In virtually all federations, subnational governments have no say in the selection of immigrants. Canada is an exception. What was traditionally a federal activity has, over the past three decades, been shared with Quebec and, subsequently, with other provincial governments.

This shift occurred in large measure through a series of bilateral agreements between the federal and provincial/ter- ritorial governments. Intergovernmental agreements also govern the provision of settlement and integration services to newcomers in a number of provinces. The result has been a diffusion of government action in the immigration field " a development that can be seen as consistent with the dynamics of Canadian federalism, but that for some raises concerns.

While not typically front-page news, these agreements have become key elements of Canada’s immigration land- scape. And while they have proved to be important instru- ments of innovation, there is a need for improvement on outcome measurement and public accountability.

Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal and provincial governments have concurrent jurisdiction over immigration, although Ottawa has paramountcy. In light of Canada’s initially centralized form of federalism, it may seem surprising that provincial governments were given any authority to legislate on immigration. But as historian Robert Vineberg has pointed out (in a 1987 article in Canadian Public Administration), immigration had been a preoccupation of the (pre-Confederation) colonial govern- ments for more than a century, and thus ”œit only made sense that all levels of an underpopulated agrarian country would be actively interested in immigration.”

As the country evolved, processes of executive federal- ism, including regular meetings of federal and provincial (and later territorial) ministers and officials, developed in a number of policy fields. With immigration, this did not occur until a good deal later. Although federal-provincial conferences on immigration were held annually between 1868 and 1874, a practice of annual meetings of federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) ministers did not emerge until 2002. A range of FPT committees and working groups of officials meet more frequently to exchange information and discuss pol- icy and program developments.

The first intergovernmental immi- gration agreement was signed as early as 1868, to allow provincial governments to appoint immigration agents abroad. However, for most of the fol- lowing century the federal govern- ment managed immigration as a national program, with a very limited provincial say. In a 1974 Green Paper, the federal government stated that it intended to involve provincial govern- ments more closely in immigration matters. The new Immigration Act, adopted in 1976, provided that the minister could ”œenter into an agree- ment with any province…for the pur- pose of facilitating the formulation, coordination and implementation of immigration policies and programs.”

Prior to adoption of the 1976 act, policy-makers in Quebec, con- cerned aboout the province’s slowing population growth, began considering how to attract more immigrants. As it had done in other areas during the Quiet Revolution, the Quebec govern- ment began asserting its authority by seeking a role in recruitment. The first of four immigration agreements with the federal government was signed in 1971. Its terms were modest: the Quebec government was authorized to post an immigration counsellor in des- ignated countries. The 1975 agreement gave Quebec a role in immigrant selec- tion, and this was enhanced in 1978.

Under the McDougall/Gagnon- Tremblay accord, signed in 1991, Quebec obtained the power to select all economic immigrants to the province (the federal government can overrule candidates only for serious security or medical reasons). Quebec also assumed responsibility for all reception and integration services for new arrivals. To that end, the federal government provides Quebec with an annual grant. Each year’s payment is calculated according to an ”œescalation factor.” The grant has grown from $76 million in 1991/92 to $254 million for 2010/11.

Following implementation of the 1976 act, a number of other provinces expressed interest in an immigration agreement. Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan signed agreements in 1978, and a number of others fol- lowed. However, none of these allowed for a provincial role in selec- tion. In the early 1990s, the three Prairie provinces and some of the Atlantic provinces began to express concern about not receiving a suffi- cient share of immigrants. Manitoba raised an additional issue: that, as a result of the selection criteria for eco- nomic immigrants, the province’s need for workers in skilled and semi- skilled trades was not being met. The federal government, unwilling to copy the 1991 Canada-Quebec accord, developed the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), which would allow each province or territo- ry to identify a limited number of economic immigrants to meet specif- ic regional needs and/or to receive priority attention for immigration processing. The new program was intended to be modest: the 1996 tar- get was 1,000 nominees.

This innovation led to a series of intergovernmental agreements. Mani- toba was the first province to open negotiations, and since its 1998 agree- ment, it has used the PNP quite aggressively to attract more immigrants. All the other provinces, except Quebec, have since signed agree- ments on provincial nomi- nees, as have Yukon and the Northwest Territories (for further details, see table 1).

It was projected that 20,000 economic immi- grants would arrive in 2009 through PNPs, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) anticipates this could rise to 40,000 in 2010. Provincial govern- ments have considerable flexibility to set criteria for choosing nominees, and the programs have become highly diverse. According to the Auditor General’s 2009 report, there were then more than 50 different categories in PNPs. Along with other changes to the immigration system, notably the introduction of the Canadian Experience Class in 2008 (see the arti- cle by Arthur Sweetman and Casey Warman in this issue), provincial gov- ernments " as well as other actors such as employers and universities " now share control with the federal government over the composition of immigration.

