Threat of separation led to a superior immigration system

No federal government likes to give up control but in the case of immigration, it’s worked out for the best.

image: Study International

Our immigration system is admired globally. Canada has largely avoided the divisive immigration debates that have plagued our close allies: the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.

A Gallup poll shows that Canada is more welcoming to immigrants than any other country in the world.

Decentralization of immigration began in 1991 with Quebec’s demands to have more control over French-speaking immigrants in order to better integrate them into Quebec’s distinct society.

The federal government, worried about Quebec separation, acquiesced to Quebec’s demands. Ottawa still controlled family sponsorships, refugee migration, and ensured that newcomers passed health and security screenings. But other than that, Quebec could create its own system and decide how many new immigrants to accept each year.

Then the me-too effect kicked in. Once Quebec had some control of immigration, other provinces wanted it. Ottawa was happy to give up some control to provinces because, at the same time in the nineties, Ottawa was going through a debt crisis and was happy to transfer those costs to the provinces.

So, in 1996, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) was created. The federal government would retain the rights it had in Quebec’s case but the provinces would design the programs themselves and much of the work -and cost- would be borne by the provinces.

Under the PNP, employers and postsecondary institutions with the cooperation of the provinces, would select applicants.

The provincial programs offered an easier route to permanent residency than federal programs did.

Critics argued that the PNP would be a disaster. Employers, provinces, and postsecondary institutions, they argued, didn’t have national interests at heart. And they don’t have the expertise to support language skills and integration of newcomers. Those who ran the immigration programs were often unskilled and open to fraud.

Another criticism of the PNP was that Immigrants could shop around for provinces that offered the best entry programs and then move to wherever it suited them.

At first, it was so. Big cities attracted immigrants because of their existing multiethnic communities where newcomers share the same languages and observe the same customs.  Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver were often the final destinations because they already had networks of friends and family to help them launch a Canadian life.

As a result, only 28 percent of nominated immigrants to Prince Edward Island since 2008 were still living there. Manitoba did better, retaining 84 per cent. The difference, says Kelly Toughill in her feature-length article, was each program’s ability to support newcomers (the Walrus, May, 2021).

But despite initial problems, decentralization of immigration has successfully continued with groups like the non-profit Kamloops Immigrant Services. The Canadian Labour Congress is now controlling some phases of immigration to fill the looming construction labour shortage.

The number of localized immigration programs has swelled to more than 100 scattered from coast to coast to coast.

Canada now has one of the most complex immigration systems in the world.

Flexibility means that provinces and agencies design programs attract who they want, where they want.

Our complex immigration system has also resulted in the highest public support for immigration of any country in the world. And it’s why Canada is winning the global competition for labour.

The trouble with Steven Galloway

Award-winning Kamloops author Steven Galloway has problems of his own making. They could have been avoided.

Penguin Speakers' Bureau

Penguin Speakers’ Bureau

Galloway was raised in Kamloops and attended the University College of the Cariboo in the 1990s before it became Thompson Rivers University; where I taught for twenty years.

Galloway is best known for his 2008 novel The Cellist of Sarajevo which sold 700,000 copies, was translated into twenty languages, and had film options. His career took off and he became chair of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia on July 1, 2015.

A year ago, Professor Galloway was dismissed from the writing program and has since been fired by UBC, which cited “a record of misconduct that resulted in an irreparable breach of the trust placed in faculty members.”

His firing set off a storm in Canadian literary circles. University of Victoria faculty of the Writing department signed a letter critical of the firing process, a letter also signed by literary heavyweights such as Margaret Atwood. UBC’s faculty association said it has serious concerns with the administration’s “misleading public and private comments regarding Professor Galloway.”

Former students don’t see it that way. They say he fostered a sexualized atmosphere, drank regularly with students and played favourites –bringing some students into his inner circle while casting others out.

Reporter Kerry Gold investigated some of those misadventures in her feature-length article in The Walrus (December, 2016). Galloway would convene Thursday-night sessions in a local canteen known as the Legion with up to ten students. “The group would stay late, consuming alcohol at a pace that made some uncomfortable,” says Gold.

Galloway’s former teaching assistant, Erin Flegg, says the sessions became an informal part of the curriculum. Participants would vie for Galloway’s approval and the rewards it could bring: references, teaching positions, introductions to agents and publishers.

One night in 2012 was particularly rowdy when they met after graduation. It wasn’t late but Galloway had quite a lot to drink, a witness told Gold. “It’s time,” Galloway said, as he got up and slapped the face of a female student next to him. It was revenge for what she had said in class –that she didn’t like Galloway’s writing. Galloway then responded that he would like to slap her face but that he would wait until she was no longer a student.

Partying with students is a bad idea. As a high school teacher and later an instructor at TRU, my policy was never to date or revel with students. The obvious problem is the power differential. Teachers have the power to promote students and advance their careers.

Another student hoped to get into Galloway’s writing class and was drawn into to the struggle for his attention. “He invited her to come drinking,” says Flegg, “That’s how the relationship began. The power dynamics were there from the start.” The two had a relationship for three years.

Intimate relationships are a temptation for teachers. For me, I only had to remind myself that I had been placed in a position of trust: the betrayal of which would diminish me and my profession, and would harm my students.