Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino speaks at a news conference in Montreal, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino speaks at a news conference in Montreal, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Canada seeks to increase immigration over next three years even as pandemic rages on

About 60 per cent will be economic immigrants

Canada is seeking to admit upwards of 1.2 million new permanent residents in the next three years, a target the federal government says is crucial to the post-pandemic economic recovery.

But how realistic those numbers are in the face of closed borders, restrictions on international travel and a sharp economic downtown, remain to be seen.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino insisted Friday he was optimistic.

“Immigrants are putting food on the tables of Canadians. They’re taking care of our seniors, and they are driving the economy of tomorrow,” he said outside a downtown Ottawa restaurant whose owner immigrated to Canada several years ago.

“At no time in recent history has that been more important than in the context of this pandemic. And so what this plan does is it lays out a future vision for growth, economic recovery through immigration.”

While the local restaurant may be a success story, it sits at the corner of a downtown Ottawa intersection where it is clear the pandemic has taken a toll on the economy: coffee shops, shawarma joints, boutiques and other stores and services catering to downtown workers have all closed their doors.

A study by Statistics Canada released in August showed that in the early months of the pandemic, recent immigrants to Canada were more likely than Canadian-born workers to lose their jobs, mainly because they had held them for less time and, as a whole, are overrepresented in lower-wage employment. That includes in service-sector jobs.

Mendicino said Friday the economy can and will absorb more newcomers because they create jobs.

Some observers also suggested the planned arrivals aren’t enough to meet anticipated demand in certain sectors.

The government is aiming for 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, 411,000 in 2022 and 421,000 in 2023. About 60 per cent will be economic immigrants.

There needs to be a realignment of how the government selects immigrants for the post-pandemic economy, said Dennis Darby, the president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, in a statement.

READ MORE: Canada is the most migrant friendly country in the world, according to Gallup

Removing barriers to how many temporary foreign workers can be admitted per facility, and making it easier for provinces to directly recruit, should be options, he said.

“Manufacturers are increasingly using immigration to supplement their workforce but there are not enough immigrants to meet the demand,” he said.

The shuttered stores of Ottawa’s downtown also reflect the fact that thousands of civil servants have largely transitioned to working from home, which has also affected the immigration system, with its reliance on paper application and in-person interviews.

That’s not just a problem in Ottawa but around the world, as the immigration offices in embassies and consulates have largely closed or curtailed services as well.

It’s led to a growing backlog in applications and doubts about whether even with the targets, the system has the capacity to sign off on new arrivals.

Mendicino said immigration has managed to continue through the pandemic, but more resources will be added to try to ease the crunch, and digital options continue to be applied.

The pandemic has driven down immigration to Canada by as much as 60 per cent in some categories. Though many billed the release of next year’s target numbers as an increase, it is not clear that will happen in reality.

When the government sets a target, it also lays out a range of planned admissions. The low end of the plan for 2021 is 300,000 and the high end is 410,000.

That lower-end target is actually below the low end of the number of immigrants, pre-pandemic, the Liberals had planned to admit in 2021, pointed out NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan.

“The Liberals demonstrate a lack of conviction in their targets and left the door wide open for immigration levels to decrease,” she said in a statement.

It’s also not clear how unused room is being carried over.

For example: the Liberals had planned to admit 49,000 refugees this year. Next year, according to Friday’s plan, they are aiming for 59,500.

While that looks like an increase of 10,000, the number of refugees who have actually arrived in the first eight months of this year was down nearly 60 per cent from 2019 arrivals.

So it’s possible that the 2021 figures merely incorporate the shortfall from this year, as opposed to being an overall increase. Mendicino wasn’t clear when asked about that issue Friday.

Either way, that Canada even continues to open its arms is welcome, said Rema Jamous Imseis, the UN refugee agency’s Canadian representative.

“In an era of travel restrictions and closed borders, refugees continue to be welcomed by Canadians,” she said in a statement.

“The significance of this lifeline and the deep generosity of Canadians cannot be overstated.”

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusImmigration

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Kyler Corriveau, of the Eckville area, was found dead on Sunday southeast of Red Deer. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contributed photo).
Young Red Deer homicide victim is remembered as a caring friend

Police are investigating Kyler Corriveau’s untimely death

Sylvan Lake Winter Village. File Photo
3 charged in connection to vandalism at Sylvan Lake Winter Village

Sylvan Lake RCMP were able to identify the suspects thanks to community assistance

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read