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Canada to announce Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 this morning

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Canada is releasing its Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 this morning.

Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser will hold a press conference about the plan at 11 AM Eastern Time. CIC News will update this story with Canada’s new immigration targets once the plan has been made public.

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Canada broke its all-time immigration record by welcoming over 405,000 immigrants in 2021 and is looking to welcome nearly 432,000 immigrants this year. It is expected the Immigration Levels Plan 2023-2025 will feature new increases to Canada’s targets. The main question is whether Canada will aim for modest increases or set the bar significantly higher by aiming to welcome some 500,000 immigrants per year in the near future.

The Immigration Levels Plan acts as a guide for the number of immigrants Canada aims to welcome each year. Canada’s immigration goals include growing the economy, reuniting families, and offering asylum to refugees fleeing hardship abroad.

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The country is currently in a unique period where there is a labour shortage alongside nearly one million job vacancies. Both are driving factors in the country’s growing immigration targets.

Labour shortages are further impacted by Canada’s low birth rate of 1.4 children per women, one of the lowest globally. Due to the slow natural increase in the population (the number of births still exceeds the number of deaths each year), immigration will soon be the only way that Canada’s population and labour force will be able to grow. Newcomers are also needed to maintain a strong tax base, which is a key factor in Canada’s efforts to provide essential services such as education and healthcare.

Canada has one of the world’s oldest populations. Approximately nine million people, or nearly a quarter of Canada’s population, will reach retirement age by 2030. This will create an urgent shortage of workers throughout all sectors of the economy.

The government must announce the Immigration Levels Plan each year by November 1 as per the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which is Canada’s main immigration law. However, the 2022-2024 immigration levels plan was the second announced in 2022, the first occurred in February after the most recent federal election on September 20, 2021, caused the 2021 announcement to be delayed.

Canada’s three admissions classes

The majority of new permanent residents immigrate through economic class programs such as those within the Express Entry system or through Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs).

IRCC also has a mandate to reunite families. After economic class programs, family class sponsorship is the second largest permanent residence class set out by the Immigration Levels Plan. Under family class immigration programs, applicants are sponsored for permanent residence by a spouse, partner, children, or other family member.

Refugees and humanitarian class immigrants also have an allocation under the Immigration Levels Plan. Canada has a long-standing reputation of extending asylum to displaced persons fleeing unsafe situations in their home countries.

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Canada’s immigration strategy

Canada’s current immigration strategy began to take its current form in the 1980s. At that time, the government did not look as far into the future and often based immigration targets on the economy of the day.

In 1984, Canada welcomed fewer than 90,000 immigrants. Leading into the 1990s, the Canadian government under the Conservatives recognized the impending shortage of labour and increased immigration targets to 250,000 new permanent residents in the space of eight years.

The following Liberal government built on these targets but due to an economic recession, also began to place more emphasis on inviting newcomers more economic class immigrants and reducing Canada’s family and humanitarian class shares.

Canada welcomed some 260,000 immigrants annually until current Liberal government took power in 2015.  The targets were increased to 300,000, followed by 340,000 right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The closure of borders and other travel restrictions in 2020 made it difficult for IRCC to process applications. Still, Canada exceeded its 2021 immigration target and broke the record for the most permanent residents invited in a year, at 405,000. These targets were reached through large allocations of spots through the Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs).

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UN Mideast refugee chief says Western funding shortfall may abandon hosting countries

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The United Nations refugee chief for the Middle East says countries hosting asylum seekers need more funding, or they’ll feel abandoned by the global community.

Ayman Gharaibeh (ay-MAHN guh-RYE-bah) says countries are pulling back their funding to help places like Lebanon and Jordan host refugees from Syria, and the lack of funds could prevent kids from being educated.

Gharaibeh says Canada is one of the few countries that isn’t pulling back funding, and he hopes Ottawa will encourage its allies to stop lowering their support.

He says the U-N is already struggling to support refugees due to inflation, a drop in donors and new conflicts that have displaced people from Ukraine and Ethiopia.

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Meanwhile, his region has only received eight per cent of the funding it has requested for winter gear, such as fuel and children’s clothing — compared to fifty-eight per cent by this time last year.

Gharaibeh says countries that are left to fend with these costs might stop co-operating in international agreements, which could cause more chaos in refugee flows.

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Advocate asks AFN chiefs to ensure $40B settlement deal leaves no child behind

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A First Nations child welfare advocate on Wednesday implored chiefs to ensure “no child is left behind” in a landmark $40-billion settlement agreement with the federal government.

