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Newsletter. Issue 2009-07. March 28, 2009

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Federation of Canadian Municipalities report calls for new partnership to help immigrants settle

OTTAWA, March 19, 2009 ? Most recent immigrants are struggling to catch up with other Canadians, while underfunded municipalities are struggling to meet the day-to-day needs of newcomers and respond to changing patterns in immigrant settlement.

These are among the principal insights of the fifth theme report in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Quality of Life series, ?Immigration and Diversity in Canadian Cities and Communities,? released today. The report compares social and economic conditions for immigrants and non-immigrants between 2001 and 2006 in the urban communities making up the Quality of Life Reporting System (QOLRS).

?This report shows we need a new collaborative approach to immigration policy and settlement,? said FCM president Jean Perrault, mayor of Sherbrooke, Que. ?Immigrants make a vital contribution to Canada and to our communities, but they face many challenges. Municipal governments are where immigrants go first for help, but we are not consulted on immigration policies or programs and we do not have the resources to provide the needed services. It´s time for a change.?

The report found that changing trends in immigration are placing new strains on larger and smaller communities. The major cities included in QOLRS are finding it more difficult to meet their local labour needs as a growing number of well-educated and highly skilled immigrants are choosing to settle elsewhere. Meanwhile, these same cities continue to bear a disproportionate share of the costs of assisting refugees and other immigrants with special challenges. At the same time, many smaller cities and suburban communities are facing an influx of newcomers, who often require additional municipal services. These newcomers will help create more diverse communities and new economic growth, but they will also place new demands on municipal governments that are struggling to fund existing responsibilities from a limited property tax base.

?Current economic conditions are going to bring a new urgency to this issue, ?said Perrault. ?Like many other Canadians, newcomers will find it more difficult to find and keep employment, which will contribute to other social and family issues. They will need municipal services right when municipalities are struggling with the recession and the growing needs of their communities. These challenges are playing out at the local level, yet local government has no voice in immigration policy. Municipalities must be treated as partners if Canada is going to meet its labour needs, give new Canadians the opportunity to succeed in their new home, and remain a country of choice for the immigrants we will need to compete economically in the future.?

?If we want to come out of this recession with the skilled workforce we need, it´s time to coordinate immigration policy and services and provide municipalities with the funding to meet immigrants´ needs.?

About the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM):

FCM is the national voice of municipal governments, established in 1901, representing the interests of municipalities on policy and program matters that fall within federal jurisdiction. With more than 1,775 members representing 90 per cent of Canadians, FCM members include Canada´s largest cities, small urban and rural communities, and 18 provincial and territorial municipal associations.

For further information, visit


Number of People Receiving Employment Insurance Benefits Increase

The number of people receiving regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits rose to 560,400 in January, up 4.4% or 23,700 from December. Since the most recent low recorded in February 2008, the number of regular EI beneficiaries has climbed by 104,000, or 22.8%. Over half the rise occurred in Ontario, much greater than that province's share of the labour force (39.1%).

In January, growth in the number of beneficiaries was especially strong in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, all of which registered month-over-month increases that were above the national average. In Alberta, 23,300 people were receiving regular EI benefits in January, up 10.5% from December. British Columbia had 56,100 beneficiaries, up 9.0%, while Ontario had 181,500, a 6.2% increase.

Over the February 2008 to January 2009 period, the number of regular EI beneficiaries has increased across the country, with the largest percentage gains in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

To receive EI benefits, individuals must first submit a claim. Statistics on claims are an indication of the number of future beneficiaries. While the number of claims received in Canada in January (267,700) edged down from December (-2.5%), it was the second highest level since 1997, the start of the period for which comparable data are available.

In recent months, labour market conditions in Canada have deteriorated significantly. Through the early part of 2008, employment growth weakened, only to fall sharply later that year and into 2009, causing a spike in the unemployment rate. By February 2009, the unemployment rate hit 7.7%, up almost two percentage points from a record low at the start of 2008.

Virtually every census metropolitan area across Canada experienced an increase in the number of regular beneficiaries over the last year. Regional EI data and data by sex and age are not seasonally adjusted and therefore should only be compared on a year-over-year basis.

The largest increases between January 2008 and January 2009 occurred in Southwestern Ontario, where the manufacturing sector in particular experienced heavy layoffs. In Windsor, the number of regular beneficiaries rose 81.6% to 10,600. Also affected were London (+70.3%), Kitchener (+70.0%), and Hamilton (+69.0%), as were Guelph, Woodstock, Tillsonburg and Stratford.

In Toronto, the number of regular beneficiaries increased by 48.3% between January 2008 and January 2009. Other notable increases in beneficiaries over the 12-month period included Calgary (+61.7%), Vancouver (+55.0%) and Edmonton (+48.9%).

Sharp increase in male beneficiaries

Between January 2008 and January 2009, the increase in the number of men receiving regular EI benefits (+27.1%) was double that of women (+13.8%).

