Canada’s immigration minister provides COVID-19 update

Helpful summary.

Striking that the government and Minister continue to maintain the current plan to accept some 400,000 immigrants this year, despite the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, unlikely to ease up quickly until most Canadians are vaccinated late summer or early fall.

Even if the government could meet this target level, highly questionable given that immigrants who arrive during downturns and recessions don’t do as well in the short-term, with some also not doing well in the longer term.

Citizenship, as always, remains a lessor priority for IRCC. While the government has tabled a bill to revise the citizenship oath, the new citizenship guide remains in limbo despite having been announced five years ago (and largely complete according to earlier press reports), and the 2019 commitment to eliminate the fees should have been relatively straightforward to implement quickly:

Canada’s Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino recently shared fresh insights on the state of the country’s immigration system on the Canadian television show, The Agenda.

In a 20-minute interview, Mendicino spoke on a broad range of immigration topics as he explained to viewers how the federal government aims to cope with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

Topics he discussed included:

  • Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023
  • Canadian citizenship
  • Municipal Nominee Program

Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023

Mendicino stated that the Canadian government had a choice to make following the outbreak of the pandemic. It could pause or reduce immigration. Instead, the country has chosen to welcome immigrants during and after the pandemic to support its prosperity. As such, Canada is aiming to welcome over 400,000 immigrants over the coming years which are the highest targets in its history. Mendicino said this is necessary since immigrants are key to job creation in Canada and also help fill vital labour market needs including in essential services.

When asked if he felt the new targets are realistic given COVID-19 travel restrictions and disruptions, the minister stated he thought they were since Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been innovating during the pandemic. In addition, the pandemic provides an opportunity for Canada to draw into its domestic population of temporary foreign workers and international students and facilitate their transition to permanent residence.

Canadian Citizenship

Discussing a new pilot program that is enabling eligible permanent residents to complete their Canadian citizenship application online, Mendicino said the process is going well and Canada is the only country to his knowledge offering online citizenship ceremonies.

Mendicino’s vision for the immigration system is for all processes to be virtual and contactless beyond the pandemic.

One of the priorities listed in Mendicino’s December 2019 mandate letter is to waive Canadian citizenship fees. Asked about the status of that pledge, Mendicino acknowledged he had hoped to make progress on this front by now. While he did not state this, the delay in fulfilling this promise is very likely a function of the pandemic. Mendicino said that he is enthusiastic about reducing barriers for newcomers and will have more to say on this issue in the future.

Municipal Nominee Program

Another one of the December 2019 mandate priorities is to launch a Municipal Nominee Program to further help encourage immigrants to settle in Canada’s smaller cities. Pointing to initiatives such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the minister said he believes the MNP will be another federal program that will allow newcomers to pursue fulfilling lives in smaller regions of Canada. IRCC is in the process of consulting with provincial, municipal, business, and other stakeholders on the design of the MNP.

One of the key takeaways of Mendicino’s interview is his assuredness that Canada’s current immigration targets are realistic. This strongly suggests IRCC has a plan in place to achieve the targets, which will likely be through a combination of tapping into the existing pool of immigration candidates with Canadian experience, continuing to select immigrants from abroad and processing their applications so they can arrive after the pandemic, as well as gradually reducing travel restrictions so that those with approvals will eventually be able to move to Canada.

Source: Canada’s immigration minister provides COVID-19 update

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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