The Conference Board of Canada: An Innovative immigration system at 150 and beyond

The Conference Board of Canada recently released a report following their Canadian Immigration Summit, 2017. Titled “An Innovative Immigration System at 150 and Beyond”, it includes a summary of the summit, key findings, and recommendations to “improve settlement, integration, and citizenship policies”.
There’s lots of good stuff here, including identifying initiatives that work, or are promising, and solid recommendations from those in the fields of immigration and settlement, integration, and immigrant employment.
The federal governments’ department of immigration, refugees, and citizenship Fraser Valentine flags three keys for successful immigration:

  1. targeted immigration to meet Canada’s goals
  2. positive integration so that immigrants are welcomed into Canadian society
  3. strong public support for the immigration system.

Ilse Treurnicht, MaRS Discovery District suggests that Canada work to strengthen ‘the immigration-innovation nexus’ by:

  • retaining more international students
  • equipping cities to receive immigrants
  • creating a “comprehensive approach for immigrants to contribute to the economy to leverage their global connections, cultural competencies, knowledge and experiences”
  • having greater alignment between immigration and innovation, technology and education systems
  • demonstrating that immigration benefits Canada economically, and that the business community must champion this, and not leave this to politicians and policy makers alone.

Yes, good stuff, but in the above examples – and others in the report – of how to support immigrant employment, there is no mention of providing child care so that newcomers can participate in training and jobs initiatives. If they have children younger than school-age, child care is an issue.
Number 2 of IRCs Fraser Valentine’s 3 keys to success is “positive integration so that immigrants are welcomed into Canadian society”.  Having a safe, high quality child care program for your children while you work, train or study is a strong welcome to newcomers. It says we care about you, we see you as a whole person, with a family and not just as a worker.
Treurnicht’s call that cities be equipped to receive immigrants should mean receiving the newcomers entire family, including its non-school-aged children.
The Conference Board of Canada says: “Canada needs to identify how to better integrate immigrants in the labour market by continuing to strengthen the linkage between the immigrant selection process and its labour market needs…” I invite them to look at Canada’s labour market needs against its resources, and how to strengthen those resources.
The Conference Board of Canada missed an opportunity to highlight the importance of child care for immigrant employment and the Canadian economy. Next year’s summit?

The Drummond Commission recommendations on immigration (and the missed opportunities to address immigrant children/families)

There has been much examination and discussion of the recommendations of the recently released Drummond Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services (struck by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Finance Minister Dwight Duncan). notes that the Commission has lost the opportunity to highlight and promote the importance of addressing both the needs of immigrant families with young children – and the contribution that immigrant parents can make to the Ontario economy if these needs are supported.
In the introduction, “The Economic Importance of Immigration”, the Drummond report says:
“By attracting skilled workers from abroad, Ontario can better address potential labour-market shortages. Maintaining labour-force growth, aided by successful immigrants, can help sustain Ontario’s long-term economic growth”. believes that immigrant parents may be able to contribute economically by participating in the labour force, but only if they are secure in their child care arrangements. Current federal initiatives for child care are almost absent. There is an opportunity for the federal government to partner with the provinces to ensure that culturally appropriate child care is made available to newcomers.
This introduction ends with the bold statement: “In short, future trends in immigration and the degree to which Ontario can successfully integrate new arrivals into the province’s labour market and social fabric will have a significant effect on Ontario’s fiscal fortunes”. The Drummond report makes a case for ensuring that social supports are in place for immigrants in order for them to contribute to the economy through labour force participation. Child care is one such social support. We wonder how it was overlooked.

