BY CLARA HO, POSTMEDIA NEWS JANUARY 26, 2012
CALGARY — Canada's immigration minister is calling for minimum language proficiency standards, which could help minimize immigration fraud cases emerging mainly out of the eastern provinces.
"Some of the people who have lower language proficiency have come in through these investor schemes that we've had to shut down because they were quite dodgy, and some provinces were allowing consultants to run fast and loose and attract people who had a lot of money but no language proficiency," Jason Kenney told reporters Thursday, while providing an update on the federal government's Provincial Nominee Program.
Kenney recommended that the Canadian government work more closely with provinces to step up fraud prevention efforts and eliminate "bottom-feeding, unscrupulous immigration agency consultants," many of whom use fake documents and line up fake jobs to take advantage of the system.
By setting language proficiency standards, the nominees selected are also more likely to better serve themselves, to succeed in their employment and, in turn, benefit provinces and territories economically.
Meanwhile, Kenney also highlighted the successes of the Provincial Nominee Program, which authorizes provinces to nominate individuals for permanent residence who meet specific regional labour market needs, such as engineers or tradespeople.
The Provincial Nominee Program, now the second largest economic immigration program after the Federal Skilled Worker Program, has grown nearly sixfold since 2004 and currently accounts for more than 36,000 new permanent residents per year in Canada.
A recent study, which looked at nominees admitted between 2005 and 2009, revealed that more than 90 per cent declared employment earnings after a year in Canada, and after three years, had an average income that ranged between $35,200 and $45,100. About 70 per cent found a job that matched their skill set.
As well, the program was able to spread nominees outside of the major metropolitan areas of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, with 26 per cent of all economic immigrants destined for provinces outside of Ontario, Quebec and B.C. compared with 11 per cent in 1997.
However, provincial retention rates varied significantly across the country, from 23 per cent in the east coast compared with 95 per cent in B.C., Kenney said, adding: "This issue merits further attention."
The report also recommended that the federal government work closer with provinces and territories to get businesses involved in the recruitment of people from overseas and to have jobs lined up for people when they arrive.
Alberta Human Services Minister Dave Hancock said the province doesn't have set language proficiency standards in its program, but he's confident most if not all nominees in Alberta have the necessary language skills to work here.
He added Alberta doesn't really have a problem with fraud cases within the nominee program here.
However, he said his main concern with the program is that Alberta's allotment has been capped at 5,000 for the last few years, which will remain the same this year. But he estimates Alberta needs up to 10,000 positions to deal with the province's labour crunch.
"We're going to have a skills shortage and this is one of the best programs from an immigration perspective to ensure we have a targeted way of bringing people needed in Alberta for the economic growth that's happened," he said, adding the province is facing a shortage of 114,000 skilled workers over the next 10 years.
Hancock said his department has been discussing with the federal government to have the cap lifted. But at the very least, he'd like to see the allotment raised to a minimum of 6,000.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada plans to admit 42,000 to 45,000 immigrants through the Provincial Nominee Program, including spouses and dependents, and has given provinces and territories the same overall nomination allotments from 2011.
With files from Chris Varcoe, Calgary Herald
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