Canada Immigration Reform: Jason Kenney Vows To Trim Backlog
OTTAWA - Major changes to the immigration system could include erasing a massive backlog of applications, the minister in charge said Wednesday.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said all options are on the table when it comes to modernizing the process of bringing in would-be immigrants.
"We must have transformational change to move to an immigration program that works for Canada and for newcomers," he said in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada.
He said the changes which will roll out over the course of 2012, will include one to give the provinces the ability to cherry-pick the immigrants they want.
He said Canada also has an eye on New Zealand, where a backlog of immigration applications was legislated away in 2003 and replaced by a pool of prospective applicants.
For now, a pilot program will allow provinces and territories to accept an additional 1,500 immigrants a year if they select them from an existing backlog of skilled worker applications.
"At this point we are looking at all options of dealing with these backlogs and coming up with a faster, more responsive system," Kenney told reporters after the speech.
A parliamentary committee report tabled Tuesday said there is currently a backlog of over a million applications, including as many as 460,000 in the skilled worker category.
Officials told the committee that without changes to the system that backlog won't be eliminated until 2017.
Kenney said the system as it stands is dysfunctional.
"We can’t continue to tell people that they’re going to wait for eight years for a decision on whether they can come to Canada," he said.
He said the government also needs to be more proactive when it comes to communicating with potential applicants about different routes into Canada.
But NDP Immigration critic Don Davies says while it's important to match immigrants with economic needs, there needs to be a more holistic approach to the issue.
"Immigration deals with people, it deals with families and human beings," Davies said.
"It's not just treating people like economic widgets in a machine that we can ruthlessly bring into our country."
And he said the idea of transferring more power to the provinces and in turn to employers, has risks.
"I don't think we want to be delegating the choice of who comes to the country to the private sector," he said.
Kenney said that wouldn't be the point of allowing more matching between jobs and immigrants.
"It's not about privatizing the immigration system, it's about a more active role of recruitment for people so they have jobs when they show up," he said.
"I'd rather have an engineer working as an engineer than a cab driver. That's really where we are trying to go with this."
Highlights Of The 2011 National Household Survey
Here are some highlights from the 2011 National Household Survey. With files from <em>The Canadian Press</em>. (AFP/Getty Images)
As of May 2011, 33,476,688 people were enumerated in Canada, nearly twice as many as in 1961 and 10 times the number in 1861. (Alamy)
Population Growth Speeds Up
Canada's population grew by 5.9 per cent between 2006 and 2011, up slightly from 5.4 per cent during the previous five years. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jtbradford/" target="_hplink">Flickr: jtbradford</a>)
For the first time, more people in Canada live west of Ontario (30.7 per cent) than in Quebec and Atlantic Canada combined (30.6 per cent). (Flickr: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/derekgavey/" target="_hplink">derekGavey</a>)
We're Number One
Canada's population growth between 2006 and 2011 was the highest among G8 countries. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33498942@N04/" target="_hplink">Flickr: WarmSleepy</a>)
Exceptions To The Rule
Every province and most territories saw their population increase between 2006 and 2011; the rate of growth increased everywhere except in Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. (AP)
The growth rate in Ontario declined to 5.7 per cent, its lowest level since the early 1980s. (Alamy)
Saskatchewan Out Of The Red
Population growth in Saskatchewan hit 6.7 per cent, compared with a negative growth rate of 1.1 per cent between 2001 and 2006; the province welcomed more than 28,000 immigrants during the latest census period, nearly three times the number of the previous five-year period. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/justaprairieboy/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Just a Prairie Boy</a>)
Yukon And Manitoba Take Off
The rate of growth in both Yukon (11.6 per cent) and Manitoba (5.2 per cent) has doubled since 2006. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/us_mission_canada/" target="_hplink">Flickr: US Mission Canada</a>)
The East Is Growing Too
The rate of growth in Prince Edward Island (3.2 per cent), New Brunswick (2.9 per cent) and Newfoundland and Labrador (1.8 per cent) has increased substantially between 2006 and 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jw1697/" target="_hplink">Flickr JaimeW</a>)
Nearly seven of every 10 Canadians lived in one of Canada's 33 main urban centres in 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/markwoodbury" target="_hplink">Flickr mark.woodbury</a>)
.. Except Not In Ontario..
The rate of population growth in almost all census metropolitan areas located in Ontario slowed between 2006 and 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/husseinabdallah/" target="_hplink">Flickr abdallahh</a>)
Maybe Because Everyone Moved To Alberta
Of the 15 Canadian communities with the highest rates of growth, 10 were located in Alberta. (AFP/Getty Images)