In the Commission’s section on immigration, seven recommendations are made. With respect to each of the recommendations, has some initial thoughts. We invite more discussion, debate and comment. (Drummond report recommendations in bold, with comments in italics following).
Recommendation 10-1: Develop a position on immigration policies that is in the province’s best economic and social interests. Present this position to the federal government with the expectation that, as the largest recipient of immigrants in Canada, Ontario’s interest will be given considerable weight in federal policy development.
What is in the best interest is the development of fully funded culturally appropriate child care system that will support immigrant parents’ participation in the labour force. The federal government should, alongside, develop federal policy on child care for newcomer families that meets the needs not only of the national economy, but the social benefits of immigrant parents participation in the workforce if there is acceptable child care available, affordable and accessible to newcomers.
Recommendation 10-2: Catalyze national discussions on immigration policy as the successful integration of immigrants is critical for Canada’s and Ontario’s economic futures.
Few programs support integration better than community-based early learning and child care programs. Situated in public schools (as proposed in the full day kindergarten program of the McGuinty government), culturally appropriate child care for newcomer children – indeed, for all children – is a key catalyst to promotion of Canadian values and an optimal welcoming point for children and parents alike.
Recommendation 10-3: Advocate the federal government for a greater provincial role in immigrant selection to ensure that the level and mix of immigrants coming to Ontario is optimized to support economic prosperity and improve outcomes for immigrants. Barring success, advocate for an expanded Provincial Nominee Program.
The PNP might also explore age of the children of immigrants recruited through it. If Canada and Ontario are to thrive, the “level and mix” of immigrants must include children from birth to age eight and a PNP is well positioned to address this gap.
Recommendation 10-4: Press the federal government to be more transparent in its refugee policies and practices and to compensate Ontario for the costs of providing additional social supports to refugees and refugee claimants.
In our discussions and recommendations for ‘culturally appropriate child care’, it must be noted that refugee children have significantly different needs than children of immigrants who choose to emigrate. Services and supports for refugee children and youth must be developed with these specific needs in mind.
Recommendation 10-6: Streamline and integrate provincially delivered integration and settlement services for recent immigrants with Employment Ontario.
Within the discussion for recommendations 5 & 6 is found the statement “Two of the key drivers of labour-market success for immigrants are a working knowledge of one of Canada’s official languages and educational credentials that are accepted by regulatory bodies and potential employers”. While would agree that language and credentials are key, the Drummond report misses the mark by neglecting to consider the importance of child care for any working parent.
Recommendation 10-7: Advocate for devolving federal immigrant settlement and training programs to the province…
Again, we would argue that any settlement funding agreement with the federal government should include start-up and ongoing funds for child care.
The Commission cites a number of studies in its report including one by Mr Drummond himself that clearly articulates and recognizes the value of high quality child care. See D. Drummond, and F, Fong, “The Changing Canadian Workplace”, TD Economics, TD Bank Financial Group, 2010.

“…the higher incidence of part-time employment is caused, in part, by the cultural notion that women remain the primary caretaker of a family. As such, full-time employment is most likely not an option for many women as this would imply foregoing time to tend to household responsibilities. This also speaks to the poor state of childcare options available to many Canadians. Among comparative advanced nations in the OECD, Canada spends the smallest share of its GDP on early childhood education and care (ECEC) for those aged 0-6. At just 0.25% of GDP, this is extremely distant from the 1.5%-2% range spent by the Scandinavian countries. And since ECEC spending falls under provincial jurisdiction, the 0.25% figure is an aver- age across the provinces and is likely skewed by the heavy subsidization in Quebec where, for example, the $7 per day childcare provides for many lower income parents. Hence, regardless of the fact that Canada has one of the highest female participation rates in the world, participation in childcare services for children under the age of 3 is only in the middle of the pack among the OECD”.

Another report cited by the Commission is Fernando Mata, “The Non-Accreditation of Immigrant Professionals in Canada: Societal Dimensions of the Problem”, Department of Canadian Heritage, 1999:

“A recent example is a survey of the accreditation problems faced by immigrant women in the nursing, teaching and social work professions in partnership with the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women in Canada (NOIVMWC). The report coming out from the survey revealed that immigrant women with professional degrees, in addition to the common problems faced by male counterparts, were more negatively affected by “lack of services and resources in the areas of childcare and language training”.

The Commission rightfully relied on a careful examination of the literature in addition to its consultations. The literature findings, including Mr. Drummond’s own work, clearly sees the value of a system of high quality early learning and child care as an employment support and a support to integration of newcomers, but it failed to include child care as a recommendation to the people of Ontario. As such, it has failed immigrant families.

