Lessons learned from the drive to welcome Syrian refugees to Canada can be used to improve every immigration program, according to John McCallum.
The federal immigration minister wants to see the knowledge acquired during the whirlwind process of bringing in 25,000 Syrians used to improve programs in the economic and family classes.
He also feels the government is now able to spend the same amount of money and bring in more people as Canada looks to cast the next even wider in terms of welcoming people in need.
Refugees In Numbers (Since November)
McCallum feels his term can do the job faster and more efficiently because of the Syrian experience.
“That knowledge can be transferred to other kinds of immigration, family and economic immigrants,” McCallum said.
“We can become more efficient, which means we can allow in more immigrants with the same amount of money.”
The government brought in an initial wave of 25,000 Syrians between November and March at a federal cost of $319 million. The total currently welcomed here is 28,876.
“I am probably the only immigration minister in the world whose major challenge is I can’t bring in the refugees fast enough to satisfy the demands of the generous Canadians who want to support them,” McCallum said.
The immigration department has faced criticism from sponsors who are lining up to welcome more refugees.
There have also been calls to widen the program to include other vulnerable people, such as members of the Yazidi tribe in northern Iraq.
McCallum is currently touring Canada as part of a national conversation, aimed at asking people what they want to see in terms of the future of immigration here.
The latest stop was Waterloo, Ontario after a swing of stops in Atlantic Canada and trips to Brampton and Mississauga. Between those visits, he also spent time in Brussels in visa talks with officials from the European Union, plus Bulgarians and Romanians.
Canada has a stated target of bring in 300,000 permanent residents in 2016, with McCallum to set out his targets for the next three years come November.
He wants to make it easier for international students to become permanent residents, and bring down the waiting time for spousal reunification.
He said that change cannot happen overnight in such a big department as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, but it seems that change is coming.
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