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Immigration key to refilling country’s talent pool: experts

April 21, 2022

For a country that depends on immigration for much of its population growth, it is logical for Canada to look to newcomers to reduce its labour shortage, B.C. experts say.

But while Canada has historically done better than others in integrating skilled workers into local economies and communities, there are still gaps that may derail Ottawa’s plan to lean on immigration as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

In 2020, the federal government announced plans to welcome more than 1.2 million immigrants to Canada between 2021 and 2023 – partially for “short-term economic recovery” as well as “long-term economic growth,” then-federal immigration minister Marco Mendicino said at the time.

Statistics Canada confirmed there were 405,750 immigrants last year, more than 4,000 above the original goals announced in 2020; B.C., meanwhile, took in 69,326 during that time – or 17 per cent of the national total. The previous annual high for newcomers to Canada was 400,900 in 1913.

But while the numbers are large, determining the benefits of this policy will rely on the details, and officials cannot overlook the human factors for the economic windfall, said Simon Fraser University (SFU) professor Peter Hall, an expert on the labour market, local economic development and logistics.
“I think the evidence is pretty clear in the demographic need for people in Canada, given the aging population and the lack of natural population increase,” Hall said. “But you wouldn’t want to become like some European countries where they’ve had cases where foreign workers were – in more extreme ways – not integrated into society.… Canada can’t afford to do something like that.”

According to a March 30 report released by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, which drew on data from a poll of 365 immigrant women about their experiences, almost 90 per cent of respondents said their job search was difficult. Almost half (48.2 per cent) took more than six months to find a job in the country’s largest urban centre and 57.5 per cent chose to get jobs in lower positions than they were qualified for because they did not have Canadian work experience.

To get a job, 43 per cent of respondents took unpaid work, 22 per cent shortened their names, 15 per cent altered their accents and 14 per cent changed appearances “to fit perceived employer expectations.”

The Toronto report echoes experiences in B.C. both urban and rural, said Olga Stachova, CEO of Vancouver-based Mosaic, a non-profit immigrant/refugee settlement services organization.

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