The federal government aims to welcome nearly 432,000 immigrants to Canada this year, as a part of a three-year plan to fill critical labour-market gaps and support a post-pandemic economic recovery.
The annual immigration levels plan, tabled in Parliament Monday, projects Canada will admit 431,645 permanent residents in 2022, followed approximately by 447,000 in 2023 and 451,000 in 2024. The majority of the permanent resident spots – 56 per cent – will be designated for immigrants coming to Canada to fill job vacancies this year.
Speaking to The Globe and Mail, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how key immigrants are to Canada’s success, as 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,” Mr. Fraser said.
“By launching what is the most ambitious immigration plan in the history of Canada, we are going to equip the Canadian economy with the workers it needs.”
Ottawa says immigration accounts for 100 per cent of labour-force growth and, with five million Canadians set to retire by the end of this decade, the worker-to-retiree ratio will drop – demonstrating the need for increased immigration.
Goldy Hyder, president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of Canada, said the number of job vacancies in the country is near an all-time high and immigration will be a key driver of pandemic recovery. He welcomed the government’s immigration targets Monday, but he said the plan 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urge the government to expand the immigration system’s processing capacity by adding new processing centres, updating outdated IT systems, and increasing recruitment and training of border agents and settlement services personnel.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,” Mr. Hyder said in a statement.
Mr. Fraser said the government recently hired 500 new processing staff and set aside $85-million in new funding to reduce application backlogs.
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan urged the government to introduce special immigration levels to give the 500,000 migrant workers already in Canada a path to settlement and help address the labour-skill shortage.
While the government plans to increase the number of economic immigrants it welcomes to Canada over the next three years, from nearly 242,000 this year to more than 267,000 in 2024, it will simultaneously reduce the number of refugees to whom it offers safe haven. Canada will resettle approximately 77,000 refugees this year, 74,000 in 2023 and 62,500 in 2024. Mr. Fraser said resettlement numbers will gradually decrease as Canada follows through with its commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees over the next two years. More than 7,550 Afghan refugees have been resettled in Canada since last August.
The reduction in refugee-resettlement targets – particularly the government’s plan to accept more privately sponsored refugees than government-assisted refugees – has sparked concern for advocates.
“The responsibility to resettle refugees lies with the government – to reflect that responsibility, the government should resettle more refugees than private citizens. Yet the levels show private sponsors are being asked to do one and a half times as much resettlement as the government,” the Canadian Council for Refugees said in a statement.
Overall immigration levels have grown substantially since the Liberals took power in 2015. Numbers continued to grow until 2020, when Canada only admitted 184,500 newcomers because of the challenges posed by the pandemic. Shuttered overseas visa offices, closed borders, quarantine restrictions and challenges booking flights heavily affected the immigration system.
Immigration numbers rebounded in 2021, when Canada welcomed 405,000 new permanent residents – breaking the all-time record set in 1913. The majority of the newcomers were already in Canada on temporary status, including temporary foreign workers in the skilled trades, health care and technology, and international students.
The government has not tabled an immigration levels plans since October, 2020. It normally announces it immigration targets by Nov. 1, but last year’s plan was delayed because of the federal election.
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