NUMBER 031 | 1st SESSION | 38th PARLIAMENT
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
The Acting Chair (Mr. Lui Temelkovski): Okay, we will get started.
We have before us Professor Joseph Garcea, from the department of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan.
Professor Garcea, you may start, please.
Prof. Joseph Garcea (Professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Saskatchewan, As an Individual): Thank you very much.
It's a pleasure to be here. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the written brief to you on time, so you won't have it in front of you, but there is a written brief.
In the time allowed, I'm going to summarize the key points or recommendations, and then please feel free to ask me during the question period and I can probably flesh out some of the details that are in the brief.
My presentation consists of three brief sections devoted to each of the three topics that have been highlighted by the committee in its promotional materials. They are to discuss the new Citizenship Act, family-class sponsorship and refugee family reunification, and recognition of foreign credentials. So I will say something about each of those items.
First of all, there is much that could be said regarding the Citizenship Act. I've actually written an article that's forthcoming in a chapter and I've interviewed some officials on Parliament Hill regarding that matter, so I have a fairly good understanding of what the issues and options are related to the debate surrounding that particular issue. But today I will focus on three key issues: the process for revocation and annulment of citizenship, the citizenship oath, and citizenship orientation policies and programs. Again, I have a lot of detail here, but I think I'll just make the general points.
I think we all know that the issue of revocation and annulment of citizenship is probably the most controversial one on the table and has probably been the issue that has prevented the enactment of a new act in recent years. I think the debate is between those who believe we have to do the utmost to safeguard constitutional and legal rights and those who feel that we have to do the utmost to safeguard security -- personal and national security.
The question is, how can we deal with persons for whom there are questions of revocation and annulment of their citizenship? How can we deal with them efficiently and effectively?
I think we have to be careful not to curtail the constitutional and legal rights of any individuals at any time in our political system, and at the same time we have to ensure that we can provide personal and national security.
I think the debate has been too narrowly focused. We have tended to talk about minor adjustments to the act and perhaps changing some elements of the act. What's required is a full-scale review and potential reform of our judicial and quasi-judicial system. I don't think we've done that in Canada on a systematic and comprehensive basis, and I think it's time we do that, because my understanding is that's a fundamental problem.
I don't think anybody is against guaranteeing people rights -- I'm certainly not -- but the question is, how can we do it efficiently and effectively, and can our judicial and quasi-judicial systems facilitate that kind of efficiency and effectiveness? I don't really know the answer, but I think we should start examining that issue.
So my first recommendation is to take a broader look at the issue and see what we have to do by way of improving the judicial and quasi-judicial processes that are available.
Secondly, regarding the citizenship oath, I think at the heart of the debate there is the whole issue of pledging allegiance to something or someone. We know there are republicans who oppose pledging allegiance to the Queen, or at least to her successors; we have Quebec sovereignists who have some concerns about pledging allegiance to Canada and not to the Quebec state, either today or some time in the future; and we have atheists and non-denominationalists who have concerns about pledging or not pledging allegiance to God or including God in the oath.
My suggestion is that we consider moving away from an oath of allegiance to an oath of good citizenship in which individuals merely commit themselves to the following three key elements: to respect and abide by the Constitution and laws of the land; to respect the rights of others; and to agree to perform the duties that citizenship entails. So move away from an oath of allegiance to an oath of good citizenship is my basic recommendation.
Regarding citizenship orientation policies and programs, again I'm involved with some colleagues on a major study of our system of citizenship orientation and training and our citizenship policy in general. I will have a lot more to say about that in about six to eight months, but right now the thing I'd like to say is that I think it is imperative that the new citizenship act should contain provisions that oblige the minister responsible for citizenship to review and revamp the citizenship orientation system in a way that is appropriate for the 21st century.
We have new technologies at our disposal and we have new philosophies and new ideas about citizenship, and I think we have to get our head around those and move forward.
I would like to move on now to family-class immigration and make a few observations. Again, I would encourage the committee to focus more broadly than is stated in the promotional material. There are three broad issues that I would encourage you to look at.
First, we need to find out what Canada's real immigration absorptive capacity is. We've set the levels at somewhere between 180,000 and 240,000. We assume that someone of higher intelligence than ourselves knows that this is really the absorptive capacity of Canada. How do we know?
I think perhaps we have a higher absorptive capacity, which would allow us to be more generous in our admission policies related to family immigration and even broaden the definition of what constitutes family, as was suggested earlier this morning by a minister responsible for immigration in Saskatchewan.
