Here is a primer on the most critical changes.Immigrants• Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced he was going to wipe out the federalskilled workers program backlog and establish a new pool of immigrant skilled workers. Theannouncement triggered a legal challenge to be heard in Federal Court in January 2013.Known as the Expression of Interest System, the new program will allow employers to choosepotential candidates from a ready pool of pre-screened skilled workers. Its similar to a programcurrently used in New Zealand and Australia. • Kenney announced a new direction in the federal skilled workers program, opening the doorfor skilled trades workers and offering permanent residency to electricians, welders, heavy-dutyequipment mechanics and pipefitters to help relieve the labour shortage amid a constructionboom in places such as Alberta and Ontario, which will host the Pan American Games in 2015. • Kenney has given himself, in Bill C-43, legislation that is still before Parliament, sweepingpowers to bar people from being allowed into Canada for "public policy considerations."In the same bill, Ottawa has changed the rules governing deportation of criminals who arepermanent residents. If passed, the bill would make it easier for Ottawa to deport an immigrantwith permanent resident status who has been sentenced to six months or more for a crime.There would also be no right to an appeal.At present, the law only allows such action if someone has been sentenced to two years less aday, and there is a right to appeal. The new law, if passed, will effectively impose a "one strikeand youre out" rule, according to critics. • Kenney has tightened up the rules around spousal sponsorship and conditional permanentresidence status, triggering criticism from human rights lawyers, refugee groups and womensgroups.Foreigners sponsored to enter Canada as spouses must stay in the relationship for two yearsbefore theyre granted permanent residence status under the new law.If they dont, they face deportation. Kenney argues that the new law will crack down on marriagefraud. The caveat: It does not apply to those who are victims of abuse or neglect, Kenney said. • The minister of immigration announced that Ottawa would be changing the point systemused to judge skilled-immigrant applications, emphasizing language skills and professionalcredentials equivalent to Canadas. Language proficiency will become a more important factor inwhether applicants are approved.Refugees• Kenney performed radical surgery on Canadas refugee system. He moved to designatespecific refugees as "irregular arrivals" — which allows for mandatory arrest and detention forup to a year. The law was prompted by two boatloads of Tamil refugees who in 2009 and 2010arrived on the shores of British Columbia.The law calls for officials to detain migrants for investigation. Whats more irregular arrivals arebanned from applying for permanent resident status, sponsoring family members and acquiringrefugee travel documents for five years even if their refugee claims are accepted. • Ottawa has created a list of safe countries of origin — countries considered capable ofproviding state protection for their citizens. A total of 27 countries have been named, 25 ofthem from the European Union. They include: Austria, Croatia, France, Hungary, Italy, Malta,Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Countries will be designated safe if their combined rejection, withdrawal and abandonment rateof asylum claims exceeds 75 per cent or when the withdrawn and abandoned caseload tops 60per cent.Refugees from "safe" countries will have their case fast-tracked through the refugee process,with their claims heard within 30 to 45 days. They will not be able to appeal the decision and willbe removed from Canada in a year. All other eligible refugee claimants will receive a hearingwithin 60 days after their claim is referred to the refugee board. • In a surprising move to the medical community and refugee advocates, Kenney announcedthat Ottawa would cut health benefits to refugee claimants. He claimed the move would saveOttawa $100 million over five years and discourage "unfounded" refugees from coming toCanada to seek medical care. • In another move to protect Canadas borders, Kenney, under the Protecting CanadasImmigration System Act, introduced biometric measures — the collection of fingerprintsand photos — from applicants in 29 countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma,Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iran, Jamaica, Jordan, Haiti, Pakistan, Vietnamand Yemen.This fingerprint information will be sent to the RCMP for storage and will be checked against thefingerprint records of refugee claimants, previous deportees, persons with Canadian criminalrecords and previous temporary resident applicants before a visa decision is made.Citizenship• Prospective Canadian citizens must now provide proof of language proficiency — in Englishor French — before they can apply for citizenship. The new regulation will affect candidatesbetween the ages of 18 and 54. Immigration officials will return applications of those who do notprovide evidence of proficiency. • Kenney announced in September he would be revoking the citizenship of 3,100 people— mostly from the Persian Gulf States — who had lied about their residency and failed toreside in Canada for three of the four previous years when they applied for citizenship. Theannouncement came after the creation of an immigration fraud tip line in 2011.Temporary Foreign Workers• Rules surrounding temporary foreign workers were radically rewritten. Close to 191,000temporary foreign workers came to Canada in 2011, 67,000 in Ontario. • Changes were made to allow employers to pay temporary high-skilled foreign workers up to15 per cent less than the prevailing local wage. In the case of low-skilled workers, its 5 per centless. • In December, Ottawa eliminated the special parental benefits for foreign migrant workers whocontribute an estimated $3.4 million to the countrys employment insurance system.This means 30,000 migrant workers who are employed under the Seasonal AgriculturalWorkers Program are not eligible to take leave and collect any benefit while caring for newbornsor sick children. Migrant workers have never been eligible for full EI benefits but previously theycould access special benefits for up to 35 weeks — even if they were outside of Canada.