Canada: Liberals announce $800 million immigration policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Sep 14 17:37:58 UTC 2008

Liberals announce $800 million immigration policy
Juliet O'Neill, Canwest News Service
Published: Saturday, September 13, 2008

RICHMOND, B.C. - The Liberals vowed Saturday to put out a welcome mat
for more immigrants to Canada, and to invest $800 million in programs
aimed in part at matching them with jobs suited to their skills.
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion announced the "critical component" of the
party's election platform in a speech to about 150 members of Canada's
largest Chinese community in Richmond, B.C., as he wrapped up his
first week of campaigning. His audience reacted most strongly to a
promise of establishing a five-year multiple entry visa for family
visits for weddings, funerals and other personal reasons, and an
"express pass" system for businesspeople.

They burst into applause and chanted "Dion" repeatedly after he
declared, "I want businesspeople from China, from India, from around
the world, to find Canada a welcoming place to visit and do business."

The Liberal policy is aimed at streamlining immigrant and refugee
procedures to clear a backlog, and opening the way for greater numbers
of immigrants Dion says will be badly needed to replace Canada's aging
workforce and population.

The Liberals would also repeal what the Liberals call "unfair,
sweeping discretionary powers" granted the minister of immigration to
pick and choose among classes of people to enter and stay in Canada.

"What I want is due process, a system that gives everyone a fair
chance," Dion said.

Those powers were contained in the Conservative budget bill, from
which the Liberals abstained in the House of Commons because they did
not want to defeat the Harper government.

The $800 million includes $400 million to modernize
information-gathering and otherwise streamline procedures for
immigrant and refugee applicants.

The Liberals said they would revamp the immigration points system to
give greater weight to skilled trades. "I like to have a lot of PhDs
in Canada, but we need a lot of plumbers," Dion said.

About $200 million over four years would be spent on improved language
training for newcomers, and another $200 million over four years for
internships, mentorship and work-placement opportunities.

Dion pledged to provide individuals with direct financial assistance
to study, so they can get credentials to work in Canada. The amount
individuals would receive depends on arrangements with the provinces.

Dion also promised Saturday to reverse the Conservative government's
"international embarrassment" of refusing to ratify the United Nations
declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples if he wins the Oct. 14
election. His comments came on the first anniversary of the adoption
of the declaration by the United Nations General Assembly, with Canada
among only four countries in opposition.

The UN declaration, first conceived in 1985, is frequently described
as an "aspirational" document that sets out human-rights standards to
which states and indigenous peoples should aspire. The aim is to
bolster dignity and hope among some of the most marginalized
communities in the world.

"Last year's appalling decision to vote against the declaration was an
insult to First Nations, Metis and Inuit, who were expecting the
government to stand up for their rights, and an international
embarrassment that must be corrected," he said.

"In the post-apology era, there is no excuse for not ratifying the
declaration. A new Liberal government will ratify the Declaration and
show the world that we can be a leader on aboriginal issues."

The Harper government has refused to bow to a steady stream of critics
who say the vote against the declaration undid two decades of work by
Canadian diplomats and aboriginal negotiators who helped lead
development of the declaration.

The three main opposition parties - the Liberals, New Democratic Party
and Bloc Quebecois - have called on the government to sign the
declaration, as have the Assembly of First Nations and other
aboriginal organizations, as well as Amnesty International and other
human-rights organizations.

The government's response to critics has been that it prefers
practical accomplishments to signing declarations. And it says the
declaration could be interpreted to expand native land and resource
rights that are set out in Canadian treaties, protected by the
Constitution, and have been interpreted in Supreme Court rulings.
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