This year, Canada’s Liberal Government has held several meetings across Canada to obtain opinions and advice on how to better the future of Canada’s immigration system. The government inherited a system filled with backlogged applications and realizes that it is time to implement a plan of action. The thoughts of settlement services organizations, businesses, and community groups alike are all being gathered for this purpose.
The Canadian public also had an input by submitting ideas by email to the immigration minister. More than 2,500 online submissions were received during the intake period which began in July and ended August 5th. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will now be reviewing the feedback from the public to help with such decisions as how many immigrants will be welcomed in the next few years.
Although the report on public submission will likely not be complete until the fall, a group of immigration experts were interviewed on the subject of Canadian immigration and suggested the following solutions to the current system.
Making citizenship meaningful and accessible again
93.3% of immigrants who arrived in Canada before 1971 obtained Canadian citizenship compared to only 36.7% of immigrants who arrived between 2006 and 2007. It is clear that Canada’s naturalization rate has been severely declining and steps must be taken to reverse the trend.
Targets should be set for naturalization in order to evaluate whether Canadian citizenship is both meaningful and accessible to immigrants. Citizenship requirements must also be reviewed regularly to guarantee that different classes of immigration including economic, family, and refugees, all have equal opportunity to naturalization.
In addition, reducing the application fee from the current CAD530 would make citizenship more accessible to those who cannot afford it. There must be a correct balance between price and significance of Canadian citizenship to be able to increase application numbers.
Faster processing for family reunification
Between the years 2005 and 2014, with 2013 being an exception, family reunification was less than 30% of total immigration. Suggestions indicate these numbers should be raised to 40% of total immigration, and that refugee family sponsorship should be given priority.
All immigrants should have access to healthcare, childcare, and affordable housing, regardless of their immigration status or the length of time they have been in the country.
There is currently too much focus on skilled workers and the educated when families have been waiting patiently to be reunited.
Allow workers to obtain permanent residence
Another suggestion was that temporary foreign workers, and other immigrants who lack full status, should be given the same rights of remaining in Canada and obtaining citizenship as permanent residents. If Canada requires the labor, they should make efforts to keep the people contributing to the economy in Canada.
In addition, it is unfair to offer expedited processing for those who are willing to pay an increased fee. Application processing speed should instead be based on need, for both Canada and the immigrant.
Immigration is the key to Canada’s population growth and up to 1% of its population could be from new immigrants each year. This would be economically beneficial to the country.
Canada would be able to exceed the 1% growth in immigrants, however, would need to better spread settlement of newcomers across Canada, and encourage settlement outside of the major cities. Information on new immigrants gathered to assess whether their credentials will be recognized, the employment market in their location of settlement, as well as support in their settlement process are all key elements for positive integration.
Canada must continue to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of its immigration system. Canada was the first country to introduce a points-based system assessing skill level in 1967. Canada was also the first and only country to receive the Nansen Refugee Award for its notable efforts in helping refugees.
“Canada’s success in immigration largely stems from our open minds and hearts towards immigrants, who end up reciprocating by making immense contributions to the country,” said the vice president and research associate of the Conference Board of Canada, Bloom and El-Assal. “Canada could export this approach to the rest of the world.”
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