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The pandemic created challenges and opportunities for Canadian immigration

As Canada plans to welcome 500,000 new permanent residents a year by 2025, the government must make changes to make the immigration system more fair and…

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The pandemic posed serious challenges to Canada's immigration system, but it also provides an opportunity to start creating a system that is fairer for all. (Shutterstock)

Canada has long relied on strong immigration to fulfil the country’s demographic needs, expand its economy and support regional development.

In 2021, the country surpassed its ambitious immigration target, admitting more than 405,000 permanent residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That was mainly achieved through two temporary measures: the TR (Temporary Resident) to PR (Permanent Resident) pathway and amendments to the Express Entry program.

These measures were part of a two-step immigration selection approach that facilitated transitions from temporary to permanent status for thousands of temporary migrants already in Canada. Two-step immigration refers to the process by which temporary migrant workers can apply to become permanent residents.

Now, the question is: how did these temporary programs impact the lives of temporary work permit-holders and international graduates? And what lessons can be learned from these programs as Canada aims to welcome 500,000 immigrants a year by 2025?

Flexibility and compassion

A strong economic rationale for increased immigration and greater flexibility for international students has resulted in Canada becoming an attractive study destination.

Our ongoing study on skilled migrants and international students’ migration-related decision-making has found that they appreciated the nimbler and more adaptable two-step immigration approach taken by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) since the onset of the pandemic.

Immigrant-friendly policy changes during the pandemic — compared to countries like Australia and the United States — have given Canada an edge in the race to attract skilled migrants.

A woman wearing a face mask carries a large yellow sign with black lettering that reads: Full and permanent immigration status for all.
Relatively open immigration policies have made Canada an attractive destination, but the government must do more to ensure fairness and efficiency in the immigration system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Perpetuating a dubious promise

But despite its positive attributes, our findings show that two-step immigration often creates unrealistic expectations among many international students and skilled temporary foreign workers. It perpetuates the idea that everyone with temporary residence in Canada could receive permanent residence.

Many international students, drawn by Canada’s immigrant-friendly reputation and the perceived ease of obtaining permanent residence, spend huge amounts of money to come here. That includes paying thousands of dollars per year on tuition, housing and other expenses.

The TR to PR pathway created a sense of relief for many immigrants and international students. Many became eligible to apply for permanent residence thanks to its relatively lenient language and work requirements.

However, it also caused frustration. Potential applicants lacked clear information about the application process. Many potential applicants struggled to obtain the required documents like language test results on time. A rush to book appointments caused testing centre websites to crash.

Furthermore, the requirement of one year of full-time work experience for health care and other essential workers, along with the high application fees, might have resulted in a low number of applications.

Issues continue after settling in

Immigrants continue to face challenges even after they attain permanent residence. Finding affordable housing in many cities is a growing challenge for Canadians, newly landed immigrants and international students alike.

A housing crisis has placed newcomers at even more of a disadvantage. Sub-par living conditions and soaring rental costs have left many struggling to find decent accommodation.

Mental health is another issue that needs to be addressed. Many international students who took part in our study spoke about feeling left out in their institutions, especially during the pandemic.

While many Canadian students were able to go home to their families during the switch to virtual classes, international students were often left even more isolated. In addition, border closures and travel restrictions meant many migrants had not been home or seen their families in more than two years.

Ethical immigration policies

As Canada increases immigration over the next few years, there is a need to embrace policies and programs that fulfil immigration targets in an ethical way. Future transition programs could be better designed, eliminating a limited application time frame and quota system.

Men wearing face masks and Sikh turbans hold signs that read: we are all essential, permanent residence for all.
People take part in a demonstration calling for permanent residence status for all migrant workers and asylum seekers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

IRCC is currently struggling with staggering backlogs of more than two million applicants. The department needs to improve processing times based on the urgency of the applications it receives.

IRCC must also be transparent. It needs to disclose information about what types of applications they would prioritize and publish a timetable for Express Entry draws indicating which immigration programs they would focus on in upcoming rounds of invitations. That would provide potential applicants ample time to prepare, as well as reduce wait-induced anxieties.

The transition measures introduced during the pandemic provided greater certainty for international students, essential workers and skilled foreign workers. However, applicants in other schemes, low-skilled immigrants, those applying from abroad and those with undocumented status still face significant challenges and uncertainty.

Studying in a Canadian educational institution allows many international students to be eligible for a post-graduation work permit. However, there is no guarantee they will find employment that allows them to be eligible for permanent residence.

Canada must view international students as future highly skilled members of the workforce and not just as “cash cows.”

