BY ASHTON COLLEGE
In a country of only 35 million, attracting foreign investors is big business. Canada has typically been a world leader in the residence by investment industry but due to a number of legislation changes, this reputation has fallen by the wayside. The Canadian Immigrant Investors Program (IIP) was created to attract foreign investment capital to the country in the form of loans to provinces with a repayment guarantee. Typically, strategies under the IIP would take the form of investments into clean technologies, public infrastructures and business loans. Following the investment, foreign businessmen women would be granted immediate permanent residency, barring the standard background check. Applicants to the program had to have a minimum net worth of just over $1.5 million and be willing to invest $800,000 over five years.
But in 2014, the program was cancelled by the Harper government who cited its limited economic benefits for the country. In addition, the Globe and Mail in a stunning piece of investigative journalism, found that immigration consultants working with IIP investors were in many cases more than willing to engage in immigration fraud by altering or forging documents and in extreme cases, make records of prison sentences disappear.
However, the cancellation of the program left some 65,000 applicants, the majority of whom were Chinese, in the lurch. Most had applied to live in Vancouver and according to the Globe and Mail, some had even bought houses. But given the wealth of many of these IIP hopefuls, writing off a multi-million dollar house that they wouldn’t be moving into wasn’t something to be upset about. Some did threaten legal action but the fallout from this has yet to be seen.
In an effort to make up for the fiasco of the IIP, the Harper government created the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program. Seeking to attract fifty to sixty foreign investors with flush bank accounts, the program was lauded by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a great opportunity for the future of Canada and for wealthy investors worldwide. But a year later the program has seen only seven applicants with no permanent resident visas issued. In short, a failure.
Chris Alexander, Immigration Minister in the former Conservative government, previously lauded the program in a press release, emphasizing the need for standards in immigration so that all Canadians benefit. But standards or not, immigration fraud continues to be a problem in this country. Regulated immigration consultants such as those graduating from accredited programs are trained to recognize when a potential immigrant investor is being fraudulent but this doesn’t completely solve the problem. Under the current Liberal government, it is expected that Immigration Minister John McCallum will use his considerable financial expertise to retool the program. But in its current form, seven applicants simply isn’t enough.