Immigration levels to be maintained
Faster Visas; In-demand skills will speed process for applicants
Tiffany Crawford, Canwest News Service
Published: Saturday, November 29, 2008
Despite uncertain economic times, Ottawa announced plans yesterday for Canada to take in up to 265,000 new permanent residents in 2009 and to speed up the processing of applications for potential new Canadians in dozens of high-demand occupations.
At a news conference in Toronto, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said while countries such as Australia, Germany and England are cutting back on the number of people they allow to immigrate, Canada will maintain its immigration levels.
Under the plan, people wishing to move to Canada who work in 38 highly skilled job fields, such as health, finance and the oil industry, will go to the front of the line. That means skilled immigrants could have their visas processed in six to 12 months instead of having to wait five to six years.
"Nurses for instance, are needed whether you are in Nunavut or Vancouver or Toronto," said Mr. Kenney, adding that Canada is one of the few G7 countries that still has labour shortages, despite the economic downturn.
"Having said that, we will have to monitor the economy as it develops and, of course, we reserve the right to modify our policy if need be."
However, critics argue that when the government consulted with the provinces and with labour representatives, it did not take into account how deeply the global economy would fall.
Sergio Karas, chairman of the citizenship and immigration section of the Ontario Bar Association, believes the list of skilled workers gives potential new Canadians the impression there are jobs when those jobs could soon disappear, a problem he says that will "create chaos."
"We are going to be granting residency like lollipops and we're going to encourage them to come to Canada because they are on the list and we do not know, given the economic situation. We're giving them the impression that there are jobs to be had," he said.
While some occupations on the list, such as doctors and nurses, do not relate to the economic crisis, Mr. Karas said most are technical jobs that may be affected by the downturn. And he cited positions in Alberta's oilsands as an example. He suggests the government speed up the admission of temporary workers rather than hand out permanent residencies.
But Mr. Kenney said a backlog in foreign applicants has grown to 900,000 cases, up from 50,000 in 1993. He said of those, 600,000 people waiting in the queue are in the skilled-worker category.
"This is unacceptable and we need to take action," said Mr. Kenney.
The Minister said the government also will accelerate the immigration process for people who have an offer of employment or have already been living legally in Canada for one year as a temporary foreign worker or international student.
Mr. Kenney said the list of 38 occupations was developed after consultations with the provinces and territories, business and labour.
The Liberals have criticized the immigration reforms, arguing everyone should be treated on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Immigration Department said it expects 156,600 immigrants in the economic category; 71,000 in the family category; and 37,400 in the humanitarian category.
The Immigration Department also has expanded its Web site -- www.cic.gc.ca -- in an effort to make it easier for people to navigate the range of immigration options open to them.