And in a couple of years we hope to bring in a similar form of pre-assessment of professional credentials working with the national bodies that represent the 45 regulated professions.
We will do a pre-assessment of whether an application has a better than average chance of getting a license as an engineer in Canada.
The whole concept here is to stop the madness of just dropping immigrants into our labour market to sink or swim even if they really don’t have a reasonable shot at getting their license.
It’s a waste of human capital. It’s an opportunity cost for our economy. By creating a better qualified pool of prospective immigrants who are going to have much higher rates of success in getting their licenses, they will all do much better.
Q: Any other changes?
We will also be re-designing our investor immigration program. We believe that the program is massively underselling Canada because it’s based on only an $800,000 loan for five years which people get back minus the commissions.
There are millions of millionaires interested in immigrating to Canada. The bar must be higher.
Canadian experience class is the most important thing we’ve done in immigration reform to date. We’re going to be making that a little more flexible because for me it's the model program. These young people are pre-integrated.
I really do believe that when we look back on the consequence of these changes five years from now. I am absolutely confident we’ll see as a result of these changes a marked improvement in the economic outcome of immigrants and that we're doing a massively better job of linking that to the labour shortages.
Q: is there any discussion of taking multilateral approach to credential recognition?
Yes, but we can’t trigger that because it's provincial jurisdiction. Now some provinces and some of their licensing bodies are doing that. Quebec signed an agreement with France to move towards mutual recognition of credentials.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan have gone to some of the better nurses colleges in the Philippines and they’ve added supplementary courses to train nurses up to the provincial standards so when they write their tests in Manila they know they are qualified to get their licenses as an RN in Manitoba or Saskatchewan.
It is massively complex: 45 professions times 10 provinces so there’s no simple solution.
Q: Do you anticipate a lawsuit by immigration lawyers regarding the backlog changes?
We've obviously done very careful legal analysis. We are confident what were doing is lawful and can withstand any legal challenge.
I don’t think we understood the nature of the problem when we came to government. I think we were overwhelmed when we opened up the filing drawer at immigration and found 850,000 applications in there in 2006.
Q: What about the citizenship ceremony and banning the niqab? What is behind that?
The citizenship oath is supposed to be taken seriously. That's our expectation. We were not able to verify that people are saying it when their faces are covered.
For me, it’s also about the nature of an oath. It’s a public licensing, a declaration of your membership in the community and you do that in front of your fellow citizens in public. To obscure yourself at that essentially public moment when you’re making a legal undertaking in front of your fellow citizens undermines the nature of the public oath.
Q: What has been the reaction?
I think what we did has been broadly accepted. I’ve been surprised at the number of Muslims who’ve come up to me and commended us for the decision.
It also sends another message which is yes, this is a liberal democracy though of course we have no interest in regulating what you wear.
I am a critic of the French approach which seeks to regulate people's habillements in their lives in the public space but at moments like this when there an interaction between an individual and the state, it’s not unreasonable to ask people to show who you are. Polls show 85% of people agree with this.
Q: Aren’t they just practising their religion? Did you consider the possibility they could be accommodated?