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Canada must align immigration with labour needs, says strategic review

Click to play video: 'Canadian government details ‘improved’ immigration system in response to public demand'
Canadian government details ‘improved’ immigration system in response to public demand
WATCH: Canada’s immigration strategy in the coming years will focus on aligning immigration policy with the country’s labour market needs, immigration minister Marc Miller said on Tuesday as he unveiled the strategic immigration review report in Ottawa – Oct 31, 2023

Canada’s immigration strategy in the coming years will focus on aligning immigration policy with the country’s labour market needs, immigration minister Marc Miller said on Tuesday as he unveiled the strategic immigration review report in Ottawa.

The strategic review, which lays out a roadmap for Canada’s immigration strategy, said Canada needed to attract global talent across fields to fill its labour shortage. It outlined a need to “create the new role of a Chief International Talent Officer (CITO) to align Canada’s immigration policies with a long-term skills and labour strategy.”

The CITO will be responsible for assessing what skills Canada will need in the future and ensuring that immigration strategy aligns with those needs.

It said that Canada must focus on bringing “workers to Canada who can help alleviate social pressures in key areas like housing and health care, using dedicated Category-Based Selection draws in Express Entry.”

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Housing, healthcare and infrastructure planning policy must also be integrated with planning Canada’s immigration targets, the reports said.

Amid calls to cap the number of international students in Canada during a housing crisis, Miller said immigrants should not be blamed for rising housing costs. He said the housing crisis, which he said has been brewing for decades, has laid bare the need to welcome more people who can work in the construction industry.

“We’ll continue to prioritize trades and skilled workers in construction. I’m looking at a number of options within my department to make that stream more attractive to the foreign workers, including credentials having support from unions and employers to make sure that those construction jobs that are needed,” he told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday.

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The report also calls for building an advisory body made up of newcomers with experience in immigration , along with other important services, into Canada’s immigration levels planning, in close collaboration with provinces, territories and municipalities.

Last week, Miller announced several reforms to the international student program, to prevent cases of fraud. Among other things, he announced the setting up of a new, enhanced verification system for letters of acceptance and a recognized institutions framework. The strategic review goes further, saying Canada must focus on bringing in international students with “high-demand skills”.

The report also says the government must improve its foreign credentials recognition system, so that immigrants with significant work experience have their work experience and foreign credentials recognized in Canada.

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In June, then immigration minister Sean Fraser had announced a tech talent strategy, which included a digital nomad strategy and open work permits for U.S. H1B visa holders.

The strategic review also underlines the need to reduce wait times and improve service standards, as well as improving the IRCC website so that information can be easily accessed by applicants. It also says Canada must expedite visitor visas, with benefits for tourism, conferences and events.

Miller also warned against being “addicted” to the temporary foreign workers program. He said, “We don’t want to continue to be too addicted on temporary foreign work to make sure there is a pathway to permanent residence for those people that come here and help build the country.”

Click to play video: 'Capping international students would be like ‘surgery with a hammer:’ Immigration minister'
Capping international students would be like ‘surgery with a hammer:’ Immigration minister

Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), told Global News that the strategic review plan doesn’t go far enough to protect the most vulnerable migrants in Canada. “Migrants want to know when a regularization program will be created for undocumented people, and when and how working class people in essential jobs will be able to come here with equal rights and permanent residency and not as exploitable temporary foreign workers or international students,” he said.

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The strategic review comes at a time when Canada aims to welcome 451,000 new immigrants in 2024, which is a historic high. By 2025, the number is expected to rise to 500,000 new immigrants in one year.

Despite the federal government’s position that immigration is crucial to filling Canada’s labour shortage, there appears to be dwindling support among Canadians for more immigration.

A growing number of Canadians appear to feel immigration to Canada should be limited, spurred by worry about the cost-of-living crisis, according to a new survey from the Environics Institute and echoing polling done for Global News earlier in the month by Ipsos.

The Environics survey suggests that 44 per cent of Canadians agree with the statement that “overall, there’s too much immigration to Canada” compared with 51 per cent who disagree. This view of immigration is a significant shift from the results last year, where the same question had a record high of 69 per cent of people disagreeing with the statement and only 27 per cent saying there’s too much immigration.

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