Second, I think we need to improve the regional distribution of immigration flows. I think that will contribute to Canada's absorptive capacity. One of the reasons we have concerns regarding the family class and the level of immigration in general is because of the concentration of immigrants in certain major urban centres. I think we have to begin to devote more attention to the issue of regionalization of immigration.
Third, I think we need to link national immigration policy to a national population policy. I think at best we have a population policy that is implied. I don't think we have an explicit one. I don't think we have any sense of what Canada's population growth should be in any given year and what it should be in the long run.
The only thing I can say is that population has always mattered in the past. It matters today and will always matter in the future, and Canadians have to get their heads around the size of their population both in terms of being competitive and productive on the continental scale and also being competitive on the global scale.
I think in that respect the provinces and municipalities also have to be aboard. They have to begin to think about their own population policies and think about what the optimal levels are at various points in time, today and in the future.
Finally, I'd like to talk briefly about foreign credentials. In discussing this I will focus on three matters, which I believe are very important not only for immigrants but also for Canadians. First of all, I think we have to eliminate or minimize problems of unmet expectations. I think that a lot of immigrants with professional credentials don't really understand the obstacles that face them, and they have certain types of expectations when they come to Canada.
I think that better explanations and orientations prior to their arrival in Canada would help immensely, both in terms of understanding how far their credentials can take them and also what they can do in Canada by way of upgrading or getting recognition for their credentials so they can practise their profession.
Secondly, I think we need more proactive initiatives by governments, professions, and educational institutions to recognize existing credentials but also assist immigrants with upgrading, improving, or achieving the requisite level of credentials that are required for the various professions and trades here in Canada.
Last, but definitely not least, I think we need to strengthen the ethical bases in the recognition of foreign credentials. My brief deals with this at some length, but I will try to summarize the two key points very quickly. I'm mindful of time, so I'll only take 30 seconds to one minute.
There are two parts to the ethical or moral issues we have to consider. First of all, I think we have a responsibility to consider the moral or ethical issue of bringing in professional immigrants to fill positions here in Canada when perhaps there are Canadians who have not had the opportunity to fully realize their potential because of their disadvantages in life. I think we have to become much more proactive in that respect. In particular, given that you're in Saskatchewan, I would urge you to be mindful of the aboriginal population, which is growing and has tremendous human potential. We have to make sure we do our utmost to ensure they can contribute to the kinds of professional and trade skills we require.
I say that not because I'm against immigration. I'm very much for immigration, and I want to see it increased. But I think the legitimacy of immigration depends on how well we deal with the people who are here in Canada, and that includes the disadvantaged from all walks of life and of all colours, including aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.
Secondly, I think that in dealing with the issue of professional accreditation, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to the source countries, particularly in the developing world. I think we as Canadians have to recognize that we may be engaging in what amounts to human import substitution at the cost of developing countries.
In our foreign policy, our immigration policy, and our aid policy, we have to make sure that adequate compensation is provided to developing countries for the benefits Canada incurs from those types of things. Some of the things we can think about are increasing our aid, increasing opportunities for foreign students to study here in Canada at a reasonable cost, and peacekeeping. I think Canada does a lot of this. I think we have to be more mindful that it should be linked to the benefits we get from various countries, in particular developing countries.
Thank you very much.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Lui Temelkovski): Thank you very much.
We will start the questioning with Mr. Jaffer.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Thanks, Mr. Chair.
Thanks, Mr. Garcea, for your presentation.
I always find it refreshing for those who want to try to push for increasing immigration levels. I think that's something we should really start talking about in evaluating what those numbers are, as you've suggested.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think one thing you were pointing to is that it shouldn't just be based on looking for highly skilled immigrants, because our economy has to evolve and has to absorb all types of immigrants, not just specialized immigrants.
Prof. Joseph Garcea: I'm involved with the Metropolis project here at the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration, and several of my colleagues debate that issue. This speaks to the issue of family class versus economic class and humanitarian class immigrants, if we can call them that. At the heart of that discussion is that we may be making a mistake by focusing on credentialism and certain levels of education. There is a belief that what's important is to bring in sound, healthy families who can lay down roots and who, over the generations, will make a significant contribution to Canada.
