Ottawa’s 2021‒2023 Immigration Levels Plan unveiled late last year highlighted immigration’s importance to economic recovery in Canada in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Immigration is essential to getting us through the pandemic, but also to our short-term economic recovery and our long-term economic growth,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.
“Canadians have seen how newcomers are playing an outsized role in our hospitals and care homes, and helping us to keep food on the table. As we look to recovery, newcomers create jobs not just by giving our businesses the skills they need to thrive, but also by starting businesses themselves.”
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Late last year, Canada identified immigration as crucially important in helping the country rebuild its economy after the financial blow of the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the world.
Although Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has continued to accept and process applications during the pandemic, border closures and changes to the way offices operated with the public health restrictions led to a massive drop in immigration last year.
Ottawa is hoping to make up for that shortfall and has set ambitious immigration targets for this year and the next two.
Its 2021‒2023 Immigration Levels Plan has set immigration targets of about one per cent of the Canadian population for each of those years. That’s 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023.
The federal government’s previous plan set targets of 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022.
With the slowdown in processing times and border restrictions, Canada’s ability to hit those targets has been called into question.
Andrew Agopsowicz, a senior economist at the Royal Bank of Canada, wrote in an RBC Economic report Canada was more likely to only be able to attract 275,000 immigrants this year due to the ongoing travel restrictions.
But the IRCC has since responded to the challenge in bringing immigrants to Canada by creating new pathways to permanent residence for those already here. The new pathways, open to applications on May 6, will see 90,000 new temporary workers and international graduates become permanent residents.
And, earlier this year, Canadian immigration officials shocked experts throughout the country by issuing more than five times as many Invitations to Apply (ITAs) and accepting candidates with scores as low as 75, roughly five times lower than usual, through the Express Entry system.
Mendicino has said Canada’s new immigration plan will help employers by addressing labour shortages and also grow the country’s population and make it more competitive internationally.
In Canada, fully a third of all businesses that have employees are owned by immigrants and a quarter of all healthcare sector employees are immigrants, making them vital to the country’s economic well-being.
In addition to increasing Canada’s immigration targets, the new plan also aims to have:
- about 60 per cent of admissions from economic immigration programs;
- innovative and community-driven approaches to deal with labour and demographic needs across the country;
- digital transformation of Canada’s immigration system to support operations and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on application processing times;
- more French-speaking candidates under Express Entry to promote the growth of francophone communities outside of Quebec;
- a commitment to admit up to 500 refugees over the next two years through the Economic Mobility Pathways Project, and;
- a pathway to permanent residency for eligible asylum claimants who were working as frontline healthcare workers during the first wave of the pandemic last year.