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(May 02, 2008) A bill to create the Budget Implementation Act, 2008, currently in the House of Commons, contains provisions that are primarily aimed at reducing the backlog of almost one million applications for permanent residence that have been filed with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and speeding up the processing of workers skilled in occupations in demand. Canada already accepts a much higher percentage of skilled workers than the United States. In 2006, approximately 105,000 out of the total of approximately 250,000 new permanent residents were admitted to the country under this category. (CIC, Facts and Figures 2006, available at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/statistics/facts2006/overview/01.asp (last visited Apr. 17, 2008).) The family class, by contrast, accounted for only about 70,000 new immigrants.
Canada uses a points system in processing applications of skilled workers seeking immigrant visas. Prior to 2002, before he or she would qualify in the economic class an applicant usually needed a job offer for a position that no Canadian was willing and able to fill. However, Canada changed its policies to deemphasize this requirement, based upon studies that showed that persons with certain types of skills were most likely to become successfully settled in Canada regardless of whether they had arranged employment or not. The government has generally been pleased with the results, but recognizes that the change has created two problems. The first is that some skilled workers have not been able to find employment in their field of training and have ended up being underemployed in unskilled occupations. The second problem is that, by making more persons eligible, the new system has lead to the creation of a large backlog of applicants.
In its budget bill, the government proposes to give the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration authority to fast-track applications from workers who have certain skills that are in demand rather than having to process applications in the order they are received. CIC would also no longer be required to process all new skilled-worker applications. (CIC, About the Proposed Amendments to the Immigration System, available at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/laws-policy/irpa-more.asp (last visited Apr. 17, 2008).) The types of workers that could be fast-tracked and those whose applications would not have to be fully processed would be established in instructions issued by the Minister and published in the official CANADA GAZETTE.
The government's proposals have been severely criticized inside and outside of the House of Commons. Immigrant groups fear that family reunification will become even more difficult and time-consuming and that the changes will be used to "shut out immigrants of certain ethnic or religious backgrounds." The two largest opposition parties, the Liberals and the New Democrats, have charged the government with having an anti-immigrant agenda and seeking a "back-door way" to reducing immigration. (Canada: Harper Sets Immigration Bill Straight, NATIONAL POST (Toronto), Apr. 9, 2008, Open Source Center No. LAP20080410483002.) The government has denied these charges and has pointed out that record numbers of immigrants have entered the country over the past couple of years.
The opposition parties would like to separate the immigration reforms from the Budget Implementation Act, 2008 (Bill C-50, ss. 116-120, 39th Parl. 2d Sess.). However, the government has announced that it will oppose this measure. (Bruce Campion-Smith, Immigration Proposals to Stand; Amendments Won't Be Considered, Minister Says: Dion Declares Liberals Won't Support Bill 'As It Is,' TORONTO STAR, Apr. 17, 2008, at A20.) This is significant because the Conservative government is a minority government that would be forced to call an election if its budget bill were defeated. If the immigration proposals were separated from the bill and defeated, the government would not be required to call an election. It therefore appears that the Prime Minister is either prepared to fight an election on the issue or is counting on one of the opposition parties deciding to side with the government to avoid an election at this time.
- Author: Stephen Clarke More by this author
- Topic: Immigration More on this topic
- Jurisdiction: Canada More about this jurisdiction
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Last updated: 05/02/2008