Hiring New Immigrants – Challenges

4 Oct

I have known Nick Noorani, the publisher of Canadian Immigrant magazine for some years. I was among the first Canadian Immigration lawyers to be supportive of his book “Arrival Survival Canada”. Nick has been a one person “force of nature” on the Canadian immigration scene since his arrival to Canada.

He recently posted a slide presentation on his Linked In site entitled “Leveraging Immigrant Employees in your Business”.

Nick clearly lays out the arguments for why recent immigrants to Canada should be hired (they are well educated, offer new ideas, provide access to global and ethno-specific markets, etc.) and why Canadian businesses need to take the risks involved to hire new immigrants. It is worth a read.

I was part of the (Vancouver) Mayor’s Task Force on Immigration (MTFI) and the MTFI issued its Report to Vancouver City Council in November 2007.

On of the key recommendations of the MTFI dealt with immigrant employment:

The Task Force recommends that the Mayor and Council, in partnership with other
governments and key partners, convene a Summit meeting on Immigrant Employment
Issues in the spring of 2008. The purpose of the Summit is to bring together key employer
groups and corporate and business leaders, to discuss the feasibility of creating a
Vancouver regional-based, multi-sectoral initiative which can address skilled immigrant
employment-related issues.

The recommendation of the MTFI was accepted by Vancouver City Council and led to the creation of a working group by the Vancouver Foundation (co-chaired by myself and Faye Wightman, President and CEO of the Vancouver Foundation), a summit on immigrant employment in Vancouver, and the creation of the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia.

Creating employment opportunities for recent immigrants to Canada continues to be a challenge, especially in recessionary times. Canadian employers are risk averse to hiring new immigrants since they do not have “Canadian experience”  (a buzz term which can mean many things, but ultimately results in exclusion from gaining experience in the Canadian work environment). New immigrants, in turn, cannot gain  “Canadian experience” without being given a chance in the first place.

I wish the new Immigrant Employment Council of BC much luck with this difficult but important task.

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Metropolis British Columbia – research and policy

1 Oct

I am on the Board of Directors of Metropolis British Columbia (MBC). MBC is a research body which based at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. It has two co-directors, Krishna Pendakur from SFU and Miu Yan from UBC.

At today’s Board meeting, we grappled with some interesting issues related to the relationship between migration research and policy.

In the case of immigration law, the federal government plans legislation and programs to meet certain policy goals. The provincial governments also have an increasing policy role given the growth of Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP’s) where the provinces set their own policy priorities for temporary and permanent immigration.

For example, if Canada has a shortage of audiologists, then a possible policy goal would be to encourage the immigration of audiologists to Canada by changing the laws so that applications by audiologists are fast tracked, etc. As a lawyer, most of work my interaction with policy is when it is implemented. For example, I get retained to facilitate the audiologist’s application to enter Canada.

For many academic researchers, the policy implications of their work simply do not exist (the work does not relate to policy at all) or they do not see/are not interested in the policy implications. For the latter group, how does MBC make the tweezing out of policy implications more sexy, more of an imperative? These are some of the questions the Research Committee will deal with over the next few weeks.

My own involvement with the nexus between research and policy was as one of the investigators of a Metropolis funded research project (also funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia) in 2007-2008. The topic was “The Impact of Security Based Racial Profiling of Muslims” researched and authored by Alnoor Gova and Rahat Kurd. The project consisted of gathering and assessing a number of in depth interviews with the “subjects” of racial profiling. In the process of assembling the project parameters, there was an intense awareness that the project had to have practical policy implications. The research was in aid of formulating policy responses.

Some of the practical policy suggestions which came out of the research were:

1. That all government agencies involved in security issues (including the
CBSA and CIC) publicize their policies and practices regarding racial
profiling.
2. That all government agencies involved in security issues keep records of
their practices and make such records available so that the Canadian community
can assess claims about government practices.
3. That community agencies providing services to newcomers to Canada also
provide human rights education so that individuals who are likely to be
targeted are aware of their legal obligations.
4. That targeted funding be made available for such training.
5. That security agencies engage in regular conversations regarding their
policies and practices with communities that are likely to be particularly
affected by these policies.
6. The place of birth identification be removed from Canadian passports.
7. The all government agencies involved in security issues continue to pursue
diversity hiring.
8. That mainstream media be encouraged to portray accounts like the ones
we heard during this project to provide some balance to security profiling
in the media.

Since the publication of the study, the challenge has been to follow up with government to ensure that the dialogue between the report recommendations and actual implementation, continues.

Knowledge, meaning and “I just want my visa”

28 Sep

I found a recent article in the Globe and Mail Globe & Mail on Saturday (12 September, 2009, page A21) entitled, “Information-rich and attention poor” by Peter Nicholson  of great interest. It’s worth a read.

I also found the comments of Susan Swan, a lawyer who posts on Slaw (one of the sites I tend to visit frequently), interesting.

My comments are more about being “data/information rich and knowledge/meaning poor”.

In my practice over the past 17 years I have found a marked increase in clients who are knowledgeable about the Canadian immigration process. When I started in 1992, the internet was still in it’s infancy and the ability to acquire basic knowledge about the Canadian immigration process was difficult. As an Applicant you had to make phone calls or know someone who knew the steps (i.e., lawyers).

Now Citizenship and Immigration Canada hosts one of the governments most visited websites

The “problem” from a practitioner perspective is that the ability to access information now results in clients who want, not a basic level of information, but “meaning”. They want to know how to take the knowledge or data they have gleaned over the internet, and turn it into a successful visa application. Since they were able to gather the initial knowledge for free, there is an expectation that “meaning” will also be for free. But the “meaning” is not for free; I have gained my expertise in this area of law, at some cost, after many years and am reluctant to give it away. The expectation from many client’s who are used to quick and free fulfillment of their information need, is that the knowledge should be given to them for free.

So, how to solve this problem?

I have taken the approach of being up front with potential clients about what I can give them for free and what they should expect to pay for (i.e., a paid consultation or a retainer to provide them legal services). I have also tried to explain to them that the meaning they seek from me is on a continuum. If all they seek is a basic visitor permit or student permit or if they are highly skilled at dealing with bureaucracy, they may not need my services at all. But if they need something more complex or if the matter involves litigation (such as an appeal hearing or a refugee hearing or a matter before the Federal Court of Canada), they will need my services or the services of someone like me.

I also prepared basic explanations entitled “More than just filling out forms” and “Why hire us” and put them at the front of my website to make what I do more explicit.

In this sense, the client chooses but the client does not always understand what they are choosing and why it has a value. The value proposition, for some clients makes itself apparent not at the retainer stage but much later, when they see what experienced legal counsel can do for them and they have an “a ha” moment. I wait for such moments.

Monetizing, a word I dislike, the knowledge I have or my ability to create meaning for my client, is a constant challenge in this time of much data, little attention span and unreasonable expectations. Explaining what I do and setting reasonable expectations, is an approach that works for me.

And so it begins…

25 Sep

I enter the world of blogging with some trepidation.  All too often I see material on blogs that makes me cringe.

In my blog I want to explore topics related to Canadian Immigration/ Refugee/ Citizenship law, migration law in general in the world, the practice of law, and the intersections of art/race/culture. A broad list, but it should be fun to explore these topics and seek comments. Wish me luck!