Sean Fraser, Canada’s immigration minister, announced the launch of a new initiative, “An Immigration System for Canada’s Future”, which will gather feedback to inform the country’s future migration policies.
Post-secondary institutions and academia are on the list of those involved in the consultation, as well as businesses and settlement organisations.
The review aims to explore how immigration policies can support Canada’s future economy and create “the best experience for newcomers”.
“Immigration is critical to Canada’s long-term success, and we need to ensure our policies and programs are aligned with the needs of our communities,” Fraser said.
“That’s why the government of Canada is launching this large-scale engagement initiative, which will provide an opportunity for a wide range of stakeholders and Canadians to share their ideas and perspectives on how we can build a stronger, more adaptive immigration system for Canada’s future.”
IRCC predicts that immigrants will soon represent 100% of the growth of the country’s labour force and that they could make up half of Canada’s total population within the next decade. The country accepted a record 437,000 new permanent residents in 2022.
When asked which policy areas the discussions will focus on, a spokesperson from IRCC said the initiative will touch upon “a full range of policies, programs and pathways”.
Will Tao, Canadian immigration lawyer at Heron Law, predicted that when it comes to policy related to international education, the consultations are likely to include conversations around international student wellbeing.
“The politicians are now very invested and they have large populations of international students”
“We are seeing, I would say, an unprecedented level of interest in the welfare of international students,” said Tao, pointing to recent reports by media including CBC’s Fifth Estate as drivers of this.
“The politicians are now very invested and they have large populations of international students and families living in their constituencies and they’re starting to speak out and voice their concerns too”.
Shamira Madhany, managing director for World Education Services in Canada, said the country needs “frameworks and tools in place to continue to attract international students while addressing very real challenges present for these students”.
WES will recommend that the consultations explore ethical recruitment and transparency in provision of upfront information and ongoing support to international students, among other topics.
Tao predicts that the processing of applications from francophone Africa will also be part of the discussions, along with pathways to permanent residency.
He pointed to conversations within the sector about the need to change the application process to tackle high application refusal rates, after IRCC refusal rates for study permits peaked at 49% in 2020.
“I do see Canada looking very carefully at what Australia is doing, and I think there is an interest in higher approval rates, fewer applicants,” he said.
“It’s still a little bit early to tell, but I know there’s many advocates for a weighted system or one that has different category subcategories of international students so we aren’t leaving the humanitarian students at the door.”
An IRCC spokesperson told The PIE News that the body is approaching the review “with open minds and a genuine desire to hear what our partners and stakeholders, experts, clients and the public have to say about the immigration system of the future”.
The government will hold engagement events throughout spring including in-person “dialogue sessions”, workshops and a public survey. Fraser held the first of these events in Halifax on 23 February.
The government will also launch an online public survey in March 2023, with the consultation period set to conclude in April 2023.
Tao called on the government to ensure the roundtables are inclusive of people affected by immigration policies, rather than only organisations and business leaders.
Canada follows Australia in inviting public feedback into immigration policies. Australia’s Home Affairs department is currently conducting a review of the country’s migration system.
Given recent policy announcements related to Turkey and Iran, Tao said he is “curious” as to how much this consultation process will input on future change compared to how far it will be used to disseminate information about new policies already planned.