In one sense, the developments described above can be seen as fur- ther evidence of what is sometimes called de facto asymmetrical federal- ism. However, the shift has involved not only governments but also pri- vate stakeholders. One view is that the increased role for employers should encourage greater responsive- ness to labour market needs and trends. However, some stakeholders are concerned about the implications of the decline in the numbers of immigrants being admitted under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (through the points system). Regardless of where one stands on these questions, one thing is clear: intergovernmental agreements have contributed to a significant diffusion of Canada’s immigrant selection processes.

Turning to settlement and integra- tion services, here also there has been a significant shift away from what was a solely federal responsibility. The Government of Canada began to fund settlement services in 1949 with a pro- gram to help refugees and the families of Canadian soldiers adjust to Canadian life. In 1953, it signed a cost- sharing language training agreement with all provinces but Quebec.

Settlement and integration pro- grams grew considerably in subse- quent decades. Unlike the situation in many other immigrant-receiving countries, where these services are provided by public servants, in Canada they are delivered by a host of nongovernmental organizations " often referred to as service provider organizations (SPOs) " through quasi-contractual contribution agree- ments. CIC currently has more than 500 such agreements across the coun- try. In addition, some SPO-delivered services are funded by provincial gov- ernments, foundations and other nonprofit organizations such as the United Way.

CIC’s budget for settlement and integration has risen significantly in recent years. Its projected spending for these programs (including the transfers to the Quebec, BC and Manitoba gov- ernments) for 2010/11 is almost $1.1 billion (in 2000/01 its spending was just under $328 million). Other federal departments, notably Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, also have programs to facilitate the econom- ic and social integration of newcomers.

Until recently, most of CIC’s fund- ing was allocated to three programs:

  • Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program (ISAP): Helps immigrants get services and integrate into their community; includes reception and orienta- tion services, translation and interpretation, employment assis- tance, and counselling.

  • Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC): Provides instruc- tion in either official language to adult immigrants for up to three years from the time they begin training.

  • Host Program: Matches immigrants with established Canadians, who help them to improve their lan- guage skills, learn about Canadian society and develop networks.

In 2008, CIC introduced a ”œmod- ernized” approach to settlement pro- gramming that is intended to allow greater flexibility and lighten the reporting requirements that apply to SPOs. Although the policy directions remain similar to those of the three programs described above, there is a greater emphasis on outcomes. Once the new approach is fully implement- ed, SPOs will be required to draw from activities in six streams and indicate how their projects will contribute to one of the following expected out- comes: orientation, language/skills, labour market access, welcoming com- munities, and policy and program development.

When the Quebec government took over reception and integration programs (under the 1991 accord), other provincial governments did not call for similar treatment. Rather, the federal government made the opening move, and this brought fur- ther change. As part of program review (launched in 1994), which was intended to reduce the federal deficit, the Government of Canada offered to withdraw from managing settlement services in the other provinces on the basis that ”œit was not considered essential or appropri- ate for CIC to continue to be directly involved in the administration of these funds.” Only the Manitoba and BC governments accepted the offer, and settlement and integration serv- ices were devolved to these provinces in 1998. In 2005, the federal and Ontario governments signed an agreement that provided for signifi- cantly enhanced spending on settle- ment and integration services in Ontario ($920 million in new invest- ments over five years). Program administration remains in the hands of CIC, but the agreement estab- lished governance mechanisms that allow the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to par- ticipate quite extensively in plan- ning and ongoing assessment. An annex to the agreement provides for the involvement of the City of Toronto " the only formal federal- provincial-municipal arrangement in this policy field.

Since the Manitoba, BC and Ontario agreements were signed, language training has been expand- ed in each province, and a number of innovations in programming have been launched. This height- ened activity is entirely warranted. Research has underlined that lan- guage ability has a major impact on the outcomes of Canadian immi- grants, including whether they obtain employment in their field of education or training and, in some cases, whether they find work at all (at least during the initial period after their arrival). In all three provinces, in part due to the increase in federal funding after 2005, those who qualify (principally permanent residents) may now pur- sue language learning to a higher level than previously. For example, in 2006/07, BC’s main program, English Language Services for Adults, was raised to Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) level 6. In Ontario, language training is now offered up to LINC level 7, which is the equivalent of CLB levels 7/8. In the other provinces where CIC is still responsible for administering settlement programs (Alberta, Saskatchewan and the four Atlantic provinces), LINC level 7 is the cur- rent standard.

