Over the next three years, Canada plans to welcome more than 1.3 million new immigrants to assist its economy recover from Covid-19 and promote potential development.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser unveiled a multi-year immigration-level plan on Monday.
“If we’re not ready to significantly increase our ambition when it comes to immigration, we are going to be in a position where our economy will suffer, and it could put into jeopardy so many of the public services and social supports that make me very proud to be Canadian,” Fraser said.
However, opponents have urged the federal government to first address the 1.8 million applications that have piled up in the system as a result of delayed processing capacity during the Covid-19 outbreak.
According to the proposed plan, the yearly intake will be 431,645 in 2022, 447,055 in 2023, and 451,000 in 2024, or 1.14 per cent of the population by 2024. This year, there will be 241,850 new permanent residents from the economic class, 105,000 through family reunion, and 76,545 as refugees and protected persons.
Canada met its target of bringing in a record 405,000 newcomers by 2021, mostly by awarding permanent residence to migrants such as international students and foreign employees who were already in the country and thus not limited by pandemic immigration restrictions and border shutdown.
Moreover, the delays produced by Covid-19 in the United States and overseas, as well as the unforeseen Afghan refugee crisis, have created an unprecedented backlog in the immigration system, which experts estimate will take at least three years to clear.
Until December, there were 548,195 pending permanent residency applications, 775,741 pending temporary residence applications, including study and work permits, and 468,000 pending citizenship petitions.
The immigration minister stated that he hopes to reduce the backlog by increasing hiring and modernizing processes through new digital systems. The new strategy will somewhat alter the makeup of the intake this year, with the ratio of economic and skilled immigrants dropping from 60% to 56%.
The proportion of newcomers from the family class will likewise reduce from 26% to 24%, while the proportion of refugees will rise from 14% to 20%.
“That’s what they’re trying to tell us. And then you look at the numbers and you see that’s not what’s happened,” said El-Assal, Policy Director at CanadaVisa.com.
“You don’t have to spin anything for us. Just tell us, ‘This is what we’re doing temporarily. We’re going to be reducing the economic class share and the family class share temporarily for two years so that we can accommodate more refugees.’”
The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association’s Ravi Jain expressed worry over the government’s decision to reduce the permanent residency limit for federal high-skilled workers by half, from 111,000 to 55,900. Despite paying exorbitant college costs, many overseas students have been unable to gain the necessary work experience to qualify for permanent residence during the pandemic.
According to Jain, Ottawa needs an immediate strategy to extend its work licenses in Canada.
“They’re going to be waiting potentially a few years and they’re going to need the status to be able to buy that time,” said the Toronto lawyer. “There are some major concerns around what to do about the people who are here and who won’t necessarily have a pathway for permanent residence.”
However, the system has not evolved quickly enough to fulfil the insatiable demand for immigration to Canada. According to Shamira Madhany, general director of World Education Services, Canada cannot rest on its laurels because other nations are also fighting for talented workers for their post-Covid economic recovery.
The NDP’s immigration critic, Jenny Kwan, said Fraser’s plan is a continuation of the Liberals’ Band-Aid response to structural immigration problems.
The government simply cannot shift funding and immigration levels from one stream to another indefinitely. This pattern of behaviour has caused and will continue to cause additional difficulties and turmoil in the system.
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