Canada’s immigration plan needs to keep economic focus

posted on March 4, 2016

By Reis Pagtakhan, CBC News |

The Canadian government will soon set out the types of immigrants the country wants to attract and how large that number will be.

By Reis Pagtakhan, CBC News |

The Canadian government will soon set out the types of immigrants the country wants to attract and how large that number will be.

Over the last 10 years, Canadian immigration policy has focused predominantly on bringing in economic immigrants. When the 2016 plan is released, Canadians will find out whether the Liberal government will continue the focus on economic immigrants or whether it will now focus on family immigrants and refugees.

So, why is the overall immigration plan important? This plan is about Canada’s future. Not only will tell us who will be our future neighbours, colleagues, classmates and citizens in 2016, it will also help shape Canada for the generations to come.

The recent announcements by the government that it will accept twice as many parent and grandparent immigration applications and as many as 50,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016 seem to indicate the new government’s focus is shifting to family immigrants and refugees.

However, until we know government’s commitment on the total number of economic immigrants, we cannot be sure.

In 2015, the Conservative government’s immigration plan called for Canada to accept between 260,000 and 285,000 immigrants. Of that number, approximately two-thirds were economic immigrants, a quarter were family-class immigrants and one-tenth were humanitarian immigrants — the majority of which are refugees and protected persons.

Maintain high economic immigrant numbers

Regardless of how many family-class immigrants and refugees are accepted, high levels of economic immigrants should be maintained. Economic immigrants are individuals chosen because they are skilled workers or business people. Skilled workers are selected on the basis of their age, level of education, work experience, and ability to communicate in English and/or French. Business immigrants are selected, by and large, for their business acumen and net worth.

The common characteristic of economic immigrants is that they are selected for their potential to contribute to the economy. These individuals are targeted to fill jobs or, in the case of business immigrants, to create jobs and economic opportunity through investment. If we want to use immigration policy to grow our economy, the focus should be on bringing in more economic immigrants.

Family-class immigrants and refugees, on the other hand, are not selected for their economic impact. While many family-class immigrants and refugees do contribute to the economy, family-class immigrants are selected on the basis of their relationship to someone in Canada. Refugees are selected because their countries either persecute them or do not protect them.

For these types if immigrants, age, work experience, language abilities and education levels are not relevant. The intention of these immigration categories is to reunite families or protect people from persecution.

While having a mix of different immigrants is positive, changing the focus from economic to non-economic immigrants would be a mistake for a number of reasons.

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