IssuesImmigration & Refugees

Immigration & Refugees

First Published: Oct 04, 2019
Last Updated: Oct 04, 2019
Monitored by: Naomi Shuman

Background

Canada has a long history of immigrants and their descendants contributing to building the country. Canada has a reputation as being multicultural and diverse, welcoming of immigrants and standing up for the most vulnerable. It has an immigration program based on non-discriminatory principles, where foreign nationals are assessed without regard to race, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, religion or gender. The immigration program in Canada is made up of economic immigrants, family reunification, and the protection of refugees and vulnerable persons. Jurisdiction over immigration is shared between the federal and the provincial and territorial governments under section 95 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Canada has an ageing population and a declining birth rate which means that immigration continues to play a role in growing Canada’s labour force. Every year Canada sets an annual target for immigration and selects individuals who best contribute to the country’s economic and social well-being. In 2017, Canada welcomed 286,000 permanent residents. Over half of these individuals were admitted under the Economic Class program. The permanent residents also included over 44,000 resettled refugees, protected persons and people admitted under humanitarian, compassionate and public policy considerations. In 2017-2018, international migration accounted for 80% of population growth. Immigration is important for Canada’s current and future prosperity.

Current Status

In 2017, the Government of Canada adopted a historic multi-year plan to grow our annual immigration levels to 340,00 by 2020 with 60 percent of the growth in the Economic Class. Economic Class programs are important because they help to sustain our labour force, support economic growth and spur innovation. Growing the number of immigrants also helps to address many chronic backlogs facing our immigration system including reuniting spouses and family members. The growth of the Provincial Nominee programs over the past 20 years, coupled with other programs has helped shift immigration landing patterns, beyond the largest cities.

The current Immigration Level Plans for 2019-2021:

Under the Canada-Quebec Accord, Quebec has full responsibility for the selection of immigrants destined to Quebec (except Family Class and in-Canada refugee claimants). Levels targets will be established following consultation with the Government of Quebec.

In June 2019, the federal government introduced a new pilot program aimed at attracting immigrants to rural and northern communities, 11 communities were selected across Canada. The goal of the program is to bring newcomers to regions with labour shortages. The program is designed based on the immigration pilot in Atlantic Canada which has had positive results for newcomers and Canadians.

Border Security

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Canada has designated the United States (U.S.) as a safe third county. The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S., signed in December 2002 and in effect since December 2004, is part of the U.S.-Canada Smart Border Action Plan. Under the Agreement, refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for an exception to the Agreement. Individuals qualifying for an exception must still meet all other immigration eligibility requirement criteria. Exceptions to the Agreement consider the family unity, the best interests of children and public interest. This Agreement helps both governments better manage access to the refugee system in each country for people crossing the Canada-U.S. land border.

In Budget 2019 implementation bill, the list of safe countries expands to also include the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

There is a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement, it only applies if individuals arrive at an official border checkpoint from a country that is considered safe. However, individuals can claim refugee status if they are already in Canada or not at Port of Entry, which is why many asylum-seekers have been crossing into Canada on foot at unofficial entry points.

Over 40,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in Canada since early 2017, through “irregular” border crossings. These individuals likely would have been turned back if they arrived at an official border checkpoint.

Budget 2019 announced a billion dollars of spending over five years to strengthen Canada’s border and speed up the processing of asylum-seekers, including the removal of failed applicants.

Liberal

Their current position is outlined above as enacted over their four years in government.

Conservatives

Will close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement and address the ongoing illegal border crossing crisis. Backlogs and delays that stretch across the entire immigration system are unacceptable and are a serious concern. They are costly to Canadian taxpayers and have a human cost on the individuals, both refugees and those seeking permanent residency. The increase in asylum claims from the United States continues to overwhelm the system and the government has failed to establish a mechanism to process claims in an efficient and timely manner. Those individuals entering through the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement skip the line that many individuals are waiting in to come to Canada through regular immigration mechanisms. The Canadian immigration system needs order restored, with fairness, compassion and integrity so that Canadians continue to have confidence in the system and Canada as a welcoming place for newcomers. Canada needs to set immigration levels consistent with the needs of the country. Will improve language training and improve credential recognition and skills that meet Canadian standards to work in their trades.

NDP

Suspend Safe Third Country Agreement to save lives. The U.S. is no longer a safe country for refugees and refugees continue to risk their life and limbs in order to come to Canada. Refugees currently in the U.S. can’t currently apply to legally enter Canada and cross safely into Canada. This is a problem that must be addressed by suspending the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Green Party

In the Green Party’s platform, it advocates for a review of Canada’s immigration policy to ensure that policies help migrants achieve their hopes and contribute to Canadian society. The platform includes a number of changes to the existing system. It will work with professional associations to create a robust system for evaluating education and training credentials against Canadian standards to expedite accreditation and opportunities for immigrants. It will eliminate the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and address labour shortages though increased immigration and paths to permanent residency for Canadians who qualify who currently are without official status. It will improve the pathway for international students and foreign workers to get permanent residency and citizenship. It will regulate the immigration consulting industry, allocate greater funding for training in official languages and collaborate with the municipalities and provinces to improve immigrant integration.