Cindy Blackstock delivered the message to an Assembly of First Nations gathering in Ottawa, after being invited to take the stage by Cindy Woodhouse, regional chief in Manitoba who helped negotiate the agreement, which had been thrown into question since being rejected by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

The AFN, representing more than 600 First Nations across the country, had asked the tribunal to approve the settlement deal, which would see the government spend $20 billion to compensate families and children for systemic discrimination in the Indigenous child welfare system. It would also spend another $20 billion on making long-term reforms.

Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Caring Society who first lodged the complaint at the heart of the issue, raised concerns that the agreement wouldn’t provide $40,000 in compensation to all eligible claimants, which is the amount the tribunal ruled they should get.

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“We can make sure that in our First Nations canoe of justice, no child has to see their money go away and no child is left behind in justice,” she said Wednesday.

“We are capable of that.”

Following the tribunal’s decision in October, the federal government filed for a judicial review of some parts of its decision.

Endorsing the settlement agreement loomed as one of the biggest items on the assembly’s agenda, with chiefs being asked to vote on what the organization should do next.

The chiefs had been preparing to vote on conflicting resolutions, with one asking them to support the final settlement agreement, while another sought to see the organization not appeal the tribunal decision and renegotiate the deal.

But on Wednesday, further talks between both sides took place, assisted by former senator and judge Murray Sinclair, who helped the AFN, federal government and lawyers for two related class-action lawsuits reach the $40-billion agreement in the first place, which was formally announced in January.

Chiefs ultimately voted late Wednesday against re-entering negotiations but to instead support compensation for victims outlined in the agreement and “those already legally entitled to the $40,000 plus interest under the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal compensation orders.”

It also included a provision that AFN leaders must regularly return to chiefs to provide it with progress updates and “seek direction” from chiefs on implementing the final agreement.

Many chiefs thanked Blackstock, who was greeted with applause after further agreement was met and said she was honoured to see people come together for children harmed by Ottawa’s discrimination.

“We have had too many apologies, we’ve had too many compensation deals, we’ve had too many kids hurt. And this has got to be it,” she said.

She added more discussion on the long-term reform part of the deal would be presented to chiefs on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the assembly heard from sisters Melissa Walterson and Karen Osachoff, plaintiffs on the case, about the impact the foster care system had on their lives.

Osachoff said she had been in the child welfare system since she was born and didn’t have a chance to grow up with her sister.

“Had it not been for the ’60s Scoop and the child welfare (system), her and I would have grown up together.”

She said she understands why the tribunal characterizes those like her as “victims,” but told chiefs to instead think of them as survivors.

“I am not a victim and our claimants are not victims.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

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From urinal mats to unicorns, cargo from 2021 spill still washes up on B.C. shores

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When Jill Laviolette started picking debris off Cape Palmerston beach on Vancouver Island following the container spill from the MV Zim Kingston freighter, the inflatable dinosaur and unicorn toys she pulled from the sand looked nearly pristine.

More than a year later, consumer goods from some of the ship’s 109 lost containers still wash up on British Columbia shores, the inflatable toys now torn to pieces by the elements to be picked up alongside vacuum cleaner parts, bike helmets, coolers and urinal mats.

“Gray urinal mats, they haunt our dreams. We found thousands of them on our initial cleanup and we’re like, ‘we hope we never see these again’,” Laviolette said.

“We’re still finding them. They’re gonna be the bane of our existence for many, many years to come.”

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Even as the debris continues to wash ashore, people involved in the massive cleanup fear a repeat of the disaster, with Canada ill-prepared to deal with such large-scale cargo spills. They hope a recent parliamentary committee report into the incident will spur change, but solutions aren’t yet in place.

The Greek-owned ship was hit by high seas on Oct. 21 last year, sending dozens of containers packed with cargo from Asia tumbling overboard into Juan de Fuca Strait off the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

It became a multi-faceted environmental disaster when a toxic fire erupted on the ship, taking several days to extinguish.

Laviolette, co-founder of the environmental group Epic Exeo, was among the early volunteers to hit the beaches as an array of flotsam began to wash up.

She said the magnitude of what she saw in the early days of the cleanup “shook me to my core.”

“It was horrific. Just seeing fridges on the beach, and Styrofoam broken apart absolutely everywhere, and plastic everywhere,” she said.

Only four of the containers that went overboard have been recovered.

A recent House of Commons standing committee report on the incident warns of ongoing risks.

“The federal government, provinces, and coastal communities are currently not operationally prepared to effectively manage marine cargo container spills,” the report published in October concludes.

It made 29 recommendations for improvements.

