The Fragility of Civilization

Theoretically Positioning Immigration Policy and Programming on PEI

Nick Scott

Regardless of whether organizations handling immigration outrightly proclaim their stances, their mandates, policies, and programming can be used to identify their positions within different theoretical models of migration. Since the 1990s, the Canadian federal government has adopted a dual labour market approach to intake. Essentially, this approach values immigrants[1] based on their labour potential and their ability to work in Canada (Fleras, 2015: 53). This approach falls within a neoliberal model of development, emphasizing decentralized and minimalized administration and settlement costs for the state, and employer-driven and labour-driven demand for immigrants (Fleras, 2015: 125). The Canadian federal government’s approach to immigration intake and settlement has resulted in a devolvement of certain responsibilities to provincial government agencies such as the PEI Office of Immigration, and to settlement agencies like the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada (PEIANC). While the intake of immigrants has remained a responsibility of the state, immigrants’ settlement has become a responsibility of settlement agencies like the PEIANC. As a result, settlement is defined along similar lines to the economist Amartya Sens’ capabilities approach. This approach treats immigrants not just as potential workers, but as individuals requiring wealth and income to “lead the kind of lives we have reason to value” (Schafer et al. 2012: 14). The PEIANC helps immigrants to expand their capabilities through settlement by helping them to access resources, community, and the freedom to participate fully in the society in which they reside. As a result of this split between the state and NGOs in respectively administering intake and settlement, with regards to immigration, the former has adopted a neoliberal approach while the latter has adopted a capabilities approach.

The PEI Office of Immigration is responsible for administering the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), through which they sponsor individuals to the federal government for permanent residency. This provincial-federal program began across Canada in 1998 (Fleras, 2015: 129). The office manages the intake of many of the immigrants who arrive on Prince Edward Island, and it has adopted a neoliberal dual labour market approach with regards to this responsibility, stating in its mandate that “[i]ndividuals are chosen based on their ability to economically establish and [on] their intent to live and work in PEI. Current key needs … are filling gaps in our labour market and attracting entrepreneurs” (Office of Immigration – About Us). This approach places more emphasis on processing and selecting applicants based not only on their skills, but on labour demands currently existing in PEI. Based around just-in-time labour models, skilled immigrants are accepted as long as demand for their services exists and as long as they are slotted for employment before their arrival in Canada (Fleras, 2015: 124). There are two streams of immigrants accepted under the Office of Immigration’s intake system: entrepreneur-class and worker-class immigrants (Office of Immigration – About Us). This streamlined focus has the added benefit of reducing backlogs in Canada’s immigration system, at the cost of a more exclusive intake process.

Until recently in the PEI PNP, there were three streams of entrepreneur-class immigrants accepted: Work Permit, 100% Ownership, and Partial Ownership immigrants. These immigration streams fit within a neoliberal model of development, with any state costs being compensated many times over by the intake of wealthy applicants who would help the provincial economy to grow by one manner or another. However, the entrepreneur-class stream is now changing, due to immigration fraud cases arising from the program’s design. Only the Work Permit stream will continue, intended for “foreign nationals with business ownership or extensive management experience who would like to move to PEI to start their business, and eventually become a permanent resident” (Office of Immigration – Work Permit Stream). To put aside the controversies surrounding the PEI PNP, these immigration streams intended to respond to local labour market demand by attracting skilled and wealthy entrepreneurs to PEI. PEI was made particularly attractive due to its comparatively relaxed pathway to permanent residency (Fleras, 2015: 129). Formerly, to be eligible to apply for any of these programs, the applicants were required to have a personal net worth of $600,000 and had to sign an agreement and submit a $200,000 deposit with the provincial government that could be later refunded. Finally, the applicant had to pay $10,000 in application fees, which could possibly be entirely or partially refunded based on the applicant’s status (Office of Immigration –Immigrate PEI Entrepreneur). However, as compared to worker-class immigrants, in terms of human capital, entrepreneur-class immigrants’ eligibility criteria was much more relaxed; for instance, by not requiring any job experience on PEI, a work permit prior to arrival, or any specified amount of experience in their field of work (Office of Immigration – Immigrate PEI Worker). Considering these high financial standards of eligibility and low human capital standards of eligibility, it is evident that the entrepreneur-stream of the PEI PNP was an intake program catered specifically to wealthier applicants. Ideally, they would run and administer businesses on PEI, and at worst they would act as a source of revenue for the provincial government, due to the fees they paid to apply for permanent residency. In both instances, the cost of their settlement would be minimal, left to the applicants, while the returns from this settlement would be high regardless of what action they took.

