A recent leaked internal document shows the Liberal government is asking all the right questions about the future of immigration policies in Canada.
For far too long previous governments have favoured band aid solutions to fix perceived problems with our immigration policies. The result is a complicated system featuring a seemingly endless number of streams that are difficult to navigate.
The leaked report is entitled ‘Medium-Term Policy: Balanced Immigration’ and raises direct questions about the current levels of immigration to Canada.
If this report is to be believed, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada appears to be preparing for some major changes in the way foreigners are targeted. It points to a rapidly changing labour market and a system that needs to be able to move quickly with the areas of the economy facing shortages.
The headline figure of the report – that 35 per cent of male immigrants return home, often inside a year – should make experts take notice that many factors will contribute to successful immigration policy.
Bringing an immigrant here with skills needed by the Canadian economy is an important and required aspect, but policies should not begin and end with employment.
Just as a prosperous life needs proper balance, so does immigration policy.
Without the right tools to integrate newcomers into Canada they are infinitely more likely to return home at the first sign of pressure. Immigrants are more likely to stay if they have a support network to rely on, which in turn, augments the integration process.
The report suggests policy should shift to give greater weight to the type of social factors that facilitate integration, highlighting the differences and similarities between economic and social migrants.
It asserts Canada’s attempt to integrate new arrivals is insufficient, and that it needs to be more proactive in doing so. That might mean giving immigrants the right to vote sooner and seeing them represented in governments, creating more tax treaties with foreign government or helping them with networking.
Future generations also factors into the report. It is in Canada’s interests to keep newcomers here long term because statistics show immigrant children perform better than their Canadian peers. Some 36 per cent of the children of immigrants graduate university, versus less than 25 per cent of Canadians.
Immigrants are also more likely to start their own businesses, according to the latest data available. A March 2016 Statistics Canada report entitled Immigration, Business Ownership and Employment in Canadaconcludes that ‘rates of private business ownership and unincorporated self-employment are higher among immigrants than among the Canadian-born population’.
Others say Express Entry, the very system designed to close gaps in the labour market, is no longer their method of choice for bringing in foreign workers.
If employers in a number of polled constituencies, who are at the forefront of the shortage of skilled labour, are complaining that the current system does not work, then clearly action is needed.
The tone and overall conclusion of the document suggests the Liberal government is listening and preparing to take that action.
Changes currently being considered include:
- Re-designing the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to meet the needs of employers while protecting the Canadian labour market.
- Re-designing Express Entry to be more fluid and more flexible.
- Eliminating the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirement for businesses that wish to hire candidates using Express Entry who are currently working in Canada under the International Mobility Program.
- Revising the assessment process for international students working under the Post-Graduate Work Program (PGWP), to qualify under Express Entry.
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