A Green government will terminate Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States and reintroduce legislation to establish a Civilian Complaints and Review Commission for the Canada Border Services Agency.

A Green government has recognized the need for a national discussion to define the term “environmental refugee,” once defined it will advocate for the inclusion of the term “environmental refugee” as a refugee category in Canada and Canada’s acceptance of the appropriate share of the world’s environmental refugees.

People's Party

Want to decrease the number of immigrants to Canada and ensure that all immigrants share our Canadian values.

Bloc Quebecois

No specific proposals yet.

October 4, 2019
Naomi Shuman

A Liberal government will introduce a Municipal Nominee Program that will allow local communities, chambers of commerce and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants. It will make the Atlantic Immigration Pilot permanent. Will make citizenship more affordable by making the application process free.

Will create a permanent, dedicated refugee stream for at-risk human rights advocate, journalists and humanitarian workers, with a target of resettling 250 a year.

September 18, 2019
Naomi Shuman

In the Green Party’s platform, it advocates for a review of Canada’s immigration policy to ensure that policies help migrants achieve their hopes and contribute to Canadian society. The platform includes a number of changes to the existing system. It will work with professional associations to create a robust system for evaluating education and training credentials against Canadian standards to expedite accreditation and opportunities for immigrants. It will eliminate the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and address labour shortages though increased immigration and paths to permanent residency for Canadians who qualify who currently are without official status. It will improve the pathway for international students and foreign workers to get permanent residency and citizenship. It will regulate the immigration consulting industry, allocate greater funding for training in official languages and collaborate with the municipalities and provinces to improve immigrant integration.

A Green government will terminate Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States and reintroduce legislation to establish a Civilian Complaints and Review Commission for the Canada Border Services Agency.

A Green government has recognized the need for a national discussion to define the term “environmental refugee,” once defined it will advocate for the inclusion of the term “environmental refugee” as a refugee category in Canada and Canada’s acceptance of the appropriate share of the world’s environmental refugees.

August 26, 2019
Naomi Shuman

Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality, Maryam Monsef, on behalf of Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, announced the Government of Canada is investing more than $8.4 million over the next eight years in three projects from S.U.C.C.E.S.S. (United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society) to support internationally trained newcomer Canadians to get their credentials recognized and young Canadians seeking to develop their skills to enter the Canadian workforce. The investment is being made through two Employment and Social Development programs: the foreign credential recognition programs and the Canada Service Corps.

August 14, 2019
Naomi Shuman

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen welcomed a new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which called Canada’s economic immigration system a world leader. Canada is successful at recruiting skilled labour, with smooth integration and high public acceptance of migrants. The Liberal government have brought in a number of new initiatives and program tweaks during their mandate. Hussen said there is the potential for improvement to the system, specifically in how it responds to existing and future challenges.

August 13, 2019
Naomi Shuman

Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced that the federal government will provide a one-time investment of $26.8 million for immigration and refugee legal aid for 2019-2020 ($25.7 million for Ontario, $1.16 million for British Columbia and $0.02 million for Manitoba). The increased funding will help ensure that the legal system can keep pace with the increase in asylum claims. It is especially important for Ontario where Doug Ford cut all provincial legal aid funding for refugee and immigration cases. This new funding is on top of $49.6 million over three years announced earlier, in this year’s federal budget for immigration and refugee legal aid.

August 13, 2019
Naomi Shuman

The Ontario government is continuing to call on the federal government to pay the bill for asylum seekers who crossed into Canada irregularly and are living in Ontario as their refugee claims make their way through the backlogged system. The federal government has made promises to provide provinces and municipalities with funding for the rising number of asylum seekers.

A new Abacus poll on national public opinion of issues facing Canada found that 50% of Canadians rated illegal immigration as a serious problem.

July 25, 2019
Naomi Shuman

The People’s Party will decrease immigration and refugee rates from 350,000 a year to between 100,000 and 150,000, depending on economic and other circumstances, while increasing the proportion of economic immigrants. The smaller number will allow resources to be redistributed, with funding increases to Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Immigration and Citizenship to conduct “thorough” background checks and face to face interviews to ensure the individuals align with Canadian values. It will limit the program that lets immigrants sponsor their families to join them, including abolishing the program for parents and grandparents and make “birth tourism” illegal. Canada would stop relying on the UN to select refugees and would instead give priority to religious minorities in majority-Muslim countries and “member of sexual minorities”. In addition, it will take action to make it more difficult for illegal refugees to enter Canada by building a fence along spots where a high number of asylum seekers walk across the border and would declare the entire Canada/U.S. border an official point of entry.

July 23, 2019
Naomi Shuman

The federal government announced a three-year Agri-Food Immigration Pilot, which will begin accepting applications in early 2020. A maximum of 2,750 applicants, plus family members are to be accepted yearly. This will hopefully address labour shortages in the agriculture sector, particularly in the meat processing and mushroom production. In addition, this program gives temporary foreign workers or migrant workers with 12 months of full-time experience in the agriculture sector a pathway to permanent residency in Canada.

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