Alys Hoyland, with the Surfrider Foundation’s Pacific Rim chapter in Tofino, said similar spills, including the loss of 35 containers from the Hanjin Seattle freighter in 2016, led to no significant policy changes.

“(After the Kingston spill), we were pretty much in exactly the same position as we had been in after the Hanjin spill,” she said.

“There’s no formalized mechanism for responding to that in a timely and efficient way and because of that, the spill was worse than it potentially could have been if we did have these mechanisms in place to respond rapidly and efficiently.”

The standing committee report includes recommendations related to tracking and monitoring of containers, planning for spills and for Canada to push for similar improvements internationally.

Hoyland said the political response to the Zim Kingston spill has been better than for previous spills, with the federal government now listening to those who were involved, while it considers policy changes.

“Obviously, the next step is ensuring that those recommendations are actually implemented,” she said.

Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Joyce Murray did not respond to requests for an interview.

In a statement, her ministry said it was working with Transport Canada and other partners to prepare a response to the committee’s report.

Clean up from container spills can go on for decades. Millions of Lego pieces lost off the United Kingdom in 1997 are still being found on shore.

The standing committee recommends Canada implement a formal marine debris monitoring and management plan “that adequately addresses all forms of marine debris impacting coastlines.”

Hoyland, who spoke at the committee’s hearings, said in addition to working to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the water overall, Canada needs better knowledge about how factors like coastlines, weather and currents create catchment areas for debris.

“Understanding the problem in order to address it upstream is fundamentally what we need here,” she said.

She also advocated for increasing training and resources in coastal communities, including for First Nations, to respond quickly to container spills.

“What we were seeing was a lot of stuff hit the beach but then it stayed there for a week (or) 10 days before anybody was asked to clean it up. Which meant that at every high tide, these items were being pulled back out into the ocean, where they were recirculating and drifting over a broader geographic area,” she said.

The committee also recommends that Canada establish and fund a joint spill response task force including federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governing bodies.

It would recruit, train and equip teams to respond to spills, create specific geographic plans and “develop the human and social capital infrastructure required to respond to cargo container spills in a timely manner.”

Hoyland said there also needs to be more transparency when a spill takes place. Shipping companies, including Zim Kingston’s owners, are not required to publicly release complete details of what they were carrying when there is a spill.

Though some details are given to various enforcement agencies, Hoyland said having a public list of exactly what’s on board would make it easier to demonstrate the extent of the pollution and prove where debris came from.

The committee recommended Canada work with the International Maritime Organization to require ships’ manifests to more accurately identify cargo and require the details to be made available to port authorities and any joint spill response task force.

The Chamber of Shipping, which represents the interests of international ship owners and Canadian exporters and importers, told the committee that it was planning to launch a pilot project with Transport Canada and five B.C. Coastal First Nations aimed at sharing manifest information in a timely manner.

Under Canadian law, it is the responsibility of a ship’s owner to cover the cost of cleanup, but the same law puts either a three- or a six-year statutory limit in place depending on whether the contents are considered hazardous.

The committee called that limit “insufficient given the potential long-term environmental impact affecting communities.”

It recommends the federal government examine alternative polluter-pays or industry-pays models that would ensure enough money is available to deal with damage caused by spills.

The committee heard proposals including that Canada establish a levy per container shipped through Canadian ports so there would be money available to communities affected by spills.

Industry representatives pushed back against that idea, suggesting additional fees would be detrimental to Canada’s competitiveness and undermine current international conventions.

The Ministry of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard confirmed in a statement that the Zim Kingston’s owner contracted a sonar scan survey covering approximately one square kilometre of the ocean floor near where the spill happened to try to find some of the missing containers.

None were found.

“The Canadian Coast Guard continues to ensure the ship’s owner is fulfilling its responsibilities, which may include additional requirements to conduct expanded underwater surveys,” the statement says.

When the Zim Kingston spill happened, much of the early public attention was focused on two missing containers that carried the hazardous chemicals potassium amyl xanthate and thiourea dioxide. Those containers have not been located.

Both Hoyland and Laviolette say the amount of plastic that went into the water can be hazardous in its own way, polluting the environment and the food chain or injuring animals before eventually making landfall.

“We see more animals that are suffering because their stomachs are full of plastic,” Laviolette said.

“We have to change our mentality, we have to change our thinking … The ocean is not an infinite resource. It is dying because of our choices.”

Laviolette said the report’s recommendations include items that advocates have been seeking for years. She said she’s hopefully they’ll lead to change but worries they could still be ignored.

“We now know the findings, it’s now time for action. The longer that we sit, the more sick that our oceans are going to get,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022

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