More labour market integration programs should be set up to connect international graduates with employers in their field or study. There is a need for a guaranteed pathway to permanent residence to better secure international graduates’ futures.

Institutional changes are necessary to reach the ambitious immigration targets. Sometimes it boils down to communication and getting timely information across to those who need it most. We have seen the government step up its efforts in processing applications, but greater transparency is still needed.

Educational institutions must assume a bigger role in supporting international students by offering advice and services around settling in Canada.

Achieving Canada’s ambitious immigration targets is one thing, but how it is done and at what expense is another. These ambitions should speak to the future Canada we seek: ambitious, diverse, fair and compassionate.

Ashika Niraula works as a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration & Integration Program at Toronto Metropolitan University. The Skilled Migrant Decision Making Under Uncertainty project has received financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant (435-2021-0752) and from the wider program of the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration at Toronto Metropolitan University.

Rica Agnes Castaneda is a researcher at the CERC in Migration and Integration at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) for the Decentering Migration Knowledge Project (DemiKnow), a partnership development grant that receives funding from SSHRC.

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Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

In early January, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned that one peril of a…

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Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

In early January, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned that one peril of a large administrative state is the mischief agencies can get up to when no one is watching.

Specifically, they highlight the overreach of the Agriculture Department, which expanded food-stamp benefits by evading the process for determining benefits and end-running Congressional review.

Exhibit A in the over-reach is the fact that the cost of the federal food stamps program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased to a record $119.5 billion in 2022, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture...

Food Stamp costs have literally exploded from $60.3 billion in 2019, the last year before the pandemic, to the record-setting $119.5 billion in 2022.

In 2019, the average monthly per person benefit was $129.83 in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That increased by 78 percent to $230.88 in 2022.

Even more intriguing is the fact that the number of participants had increased from 35.7 million in 2019 to 41.2 million in 2022...

All of which is a little odd - the number of people on food stamps remains at record highs while the post-COVID-lockdown employment picture has improved dramatically...

Source: Bloomberg

If any of this surprises you, it really shouldn't given that 'you, the people' voted for the welfare state. However, as WSJ chided: "abuse of process doesn’t get much clearer than that."

In its first review of USDA, the GAO skewered Agriculture’s process for having violated the Congressional Review Act, noting that the “2021 [Thrifty Food Plan] meets the definition of a rule under the [Congressional Review Act] and no CRA exception applies. Therefore, the 2021 TFP is subject to the requirement that it be submitted to Congress.” GAO’s second report says “officials made this update without key project management and quality assurance practices in place.”

Abuse of process doesn’t get much clearer than that. The GAO review won’t unwind the increase, which requires action by the USDA. But the GAO report should resonate with taxpayers who don’t like to see the politicization of a process meant to provide nutrition to those in need, not act as a vehicle for partisan agency staffers to impose their agenda without Congressional approval.

All of this undermines transparency and accountability for a program that provided food stamps to some 41 million people in 2021. The Biden Administration is using the cover of the pandemic to expand the entitlement state beyond what Congress authorized.

The question now is, will House Republicans draw attention to this lawlessness and use their power of the purse to stop it to the extent possible with a Democratic Senate.

And don't forget, the US economy is "strong as hell."

Tyler Durden Sat, 01/28/2023 - 09:55

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Spread & Containment

A Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Adult Favorite Has Not Come Back

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn’t been brought back.

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The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn't been brought back.

In the early days of Royal Caribbean Group's (RCL) - Get Free Report return from its 15-month covid pandemic shutdown, cruising looked a lot different. Ships sailed with limited capacities, masks were required in most indoor areas, and social distancing was a thing.

Keeping people six feet apart made certain aspects of taking a cruise impossible. Some were made easier by the lower passenger counts. For example, all Royal Caribbean Windjammer buffets required reservations to keep the crowds down, but in practice that system was generally not needed because capacities were never reached.

Dance parties and nightclub-style events had to be held on the pool decks or in larger spaces, and shows in the big theaters left open seats between parties traveling together. In most cases, accommodations were made and events more or less happened in a sort of normal fashion.

A few very popular events were not possible, however, in an environment where keeping six feet between passengers was a goal. Two of those events -- the first night balloon drop and the adult "Crazy Quest" game show -- simply did not work with social-distancing requirements.

One of those popular events has now made its comeback while the second appears to still be missing (aside from a few one-off appearances).

