February 10, 2017 – While the U.S. and others seem intent on closing themselves off from the rest of the world, Canada is very much open, according to new Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.
It has been a difficult first few weeks on the job the former Somali refugee, given the immigration-related chaos created by Donald Trump’s travel ban.
It was difficult for Canadian officials to react to an executive order that even America’s own border security staff apparently did not know how to interpret. Just when the terms of the ban were becoming clear, a U.S. judge suspended it and the legal battle continues.
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Hussen and Canada’s federal government faced calls to throw open their borders to those banned by America – particularly refugees.
But while both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Hussen spoke against the executive order, the only policy shift was to give the relatively few immigrants stranded at the Canada-U.S. border immediate temporary residence here.
Despite calls for stronger statements against the ban and for Canada to hike its refugee intake, neither were forthcoming.
The need to maintain a measured approached is likely related to a lack of clarity on the Canada-U.S. relationship following Trump’s election. With the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) slated for an aggressive renegotiation by the new U.S. administration, the Liberals will want to avoid outright statements against Trump, at least or the time being.
Hussen, meanwhile, gently summed up the opposite attitudes the governments north and south of the border have towards immigration in a recent CBC Radio interview.
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« As more and more countries are taking a different approach, of closing their borders, or not being open to new people or ideas, we’ve chosen the opposite approach, which is being open to ideas, being open to people, being open to talent, being open to skills and investments and we’ll continue to have that tradition, » he said.
Trudeau’s tweet in the wake of the ban garnered a positive response worldwide. It read: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”
Hussen, reacting to the tweet, said: « I think the prime minister expressed the clear sentiments of Canadians. It was an expression of our progressive tradition of being an open country, a welcoming country.
« We spread that message throughout the world, not just to one country. We have programs in place to attract and retain skilled immigrants and international students and we will work harder to do that. We will also continue to remain committed to being an open country to those seeking protection. »
Canada plans to welcome 300,000 immigrants in 2017, establishing a new benchmark level as a platform for increasing the numbers in the coming years.
The target includes 40,000 refugees and protected people, lower than 2016 because of a shift towards greater numbers of economic migrants.
Canada’s 2017 Immigration Plan
|Provincial Nominee Programs||49,000||54,000||51,000|
|Quebec Skilled Workers and Business||28,000||31,200||29,300|
|Family||Spouses, Partners and Children||62,000||66,000||64,000|
|Parents and Grandparents||18,000||20,000||20,000|
|Refugees and Protected Persons||Protected Persons in Canada and Dependants Abroad||13,000||16,000||15,000|
|Blended Visa Office-Referred||1,000||3,000||1,500|
|Protected Persons and Refugees Total||33,000||46,000||40,000|
|Humanitarian and Other||Humanitarian and Other||2,900||4,500||3,500|
Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Several analysts see Canada benefitting from Trump’s anti-immigration stance in terms of bringing in high-skilled talent.
Even if the executive order is never reinstated, the new administration has sent a clear message about how immigrants are going to be treated over the next four years.
Canadian technology executives say foreign talent is now far more likely to look to Canada over the U.S., with some saying they are already fielding calls from individuals looking to move north.
The belief is that some of the major U.S. technology firms could look to expand their Canadian operations.
Microsoft already has a significant presence in Vancouver.
Google has amassed a total Canadian staff of 900, up from 40 in 2006, the majority comprising of engineers.
Amazon is also always growing its Canadian software development wing, with 500 staff in Vancouver and 400 in Toronto, not to mention a recently-opened Ottawa office.
And as recently as October, Thomson Reuters revealed its plan to create 400 high-skilled positions in Toronto with a new downtown technology centre.
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