Green Party of New Brunswick Proposal: Immigration
New Brunswick needs immigrants. It is the only Canadian province where the population is actually declining. In 2016, the four Atlantic premiers and members of the federal cabinet agreed to work together on an Atlantic Growth Strategy and an immigration pilot program in order to grow the economy and support families in the region.
Whether someone arrives as a refugee, migrant worker, international student or permanent resident, they add to the social, cultural and economic fabric of the province. But simply inviting people to settle in New Brunswick is not enough. The majority of immigrants and refugees who come to New Brunswick do not settle here. A recent study demonstrated that five years after their arrival, less than half of newcomers in Atlantic Canada are still filing taxes in the region.
A major driving force for newcomers leaving is a lack of services. The services are simply insufficient to convince newcomers to stay, as evidence in education has demonstrated. More than 2,700 pages of documents reviewed by Canadian Press have detailed the concerns of overwhelmed and under-resourced educators, as they dealt with a sudden influx of Syrian refugee students who did not speak English or French, may have been out of school for years, observed different religious practices, and came from war-affected countries. A lack of support, including access to full-time translators, led to what frantic staff called “communication breakdowns” and cultural clashes between Syrian refugee students, classmates, and teachers at a New Brunswick high schools this year, including Fredericton High School.
Many immigrants struggle with recognition of their diplomas and credentials, which can be devastating. Former doctors or engineers often end up driving taxi cabs. This should not be happening. There needs to be an assessment of how foreign qualifications are assessed to ensure there can be a smooth transition, while still meeting the standards of any given profession.
Currently, workers arriving in Canada thorough the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program, including those in New Brunswick, are tied to a single employer and do not have a pathway to permanent residency. This does nothing to increase the retention New Brunswick needs.
Improving availability of services is one piece of improving retention. The other side of the same coin is access. Interviews and focus groups revealed that services for newcomers are a labyrinth of offices, non-profit organizations and paperwork. Newcomers spoke of frustration, mistrust and wasted resources in their attempts to access the services that Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada lead them to believe they could access.
All New Brunswick residents should have access to all provincial services regardless of immigration status. As well, immigration/citizenship information should only be collected where specifically required by either Provincial or Federal legislation and not be shared outside the provincial department, agency or corporation which has collected it, unless through the informed consent of the New Brunswick resident to whom it concerns. This policy is known as “access without fear”. Canada’s largest city, Toronto, has been operating by this policy since at least 2013, with implantation well underway. Vancouver and Hamilton have also adopted such a policy. Currently, efforts are underway to press for the policy at an Ontario-wide level. If New Brunswick is serious about becoming a primary destination for all newcomers to stay, it must not be left behind.
A person’s immigration status can quickly change upon the expiry of a visitor, work or student visa, and many others do not end up acquiring temporary or permanent status, but are still living in the province. A clear message should be sent by the province, through a policy of “access without fear”, that any person in the province will have no need to worry about their children accessing schools, they or their family members accessing health care, or any other provincial services and programs. This sends a strong message that the province is doing its part to ensure all people are welcome to live and stay here.
Another factor making it more difficult for newcomers to ensure they have no problems with their immigration status is better legal services for immigrants and refugees. New Brunswick is sorely lacking in immigration legal services, including a lack of immigration lawyers. The only dedicated legal service for refugees in the province is the newly-founded – and greatly welcome – New Brunswick Refugee Clinic, which just began operation in fall 2016 with one office in Moncton. Much more is needed. Newcomers who wish to sponsor family members, extend visas, ensure that they are meeting requirement for permanent residency, and more, are left with very little direction.
Last year, Canada’s target for refugee intake was 40,000. This ranked Canada as 20th among industrialized countries (adjusted per capita). The refugee crisis has worsened and Canada needs to do more.
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