Economic immigration has long been a popular choice in Canada. However, the country’s policy restructuring demonstrates broader global shifts as countries grapple with the aftermath of a disease outbreak due to COVID-19 that has dramatically affected migration and population movement. Pandemic border closures, flight bans, and the lowering of visa services have wreaked unprecedented havoc on the flow of workers, students, and regular and irregular migrants across borders, from Chinese students dreaming of studying in the United States to migrant workers in the Persian Gulf.
“Immigration fits very prominently into the plans that we have to accelerate our economic recovery,” Canada’s immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, told The Washington Post, “as well as continuing to strengthen Canada’s long-term prosperity.” The underlying goal of these new policies and Canada’s high immigration objectives are quite well garnered. That being said, a few forecasters have expressed reservations, questioning whether they could still be better organized, if either they disallow many vulnerable individuals, and whether the goals are realistically attainable given the processing times and backlogs.
Before the pandemic, the population of Canada was experiencing exponential growth, surpassing those of the other G7 developed countries. According to Statistics Canada, international migration accounted for 86 percent of population expansion in 2019. Canada welcomed 341,175 permanent residents in 2016, which was a sharp rise as compared to 271,840 of the previous year. The number of permanent residents in Canada dropped by nearly half to 184,595 in 2020, falling much short of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s goal of 341,000 and posing a major problem for Canada, a country that generally relies on immigrants for its economic growth. This dependency is generally due to Canada’s low birth rates and its aging population.
According to US government data, the United States, which has approximately ten times the population of Canada, awarded permanent residency status to 707,362 people in 2020, away back 31% from 1,031,765 in 2019. Since 2010, the number of migrants has dropped significantly, owing to the early-decade financial downturn and regulations imposed by the Trump administration. To make up for the losses in 2020, the Canadian government has announced even higher immigration goals in October. In 2021, it aims to invite 401,000 permanent residents, slightly higher compared to a previous target of 351,000. In 2022 and 2023, the goal would be expanded by 10,000.
Over 27,000 people had been encouraged to apply for permanent residency under a stream of Canada’s “express entry” initiative for skilled economic immigrants with current professional experience which is more than five times that of the previous high. As per the data from Canada’s immigration department, the country welcomed 184,215 permanent residents from January to July. The immigration minister, who promotes these action plans as a “leading-edge” policy on immigration, expressed confidence that the country will meet its goal.