April 3, 2014 by ceris
The 16th National Metropolis Conference was held in Gatineau, Québec, attracting over 400 attendees from the academic, policy, and non-profit sectors. The conference plenaries, workshops, roundtables, and poster presentations centered on this year’s guiding theme: Partnering for Success: Facilitating Integration and Inclusion. These sessions gave participants an opportunity to discuss and explore relevant issues such as family reunification policies, bridging services for immigrant integration, immigrant youth education and employment outcomes, foreign credential recognition challenges, and service enhancement for temporary foreign workers (TFWs) and non-status migrants.
Pathways to Permanence: Ramifications for Settlement?
The first plenary session set the tone for the rest of the conference, reflecting a diversity of panelists including government officials, academics, and civil society representatives. The panelists included Umit Kiziltan, Research and Evaluation Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC); Carl Nicholson, Catholic Immigration Centre; Adrian Conradi, International Student Services and Study Abroad, Thompson Rivers University; and Arthur Sweetman, Department of Economics, McMaster University. The panelists discussed the recent policy shifts towards increasing the number of newcomers arriving with temporary migration status and their limited pathways to permanent resident status, as opposed to earlier emphasis on newcomer arrivals with permanent resident status.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Facts and Figures 2012, 150,515 temporary foreign workers arrived in Canada in 1988. By the year 2000, the number increased to 177,701 and, by 2010, the number jumped to 491,547. In the 2000s alone, there was a 140 percent increase in temporary foreign worker arrivals.
Joey Calugay of the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal, who attended the conference, was quoted by Huffington Post: “many [TFWs] don’t even understand that this program exists and is temporary, and (many of them) don’t have a chance to apply for permanent residence.” Many claim that the increasing accounts of employer and recruiter abuses are systemic to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and will only become more prevalent in the absence of permanent residence and Canadian citizenship.
Apart from the conference’s individual presentations, the discussions among panelists and the comments by participants helped to complement the information that was presented. For example, during the Q&A period of the first plenary session, Avvy Go of Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic commented on the need to diversify the “male-only” composition of the panel and called attention to the absence of disaggregated CIC data in respect to gender.
Meeting the Challenges in Recognizing Foreign Credentials
The second plenary session discussed the ongoing challenges in recognizing foreign credentials. The panelists included Andrew Staples, Labour Market Integration, Employment and Social Development Canada; Margot Morrish, Ministry of Labour and Immigration, Manitoba; Diana Delgado, SUCCESS; Ann Mann, National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS); and Derek Kunsken, Integration-FCRO Branch, CIC. Mann outlined the vision of the NNAS, which will be a single web application and portal to harmonize the application processes for all provinces. Mann proposes the data collected through the web portal will provide future research opportunities on the analysis of foreign credential recognition outcomes among Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) in Canada.
While this is a big step in the right direction, the NNAS still does not account for the IENs who fall in between the cracks. The IENs who are unable to immediately apply and who increasingly arrive via temporary foreign worker programs, such as the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), are rendered ineligible for bridging and training programs. LCP participants must first complete the required 24 months or 3,900 hours of authorized full time employment before they can apply for the services provided by the NNAS.
The Future of National Metropolis Conferences
In 2012, CIC ended its funding to the national Metropolis project. As a result, the oversight of the Metropolis Conference was moved to the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS). This year’s well-rounded attendance of researchers, government officials, and other stakeholders, as well as the critical debates that unfolded, highlight the importance of the work by former Metropolis centres. The National Metropolis Conference continues to be a multi-sectoral forum for academics, policy makers, and service providers to engage in analytical dialogues about immigration and settlement issues. As Chedly Belkhodja, a long-time Metropolis researcher, was quoted by New Canadian Media: “the unusual combination of participants is what gives Metropolis its unique energy and made it important to keep it alive.”
Lualhati Marcelino is currently a Research Associate at the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). She is completing her MA in Human Geography, in a joint program with Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Her research interests center on transnational labour migration, gender, and social inequality.