Thursday, May 28, 2009


Where the jobs are: skilled professions


From Thursday's Globe and Mail, Thursday, May. 28, 2009 07:10AM EDT

More Canadians may be searching for work, but a report to be released today suggests some sectors are still having trouble filling certain positions.

Skilled trades, such as carpenters and plumbers, along with sales reps, engineers, technicians and accountants are the jobs employers are having most difficulties filling, a Manpower Canada survey of 1,909 employers shows.

The survey comes as the recession has thrown more than 321,000 Canadians out of work, sending the jobless rate to a seven-year high of 8 per cent. Yet even as joblessness rises, today's list suggests demand remains for some skilled professions.

"These results indicate that while more people may be looking for jobs, they don't generally have the skills that organizations are looking for," the report said.

The survey comes on the heels of a new report on Canada's job market, prepared for the federal and provincial labour ministers and obtained by The Globe and Mail, which detailed inefficiencies in the way the country collects and shares information about employment. That report found, for example, little co-ordinated knowledge about job vacancies across the country, or how many people are graduating from postsecondary training and what skills they have.

The Manpower survey also comes as the federal government is boosting spending on job retraining in response to rising unemployment. Some economists believe the jobless rate will veer into double-digit territory - around 10 per cent - over the coming year.

"As people consider work, they now have the opportunity to look at where the talent shortages exist for Canada, and what would suit them in terms of interest and aptitude," said Nadia Ciani, Manpower's vice-president of human resources.

Compared with previous years, the fastest-growing area for jobs lies in engineering, personal assistants and teachers, particularly at the postsecondary level, Ms. Ciani said.

Canadian companies, many of which have downsized in recent months, are far less concerned about talent shortages than they were a few years ago. Just 24 per cent of employers this year said they have difficulty filling positions, far fewer than in 2006, when 66 per cent of them were worried.

The survey was conducted in January and is part of an annual global Manpower release that polled 39,000 employers. Worldwide, it found that 30 per cent of companies are still having difficulty filling certain positions, and that the most sought-after jobs are much the same as in Canada - skilled trades, sales reps and engineers - along with managers and production operators.


Workers wanted

The top 10 jobs Canadian employers are having trouble filling, according to a new survey by Manpower Canada:

1. Skilled trades, such

as carpenters or plumbers.

2. Sales representatives.

3. Engineers.

4. Technicians, such as audio or dental technicians.

5. Secretaries and office support staff.

6. Teachers, particularly at

postsecondary level.

7. Drivers.

8. Accounting and finance.

9. Labourers.

10. Nurses.

Source: Manpower Canada

Sunday, May 24, 2009


May 24, 2009

New Requirements on Border ID Stir Worries at Crossings

New York Times

WASHINGTON — After years of delay and hundreds of millions of dollars in preparations, Customs and Border Protection officials said new security measures would go into effect on June 1, requiring Americans entering the country by land or sea to show government-approved identification.

Currently, Americans crossing borders or arriving on cruise ships can prove their nationality by showing thousands of other forms of identification. But after the start of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, Americans will be required to present a passport or one of five other secure identification cards.

Coming as the summer vacation season starts, the measure is expected to lengthen lines at least temporarily at border crossings and seaports. But the biggest impact is expected along the nearly 4,000-mile border that the United States shares with Canada, which both countries once boasted was the world’s longest undefended frontier.

Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Americans and Canadians crossing that border were required to do little more than state their nationality. Security has been gradually increased since then, causing longer lines and a steady drop in casual cross-border excursions, according to business and travel associations that monitor border traffic.

Now some local and state officials are concerned that the new measures might further disrupt a major trading relationship for the United States and drive apart border communities that have deep economic and cultural ties.

“We treat Canada like going to Ohio or to Chicago for the weekend,” said Sarah Hubbard of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We have families living on both sides of the border. We have business partnerships on both sides of the border.

“We believe our community is unique because it is bi-national,” Ms. Hubbard added. “It’s seamless in many ways.”

Nearly 20 percent of all land trade between the United States and Canada — valued at an estimated $130 billion — crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Ms. Hubbard said some 461,000 trucks, buses and cars crossed the Ambassador Bridge each month.