I think that has been the experience of the past. Many of our forefathers, including mine, came here without much, if any, education. They did what needed to be done, and their offspring were trained to do some of the other things that perhaps they couldn't have done in the first instance.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer: I've had some discussions with some of your colleagues, like Professor Abu-Laban from the University of Alberta, who said similar things.
I wanted to get your take on one issue. You talked about the ability for us to evaluate higher absorption ability, but also to improve our regional distribution of immigration flows, and this is something I'm interested in. It was tried in the past, at least some suggestions were brought forward, but they didn't go over as well because they were suggestions more tied to, for instance, if someone lives in a certain place for a certain time, then they would be given citizenship if they remained in those less populated areas. Obviously that was challenged to some extent, with mobility rights in this country and a few other things.
So what sorts of suggestions has the Metropolis Project or some of the studies you've looked at... what would be a good suggestion to try to get more of the population to those less populated areas and have that as a better working relationship, I would say, with the federal government and the provinces, which are looking for boosting those levels? We don't get that concentration in the normal areas we see.
Prof. Joseph Garcea: There is no magic solution, but there are some factors that affect the distribution of immigrants across the country.
I think the conventional wisdom among us, again in that circle of academics who discuss these issues, is that immigrants are basically looking for the very same things Canadians are looking at, and these are viable communities, healthy, safe communities in which there are the basic amenities of life, first and foremost, but also educational institutions and job opportunities for the family members.
Basically, in terms of discussing the regional distribution of immigrants, I think we have to be mindful of the types of communities we're talking about. There are several categories of communities beyond the major metropolitan centres. There are the so-called second-tier cities and the larger urban centres.
I think in the first instance we have to think about what can be done to promote immigration to those communities. I think that won't be as difficult as trying to promote immigration to some smaller and more isolated communities.
I think if we really do care about regional distribution of immigration, the key is to engage in community and economic development initiatives. We can't put the cart before the horse, in effect. We have to make sure there are viable communities, with viable educational institutions, with viable employment opportunities, if we want immigrants to go and stay anywhere.
I think all we have to do is look at our own family experiences, and we recognize that's why we went to certain places, that's why we stayed, and in some cases that's why others went to other places and didn't stay.
In short -- and this relates to the population policy -- I think we have to engage in much more comprehensive and strategic planning and development.
The Acting Chair (Mr. Lui Temelkovski): Mr. Clavet.
Mr. Roger Clavet: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to ask Mr. Garcea a question. I apologize for missing part of your presentation as a result of an emergency.
Coming from a university background, I was wondering about the regional distribution of immigrants. We've heard a number of people say they wish immigrants wouldn't just go to Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
In a province like Saskatchewan, where there's already a Fransaskois community, couldn't Francophone immigration be a possible solution in slowing the demographic decline not only of the Canadian population, but also the Francophone population as such? Couldn't we turn our thinking in that direction? That's already started in Manitoba. We also know that the Saskatchewan minister responsible for immigration is holding exploratory meetings this week. Do you think that would be an encouraging path to consider?
Prof. Joseph Garcea: I understood the question, but it's easier for me to answer in English.
I have actually followed the francophonization of immigration since 1975. At the University of Victoria, my BA thesis was on the francophone component of immigration, and it was part of the 1977 Immigration Act reform by which we tried to boost immigration. Quebec's involvement with immigration was part of that initiative. For me it's been quite interesting to see the re-emergence thirty years later of what in effect was a lost thread in immigration policy for a while outside of Quebec.
I think we face challenges there, but the critical element for promoting immigration is the educational institutions. People who come from the Francophonie would certainly want to ensure that their children are able to continue to study in their language, especially given that Canada is bilingual. I think that's important.
I think employment is important. We have people working here in Saskatchewan from France, with some of the major mining companies, and they have their families over here. I dare say, if there were more employment opportunities, there'd be more people that they themselves could bring from France and other places.
What is important not to do is to mislead. I've heard horror stories where at times we have projected abroad certain communities as being much more substantially francophone or certain post-secondary educational institutions as being more important or more prestigious than they really are. I think we have to be truthful and honest. We have to be mindful that there are certain things we have to do within our communities to make them more welcoming for francophone people. Certainly having educational and cultural activities in those communities, in addition to being very welcoming to francophone people, is very important.
Mr. Roger Clavet: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Siksay.
Mr. Bill Siksay: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Professor Garcea, for your presentation. It's been very helpful.