TheStreet

The Quest Is Still Mostly Missing

In late November, Royal Caribbean's adult scavenger hunt, "The Quest," (sometimes known as "Crazy Quest") began appearing on select sailings. And at the time it appeared like it was coming back across the fleet: A number of people posted about the return of the interactive adult game show in an unofficial Royal Caribbean Facebook group.

It first appeared during a Wonder of the Seas transatlantic sailing.

Since, then its appearances continue to be spotty and it has not returned on a fleetwide basis. This might not be due to any covid-related issues directly, but covid may play a role.

On some ships, Studio B, which hosts "The Quest," has been used for show rehearsals. That has been more of an issue with the trouble Royal Caribbean has had in getting new crew members onboard. And while that staffing issue has been improving, some shows may not have had full complements of performers, so using the space for rehearsal has been a continuing need.

In addition, while covid rules have gone away, covid has not, and ill cast members may force the need for more rehearsals.

Royal Caribbean has not publicly commented on when (or whether) "The Quest" will make a full comeback

Royal Caribbean Balloon Drops Are Back   

Before the pandemic, Royal Caribbean kicked off many of its cruises with a balloon drop on the Royal Promenade. That went away because it forced people to cluster as music was performed and, at midnight, balloons fell from the ceiling.

Now, the cruise line has brought back the balloon drop, albeit with a twist. The drop itself is appearing on activity schedules for upcoming Royal Caribbean cruises. Immediately after it, however, the cruise line has added something new: "The Big Recycle Balloon Pickup."

Most of the dropped balloons get popped during the drop. Previously, crewmembers picked up the used balloons. Now, the cruise line has made it a "fun" passenger activity.

"Get environmentally friendly as you help us gather our 100% biodegradable balloons in recycle baskets," the cruise line shared in its app. 

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Spread & Containment

What’s Still Missing on Royal Caribbean Cruises Post Covid

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn’t been brought back.

Published

on

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn't been brought back.

In the early days of Royal Caribbean Group's (RCL) - Get Free Report return from its 15-month covid pandemic shutdown, cruising looked a lot different. Ships sailed with limited capacities, masks were required in most indoor areas, and social distancing was a thing.

Keeping people six feet apart made certain aspects of taking a cruise impossible. Some were made easier by the lower passenger counts. For example, all Royal Caribbean Windjammer buffets required reservations to keep the crowds down, but in practice that system was generally not needed because capacities were never reached.

Dance parties and nightclub-style events had to be held on the pool decks or in larger spaces, and shows in the big theaters left open seats between parties traveling together. In most cases, accommodations were made and events more or less happened in a sort of normal fashion.

A few very popular events were not possible, however, in an environment where keeping six feet between passengers was a goal. Two of those events -- the first night balloon drop and the adult "Crazy Quest" game show -- simply did not work with social-distancing requirements.

One of those popular events has now made its comeback while the second appears to still be missing (aside from a few one-off appearances).

TheStreet

The Quest Is Still Mostly Missing

In late November, Royal Caribbean's adult scavenger hunt, "The Quest," (sometimes known as "Crazy Quest") began appearing on select sailings. And at the time it appeared like it was coming back across the fleet: A number of people posted about the return of the interactive adult game show in an unofficial Royal Caribbean Facebook group.

It first appeared during a Wonder of the Seas transatlantic sailing.

Since, then its appearances continue to be spotty and it has not returned on a fleetwide basis. This might not be due to any covid-related issues directly, but covid may play a role.

On some ships, Studio B, which hosts "The Quest," has been used for show rehearsals. That has been more of an issue with the trouble Royal Caribbean has had in getting new crew members onboard. And while that staffing issue has been improving, some shows may not have had full complements of performers, so using the space for rehearsal has been a continuing need.

In addition, while covid rules have gone away, covid has not, and ill cast members may force the need for more rehearsals.

Royal Caribbean has not publicly commented on when (or whether) "The Quest" will make a full comeback

Royal Caribbean Balloon Drops Are Back   

Before the pandemic, Royal Caribbean kicked off many of its cruises with a balloon drop on the Royal Promenade. That went away because it forced people to cluster as music was performed and, at midnight, balloons fell from the ceiling.

Now, the cruise line has brought back the balloon drop, albeit with a twist. The drop itself is appearing on activity schedules for upcoming Royal Caribbean cruises. Immediately after it, however, the cruise line has added something new: "The Big Recycle Balloon Pickup."

Most of the dropped balloons get popped during the drop. Previously, crewmembers picked up the used balloons. Now, the cruise line has made it a "fun" passenger activity.

"Get environmentally friendly as you help us gather our 100% biodegradable balloons in recycle baskets," the cruise line shared in its app. 

Read More

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