(Jamaica Observer) When former Senate President Stanley Redwood landed in Canada on May 20, he joined more than 21,000 Jamaicans who have left the island’s warm shores since 2002 to legally take up residency in the North American country where temperatures below zero are not uncommon.
Redwood left for Canada with his family, five years after applying for permanent residency in that country. He had resigned from the Senate after serving just over 16 months as president — a move that has earned him much criticism and labels of unpatriotism, particularly from the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party.
But statistics from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) show that a total of 21,265 Jamaicans have traded the black, green and gold for the red-and-white maple-leaf flag between 2002 and 2011. This number averages about 2,126 Jamaicans annually, and represents only a fraction of the number of locales who send applications to the CIC yearly for permanent residency in underpopulated Canada, which shares border with the United States and regarded year after year as one of Earth’s best places to live.
“It is the new hotspot in terms of destination, but it is oversubscribed in terms of people wanting to live there,” Canadian education specialist Antonn Brown told the Jamaica Observer.
“It has one of the best economies in the world and ties with Norway for the best standard of living, which are major pulls for Jamaicans, especially with what is happening here,” explained Brown, an attorney who since 2009 has been helping Jamaicans to gain admission to schools in Canada.
“But unlike the United States where migration revolves around family, Canada is more about education and economic migration and when you look at the type of qualifying skills most Jamaicans would not qualify,” he added.
According to the CIC statistics, the largest inflow of Jamaicans to Canada over the 10-year period occurred in 2002 when 2,457 Jamaicans became permanent residents. Four hundred and seventy-four fewer Jamaicans, a total of 1,983, took up residency in Canada in 2003. The figure rose somewhat to 2,130 in 2004; dipped to 1,880 in 2005, and even further to 1,686 in 2006.
The years that followed saw the number of Jamaican emigrants rising again to 2,113 in 2007; 2,312 in 2008; before peaking at 2,427 in 2009, then falling to 2,256 in 2010. A total of 2,021 Jamaicans became permanent residents in 2011.
On May 4, the CIC opened its year-long window for applications to what it describes as its “new and improved Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)” — a points-based programme intended to attract highly-skilled migrants to Canada.
Under the programme, the CIC will issue 5,000 visas to qualified individuals with experience that falls within its 24 eligible occupations, that cover mostly engineering and medical concentrations.
Applicants need to achieve 67 points on the CIC’s 100-point grid that award scores based on their education, work experience, age, adaptability, proficiency in English Language or French, and whether they had previous work experience in Canada. Younger applicants are more favoured under the new programme.
Meanwhile, applications are to be processed within a year, a big improvement over the old system that took years, resulting in a severe backlog of more than 600,000 petitions and eventual suspension of the programme in 2012.
But even with the FSWP option, Brown said some Jamaicans were finding it easier to go the “study” route as demonstrated by the larger number of people knocking on the door to his New Kingston office for advice.
“You go to Canada, study then work for a year, and you get to be a Canadian,” said Brown, who is the local representative for several Canadian universities and colleges.
“The fact that most Jamaicans will not be eligible for the skilled worker programme, studying is the best option and for Canada, students make the best migrants, ” Brown told the Observer. “It’s not that the employers there will not recognise the local (Jamaica) degrees, but they are more easier to recognise the Canadian degrees.”
He also weighed in on sentiments that moves like Redwood’s are unpatriotic. Redwood, in announcing his pending departure, had declared that the choice was “a reasoned family decision.”
“Rationally, speaking, one has to make the best decision for his family. To me, it’s not unpatriotic at all,” he said.
“Canada is just an environment in which people live well. It has an excellent economy, good education system and there are many opportunities over there. The cold temperature is the only negative,” he added.