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Opinion: Don Curry, Federal government increases immigration targets due to pandemic

The target for 2022 has jumped from the previous 411,000 number to 431,645
20220216 Sean Fraser wife Sarah, and their two children Molly and Jack
Sean Fraser, his wife Sarah, and their two children Molly and Jack.

Periodically I need to dry my boots from standing in my North Bay immigration mud puddle and look at the broader immigration picture.

One of those times was this week when the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser announced the federal government’s immigration targets for 2022-2024.

I spend most of my time working on permanent residence applications for people who want to work in North Bay, and our numbers are getting stronger. When you look at the national picture, the government’s plan is to welcome more than 1.3 million immigrants over the next three years.

The plan has increased the 2022 immigration target from the 411,000 number I wrote about recently,  to 431,645; the 2023 target to 447,055; and the 2024 target to 451,000. This is designed to help the economy recover from the pandemic and to drive future growth.

For 2022 the target is 241,850 from the economic classes, 105,000 through family reunification, and 76,545 as refugees or protected persons.

Critics say the government should first reduce the tremendous backlog of 1.8 million applications in the system now, due to slower processing times through COVID, a shortage of IRCC personnel, and information technology that is not up to the task.

I read Andrew Griffith’s immigration blog daily, and thanks to his research reviewing The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and New Canadian Media, I can provide a sampling of reaction to the numbers.

Immigration policy analyst Kareem El-Assal said reducing the share of economic migrants may not benefit the country’s economy, which now has a labour shortage of almost one million jobs.

“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,” he is quoted as saying in the Toronto Star.

Shamira Madhany, managing director of World Education Services, said in The Star that Canada can’t rest on its laurels, as many other countries are competing for skilled talent.

“What Canada has done here is basically saying, ‘Our borders are open for immigration. In terms of our capacity (to absorb immigrants) it’s a different question. We need to make sure we have mechanisms and tools in place to leverage their prior skills and experience. We don’t want highly-skilled people to come here to do low-level jobs.”

Immigration Minister Fraser told The Globe and Mail the pandemic has highlighted how key immigrants are to Canada’s success, noting newcomers fill many front-line jobs.

“When I talk to restaurants, machine shops, health care providers or virtually any other business, I see help wanted signs in windows,” he said. “By launching the most ambitious immigration plan in the history of Canada, we are going to equip the Canadian economy with the workers it needs.”

The federal government says immigration accounts for 100 per cent of labour force growth, and five million Canadians will be retiring in the next seven years.

Goldy Hyder, CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said the number of job vacancies across Canada is near an all-time high and immigration will be a key driver of the recovery from the pandemic. He welcomed the new targets but said they must be supported by increased processing capability and supports for newcomers.

“To help meet these new targets, we urge the government to expand the immigration system’s processing capacity by adding new processing centres, updating outdated IT systems, and increasing recruitment and training of border agents and settlement services personnel. A growing workforce should also be accompanied by increased investments in public services, housing, and infrastructure,” he said.

As someone who curses the immigration IT system on a daily basis, I couldn’t agree more.

Vancouver immigrant lawyer Richard Kurland told New Canadian Media “IRCC is banking on new information technology to deliver an aggressive program that will be faster for applicants and cheaper for government. The objective is to have more people here, in less time, at less cost,” he said.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the government should introduce special immigration levels to give the 500,000 migrant workers in Canada now a path to settlement, which will help address the labour skill shortage.

IRCC’s Valentine Day message on its Facebook site received responses from those in limbo waiting for visas, PR cards and citizenship documents.

“How about you guys give me a Valentine’s Day gift by finishing my 30-month application for citizenship,” wrote Mahmoud AR.

Mary Joy Lee wrote “Roses are red, violets are blue, finish applications that are delayed and overdue.”

Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant living in North Bay and is a member of Bay Today’s community advisory committee.

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Don Curry

About the Author: Don Curry

Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and president of Curry Immigration Consulting and a former journalism instructor
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