StatsCan study: Canadian immigrant labour market

Statistics Canada today released a study on the quality of employment in the Canadian immigrant labour market.
StatsCan finds that there were differences in indicators of quality between non-immigrants and immigrants, with immigrants experiencing, on average, lower wages than non-immigrants. But, for newcomers who made Canada their home for more than 10 years, the indicators “more closely resembled those of Canadian born”.
Again, finds that investigations into employment-related issues – and, especially, quality of employment experiences – neglects to include availability of high-quality, accessible child care as an indicator.

Liberal Pink Book, Vol III: An action plan for Canadian women

The Liberal Party of Canada released yesterday their Pink Book, Volume III: An Action Plan for Canadian Women. I tweeted overall disappointment in not addressing immigration issues and specifically that there was no discussion or proposal for improving the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program that brings women to Canada as nannies to provide child care for Canadian women (often leaving behind their own children in the process).
The third volume in the Pink Book series does make commitments on child care and on a “national care-giving strategy” (p. 8) but doesn’t connect the dots. Here’s what they say about early learning and child care, under the general heading of Women in the Economy:

“The National Liberal Women’s Caucus recommends that a new federal Liberal government: Work with the provinces and territories to build a system of affordable, accessible and high-quality early learning and childcare spaces across the country, including programs to meet the unique needs of rural families” (p. 6).

Continuing in the same category, they propose to “Establish a ‘Bridging-to-Employment’ program covering the first 6 weeks of salary for new immigrant and visible minority women employees. Workplace educational programs should also be expanded to help break down existing racial and gender stereotypes” (p. 7).
The problem with these policy directions include not recognizing that much of the patchwork that is the child care system in Canada is provided by immigrant women in the informal, unlicensed sector.  Canada brings in TFWs/nannies to address labour shortages. The human resource issues in regulated child care are numerous and are being examined by a federal body, but again, there is no link made in this third volume of policies to improve life for women in Canada.
A truly comprehensive plan for women in Canada requires reconciling immigration policy that exploits migrant women workers, does not deliver ‘high-quality’ early learning, and furthers racial and gender stereotypes with the plans to create an affordable, accessible and high quality system. The overlaps and gaps are clear.
An interesting piece is the attention paid to language in legislation, including a commitment to change foreign policy wording of “children in armed conflict” to “child soldiers”. Curious.

Ontario gov't consultation on live-in caregivers and other 'temporary' workers

The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) has released a consultation paper on temporary foreign workers and is inviting comment from interested stakeholders.
The paper, entitled A Consultation Paper on Foreign and Resident Employment Recruitment in Ontario, addresses live-in caregivers. From the Minister of Labour, The Honourable Peter Fonseca:

“…I have personally attended community roundtables for caregivers, where I have heard disturbing stories about the treatment of people who come to this country hoping for a better life for themselves and their families, yet fail to realize their dream or pay too high a price … live-in caregivers, come to Ontario through programs designed and administered by the federal government. In my discussions with caregivers and those who advocate for them, it has become clear that these programs create situations where vulnerable workers are ripe for exploitation. While Ontario will continue to help improve the working conditions of vulnerable workers, the federal government must do its part and address the flaws in the LCP and other programs”.

To submit comments, fax the MOL at 416.314.5855 to the attention of “Foreign and Resident Employment Recruitment”, mail to Foreign and Resident Employment Recruitment, 400 University Ave., 12th floor, Toronto ON M7A 1T7 or email Deadline is August 21/09.
Related resource: Are you a caregiver in the Federal live-in caregiver program? information sheet.

Will work for (because of) art

A Regent Park (Toronto) arts program ED saw that staff didn’t reflect the cultural community it served; that children had limited notions of what art/craft is; and that immigrant artisan women were seeking employment and created the Artisan Training and Employment Project.
Now in its third year, the Artisan Training and Employment Project brings together newcomer artisan women with the children of Regent Park, Toronto, in an arts program that supports employment training for immigrant women – and expands for children the notion of what art is. A win-win. The project provides part-time work, employment and training to newcomer women through the ArtHeart, Community Art Centre.
The project reports success in the women finding work after the program. For more info see the power point presentation posted at the CERIS site.

