The Canadian immigration system is dealing with “changing realities and growing pressures” from both international (public health and humanitarian crises) and domestic (housing and labor shortages) sources, Immigration Minister Marc Miller has said.
The address was delivered during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration last week.
The first hour of this assembly was oriented towards Miller and two other Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officials briefing on the minister’s priorities and objectives for the department in question.
This included the need for newcomers to Canada to be provided with a clear path to contributing meaningfully to their communities and to be a “part of the solution to these challenges” – one of the focus areas for achieving which is to target the international student program.
Herein, Miller highlighted the need to ensure that the best students are maintained by being provided with immigration benefits throughout all regions of the country while meeting francophone immigration requirements. In terms of the temporary student cap suggestion, Miller said that setting a cap is not a good tool for the “type of surgery to be done.”
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The protection of the integrity of the international student program is paramount, as per the immigration minister, and it is vital that young foreign scholars are buffered from fraudulent immigration consultants.
Newcomers to Canada also need to be adequately housed and supported – especially those dealing with humanitarian crises. Miller stressed the immigration department’s recent push towards providing housing for asylum claimants amid a temporary surge in their numbers, along with aiming for them to enter the workforce quickly through simplified work permit access.
Other measures suggested for their applications’ simplification are to:
- Help them enter the workforce quickly through simplified access to work permits
- Process 80% of IRCC permanent residence applications within service standards to welcome newcomers and reunite families faster
While significant progress has been made in reducing processing times and increasing the day-to-day integrity of IRCC, further work appears requisite.
Caregivers Driven Out of Status Due to Changing Programs and Rules
MP Salma Zahid questioned Miller about overseas caregivers, more than 4300 of whom were welcomed in 2023 through PR pathways.
“Unfortunately, due to changing caregiver programs and rules, and due to no fault of their own, they have fallen out of status,” she said.
“Will you commit to a program of amnesty and regularization for these caregivers?”
Miller responded by saying that progress has been made toward that aim, with reduced work experience requirements from 24 to 12 months for these workers.
What Constitutes as “Immediate Family Members” for Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents with Family in Sudan?
MP Morrice said that IRCC has emplaced temporary immigration measures to support Canadians’ immediate family in Sudan.
However, this measure excludes parents, grandparents, and siblings of Canadians from the category of “immediate family.” He thus asked Miller for a re-evaluation of what is included within this definition.
The IRCC minister agreed that the definition “probably should be expanded” to include the broader categorization of immediate family that Morrice had highlighted earlier.
“Very open to your recommendations,” he further added.
Another question that was directed his way was pertaining to those Gazans who had filed for applications to come to Canada prior to the war, and whether their applications would be expedited and their extended family would also be accepted.
Miller said that “I have asked my team to be as flexible as it can to the concept of family members.”
“If people are worried about their loved ones in Gaza, they should know that the Canadian government is doing its utmost to expedite things.”
Miller also said that although it is difficult to accept 10,000 refugees in Canada due to implementational practicalities, the government is trying its utmost to meet its target numbers.
Immigrants Should Not be Blamed for the Housing Crisis
MP Jenny Kwan asserted that the housing crisis is a result of successive Liberal and Conservative governments’ failed attempts at establishing a successful housing plan, and not because of immigrants.
Miller agreed with her premise, and further added that thresholds and caps are important to gain a sense of planning; doing away with them is thus not an option. However, he believes Canada to be proposing reasonable caps.
Exploitation of International Students to be Checked
After a recent study established how certain international students are oftentimes exploited by fraudulent immigration consultants who provide them with false hope to come to Canada, officials from IRCC and Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) provided updates on a joint task force created for tackling this issue during the second half of Meeting No. 78 of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
Michele Kingsley, Assistant Deputy Minister of Economic, Family, and Social Migration at IRCC delivered her opening statement, in which she highlighted the fraudulent letters of acceptance received by some international students.
The task force thus worked to establish who the genuine targets of this fraud were.
309 cases were of interest, of which 103 were reviewed (prioritized on the basis of risk of removal from Canada). 63 of them were genuine students, while 40 were not. Additional information to support their case was asked for from the latter group.
Kingsley said that in June, CBSA laid charges on one man responsible for issuing fraudulent admissions letters.
The task force has been focusing on the integrity of the international student program, and has been seeking input to refine the framework.
“I would re-iterate that the impact of international students in our communities is significant and the task force continues its important work to ensure that genuine students impacted by fraud have the opportunity to continue their journey in Canada should they wish to do so,” she said.
Non-genuine students, on the other hand, are going to be investigated further by CBSA.