In the discussion about our ability to absorb immigrants you mentioned that no one really knows what our capacity is in that area. Although we've often heard the government use a figure of 1% of population as being the ultimate target, we've heard, I gather, the former chair of the standing committee on immigration say we should be having 500,000 people a year. We hear the statistic that by 2011, or sometime in the 20-teens, all labour market growth will come from immigration, and that sometime around 2025 all population growth will come from it. Are those figures that you trust? Do you know the genesis of those figures? What's your take on those numbers?
Prof. Joseph Garcea: I don't think I'm qualified to pass judgment on the numbers. What I want is for those who are knowledgeable about those things to give much greater thought and reflection to the assumptions and the paradigms that prevail in our thinking about the appropriate size of the population and the appropriate immigration intake in any given year. That's why I believe we should start with some sense of what our optimal population should be, or what our targets for population should be.
Secondly, I think the absorptive capacity is highly contingent on a whole host of things. It depends what you focus on. If you're focusing on the performance of the economy at any given time, then you have to ask what we can do to affect the performance of the economy if we want to ensure that the absorptive capacity is expanded.
There are several major pieces we have to deal with in tandem to be able to plan effectively. One is proper population policy; two is proper economic development policy, both national in scope and regional as well; and ultimately the level and nature of immigration. I think those three things.... Somebody may be working on them together, but I'd like to make this general point: that unfortunately, despite all the communication we have today, sometimes governments and their officials are so busy talking to each other that they're not communicating some of the important points to the rest of us, so that we're not quite sure what they're thinking of, or how they're arriving at certain decisions. We do need a more open national discussion on those kinds of things.
Mr. Bill Siksay: You talked about minimizing unmet expectations of immigrants to Canada. Right now the pressure seems to be around skilled immigrants and people who come with some expectation of working in the field for which they were trained, or their profession.
Should we be getting out of that kind of immigration? I think that's part and parcel of this “best and brightest” expectation in the immigration system, where we give people points for this, but they don't necessarily correspond to their work expectations once they get to Canada.
Is that a fatal flaw in our system at the moment, and should we get back to only accepting people on the basis of an actual job waiting for them in Canada that we know they're qualified to take and that there isn't a Canadian to do? Or should we be switching to a system that emphasizes family reunification strongly, as opposed to skilled workers?
Prof. Joseph Garcea: Those are the $64,000 questions, all of them. There are several of them in there, but at the heart of them is the question of what the director general, in speaking to this committee earlier on, talked about: a shift that had occurred. It's somewhere in my brief here. Let me just see if I can remind myself what his precise words were. He said the department had opted to de-emphasize the traditional occupational expertise approach and to emphasize the human capital approach.
I think that still begs a question, and that is, when they have moved away from specific trades.... You remember the number system for specific occupations, but in effect we now have a system that still privileges those with certain types of skills and educational background. I think, though, what Canada has to think about is -- let me call it taking the Chinese approach to immigration and to development -- the thousand-year approach, or the hundred-year approach, and not the immediate fix of “what is it we need today and tomorrow” and “let's get it”.
I think if an immigrant comes here with five children of a young age, all of whom are intelligent, capable, and well-behaved, and we put them into our educational system and within ten or twenty years have them come out properly trained to meet whatever the needs are at that particular time, we will have done the right thing. We have to engage in better, longer-term planning and begin to see things in a comprehensive way, rather than make this ad hoc, incremental adjustment to whatever is affecting us on a given day.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Hon. David Anderson: Thank you for the very comprehensive presentation.
Again, to continue with the questioning of my colleagues and your suggestion that it is possible to have these long-term goals and objectives, let me just throw out a few quick observations.
It seems to me extremely difficult for a country like Canada, which is so dependent on foreign trade and so affected by the trade protectionism of our major trading partner, to have clear pictures as to what the future might hold in trade. Similarly, efforts to have a long-term population and economic development strategy have been tried -- mostly in Canada in the Maritimes -- with public money, and there have been few successes. I simply throw the question to you to let you chew it over as you wish, that I find it extremely difficult to see how you can have such a population policy in a country with so many diverse elements as Canada. I could see this as a possibility in the case of Finland or Sweden -- smaller countries, more geographically, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically unified -- but I think it would be extremely difficult for a country such as ours.
I wonder if you could just give a little more idea how one would go about creating a population policy, because I don't know. I have to tell you, as a politician who was first elected to the House earlier than any other member of the House of Commons, I have no idea whether Canada will one day have 100 million people or whether we'll somehow wind up at 38 million or 40 million. I just have no idea, and I don't know how I'd go about trying to determine whether it's 38 million or 100 million -- or maybe 120 million. I look at the lower mainland of British Columbia and I say there are too many people here, compared with what I remember when I was at university, but I don't know whether that's the basis of a population policy.
