A Toronto woman is stuck in Moscow and her family is desperately appealing to the federal government to bring her home — all because of what they claim is a simple clerical error.

Gyulzar Julia Yakobi, 56, travelled to Russia as a Canadian permanent resident on July 25, her family said, to seek private care for a medical condition that’s been growing worse over the past several months and for which she couldn’t get a diagnosis here.

Yakobi’s permanent resident card expired in December, but she decided to make the trip anyway due to her illness. It isn’t illegal; permanent residents with expired cards can obtain travel documents once abroad that allow them to return.

But when the mother and grandmother applied for those documents, she received a reply from the Canadian embassy that shocked her: according to the government, she hasn’t spent enough time in Canada in recent years to retain her residency status.

That’s just not true, she and her family say.

September 6, 2016 – Ottawa, ON – Communities across Canada are gearing up to welcome Syrian refugees this fall as the pace of arrivals in Canada will be increasing in the coming weeks. Work to process Syrian refugee cases has continued over the summer and thanks to this effort and the delivery of pre-arrival orientation information sessions, more Syrian refugees are now ready to arrive in Canada.

Since the start of the Syrian resettlement initiative, many communities outside the traditional network of cities and towns that welcome government-assisted refugees have expressed an interest in helping refugees resettle and integrate.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent in Ontario applied to become a “Welcoming Community” through the Community Partnership Settlement Plan process and was recently accepted.

Chatham-Kent will work with the local Resettlement Assistance Program service provider organizations in Windsor and London to help refugees resettling in their municipality. This provides access to community services and supports to help these newcomers adjust to life in Canada.

Communities can expect an increase in arrivals to begin in mid-September. Approximately 6,000 more government-supported Syrian refugees (which includes both government-assisted and blended visa office-referred refugees) will arrive by the end of December 2016 along with privately sponsored refugees whose cases have been finalized.


“Bringing refugees to Canada is only the first step. Helping them settle and integrate will require the support and participation of Canadians and communities across Canada. I am delighted that Chatham-Kent has come forward to support Syrian refugees who are arriving in their region.”

— The Honourable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier has dismissed a rival’s call to screen potential immigrants for “anti-Canadian values” as an “unworkable” proposal, insisting Canada’s free and fair society is robust enough as it is.

Bernier was reacting to a survey from Tory candidate Kellie Leitch’s campaign containing a question that asked supporters if potential immigrants should be screened for “anti-Canadian values.”

“I agree that there are fundamental Western and Canadian values that must be protected such as freedom, democracy, tolerance, equality of rights before the law and equality between men and women,” Bernier said in a statement.

“I don’t agree however that we should target immigrants with a values test. It is an unworkable way to determine people’s beliefs. Respondents can answer anything.”

The federal government is setting the stage for a loosening of temporary foreign worker rules after vocal complaints from Canadian employers that recent Conservative changes went too far. A Liberal-dominated House of Commons committee has completed a report on options for altering the controversial program and will make the recommendations public next month when Parliament resumes.

The report by the human-resources committee was completed in June but wasn’t made public in time for the summer recess. The government has said it is waiting on those recommendations before moving ahead later this year with changes to the program. However, Immigration Minister John McCallum tipped the government’s hand this week in an interview with The Globe and Mail in China when he said the Liberal government will make it easier for companies to bring in foreign workers.

“We’re also going to reduce some of the barriers and the silly rules … in order to give companies freedom to bring in the best and the brightest,” said Mr. McCallum. “We’ll get rid of many of these [required] labour-market impact assessments which slow things down enormously.”

A spokesperson in Mr. McCallum’s office said the minister’s reference to silly rules relates to some of the restrictions that apply to visiting professors. The spokesperson also noted that the minister has said the government is looking at waiving labour-market impact assessments in certain cases where that would help attract top talent to come to Canada.

“What the minister wants to do is just find a middle ground,” said the spokesperson.

A labour-market impact assessment is a government screening process designed to ensure there is a legitimate need for a temporary foreign worker and that no Canadian is available to do the job. The minister said the Conservative changes went too far and the Liberals are trying to strike an “intermediate” position. Government officials stressed Wednesday that no final decisions have been made.

