There was an online meeting of Canada’s immigration ministers on July 24, 2020. They discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the Canada immigration system.
The meeting was significant considering that the ministers realized the importance of immigration in supporting the country’s economic recovery after the COVID-19 crisis ends.
Each of the 10 provinces and 3 territories of Canada has entered a bilateral agreement with the federal government. The only exception is Nunavut. It enables them to conduct their own immigration programs to invite and bring in economic class immigrants.
Also, regular meetings are convened amongst the 2 levels of government to discuss the current issues in immigration Canada faces and make plans for the future. In the latest meeting, the ministers agreed to go ahead with a strong immigration system.
The collaboration of federal government and the provincial government on matters of immigration must be understood in this context.
Immigration is considered a shared jurisdiction between the federal and provincial entities. But the federal law prevails as per Section 95 of the Constitution Act, 1867. This has been so since the founding of Canada with its first 4 provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
Plans were discussed between the federal government and the provinces to attract more immigrants. This was in the early years after establishing the Confederation.
The first conference on immigration between federal and provincial governments took place in 1868. In the year that followed, the federal government passed the first ever Immigration Act of Canada in 1869. Today, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) is the main immigration law of Canada.
There was a decline in provincial involvement in immigration until the 1960s. The federal government managed immigration affairs. In 1960, when Quebec wanted more autonomy, there was a change in affairs. Quebec wanted to welcome more Francophone immigrants.
The remaining provinces and territories of Canada also wanted more autonomy over immigration in the 1990s. They wanted to attract those immigrants who met the specific needs of their labor market. Besides, there was also the concern of low birth rates and an ageing population.
It was this situation that led to the launch of Canada PNP (Provincial Nominee Program).
Since 2003, the immigration ministers have met every year. It’s been the longest period of time in the history of Canada that 2 levels of government have sat around a table formally to give shape to immigration policy.
These meetings will continue to happen in the years to come too. There’s a shared constitutional authority and interest of both levels of government to welcome more immigrants to Canada. It will drive these meetings ahead.
In the latest meeting, ministers discussed the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian immigration system. They also discussed regional economic immigration and planning of immigration levels. They considered the approval of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Strategic Plan for Immigration 2020-2023. This would create an outline for Canadian immigration over the period.
The current travel restrictions do affect the country’s ability to welcome new immigrants in the short term. But there is no change in the long-term drivers for increasing the immigration level. Also, in the light of low birth rate and an ageing population, immigration plays a key role in maintaining a positive growth in population. Immigration will also plug the gaps in the labor market.
In the meeting, the ministers also agreed to keep on collaborating in the development of a new Municipal Nominee Program. This is significant in the light of Canada’s struggles to drive newcomers into its smaller cities.
To achieve this, immigration programs like PNP are organised. PNP is tailored to meet the needs of specific regions in Canada. There are federal immigration pilots too that aim at filling the local and regional labor market gaps. Examples of these programs are:
- the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot
- the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program
The next meeting of immigration ministers will possibly be conducted in fall 2020. This would be close to the announcement of new immigration levels for the period 2021-2023.
From the immigrant’s perspective, these meetings are significant. In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, such meetings reaffirm the commitment of the government to welcome global talent from all over the world.
Even whenthe pandemic was on, both levels of the government have kept immigration programs going. They welcomed immigrants into the country. This was done through Express Entry draws and PNP draws in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. The draws under Quebec’s immigration system also contributed to the progress of the Canadian immigration system.
Undoubtedly, the hard work, timely plans, and well-designed immigration policies will drive Canada to more prosperity.
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