Several temporary measures that have enabled the Canadian government fulfil its objectives this year, according to the federal immigration minister, may be here to remain even after the pandemic has passed.
As it has become increasingly difficult to bring individuals to Canada from other countries during the pandemic, the government has turned to persons already in the country to achieve its immigration objectives.
Although some of the new permanent residents this year were typical immigrants and refugees, the federal government concentrated on permitting temporary residents to make Canada their permanent home.
During a discussion with The Canadian Press, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser stated that the countermeasures were created designed to resolve pandemic-related issues, but that they may be useful after the virus has passed.
As an example, he cited the “guardian angels” program. Asylum seekers working in the healthcare sector were awarded permanent status under this program.
As part of the prime minister’s mandate letter, Fraser has been instructed to continue with the strategy. “I think that we’ve learned some things during this pandemic that we will be able to adapt on a go-forward basis,” Fraser said.
The immigration minister announced that the government had met its aspirational immigration objective of 4,01,000 new permanent residents by 2021, the highest number of arrivals in a single year in Canadian history.
In 2022, the goal will be raised. By the end of next year, the administration wants to have welcomed 4,11,000 new permanent residents.
Although bringing in new immigrants is a key component of the government’s effort to ease the country’s labour deficit, Fraser believes the economic case for retaining temporary residents is just as compelling.
Whenever temporary visas expire, organizations must locate new individuals to train and fill the position that the previous employee left, he explained. “The people who are new to the country are providing a little bit of extra fuel to the economy. The people who are here now that are being made permanent residents are certainly preventing the problem from getting worse,” he said.
The effects of the programs that affect employment have been largely beneficial, according to Fraser, but the government has to conduct more research before committing to a specific course.
The minister also stated that the government has not neglected more regular immigration channels, which he hopes to pick up once the pandemic recovers and international border constraints ease. The large backlog of 1.8 million applications awaiting processing is the other lasting immigration impact due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Opposition parties have chastised the government for allowing the backlog to grow so large. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland committed $85 million in the next fiscal year to deal with the backlog in her December economic report.
The immigration minister described the financing as a “bridge” to allow authorities to handle more applications more quickly as the department completes the work of digitizing its old system.
In the existing paper-based approach, if someone wishes to know the current status of their application, they must contact their member of Parliament, who will contact the minister’s office, who will contact an immigration worker, who will pull a file from a drawer.
A new system is proposed in which spousal applicants can check their status online. The digitization of records has already commenced, but it may be a few years before the system is fully operational.
Nonetheless, Fraser believes that the bridging funding and increasingly computerized system will enable Canada to maintain the high number of newcomers for the duration of the pandemic.
“We are in the midst of the most important modernization of Canada’s immigration system since its inception. Should the government have a desire to grow further from there, I anticipate we will have the capacity to do much more even than we are today at an all-time record pace,” he said.