El-Assal on backlogs etc

Good and sound testimony before CIMM, with reasonable recommendations to improve transparency, accountability and collaboration (the harder of the three):

Canada’s immigration backlog stands at over two million people. It has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic. The permanent residence inventory has grown from 400,000 people to 530,000 people. The temporary residence inventory has doubled to 1.2 million people, and the citizenship inventory has gone from 230,000 people to 400,000 people.

    The backlog is undermining Canada’s economic, social and humanitarian objectives. We have the lowest unemployment rate on record and over 800,000 job vacancies. The backlog hurts our economic recovery effort, since we can’t bring newcomers into Canada quickly enough to address our labour shortages. For instance, it’s now taking 31 months to process Quebec’s skilled worker applications and 28 months to process paper-based provincial nominee program applications, even though the service standard for both is 11 months.

    The backlog is keeping families apart. For example, although the service standard for spousal sponsorship is 12 months, it’s taking us 20 months on average to process outland applications.

    On the humanitarian side, Canada is making refugees and displaced persons live in discomfort for far longer than necessary, as we’re currently seeing with Afghans and Ukrainians. It is absolutely imperative that we get the immigration system back on track.

    Within the next decade, all nine million baby boomers will reach retirement age. We’re going to need more immigrants to grow our labour force, tax base and economy. However, other countries will win the race for talent if Canada continues to struggle to provide immigrants with certainty that we’ll process their applications quickly and fairly. This will be to the detriment of our economic and fiscal health.

    I’d like to provide three recommendations to the committee.

    First, we need more transparency. 

    The government should be mandated to provide monthly updates to the public on the state of immigration policy and operations. Immigration in Canada is far too important to be a black box. We should not have to rely on access to information requests, as has been the case during the pandemic, to remain informed about the immigration system. The monthly update should contain critical information, such as the government’s policy priorities and its backlog reduction plan, among other details that can help to restore the trust in our immigration system that was eroded during the pandemic. Providing monthly updates would also reflect well on the government. People are more understanding and forgiving when you’re honest with them.

    Second, we need more accountability. 

    An independent study should be commissioned to better understand the operations of the immigration system during the pandemic. Right now, we have many unanswered questions. What are the causes of this backlog? The pandemic alone can’t entirely explain the situation we’re in. For instance, express entry was designed to avoid backlogs, so why then do we have an express entry backlog? We need an evidence-based study that answers these sorts of questions and provides us with guidance to ensure such backlogs never happen again.

    Third, we need to work more collaboratively. 

    Major decisions have been made during the pandemic with little consultation, leading to avoidable consequences. We’re blessed to live in a country with many immigration experts from law, academia, think tanks, business and the settlement sector, among others. They are assets to our immigration system. 

    Hence, my final recommendation is that the government form a national advisory council on immigration. The council’s mandate would be to provide the government with technocratic advice to inform our country’s major immigration decisions. We’re a diverse nation with diverse immigration objectives; we need diverse views reflected in our immigration policy.

    To conclude, I want us to remember that among these two million people waiting in the backlog are future colleagues, friends, neighbours, voters, politicians, and business and civil society leaders. They are Canada’s future, and we must treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

Source: https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/CIMM/meeting-21/evidence

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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