Canada on track for permanent resident targets
Updated Wed. Feb. 11 2009 6:43 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Canada's rising unemployment rate likely will not affect the government's goal to accept up to 265,000 permanent residents this year, according to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
"For 2009, we're planning on maintaining at an even level our intake of permanent resident immigrants," Kenney told CTV's Power Play Wednesday.
"Last year, we brought in 247,000 permanent residents," he added. "And we anticipate and hope that it will be in the same range. Having said that, obviously the economy is very dynamic, it's moving a lot, and this may have unperceivable consequences for the immigration program."
Immigrants searching for employment may have a more difficult time. The economy lost 129,000 jobs in January, most of them full-time positions, according to Statistics Canada. That's the biggest monthly decline in three decades.
It pushed the country's unemployment rate up slightly more than half a percentage point to 7.2 per cent.
Canada's manufacturing sector was the hardest hit, with a net drop of 101,000 jobs -- the largest monthly decline ever recorded.
But Ottawa still hopes to accept between 240,000 and 265,000 permanent residents this year. Of that number, up to 156,600 would be in the economic class, 71,000 in the family class and 27,200 in the protected persons class, which includes refugees. Another 10,200 would be accepted under humanitarian grounds.
Kenney said it's difficult to give a "precise prediction" for the end of the year, but did say he expects a reduction in the number of temporary foreign workers coming to Canada.
"Those are folks who tend to come here for one to two years on short-term contracts to fill jobs that employers have been unable to find Canadians for," he said. "That side of the immigration program we anticipate will see much less demand."
He also said his Department has made plans to cope with any influx of economic refugees, which can "gum up" the system as people who face actual violent persecution try to get into the country.
Canada has a precise definition of a refugee: it must be someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, political opinion, sexual orientation, nationality or membership in a particular social group.
"I do intend to look at ways that we can reform our so-called in-country refugee system," he said. "We want to make sure people don't come here and try to jump the queue. They have to wait to come in as legal economic immigrants."