIC website to find out what wait times are for different types of immigration applications. But I don't mind tracking these things down now and again. This time around I'll look at all applications for permanent residence. In general, things still aren't very good for this class - some can still wait over four years to process. But the good news is at the other end of the scale, where it appears the "easier" applications are moving through at a reasonable pace.

Processing Times at Visa Offices in All Regions

30% of cases finalized in 7 months
50% of cases finalized in 17 months
70% of cases finalized in 32 months
80% of cases finalized in 54 months

The best places to come from if you want to get into Canada in a reasonable amount of time? Vienna (80% of applications handled with in 12 months) and surprisingly, San Paulo (80% of applications handled with in 13 months) .

The worst? Moscow and New Deli at up to 66 months.

For more information, see the CIC site

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Skilled immigrant worker barriers studied under new Conservative plan

In a press release from Minister Monte Solberg, it appears that after a public kick in the ass from the NDP, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper is finally going to loosen the purse-strings and put some money behind the issues faced by skilled worker immigrants in Canada.

What caught my attention here was what they are spending the money on: "The project (entitled: "Bridging the Gap: Integration of Skilled Immigrants into the Canadian Workplace") will be led by the University of Ottawa and will work with small and medium-sized enterprises (SME's), skilled immigrant employees and human resources professionals to develop and test learning modules for understanding the barriers to integration into Canada's workplaces, and then implement strategies to overcome them."

So they are funding a university study, with small and medium sized businesses (typically exempt from Federal employment laws if they employ under 100 individuals), to develop and test "learning modules" (read: government pamplets).

Come on Monte - the barriers skilled workers face are clear. You don't need to spend $2 million to see them.

There is no consistent path for the acceptance of foreign training or professional credentials; there are many protectionist professional societies restricting job access to immgrants; without a point of entry, it is nearly impossible to gain often required "Canadian experience."

You don't need to be a University of Ottawa professor to figure it out.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The NDP has a plan - 7 cheers for Olivia Chow

First off, I'm not particularly a fan of any of the four primary Canadian political parties. I am a fan of those who take a chance and propose action. So currently, I'm a fan of the NDP, who last week made a solid proposal to address some of the issues faced by skilled workers who come to Canada, only to find they are unable to work intheir chosen profession - the profession that Canada told them was so valuable in the first place. Here is the introduction to the paper published by Olivia Chow (Ontario NDP Minister for Trinity-Spadina), followed by my summary of each of the seven points. I tried copying the whole PDF here, but it had technical issues...

Creating Fair Opportunities
A proposal for the recognition of foreign credentials

Olivia Chow, MP Trinity-Spadina NDP
Deputy Immigration Critic

Canada’s failure to recognize the credentials of qualified, skilled and professional foreign-trained immigrants in the workforce is harming the economy and immigrants alike – exacerbating labour shortages, limiting the contribution and earning potential of immigrants, contributing to unacceptable levels of child poverty and putting a strain on social services.

The 2006 federal Budget allocated $18 million to consult on the creation of a Foreign Credentials Recognition Agency. Instead of more talk and empty election promises, it is time for concrete action. It is grossly unfair for skilled immigrants to continue to waste their talents. The NDP proposes to allocate the earmarked consultation funds towards the creation of the agency immediately. We have consulted extensively with immigrant serving agencies and service providers over the years. This proposal for the creation of an agency for the recognition of foreign credentials is based on sound input and best practices.

1. Create a clear, accessible Internet and toll-free phone portal for information on: assessment criterea and processes; educational institutions where those who need to upgrade their skills can apply; licensing bodies and how to get a license to practice in a regualted profession; how to get "Canadian experience" through mentorship, bridge programs and training.
2. Publicize detailed information on the process surrounding recognition of foreign credentials and offer seminars on a regular basis at offshore visa offices in order to make "early recognition" part of the application review process. In essence, pre-approving new immigrants to work in their field BEFORE they arrive in Canada.
3. Establish permanent training, mentorship and bridging programs.
4. Establish a database from which organizations can verify information from the Federal Government.
5. Coordinate with CIC to facilitate timely and fair accreditation.
6. Create a uniform assessment and recognition process.
7. Create special programs for those sectors that face heightened labour shortages.

In general, this is a pretty good start. The only problem I have with these proposals is that the NDP is clearly working "inside the box". Instead of actually proposing legislation that would make a difference, they are proposing "programs" for the use of Federal funds. Typically, this simply creates new bureaucracies.

Still and all, seven cheers for Olivia and Jack. At least skilled workers have an advocate in Canada.

Download the PDF here

Monday, February 19, 2007

US policy on multinationism exposed

"The US State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) currently discriminates against Canadian citizens and residents employed in the domestic aerospace industry. ITAR requires that Canadian private companies that receive US defense contracts comply with measures which deny employment to their own workers if those employees are Canadian citizens with dual nationalities of certain countries." (from an NDP press release)

So when is a Canadian NOT a Canadian? I guess when you try and work on a US government contract.

If this is how NAFTA was supposed to work, you sure could've fooled me. Since when does US security policy dictate Canadian employment or citizenship policy?

I guess an option is to simply not compete for these contracts, but we all know that isn't going to happen.

Come on Canada, stand up for your immigrant citizens. Don't they have a hard enough time?

(read the NDP statement here)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Almost Famous - I'm in the new BnL video

It's all connected somehow. As further proof that I belong home in Canada, I am featured in the new Barenaked Ladies music video, "The Sound of Your Voice". The band was on tour recently in Everett, Washington (just north of Seattle) and they shot a segment for the video there. I just happened to be there, in the center of the action, abhet, in the shadows. None the less - I AM in a BnL video! You can say you knew me when...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A simple proposal - modify the Employment Equity Act

For those of you who don't know, the federal Employment Equity Act is legislation first passed in 1986 and later modified in 1995 that prohibits employment discrimination on four primary groups: women, members of visible minorities, aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities.