Gender-based barriers to settlement and integration for live-in caregivers: A review of the literature

The Ontario Metropolis Centre/the Joint Centre of Excellence for Research in Immigration Studies (CERIS) has released a literature review on barriers to integration and settlement for live-in caregivers.
Authors Denise L. Spitzer and Sara Torres ask what is known about the women who migrate to Canada under the federal live-in caregiver program and the barriers they face in settling and integrating in a new community. The paper provides historical, economic and demographic information and concludes with several policy recommendations.

2009 immigration levels for Canada

The office of the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has released news on the immigration levels planned for 2009.
Backgrounders to the news release include information on the ministerial instructions for visa officers to assist them in identifying applications that may be given priority consideration. 
‘Live-in caregivers’ continue to be listed as economic-class priorities. 
From the backgrounder, this information on family-class applications:

“Family class applications will be processed in the same manner and with the same priorities as usual. Specifically, applications for sponsored spouses, partners and dependent children shall continue to be placed into processing immediately upon receipt”.

Read the full ministerial instructions, as they appear in the Canada Gazette.

Transnational families

The Nanny Economy is the title of a National Post item in the Saturday edition (February 23/08). From the story:

“More than 6,000 Filipinas arrive in Canada under the federal government’s live-in caregiver program. They make up more than one in five female immigrants to Canada and more than nine out of 10 of the live-in caregiver program’s participants”.

The story outlines the issues in the live-in caregiver program, which brings many women to Canada to care for Canadian children, while leaving their own children behind.
For more on transnational families, see Bernhard, J., Landolt, P. & Goldring, L. (2005). Transnational, multi-local motherhood: Experiences of separation and reunification among Latin American families in Canada. Joint Centre of Excellence for Research in Immigration Studies (CERIS), Working Paper No. 40, or for a summary see Policy Matters No. 24, January 2006 at the CERIS website.
Also see INTERCEDE for the Rights of Domestic Workers, Caregivers and Newcomers. INTERCEDE is a non-profit community-based organization that works to “support the integration, promote the rights and provide service needs of domestic workers, caregivers, temporary or migrant workers, their families”.

Putting immigrants to work: But, what about their children? is an initiative of TRIEC, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council. provides information to employers on how to hire immigrants and why they should.
TRIEC is about “working to remove the barriers immigrants face when entering the labour market, while at the same time helping organizations benefit from the talents and skills immigrants bring with them to Canada”. TRIEC is an initiative of The Maytree Foundation.
In partnership with TRIEC and MediaCorp (who bring us Canada’s Top 100 Employers) comes a new initiative, The Best Employers for New Canadians. What’s the criteria for making it as one of the best employers for new Canadians? “Each employer is evaluated in terms of:

(1) whether they offer programs specifically designed to assist employees who are recent immigrants to Canada;
(2) whether they have taken steps to reduce employment barriers for recent immigrants, such as by recognizing foreign educational credientials and experience;
(3) whether they assist new employees who have foreign professional or educational credentials in getting these qualifications formally recognized in Canada;
(4) whether they offer any “onboarding” programs, such as internal coaching or mentoring, to help new employees who are recent immigrants understand the Canadian workplace; and
(5) whether their managers and employees receive training in cross-cultural issues or inclusiveness to help create a welcoming and productive environment for employees who are recent immigrants”.

Hmmm. I didn’t see any mentions of the availability and accessibility of high quality child care in any of these initiatives. Organizations that purport to help immigrants get and keep jobs would do well to address the issue of child care. Child care is not only an employment support, it also promotes healthy child growth and development and supports families in their child-rearing role. A parent content with their child’s early learning and care arrangement are bound to be happier and more focussed at work. The best employers are on board with child care. Please join in, TRIEC, in adovcating for more and better early learning and child care programs and supports for immigrant families.