This difference between men and women was reflected in all age groups and in all provinces and territories.


Canadian visa applications processing times speed up
However, Canadian visa applicants from Asia have to wait an average of 4.5 years
26/03/2009 by Bryan Palmer

In 2008, people applying for visas to move to Canada found their applications were being processed 12% faster than the year before, according to new figures from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

The figures will be cautiously welcomed by government critics who claim the slow application process discourages high calibre, skilled, educated immigrants from moving to Canada. However, things have improved slightly, with 80% of applications being processed within 33 months last year, compared to 37 months in 2007.

People applying for marriage visas are faring well, with 80% having their application processed within 11 months, although this is down from 2007, when their average application time was just eight months. The department has also been criticised for the discrepancies between the application processing times for different countries: Canadian visa applicants from Asia have to wait an average of 55 months, while US citizens wait just 21 months.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the improvement is a positive step, "this is a huge development," Kenney said in an interview. It's been at least two decades - a generation - since waiting times went down rather than up."

However, Kenney says he remains concerned about skilled migrants choosing to live in Australia or move to New Zealand, over Canada, simply because of the application time.


Former Bank of Canada Governor, David Dodge?s, criticism doesn't shake PM Harper's vision of economic recovery

TORONTO ? A showdown of sorts with a former bank governor over this country's prospects for economic recovery saw Prime Minister Stephen Harper entrench his stance Wednesday that Canada is better positioned than other nations mired in the global financial crisis. While David Dodge is calling the prime minister's prediction that Ottawa will be back in surplus by 2013 "totally unrealistic," Harper defended the decidedly more upbeat message he's delivered several times in recent weeks.

"The reality is this: things are very tough. We know that," Harper said. "But Canadians should not lose sight of the fact that we remain in a relatively good position compared to other countries." The former Bank of Canada governor commented this week that the global recession will be long and deep and will fundamentally alter capitalism. Dodge also said policy-makers, especially in Canada, need to be thinking longer-term and more "sensibly" about their recovery plans.

Harper, who last week in Brampton, Ont., said Canada will emerge from the global recession before any other country and in a stronger economic position than ever, was put on the defensive Wednesday at a press conference where questions focused exclusively on Dodge's comments. "It's not rosy or unrealistic - it is very realistic, but it is not negative and pessimistic and without hope and without policy," Harper, who did not mention Dodge by name, said after facing a variation of the same question several times.

Harper also bristled at the suggestion his recovery plan was not well thought out.

"That's certainly not what the International Monetary Fund said," Harper said.

"The International Monetary Fund has said, said last week, our macroeconomic policies are exactly the appropriate policies for today's situation. That's what we will continue to pursue."

Harper was speaking in Toronto, where he made a $10-million funding announcement for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, a charity that helps young entrepreneurs. The prime minister noted Canada has not had to subsidize its banks, has a low and stable inflation rate, and has a diverse economy that should help the country weather the storm. The Bank of Canada had forecasted a fast turnaround for Canada, with growth resuming in the second half of this year and soaring to 3.8 per cent next year.

But current bank governor Mark Carney suggested last weekend the global economy is deteriorating faster than expected, and the next forecast in April will reflect that pessimism. Dodge also criticized Ottawa's move to cut the goods and services tax by two percentage points. The hole the tax cuts made in government revenue left Ottawa with a structural deficit at the end of the 2007-2008 fiscal year, even though the Finance Department won't admit it, Dodge said in the interview.

"That's just wrong," Harper said.

"Even the parliamentary budget officer says there's not a structural deficit."

Harper called the GST cut an important move to sustain consumer confidence and to sustain consumer spending during the first year of the recession.

"That's one of the reasons why Canada was the last major economy in the western world to go into recession," he said.


Canada rejects almost one third of entrepreneur-class applications from Hong Kong
By Joanne Lee-Young, Vancouver SunMarch 19, 2009

Promises to start a business often include fake documents, government records show

Canada has been rejecting nearly a third of immigration applications filed by Hong Kong entrepreneurs due to concerns about fraud, according to official documents obtained by Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration analyst. While immigration to Canada from Hong Kong itself has waned in recent years, there is also a significant flow from mainland China that comes through Hong Kong. Almost 90 per cent of applications screened in Hong Kong are from people originating in mainland China, giving Hong Kong one of the largest inventories of cases to process.

Only eight per cent of applications by so-called investor immigrants, who commit straight cash payments for a visa, were tagged as containing false information or forged documents. But there was a 30-per-cent rate of this kind of fraud in the entrepreneur category, which awards citizenship based "on the strength of your promise to start a business," Kurland said.

"The investor class is clean," he said. "But the entrepreneurs [which, he emphasized, does not include the provincial nominee program] cannot afford the cost of being an investor immigrant. They do, however, have enough resources to pay for fraudulent documents and they are highly motivated to do so in an environment where -- it is getting better but -- you can buy any kind of document you want.

