Immigration flow to Victoria may be impacted

Federal government cuts extend to Victoria as citizenship office closes this week

The closure of the Victoria office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada to the public on Friday (June 1) may discourage future immigrants from settling in the Capital Region.

Immigrants won’t have the convenience of applying in person for temporary and permanent residency or changing their visa status, for example, said James Fultanum, who manages a program at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society that helps skilled newcomers gain employment.

As well, he said, having fewer immigrants would take an economic toll on the region, employers would have fewer employee choices and there would be less cultural diversity in Greater Victoria.

“(Greater Victoria is) not becoming as friendly to newcomers as we’d love to be,” Fultanum said. “I think the closure of CIC will be one extra stress, one extra negative factor. If you don’t make Victoria attractive on different levels, people will not come to Victoria.”

After Friday, the nine affected Victoria employees will no longer meet with people applying for temporary and permanent residency, landed immigrant status and permanent residency cards. The office will continue to be staffed until June 29.

Regional CIC offices in Victoria, Nanaimo, Prince George and Kelowna are among 19 offices being shuttered across Canada.

Their services will be offered at other locations, or be made available online.

“As more services are provided electronically, we are confident that fewer people will find it necessary to visit local offices,” said Lisa-Marie Gagné, spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada in the B.C.-Yukon region.

“CIC is making changes to the way it operates. It is stepping up the pace of modernizing the way it works, reducing overhead costs and continuing to streamline programs and operations.”

But Fultanum noted that not all immigrants have access to a computer.

Those services requiring face-to-face contact, such as citizenship ceremonies and language testing, will be “part of the itinerant services offered to communities in which an office was closed,” Gagné said.

The union representing the affected federal employees worries the job cuts, in addition to an upcoming pilot project through which permanent resident cards will be mailed directly to applicants, will compromise the integrity of the application process.

According to a Public Service Alliance of Canada spokesperson, employees at the regional offices were trained to spot fraudulent paperwork, such as passports, for example. The spokesperson added it will be more difficult to review original documents under the new system.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada said benefits to a more streamlined system will include reducing wait times by four weeks for applicants who normally would have picked up their cards in person at regional offices such as the centre in Victoria.

Fultanum said the lack of in-person contact will overshadow any advantages the department hopes to gain through restructuring.

“When CIC closes its office, of course I’ll have more people knocking on my door looking for information about their application status and citizenship,” he said. “With CIC here in Victoria, they would be able to walk in and get the information.”

Employees whose positions have been terminated will receive a new offer of employment, or, if that isn’t possible, be offered different exit options.

The federal department can’t yet say how much money will be saved through the closure of the Victoria office, as budget figures are “still in flux,” Gagné said.

emccracken@vicnews.com

By the numbers:

Citizenship and Immigration Canada positions terminated in Victoria: 9

Permanent residency applications processed in Victoria last year: 2,011

CIC positions terminated across Canada: 283

Number of CIC regional office closures nationwide: 19

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This photo of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin and her daughter, Lexi, is part of Townsin’s documentary, RARE HUMANS - Turning Hope into Action, her capstone project for her graduate degree from Royal Roads University. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin)
Greater Victoria mother’s grief fuels documentary of ‘Turning Hope into Action’

Lexi, 6, died in 2019 from Blau Syndrome and is among the children documented

This dead fir tree is one of many in Mount Douglas Park. Nine dead trees will be removed from the Douglas Creek site starting March 8 to make way for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge. (Photo courtesy Jason Clarke)
Nine dead, hazardous trees to be removed from Saanich park ahead of bridge construction

Felling begins March 8, minor trail interruptions expected in Mount Douglas Park

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

Victoria Shamrocks announced on March 2 that Mike Simpson will be taking over as head coach. (Photo courtesy of the Victoria Shamrocks)
Victoria Shamrocks name new head coach ahead of 2021 season

Mike Simpson has been promoted from offensive coach to the team’s bench boss

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read