Opposition MPs on the committee said Wednesday that the minister’s comments reflect the view of the Liberal majority that worked on the report.

Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, the committee vice-chair, said Mr. McCallum’s comments are “absolutely” in line with the conclusions of the yet-to-be-released study.

“The government was wanting to go in one specific direction and wanted the report to back them up,” he said. Mr. Zimmer said he agrees with the Liberals that there are some legitimate industry needs for foreign workers, but that requests need to be constantly weighed against economic realities.

“The conditions in our economy simply have changed,” he said. “He can’t just say broadly that we need them absolutely. We always need to be looking at what our economy is doing.”

From Atlantic fish processors to Vancouver-based yoga-wear retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc., committee members got an earful from industry groups complaining that the federal crackdown on the program in recent years was excessive.

“There is a critical talent shortage for key head-office positions,” Lululemon officials told MPs in a brief to the committee, pointing to design, product development and digital work as examples of skills shortages in the apparel industry. “The temporary foreign worker program is currently our primary recourse to address structural labour-market needs, yet the program is bureaucratic, sluggish and ill-equipped to meet the needs of high-skill, high-speed, globally competitive sectors.”

The Conservative government announced an overhaul of the program in June, 2014, after a series of allegations that it was being abused by employers. Some of the more high-profile cases involved B.C.’s HD Mining, which brought in more than 200 foreign workers from China even though Canadians had applied. Three Victoria McDonald’s restaurants were also placed on a federal blacklist for allegedly hiring foreign workers over available Canadians.

The number of temporary foreign worker positions approved by Ottawa has dropped from about 200,000 in 2012 to 90,211 in 2015. Of those, 53,000 were in primary agriculture, 22,000 were in high-wage positions and 15,000 were for low-wage jobs.

A separate international mobility program – which was carved out of the foreign-worker program as part of the changes – approved 180,000 work permits in 2015. That category includes foreign students and inter-company transfers.

The Conservative modifications included a change that was scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2016 that would have placed a 10-per-cent cap on the number of temporary foreign workers at any one location. The government agreed to suspend that change for one year in response to industry concerns.

NDP MP Niki Ashton said that move, when combined with Mr. McCallum’s comments, suggests that the government is preparing to favour the concerns of employers at the expense of concerns about the rights of foreign workers and the opportunities for Canadians to land those positions.

“Canadians should be troubled by this enthusiasm for eliminating the labour-market opinion and encouraging temporary foreign workers rather than immigrants,” she said.

Immigration policy

Minister Mc Callum flanked by Brampton Center MP Ramesh Sangha and Brampton North MP Ruby Sahota

The Trudeau government is ready to introduce changes to the current immigration system, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship John McCallum announced Wednesday while visiting Peel region.

McCallum’s visit to Peel was part of the government’s nationwide consultation process to bring essential changes to the immigration policy that was promised by the Liberal Party during the 2015 election campaign.

In Brampton and Mississauga, the minister met local members of parliament and stakeholders and discussed issues related to immigration. Top of the agenda is speeding up the process of family class immigration.

 “We’re working to meet our single most important commitment to reduce the processing time for family class,” said McCallum. “Right now, it takes approximately two years for a husband and wife to be reunited… it is unacceptable.”

McCallum said the Liberal government inherited a system that is presently creating concerns within the community and his team is working to streamline it by introducing a new and improved policy.

The new system – with changes to family and skilled class, economic category as well as visitors’ visa policy – is expected to be introduced in the coming fall season.

“We want to streamline the admission of economic immigrants as well as refugees and family class. We are going to make it much easier for international students to become permanent residents,” said the Markham-Thornhill MP.

In competition with other countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, he said the government currently working to give international students more points and make it easier for them to come to Canada.

“International students are at the top of the government’s list to become permanent residents because they are young, educated, and fluent in English or French,” said McCallum, adding the government is also working to improve visitors’ visa procedures, which are creating problems, especially in Chandigarh, India.

“Chandigarh is not the only place facing problems. We are determined to make it easier for people – particularly for visitor visas, weddings and funerals. We are determined to find a timely solution for it. Soon we will have a much quicker entry process,” said McCallum.