She said an estimated 4,000 Canadian health care workers commuted into Detroit to work. And the manufacturing industry is so transnational, she said, that a single car can be sent back and forth across the border 12 times before the finished product is ready to be shipped to a dealer.

Still, she said, cross-border traffic has fallen since Sept. 11. Traffic across the Ambassador Bridge is down by nearly 100,000 crossings a month this year compared with last year, Ms. Hubbard said. Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York, said that at border crossings in her state, traffic was down 13 percent to 19 percent this year from what it was last year.

Ms. Hubbard said some of the decline had been caused by the recession. But some of it she attributed to “confusion about documents and hostile treatment by border officials.”

“We have many people who come from Canada and tell us they don’t feel welcome when they cross the border,” she said. “We talk about those complaints with our friends on the border, and they tell us their job is security, not customer service.”

Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary who forged her political career on the southern border and plans to travel to the northern border next week, makes no apologies for the tightened security measures, including using unmanned Predator aircraft from Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota to patrol the border with Canada.

Ground sensors were added along the border in Vermont, and towers equipped with cameras and sensors are being built around Buffalo.

“One of the things that I think we need to be sensitive to is the very real feeling among southern border states, and in Mexico, that if things are being done on the Mexican border, they should also be done on the Canadian border,” Ms. Napolitano said at a recent conference on the northern border at the Brookings Institution.

Her comparisons between the northern and southern borders have stirred outrage in Canada, where 80 percent of the population lives within 100 miles of the border and the government considers itself one of America’s most reliable allies.

Seizures of illegal drugs and the detention of immigrants along the northern border are a small fraction of what they are along the southern one, which is considered the busiest transshipment point for illegal immigrants and drugs in the world.

Still, Canadian officials said that their government, like the United States, had become much more sensitive to terrorism threats since Sept. 11. Canada has invested heavily, they said, in improving immigration controls, upgrading security at airports and seaports, sharing intelligence with its allies, and establishing its own homeland security agency, which includes joint American-Canadian border enforcement teams. And Canadian border guards began getting their first weapons in 2007, after years of debate about whether they should be armed.

A Canadian diplomat in Washington said his country’s biggest diplomatic problem had been dealing with the American perception that Canada poses a threat because of its open immigration policy and concerns that it is a haven for terrorists. “We spend a lot of time trying to explain the fact that just because you don’t have the National Guard or a fence along the border, it doesn’t mean it’s not secure,” said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of his comments.

Plans to put the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative into effect two years ago were postponed because of a significant backlog in passport applications and delays getting sufficient staff and equipment in place.

In a meeting with reporters on Wednesday, Jayson P. Ahern, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said Congress had allotted $350 million to help the agency resolve those problems.

Mr. Ahern said recent surveys of drivers across the border suggested that more than 80 percent of them had the required identification. The State Department, he said, has issued a million passport cards, wallet-size identification. And at least two million other people have gotten one of the four other kinds of acceptable border crossing cards.

“I don’t expect any major delays or traffic jams as a result of this program,” Mr. Ahern said. “There will be no story on June 1.”

Monday, May 4, 2009


Border guards break rules allowing criminals into country: report

The Canadian Press
17 hours ago

OTTAWA — Border guards have been breaking rules in allowing hundreds of serious criminals to come to Canada, says an internal review.

The Canada Border Services Agency allowed 535 people convicted of serious crimes to enter the country last year for compassionate or economic reasons, under so-called temporary resident permits.

And a sample of about half those cases found a litany of problems, including failure to get the required permission from the immigration minister's designated officials.

The internal review also found the files frequently lacked key information about exactly why some criminals were given a pass into the country - some for repeat visits.

A draft copy of the report was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The findings confirm and expand upon a critical examination of the border service last year by the federal auditor general, who also found incomplete documentation and sloppy standards.

Under Canada's immigration rules, border guards can issue temporary resident permits to people who would otherwise be barred from Canada, whether for medical reasons or past criminality.

Exceptions are supposed to be made only for humanitarian or compassionate reasons, or for the economic benefit of Canada.

The review cites one example in which a hunter with a criminal past might be allowed into the country because a Canadian outfitter would otherwise lose money.

The permits, which cost $200, are valid for between a day and three years, depending on the decisions of individual officers.

Canada has no exit controls, relying instead on the honour system. Expiry dates on the permits are neither monitored nor enforced unless the ex-offender comes to the attention of authorities for unrelated reasons, such as a fresh crime.