As for innovation, devolution has allowed the BC and Manitoba govern- ments to develop language programs that reflect their particular circum- stances, such as the composition of immigration to the province and the needs of recent arrivals. For example, the BC Settlement and Adaptation Program includes language training that relies on flexible methods and informal settings to target newcomers who face multiple barriers to integra- tion. A pilot initiative for immigrant seniors provides basic English-lan- guage training, along with informa- tion on Canadian services, life and culture, in small-group settings. In Manitoba, there have been a number of innovations, including an initia- tive to provide English-language training in the workplace. This pro- gram, whose cost is shared with employers, is customized to meet client and employer language needs and to accommodate work schedules. In 2007/08, more than 80 percent of the program’s budget was spent outside Winnipeg (under its PNP, the Manitoba government has made a considerable effort to encourage immigrants to settle outside the capi- tal).

Innovation in lan- guage training has occurred not only in the provinces that manage their own set- tlement services. In 2004, CIC launched the Enhanced Language Training (ELT) initiative, under which higher levels of language teaching (up to CLB 10) are provided to immigrants who seek to enter the labour force. ELT projects often include employment supports and bridging activities such as intern- ships and mentoring. While such programming has limitations (for example, temporary foreign workers and recent arrivals who have become citizens are not eligible), it is clear that governments have been making an effort to assist newcomers in developing adequate language skills to allow them to get meaningful employment.

As we look forward, there is a need for improvement in two related areas: outcome measurement and public accountability. On the first, there are some encouraging signs. As mentioned above, under CIC’s ”œmodernized” approach, SPOs will need to demonstrate how their projects will contribute to one of five results and report on outcomes. There is a similar emphasis in the latest Canada-BC immigration agree- ment (signed in April 2010). In future annual reports to CIC, the BC ministry will be required to provide data using five outcome indicators, including improved English ability, ability to pursue employment goals and knowledge of Canadian systems and culture.

If the trend toward more exten- sive outcome measurement is encouraging, the same cannot be said of reporting requirements. Among the weaknesses in these rules are the following:

  • As the transfer to the Quebec government is a grant, it is not obliged to report to CIC on how the funds are spent. There is some reporting on settlement program- ming in the annual reports of Quebec’s immigration ministry. However, because part of the funding is transferred to other departments, notably education, the picture is not complete.

  • Under their agreements, the rele- vant BC and Manitoba depart- ments must report annually to CIC rather than to the public on the provision of settlement and integration services. The ration- ale for this form of reporting is unclear. By the mid-1990s (when the two agreements were being negotiated), intergovernmental agreements in various social pol- icy fields were requiring public rather than government-to-gov- ernment reporting (sometimes the ”œpublic” was defined as the residents of each province). The annual reports on settlement services are not released publicly. However, the author was able to consult all provinces’ reports for 2007/08. While they contain a good deal of information on recent program changes, client numbers and spending, they contain virtually no data on out- comes (and they do not contain any material that could be considered sensitive).

  • Under the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement, federal fund- ing continues to be managed by CIC (the Ontario government also contributes significant resources, some of it for joint initiatives and some for programs it runs on its own). As is the case with CIC’s spending in the six other provinces where it continues to manage settlement and integra- tion services, there is no distinct report on these activities.

The Canada-Ontario agreement, which was set to expire in November 2010, has been extended to March 31, 2011. The upcoming negotiations provide a test case on both outcome measurement and public accounta- bility. If the next agreement leads to devolution of settlement services to the Ontario government, as Queen’s Park has requested, provisions on reporting outcome indicators similar to those in the recent agreement with BC should be included. Even if the programs are not transferred to Ontario, in light of the scale of the resources directed at settlement and integration services in the province and the quite extensive governance processes now in place, there should be a requirement that a public report (perhaps for joint release) be prepared each year. In a similar vein, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations with Ontario, future annual reports from the BC and Manitoba governments should be released publicly.

In a potentially even more ambi- tious move, CIC is apparently exam- ining the possibility of preparing an annual report on the state of immigrant settlement in Canada. This would pre- sumably include informa- tion provided by the BC and Manitoba govern- ments drawn from their annual reports and, if devolution occurred, from the Ontario government.

The Quebec government has tradi- tionally resisted imposing require- ments that entail reporting to the federal government. This should not derail a worthwhile initiative.

An annual report on develop- ments in settlement programming could bring together much useful information and data from partici- pating governments. This would enhance learning across jurisdic- tions and among the organizations that play an increasingly important role in the settlement sector (includ- ing in program development). In light of these potential benefits, the current public investment of more than a billion dollars a year and, above all, the need to improve the outcomes of recent arrivals, enhanced measurement of the effec- tiveness of settlement and integra- tion services would be in the public interest. So would a considerably higher level of accountability to Canadians for these activities.