Immigration to Canada hits record high in 2022

Some cheerleading along with critical comments on housing affordability and IRCC service delivery. Numbers more than twice as high given temporary residents (workers and students):

Canada took in a record number of immigrants last year, a result of a federal planto compensate for a lack of new arrivals in the first year of the pandemic, and to make up for the country’s aging population and holes in the work force.

The country added just over 437,000 new permanent residents in 2022, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This topped the department’s target for the year, as well as the previous high of 405,000, reached in 2021.

Immigration now accounts for three-quarters of Canada’s population growth. The federal government’s immigration plan calls for the admission of 1.45 million more new permanent residents over the next three years, which is equivalent to 3.8 per cent of the country’s population

The majority of the permanent residency spots have been set aside for economic immigrants, a term for newcomers who either have money to invest, or specific desirable skills, or can demonstrate that they are capable of opening businesses.

The federal government has said immigration is crucial for the economy, and that it accounts for as much as 90 per cent of labour force growth in Canada.

But critics of the plan have raised questions about the effects of higher immigration targets on the country’s already-unaffordable urban housing markets. And it is unclear whether Ottawa’s plan will help make up for shortages of labour in low-paid fields such as accommodation, food services, retail and health care assistance.

NDP immigration and housing critic Jenny Kwan said the federal government has missed an opportunity to give temporary foreign workers and undocumented workers permanent resident status. This would give them access to taxpayer-funded health care and allow them to live and work anywhere in Canada, indefinitely. (Temporary foreign workers are typically restricted to one employer and not allowed to switch jobs.)

“The government must stop relying on vulnerable workers and give them the protection of permanent status and ensure their rights are respected,” Ms. Kwan said in an e-mailed statement.

The flood of new permanent residents is expected to bring new homebuyers and renters to communities across the country. That could increase activity in the residential real estate market, which has slowed since early last year, when borrowing costs jumped with a rise in interest rates.

“There is little debate that strong population growth goes hand-in-hand with strong real home price gains over time,” said Douglas Porter, Bank of Montreal’s chief economist.

Mr. Porter analyzed the relationship between population growth and home prices in 18 developed countries. He found that countries with the fastest population growth during the decade leading up to 2020 – such as New Zealand and Canada – had greater home price inflation than those where populations remained stable or decreased.

But, considering the rise in borrowing costs, Mr. Porter said he believes that the influx of permanent residents will not immediately create a new pool of homebuyers. “Just as last year’s large population increase was unable to avert a double-digit drop in home prices, another large increase in 2023 won’t keep home prices from falling heavily again this year,” he said.

The typical home price across the country is down 10 per cent from February, 2022, when the market peaked.

Where Mr. Porter does expect the surge in newcomers to make a difference is in the rental market, where borrowing costs are less of a factor. Rents have already risen sharply over the past year, and he expects increased competition will push prices higher still.

The largest share of immigrants usually end up in major cities in Ontario, followed by cities in British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta. Last year was no different. Just over a quarter of new permanent residents intended to settle in the Toronto region, according to the most recent data from IRCC, which cover January, 2022, through October.

The government has said its immigration plan includes placing new permanent residents in small towns and rural communities.

In past years, people from southern and eastern Asia accounted for the largest share of immigrants to Canada. According to the IRCC data, this continued to be the case during the first 10 months of last year. During that period, nearly 110,000 new permanent residents were from India, nearly 30,000 were from China and about 20,000 were from the Philippines.

Canada also admitted nearly 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan in the first 10 months of last year, up from 8,570 in 2021. Ottawa has promised to bring at least 40,000 Afghans to Canada, under a pair of resettlement programs introduced around the time of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, 2021.

IRCC could have difficulty handling the large numbers of new permanent residency applicants. It has been dealing with a backlog of applications since 2021, when Ottawa bumped up its immigration targets.

Source: Immigration to Canada hits record high in 2022

Immigration Minister says his department has shifted focus to international student visas as many await last-minute approval

Yet the latest example of management weaknesses at IRCC as it appears to lurch from one program backlog to another. The risk is, of course, that the shift in resources to address student visas will adversely impact other programs, leading to future negative headlines:

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says his department has shifted its focus toward tackling backlogs in student visa applications, as many students who have been accepted to attend Canadian universities and colleges this semester wait nervously for their immigration approvals.

The minister made the comments Monday as part of the first news conference by the task force to improve government services. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the team of cabinet ministers in June when the federal government was facing heavy public criticism for failing to provide basic services, such as timely passport delivery or efficient traveller processing at Canadian airports.