"On the downside, they lose the cost of the documents," Kurland said. "On the upside, they get to come [to Canada]."

Citizenship and Immigration Canada processes applications from more than 65 overseas offices. Every year, program managers from around the world report to Ottawa. Kurland collects information from reports via access-to-information requests. In London, a similar report revealed that processing times are so long that applicants are turning elsewhere. It said: "Many of those withdrawing share a similar profile with our strongest applicants and it is no surprise that, in a competitive market, these candidates are unwilling to wait."

By comparison, the report said that the United Kingdom sends 23,000 immigrants to Australia a year, almost three times Canada's total.

"There's a shriek from London over these multi-year queues. In the global competition for best talent, we are losing out," Kurland said.

"London also covers Scandinavia. And it does not mean we are only talking about white, Anglo-Saxon families. A good chunk of it is composed of families from India who want to trampoline to Canada due to unsuccessful integration in the U.K."

Lastly, in Chandigarh, India, the reports noted a high rate of fraud, followed by a high rate of refusal, which prompted irate applicants to demand to see why they have been thwarted. That created a need to store old documents. "Until recently, retired files were being destroyed contrary to departmental retention policy," said the report from Chandigarh. "We recently resorted to moving a large number of old files to the Mission's warehouse off-site in order to create additional space in our registry. This stop-gap measure cannot be continued."

The report lamented the cost of reliable courier service within and out of Chandigarh and said the office had exhausted the funds set aside in its budget for this. It anticipated that it will need to serve even more of these requests in 2009.


President Obama praises Catholic Church in America
Published : March 19 2009

WASHINGTON ( The president of the U.S. bishops' conference met with President Barack Obama on Tuesday for a private, half-hour dialogue.

The bishops' conference issued a statement reporting the meeting at the White House in which "Cardinal [Francis] George and President Obama discussed the Catholic Church in the United States and its relation to the new administration."

It noted that at the conclusion of the conversation, "Cardinal George expressed his gratitude for the meeting and his hopes that it will foster fruitful dialogue for the sake of the common good."

The White House also issued a press release stating that the president and the cardinal "discussed a wide range of issues, including important opportunities for the government and the Catholic Church to continue their long-standing partnership to tackle some of the nation's most pressing challenges." It added, "The president thanked Cardinal George for his leadership and for the contributions of the Catholic Church in America and around the world."

Although the discussion between the prelate and the president was private, it took place the day after Cardinal George issued a public message through the Internet urging Catholics to appeal to the Obama administration to retain regulations governing conscience protection for health care workers. A communiqué from the bishops' conference reported the release of a video on their Web site, as well as on Youtube, in which Cardinal George responds to the government's threat to revoke the regulations that keep health care workers from being forced to provide services that violate their consciences.

Cardinal George explained in his message: "On [?] Feb. 27, the Obama administration placed on a federal Web site the news that it intends to remove a conscience protection rule for the Department of Health and Human Services. "That rule is one part of the range of legal protections for health care workers -- for doctors, nurses and others -- who have objections in conscience to being involved in abortion and other killing procedures that are against how they live their faith in God."

He expressed "deep concern" that this action "on the government?s part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism." He asserted that "respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion as such ensures our basic freedom from government oppression," and "no government should come between an individual person and God."

The cardinal pointed out that citizens are allowed to claim conscientious objection to war or having to administer the death penalty. Why then, he asked, "shouldn?t our government and our legal system permit conscientious objection to a morally bad action, the killing of babies in their mother?s womb?"

He added, "People understand what really happens in an abortion and in related procedures -- a living member of the human family is killed -- that?s what it?s all about -- and no one should be forced by the government to act as though he or she were blind to this reality."

Cardinal George concluded by exhorting the people to inform the government "that you want conscience protections to remain strongly in place," especially for people "who provide the health care services so necessary for a good society."


Pope urges Angola to fight poverty, corruption

Pope Benedict XVI has urged Angola's government to do more to fight poverty, corruption and uphold human rights as he arrived on the last stop of his African tour. The 81-year-old pontiff also reiterated the church's ban on abortions -- even in cases where the mother's life is at risk. Later, in a nationally televised speech from Angola's presidential palace, he called on Africa to transform the continent, freeing people from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest.

The Pope celebrated mass with an estimated one million Angolans on the outskirts of the capital Luanda. During the open-air ceremony, the pontiff denounced the ''clouds of evil'' over Africa that have spawned war, tribalism and ethnic rivalry. He also expressed sorrow at the death of two people during a stampede on Saturday as crowds tried to enter a stadium in Luanda to hear his address. During his two-nation trip to Africa, which began in Cameroon, the pontiff called on the continent's politicians to do more to help their countries develop economically. The pope also condemned the growing practice of witchcraft in Angola. Sunday's mass is the last big event in his first trip to Africa as pontiff. The visit has been overshadowed by his remarks to reporters that condoms were aggravating the AIDS epidemic.

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