Immigration measures associated with the pandemic could remain

The federal immigration minister has said some of the temporary measures that have helped the government meet its goals this year may be here for good, even after the pandemic.

During this pandemic, as it became increasingly difficult to bring people to Canada from abroad, the government turned to people who were already in the country to meet its immigration goals.

Although some of the new permanent residents this year are immigrants and refugees who arrived in Canada through “traditional” means, Ottawa has also allowed temporary residents already in the country to obtain permanent residency.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said these measures were designed specifically to address issues related to the pandemic, but they could be useful once the pandemic has passed. .

He cited as an example the so-called “guardian angels” program, which granted permanent residence to asylum seekers working in the health sector – notably in CHSLDs in Quebec.

In his mandate letter, the Prime Minister asked Mr. Fraser to continue this approach. “During this pandemic, we have learned some things that we can adopt in the future,” said the minister.

Last month, the government granted permanent residence to a record 47,434 immigrants. On Thursday, Fraser announced that the government had surpassed its ambitious goal of 401,000 new permanent residents by 2021 – the highest number of newcomers in a year in Canadian history.

And this goal will increase in 2022: the Canadian government hopes to welcome 411,000 new permanent residents by the end of next year.

Labor shortages

While the arrival of new immigrants to Canada is a major pillar of the government’s plan to address the country’s labor shortage, Minister Fraser said another economic argument for retaining temporary residents is just as strong.

When temporary permits expire, employers must find new candidates to train, to fill the position that person has just left, he explained. “The people who are already here and who have become permanent residents are certainly preventing the problem from worsening. “

The results of programs that have an impact on employment have generally been positive, said Fraser, but the government has yet to study this before committing to any particular course.

The minister also said the government has not abandoned more traditional immigration flows, which he says will resume once the pandemic improves and restrictions are relaxed at international borders.

The famous deadlines

The other enduring legacy of the immigration pandemic is the massive backlog of 1.8 million applications awaiting processing. The government has drawn criticism from opposition parties for allowing this backlog to grow further. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s December economic update earmarked $ 85 million over the next fiscal year to address it.

Fraser called the funding a bridge to help officials process more requests faster, while the department finishes the job of digitizing its archaic system.

The current paper-based system means that if someone wants to check the status of their application, they have to call their MP, who calls the minister’s office, who calls an immigration official, who takes the file … from a filing cabinet .

Fraser is considering a system where candidate spouses could check their status directly online. “We are in the midst of the most significant modernization of Canada’s immigration system since its inception,” he said.

Work on digitizing the documents has already started, but it may take a few years for the system to become fully operational.

Still, Fraser expects the announced interim funding and increasing digitization of the system will allow Canada to maintain the high number of newcomers during the remainder of the pandemic.

“If the government is to continue growing from there, I predict that we will have the capacity to do much more than we are doing today, at an all-time high,” he said.

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