I just wonder if you could give us a better idea of how you go about creating this in a country as diverse as Canada, with as many external factors affecting it as Canada has, such as our immigration, such as our trade.
Prof. Joseph Garcea: Well, thank you very much for the question. As you've implied and as you know, it's a very difficult one to answer, but here's what I would suggest.
My point is that we need the government to take this issue seriously and to actually get experts to debate and discuss and study this particular issue very carefully: can or can't we engage in that kind of planning, yes or no? Somebody should be able to answer that question in government at some point.
In terms of the basic elements of a population policy, it's quite interesting, Mr. Anderson, that in my brief I allude to what just happened here in our interaction; that is, that a lot of people have no idea, including government officials, whether we have a population policy or what one looks like. What we have, it seems, is some kind of a marginal -- well, not ambitious, but a safe and careful effort to adjust our population. But the basic elements of a population policy involve at least two key elements, and they are the size and the distribution of the population.
There's also the demographic composition of the population. You've alluded to that being even more problematic, given that we have a diverse population, a multicultural population, if you will. But as difficult as those issues are, somebody should be devoting much more extensive attention to them than we have in the past; otherwise, we are planning in the absence of an important piece.
I would say to you that as dangerous as it may be to have an ambitious population policy, it's equally dangerous to have one that is insufficiently ambitious and just too limited in scope.
Hon. David Anderson: Thank you for the answer.
Certainly there has been in my experience over many years in public life a lot of debate about it in terms of where we start. I think I'll have to read your paper more carefully and read other papers. As you point out, there are many sub-factors, but even the issues of size and distribution, for the two things are very closely linked, strike me as being extraordinarily difficult to put forward. So I will read your paper with a lot of care. Certainly I'd appreciate seeing anything else you come across.
I'm not an advocate of zero population growth, but such advocates are the only people I know of who are putting out public information on size and population, and it is, basically, that our policies are fundamentally wrong. They're doing most of the public thinking on this issue, as far as I'm able to see from observing the literature.
Again, I appreciate the reference to an ethical basis for the foreign credentials. I think that's very important. And I appreciate very much the two suggestions you made, with respect to making sure we contribute for the foreign credentials we take from other countries, many of which need them, and the issue of Canadians being deprived of training because of our reliance on foreign-trained people.
Is there any international way of handling that, or do you feel it has to be on a bilateral basis?
Prof. Joseph Garcea: In my brief, I actually mention that it has to be done on a bilateral and also a multilateral basis. I think the basic frameworks are there -- the aid programs, the educational opportunities programs, the peace-keeping programs, and so forth. I think the framework and infrastructure for giving back to those countries from which we benefit are there. What we have to do is just be a little bit more mindful of the accounting and ensure that we don't get a disproportionate amount of the benefits while somebody else is incurring a disproportionate amount of the costs.
Hon. David Anderson: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Professor.
I have one little question for you, which isn't totally on topic. The question is very simple. There are six million Canadians who were not born in Canada. I'm one of them on the committee. Actually, we have two refugees here: me and Rahim.
The question is, if citizenship is to be reworked, should the person have the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—of the legal section, that is?
Prof. Joseph Garcea: In terms of...? I'm sorry.
The Chair: What happens now when, say, Clifford Olson is charged with a heinous crime is that his rights to a fair trial are protected by section 7 of the charter. That's the legal section. My point is very simple. If somebody were to contest my citizenship or the citizenship of any of the six million Canadians who are in Canada but weren't born here, should we have the protection of section 7 of the charter?
Prof. Joseph Garcea: Absolutely, Mr. Telegdi.
When you get my written brief, you will note that I say it's imperative they do so. The fundamental problem, I think, is that we have judicial and quasi-judicial systems and processes that are creating delays and backlogs, and governments and government officials are encouraged to think about ways to circumvent or expedite certain types of constitutional and legal processes. I think we should avoid that at all costs and examine the problems in our judicial and quasi-judicial systems and ensure that people are guaranteed full constitutional rights.
The Chair: I would like to thank you on behalf of the committee. We look forward to seeing you again some time in the future. I am sure we will. Thank you very much.
Prof. Joseph Garcea: Thank you very much.