Mr. Fraser said his department recently shifted its focus away from work permits to tackle the demand for student visas.

“We had been focusing over the course of the summer on processing as many work permits as possible to help address the labour shortage. We’ve made a pivot, and through the month of August, we expect that we’re going to process a little more than 104,000 additional study permits,” he said. “There has been an absolute explosion in demand when it comes to Canada’s International Student Program in recent years.”

The student visa delays recently prompted a complaint from the Indian High Commission in Ottawa. India is the largest source country for international postsecondary students.

In addition to Mr. Fraser’s update, Monday’s news conference included assurances from Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould that passport wait times had improved and an update from Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, who said delays and cancelled flights have been dramatically reduced.

Opposition MPs said the task force is little more than a public relations exercise. They also say some of the improvements in areas such as passports and travel delays can be attributed to the fact that the summer travel season is coming to an end.

As for the Immigration Minister’s comments about student visas, Conservative and NDP MPs said this is part of a continuing pattern of shifting focus from one crisis to another, which they say ultimately creates bigger problems for the system as a whole.

Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan said the students awaiting visas are expecting to start classes shortly.

“There are many students that are still left in limbo in this immigration backlog,” he said. As for the task force, he said many of the members are the same ministers who are ultimately responsible for the service issues.

“This task force really hasn’t shown or done anything yet,” he said.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan said Canada’s immigration system, including student visa applications, is in a state of chaos. She said operating in a constant state of “crisis management mode” is not sustainable.

Ms. Kwan said there should be independent reviews of the key departments to determine why services are failing.

“The task force was established as a political cover-up,” she said.

International students from outside Canada pay tuition that is often more than two or three times higher than those paid by domestic students.

Naman Gupta, a 22-year-old student in New Delhi, India, was planning to attend York University this fall to pursue a postgraduate certificate.

His study permit has not come through and he said unless something changes in a matter of days, he’ll defer coming to Canada until the start of the January term. However the $17,000 in tuition he paid won’t be returned in the meantime, he said.

“It’s going to be tough. All my plans are held up,” Mr. Gupta said. “I’m pretty stressed.”

He said he expected the visa processing would have been expedited to ensure that students could arrive in time for the start of their courses.

“I would’ve appreciated if they could apply more compassion to the situation,” Mr. Gupta said. “The response is slow.”

Pallavi Dang, who lives in New Delhi, applied for her study permit in March. She’s disappointed that more than five months later she still hasn’t heard whether she will be approved. Department guidelines said respondents can normally expect an answer in eight weeks, and that current average processing times are about 12 weeks.

She said she had made plans to hand over her business while she was away, but now she’ll need to change course.

“All that planning is on hold,” Ms. Dang said. “I’m not able to take another step.”

Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, an umbrella group that lobbies on behalf of nearly 100 Canadian universities, said Canada trails countries such as Britain and Australia in visa processing.

He said there has to be more federal government investment in IT capacity to speed up processing.

“I think that’s really the solution,” Mr. Davidson said. “There’s all-party support for international students, there’s a good policy climate, but it’s the operational reality that needs to improve.”

Source: Immigration Minister says his department has shifted focus to international student visas as many await last-minute approval

Immigration Canada acts to end racism, cultural bias among employees

Of note:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is conducting a study to explore potential cultural bias shown by its employees when it comes to processing visa applications at the country’s points of entry, according to a department spokesperson.

The study comes in response to a survey examining workplace racism at IRCC released last year that revealed multiple reports of racist “microagressions” by employees and supervisors.

Participants interviewed said that some of the overt and subtle racism they have witnessed by both employees and decision makers at IRCC “can and probably must impact case processing.”

The department has also made it mandatory for employees and executives to take unconscious bias training, and instituted a requirement for senior staff to take a specific course on inclusive hiring practices as a prerequisite for obtaining their delegated authority to sign financial and staffing decisions.

In addition, said spokesperson Jeffrey MacDonald, IRCC is appointing anti-racism representatives in each sector of the department to support the work of a newly-established Anti-Racism Task Force and has created a Black Employee Network to ensure Black voices are heard in driving change.

“We must actively fight racism and continue to work tirelessly to foster a culture of inclusion, diversity, and respect…but actions speak louder than words,” MacDonald told New Canadian Media through email.

MacDonald said IRCC will be hiring an independent firm to do an Employment System Review (ESR). The ESR will identify new solutions in core areas such as people management practices and accountability.

IRCC also plans to release its Anti-Racism Strategy and action plan later this year.

Source: Immigration Canada acts to end racism, cultural bias among employees