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Martin C. Barry

Federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino tabled the Trudeau government’s latest Immigration Levels Plan last week, setting a path for moderate increases to immigration to help the Canadian economy recover from COVID-19, while also trying to stimulate future business and employment growth.

“Immigration is essential to getting us through the pandemic, but also to our short-term economic recovery and our long-term economic growth,” said Mendicino. “Canadians have seen how newcomers are playing an outsized role in our hospitals and care homes, and helping us to keep food on the table.

Labour shortages

“As we look to recovery, newcomers create jobs not just by giving our businesses the skills they need to thrive, but also by starting businesses themselves,” he continued. “Our plan will help to address some of our most acute labour shortages and grow our population to keep Canada competitive on the world stage.”

According to a statement issued by the government last Friday, the pandemic has pointed a spotlight on the contribution of immigrants across all sectors of the economy.

Quebec to set own levels

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act requires a new Immigration Levels Plan to be tabled in the House of Commons in Ottawa each year. The levels plan is a projection of how many permanent residents will be admitted to Canada, setting targets and ranges for overall admissions, as well as for each immigration category.

The levels plan also takes into account extensive engagement with provincial and territorial representatives, as well as public opinion research and stakeholder consultations. However, under the Canada-Quebec Accord, Quebec establishes its own immigration levels.

Health care staffing

“Our health-care system relies on immigrants to keep Canadians safe and healthy,” says IRCC. “Other industries, such as information technology companies and our farmers and producers, also rely on the talent of newcomers to maintain supply chains, expand their businesses and, in turn, create more jobs for Canadians.”

Although Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it continued to accept and process immigration applications throughout the pandemic, the global travel restrictions and capacity constraints led to a shortfall in admissions over the last several months.

Immigration to increase

To compensate for the shortfall and ensure Canada has enough workers it needs to fill crucial labour market gaps and remain competitive globally, the 2021 to 2023 levels plan aims to continue accepting immigrants at a rate of about one per cent of the population of Canada, including 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023. The previous plan set targets of 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022.

While maintaining that the health, safety and security of Canadians remains a top ministry priority, IRCC says it has strengthened health screening at the border as well as monitoring and enforcement, and will continue to closely follow the advice of public health officials as newcomers arrive in the country.

According to the ministry, the multi-year plan incorporates a recognition of the importance of family reunification and Canada’s continuing commitment to protecting potential immigrants considered to be most at risk through refugee resettlement provisions.

Some highlights:

o An increase in admissions over the three years of the plan to make up for a shortfall in 2020 due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic.

o A focus on economic growth, with about 60 per cent of admissions to come from the “economic class.”

o A continued focus on innovative and community-driven approaches to address diverse labour and demographic needs across the country.

o A renewed commitment to capacity-building and digital transformation in Canada’s immigration system, to support operations and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the processing of applications.

o Additional points for French-speaking candidates under Express Entry, to promote the growth of Francophone communities outside of Quebec.

o A commitment to admit up to 500 refugees over the next two years through the Economic Mobility Pathways Project, which the ministry refers to as “an innovative approach that helps qualified refugees apply for permanent residence through existing economic immigration pathways.”

o And a pathway to permanent residency for eligible asylum claimants who were working on the front lines of the pandemic between March 13 and August 14 2020, providing direct care to patients in health-care institutions.

Foundation for growth

The Trudeau government claims its 2021–2023 Immigration Levels Plan “will help cement Canada’s place among the world’s top destinations for talent, creating a strong foundation for economic growth while reuniting family members with their loved ones and fulfilling Canada’s humanitarian commitments.”

According to figures provided by IRCC, immigrants make up 33 per cent of all business owners in Canada with paid staff, and 25 per cent of workers in the health sector are immigrants.

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