When I think about the troubles that immigrants have in obtaining work in their chosen field in Canada (even if they are more than qualified) - this act seems like a place that the government could start to right a systemic wrong.

Let's challenge the government to add "immigrants" to their list of those against whom employment discrimination is illegal. Think about it: with the addition of a single word to legislation that is already widely embraced, many of the issues involved in keeping immigrants underemployed would dissappear.

According to the Media Awareness Network: "Employers designated under the Equity Act are required to submit an annual statistical report to the federal government, detailing the representation of these four groups among their employees. (Employers who fail to file a report are subject to a fine under the Act.) These employment equity reports are made available to the public."

Now, while not all employers are designated under the act (businesses impacted are those that employ 100 or more individuals, or who do work for the federal government), certainly this would be a great start.

Read the backgrounder here and Contact your Member of Parliment if you believe adding this protection to one more disadvantaged group of Canadians.

(Full text of the EEA)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Personal update - why I hate America

Well, the east coast opportunity that I thought would revamp the bank account and thus get me back in line fell through unexpectedly and so right now, it's more of the same old, same old. I am keeping my head (barely) above financial water, but at least it's above it.

America, if you didn't know, is what I've always referred to as a land of "economic Darwinism" - survival of the richest, so to speak. It's also a land of "me" and not a land of "we." Especially since the baby boomers came into power.

It always blows me away to think about the "peace and love" generation - the generation of the commune - becoming the most greedy and selfish generation in history. The love generation, showing their love by putting more of their brothers and sisters in jail than any other generation in history.

And now, in the ultimate realization of their turn from the ideals of their youth - the civil rights generation, responsible for the stripping of more individual rights and freedoms than any other time in American history.

These are the reasons I hate this America - what it has become. The only thing I still appreciate about it is that I am still free to write these words.

Do you wonder why I hunger for a new life in Canada?

I'm not giving up the dream. I am patient, I have faith, I know one day that God will honor my patience and faithfulness. One day, I will be a Canadian.

Thank you for your prayers. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Service is much better once you join the club

It seems with the new US requirements for foreign citizens to carry passports that a number of Canadians are finding out that, technically, they are no longer citizens. Under Section 8 of the Citizenship Act, if an individual doesn't contact the government to claim their status as a Canadian citizen by age 28, they are considered to have forfeited the privilege.

But no worries - the CIC, once aware of the fact that tax paying citizens and voters were being told they were no longer Canadian quickly set up an option to regain citizenship and get a passport at the same time. They had the system set up in less than two weeks and it's working wonderfully.

Maybe if those of us applying for residency were tax payers and voters, they would do something just as quickly and efficiently to clear out the 700,000 person backlog?

Read the whole article on the CBC website.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Public awareness for the underemployed

New immigrants face huge hurdles in securing employment in Canada. This is as true for Family Class as it is for Skilled Class applicants that are granted residency. The Liberals spent their years in power doing nothing about the situation, birthing the modern legend of the cab driver with the MBA (or PhD., or, name the advanced degree).

Now, in an attempt to do SOMETHING (and rather than waiting for any Tory government to develop progams or policies that will make a real difference in the lives of new citizens), the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council is running a public service ad campaign to wake Ontario employers up to the wasted human resources within their reach.

According to an article published in the Toronto Star today, "Statistics show 60 per cent of immigrants are forced to work a lower level job in a field other than the one they qualify for."

While you can't force any employer to hire anyone in particular, government can make it harder to discriminate against new immigrants, provide incentives for those firms that do employ immigrants (tax credits anyone?), or make small business loans more accessible to new Canadian immgrants.

I'm glad the Ontario government is doing something to bring these issues more into the public eye. I hope Ontario Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mike Colle will take his own advice as someone in power to create policy and, "Rather than talk about it, do something about it. "

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hope Springs East

Lots of activity here on the West Coast that may lead me closer to my dreams back home, back east, back in T-dot. I may be on the verge of breaking my financial drought, and if that's the case, then it will be a fairly quick step to having the bank account back in order, and thus, being able to apply as a Skilled Worker!

So that explains the silence - big business puts big demands on the time...I'll be sure and keep you posted here, but if you can spare a prayer, I know it will help. I so want to come home, and maybe, finally, the time is coming...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

It's been just over four years now since I started this slow journey to Canada. It's a journey I'm still unsure of and one which the conclusion still seems to be so far away and so uncertain.

It's been a horrible year financially, so the funds that I need to apply under the Skilled Worker class (CDN $10K) are still far away from my savings account. Still, I have hope that those funds will come - in God's time.

That's the trick - accepting God's time. Like everyone else, I want things to happen when I want them to happen, but God doesn't work that way in people's lives. I imagine the delay in this immigration process is because there are things He wants me to learn that will make me a better person - one who will appreciate the gifts He gives me.

The one thing I still don't want to think about is this: what if He doesn't want me to come to Canada at all? That's a tough one for me. It's the hardest for anyone who lives a life in faith - to answer the question, "What do you do when God says "No" to your prayers?"

I still don't know my own answer to this. I almost feel like preparing for it is giving up on the hope I have in a positive result.

But New Years are about the future and hope in the future, so I will hold onto hope, hold onto my dreams, and hold onto the love I have for Canada. I was born American, but I have had the soul of a Canadian since I can remember.

God grant me my prayer. Lord, hear my prayer. If this is your year for me, thank You. If not, thank You.

And thank YOU for reading my blog these last few years. Here's to 2007!