Under the PEI PNP, the Office of Immigration also handles worker-class immigrants. This means that these immigrants come to Canada on a provisional basis without permanent residency, but this status is held as a possibility for the future. Their ability to become permanent residents is based wholly upon their ability to find work and to integrate successfully into life in Canada, with the intention of minimizing their likelihood of becoming dependent on the state. These immigrants include Express Entry, International Graduates, Critical Workers, Skilled Workers in PEI, and Skilled Workers Outside Canada. All of these streams are described as “employer-driven,” allowing employers to fill positions that cannot be filled locally (Office of Immigration – Immigrate PEI Worker). Because these immigrants have already been accepted on a provisional basis by the state, and given that they have already settled to some degree, the cost to the state in processing their applications and in settling the new permanent residents would be minimal. Of course, in the first place these immigrants have been selected based on their skills and their ability to fill demand in the local labour market. Furthermore, the first criteria for eligibility for all of these classes requires a “full-time long-term job offer” within a certain National Occupational Classification (Office of Immigration – Immigrate PEI Worker). In this way, the state can ensure that they are securing permanent residents who will not “take advantage” of Canadian social welfare systems once they have become permanent residents. This approach towards provisional-to-permanent intake is a way for the state to safeguard its interests, and emphasizes the importance of individuals relying on themselves and not upon the state, while still contributing positively to demands in Canada’s labour force (Fleras, 2015: 125).

In contrast to the PEI Office of Immigration, the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada has an attitude toward settlement centred in a capabilities approach, as defined by Sen. While the capabilities approach is typically used in the context of international development, with its focus on the individual and their needs, it can be applied on a global scale. Essentially, this approach posits that humans have various needs that extend beyond their work and income, and that they must meet these needs to properly develop and function in society. To take some instances among many, they must have access to health care and welfare, live relatively free from discrimination, and possess political, civic, and economic rights. Lacking access to these and other needs can result in their living “unfree lives,” leading to higher rates of poverty and lower levels of development (Schafer et. al, 2015: 14). In relocating to a new country, immigrants are at risk of not gaining access to these services that Canadians understand and have accessed from birth. Thus, the PEIANC’s mandate is “to provide short-term settlement services, and long-term inclusion and community integration programs for new immigrants in the province of Prince Edward Island” (PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada – About PEIANC). For instance, while they have settlement workers who help relay information about the Canadian workforce, fitting within a conventional neoliberal approach to immigration, they also provide social activities for immigrants to form a sense of community. The Association also has cultural inclusion training for immigrants to learn about cultural diversity, education, inclusion, and anti-racism (PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada – Cultural Inclusion Training). Each of these activities helps immigrants to settle and integrate into life in Canada and PEI.

In conclusion, while the PEI Office of Immigration has adopted a neoliberal dual labour market approach to the intake of immigrants, the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada has adopted a capabilities approach to the settlement of immigrants. While these two approaches may seem incompatible, by leaving settlement almost exclusively to settlement agencies like the PEIANC, government agencies are now able to focus more heavily on immigrant intake to determine “who gets in” while resting assured that those accepted have a support system to ensure they do not become dependents of the state.

[1] The term immigrant is used in this paper only to describe people entering Canada, who are in effect immigrating into Canada. It is not being associated with permanent residency status.



Fleras, Augie. 2015. Immigration Canada: Evolving Realities and Emerging Challenges in a Postnational World. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Schafer, Jessica, Paul Alexander Haslam, and Pierre Beaudet. 2012. “Meaning, Measurement, and Morality inInternational Development.” In Introduction to International Development: Approaches, Actors, and Issues, 2nd edition, edited by Paul A. Haslam, Jessica Schafer & Pierre Beaudet. 3-22. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.

Office of Immigration. “About Us.” Retrieved November 27 2018,

Office of Immigration. “Immigrate PEI Entrepreneur.” Retrieved November 27 2018,

Office of Immigration. “Immigrate PEI Worker.” Retrieved November 27 2018,

Office of Immigration. “Work Permit Stream.” Retrieved November 27 2018,

PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada. “About PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada.” Retrieved November 27 2018,

PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada. “Cultural Inclusion Training.” Retrieved November 27 2018, .


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