With Zubair Patel, Senior Special Assistant to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
A consultation on Canada’s immigration policy was held on Wednesday, August 31st at the Jenner Jean-Marie Community Centre. The ninety minute meeting included opening remarks by Rob Oliphant, M.P., to provide context, followed by an overview of the immigration levels planning process by Zubair Patel, Special Assistant to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. The session concluded with comments and questions from constituents and stakeholders that were in attendance.
The sponsorship of parents was a popular category among the attendees for different reasons. Some stated that parental sponsorships should be a priority for humanitarian reasons, as many elderly parents need the support of their children in their everyday lives. Other comments were based on an economic argument, as parents play the role of caregivers for young families making it easier for young people to work. Additionally, it creates stronger families and adds to the comparative advantage of Canada as a choice for immigrants. Constituents expressed concerns over the super visa. It was stated that the length of the stay allowed per visit has decreased, and there was a demand for more transparency in the process that determines the length. Others requested that the Low Income Cut-Off requirements be reduced to allow low-income families to sponsor parents and grandparents, as having parents with them could actually increase the probability of them being able to move beyond low income status.
Multiple attendees stated that skilled workers should be a priority for Canada’s immigration planning. This category includes international students with a pathway to residency and citizenship, as well as other skilled workers who can help grow the Canadian economy and contribute to the innovation agenda. It was suggested that the skilled workers category should be broken down into sub-categories that would identify short-term and long-term needs of the Canadian labour market. It was proposed that, if there is an immediate need for a certain set of skills, the applications of individuals matching those skills should be expedited. Many attendees stated that international students contribute significantly to research and development and bring a significant amount of money to Canada, but face difficulties in applying for Permanent Residency. It was suggested that there should be a better pathway to Canadian residency than the Express Entry program. There was not a good understanding of provincial immigration programs or priorities in the Province of Ontario.
Some constituents proposed separate minimum wages for every National Occupational Classification category as many highly skilled people are working for the national minimum wage. Attendees understood that professional accreditation is almost exclusively a provincial matter, and felt that there needs to be more work done to ensure that credentials are assessed quickly and that options are available both for upgrading and for job experience in Canada. Constituents expressed a desire for the government to ensure that there is a need for certain skills sets before immigrants arrive. In this way, there could be a system to ensure that newcomers have the best possible chance to find employment and settle quickly in Canada.
There was stated demand for better programming through settlement agencies (including more language training) and more retraining and integration programs. These programs could provide more support to foreign trained professionals, who often have difficulty in finding a job in their own field. Overall, constituents understood the economic and social value of having some temporary foreign workers. Some participants expressed concerns about exploitation of these workers, but only two constituents stated that the Temporary Foreign Workers program should be eliminated due to a lack of jobs available. Other constituents proposed a pathway to Permanent Residency for foreign workers who bring ideas and innovation to Canada.
The issue of immigration fees was contentious among attendees. Some were in favour of fee increases if it would reduce processing times, however, more people were against fee increases than in favour of them. There were also calls to reduce processing times for refugee claimant legacy cases as the long wait times make it difficult for families to settle in Canada and qualify for many government grants.
Constituents generally favoured multi-year planning for immigration levels. It was stated that planning should be flexible to reflect changing circumstances, based on the needs, the short-term goals, and the long-term goals for Canada. While certain categories could and should use multi-year planning, yearly planning would be better for others.
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