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Will immigration help Canada recover from the pandemic?

February 27, 2021

Canada is well poised to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic by relying more on new immigrants to help alleviate the labour shortage, according to the immigration minister.

“We believe that immigration generates growth, that it creates jobs and our entire plan is focused on trying to accelerate our economic recovery coming out of the pandemic because we’re operating in a very complex environment right now,” says Marco Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

“There is a real thirst for immigration [and] a desire to look at new innovative pathways to attract hard-working newcomers who want to lend their efforts to the cause of building this country.”

Mendicino was speaking in a recent webinar, put on by Envoy Global, an immigration services provider based in Chicago.

“We have a three-year plan that breaks down by percentage: 60 per cent focused on economic class immigration; a little bit more than 25 per cent that’s focused on family reunification, some of which are sponsored by our economic class immigrants; and then we’ve got the remaining percentage which is dedicated to resettling refugees,” says Mendicino.

In contrast to what the U.S. had been doing during the Trump administration, Canada is much more open to bringing in more people, says Dick Burke, president and CEO of Envoy, who acted as moderator.

The federal government’s plans are “audacious,” says Burke, in contrast to “the prior [Trump] administration who said: ‘COVID is proof that we’ve got to clamp down on immigration because too many people are unemployed; we need to preserve those jobs for Americans.’”

But Canada will continue to open its doors and welcome newcomers, says Mendicino.

“In 2021 we hope to land 401,000 new immigrants; next year it’ll be 411,000; and then in 2023, it’ll be 421,000. Over the course of the next three years, we hope to welcome 1.2 new million Canadians, all of whom we expect are going to contribute to our economic recovery in some of the most vital sectors of our economy whether it’s health care, building and infrastructure and in the tech sector as well.”

Immigration boosts economy

Statistics bear out the federal government’s contention that immigration is good for the economy, says Mendicino.

“One in three businesses is owned by an immigrant and those business owners are in turn employing hundreds of thousands of Canadians from coast-to-coast-to coast. In addition to that, there are vacancies within our domestic workforce that we need to draw in talent to fill.”

As an example, the Atlantic Immigration Pilot is a success story in importing workers because it worked with local businesses that are desperately looking to fill open positions, he says.

“We’ve got an aging demographic [in Atlantic Canada] and so we’ve partnered with local businesses and chambers as well as the provincial, regional governments; they have given us some of that granular data about what their needs are in their local communities and we have allowed them to sponsor newcomers who possess the skills so that when they get here, they hit the ground running.”

“As a result of that faster integration, you’ve got the newcomer who’s thriving in their job; you’ve got the employer that is sponsoring career development; and most importantly for the demographic purposes, they are encouraged to stay in that part of the country,” says Mendicino.

The new initiative to move much of the immigration processing to digital has also been a great success, even during the pandemic, he says, as Canada has added 50,000 new citizens by moving citizenship ceremonies online.

“That’s not only because of digital transformation, it’s also because the pandemic has really taught us at breakneck speed how to learn some of these lessons and incorporate them,” he says.

The Treasury Board recently announced some new initiatives that would boost diversity in the public service, but discrimination stubbornly remains a part of the modern workplace, found a survey.

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