Liberals to bring record 305,000 newcomers to Canada

Immigration plan shift to focus on refugee resettlement and family reunification

Canada’s new Liberal government is opening its doors to immigrants wider than ever before.

Immigration Minister John McCallum said that 280,000 to 305,000 permanent residents will be allowed into Canada this year.

Although the total increase is only 21,000 newcomers, the significance of this move lies in the breakdown, with more emphasis on family reunification and refugees.

“It outlines a significant shift in immigration policy towards reuniting more families, building our economy and upholding Canada’s humanitarian traditions to resettle refugees and offer protection to those in need,” McCallum said.

3 groups that can’t really look forward to new immigration plan

1. Economic Immigrants
The government plans to welcome a high target mark of 162,400 economic immigrants which is down from 181,000 in 2015.

“At a time when our Canadian economy is weak, why wouldn’t we actually take advantage of the economic immigrant stream to look for opportunities … to generate jobs in our communities,” NDP Immigration critic Jenny Kwan said.

According to McCallum however, that figure is in line with actual admissions at 154,544 in recent years even if the target itself is lower.

2. International Students
International students were hit hard by the new system under the Conservatives in 2015. McCallum said the immigration department is planning to review Express Entry which may make it easier for international students to become permanent residents.

“My suspicion is that retooling of the legislation will make it easier for visa students to remain as permanent residents, but there is nothing specifically in this announcement, for example in the form of a new program or relaxed regulations that would do that,” said Joel Sandaluk, immigration lawyer.

3. Parents and Grandparents
The government’s family reunification target change is only limited to spouses, partners, and children. While they have doubled the cap for applications to 10,000 for parents and grandparents, the number of admitted spots remains at 20,000, which is unchanged from 2015.

“This leaves loved ones waiting more than 10 years overseas to be reunited to continue to wait. It doesn’t make sense,” Kwan said. “Within the first three days the 10,000 cap was already exceeded.”

According to McCallum, the government’s goal is to bring in immigrants who wish to build a better Canada.

The Liberals brought 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by February, but they’re not done yet. The government is planning to settle 55,800 refugees this year, and the majority of them will be Syrian. Plans include 18,000 privately sponsored refugees through 2016, a number that’s three times more than in previous years.

Canada is also looking to accept 80,000 newcomers through the family reunification program this year, up from a target of 68,000 for 2015.

“One thing a lot of people forget is that we’re in competition for the best immigrants around the world with other developed countries,” immigration lawyer Joel Sandaluk said. “The ability to bring family members to Canada is an important distinction between us and many others. We’re only going to get the top immigrants if we have the best life to offer.”

More resources and a budget of $25 million will be devoted to decreasing processing times for many immigration programs as the immigration department works through the backlog of applications.

“The processing time is extremely long, for parents and grandparents for example,” NDP Immigration critic Jenny Kwan said. “I know of cases where individuals have made the application and sadly their parents have passed away waiting for the application to be processed.”

According to Sandaluk, the government wants to apply the lessons that they learned from processing the refugees to expediting the process for members of the family class.

The Department of Immigration’s planned spending for 2016–17 is $1.6 billion.

“Indeed, it is the highest number of projected immigrant admissions put forth by the Government of Canada in modern times,” McCallum said.