Most permits related to criminality are issued to Americans with drunk-driving offences. But each year hundreds of permits are also handed to persons convicted of "serious" crimes, defined as offences that, if committed in Canada, would be punishable by a maximum prison sentence of at least 10 years.

Agency investigators last fall visited nine border offices - including the airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax - where they examined 628 files for permits issued to people convicted of past criminal activity.

The land borders visited were at Coutts, Alta., Landsdowne, Ont., Fort Frances, Ont., and Lacolle, Que. All locations were chosen because of the high number of such permits issued over the previous two years to people with past criminality.

The list of crimes included child molestation, fraud, automobile homicide, burglary, bank theft, arson, cocaine trafficking, handgun possession and other offences.

Of the 628 permits examined, 282 went to people convicted of serious criminality.

The review team found that officers failed to get permission from senior officials delegated by the immigration minister for 31 of those serious criminals, as required under the rules.

That's 11 per cent of all such cases and, if consistent for the entire year, would mean about 59 people convicted of serious crimes were not properly vetted before they were allowed to enter the country in 2008.

"Given that concurrence is a requirement for all serious criminality cases, there is need for some improvement," says the report.

The files also lacked key documentation in more than half the cases that would justify these decisions.

Investigators were also concerned that about a third of the permits they examined allowed the person to re-enter Canada, rather than having to re-apply for permission.

The report questioned why such persons should not be required to re-apply abroad each time they intended to visit Canada.

A spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency did not respond to requests for comment.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Shaky refugee system let in killer

Shaky refugee system let in killer

Paul Morse
The Hamilton Spectator

(May 2, 2009)

As the mystery of how a convicted double killer managed to enter Canada as a refugee deepens, experts say our overburdened refugee system is likely partially to blame.

"At this point, the system is close to collapse," said Sergio Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer and past chair of the International Bar Association Immigration and Nationality Committee.

The 1990s "was the time of the highest influx of refugees, because we had people coming from China, because of Tiananmen Square, the Balkan crises and war in Latin America in Nicaragua and El Salvador."

It was also the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union, he said.

"The system was overtaxed at the time, and the system continues to be overtaxed."

Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) says it cannot make any information public about the case of Elvir Pobric, 37, a Bosnian landed immigrant arrested this week in Calgary on a Canada-wide immigration warrant.

According to authorities, Pobric shot two foreign-currency dealers to death and robbed them of large sums of money in a small village in northeastern Bosnia on April 4, 1992, just days before the outbreak of ethnic violence between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims.

Pobric was caught and sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to Interpol, Pobric broke out of prison in 1996 and disappeared from view.

Pobric entered Canada as a refugee under his own name sometime between 1996 and 1999, living first in Ottawa and then moving to Hamilton, where he became an aluminum siding contractor. Now married with a young family, the Bosnian immigrant set up a permanent home in Grimbsy.

Two years ago, he began working in Calgary and commuted home to Grimsby every month or so. Hamilton police and the Canada Border Services Agency began to hunt for him when Hamilton police Chief Brian Mullan received two letters from the daughter of one of his victims. She said Pobric was in Hamilton and begged Mullan to return him to prison.

But members of Pobric's family say the contractor had been interned in Serbian "detention camps" and was under the eye of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) until his legal release in November 1996.

Relatives yesterday handed over a document to the Canadian Red Cross in Hamilton with an ICRC stamp on it that lists Pobric's release from prison on Nov. 6, 1996.

Canadian Red Cross officials say they are checking the veracity of Pobric's story with ICRC delegations in Washington and Geneva.

During the Balkan conflict, refugees entered Canada either by arriving in the country and claiming refugee status or through Canada's government sponsored resettlement program, which fast-tracked refugees in war-torn regions and transported them to Canada.

Morteza Jafarpour, executive director of Hamilton's Settlement and Integration Services Organization (SISO), said it was not uncommon for refugees to use fake documents to escape horrific genocide or persecution so they could make a better life in Canada.

"Whether (Pobric) escaped from prison or was released is irrelevant," said immigration expert Karas.

"The only thing that is relevant from an immigration point of view is, first, does he have a criminal history, and, two, how come nobody picked it up?"