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Looking Back, Looking Forward: The Year that was in Canadian Immigration

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With the holiday season and the New Year upon us, we have an opportunity to take a look back at the year that was and consider what we may expect in Canadian immigration in the year ahead.

A Year in Review

With 2006 now in the rear view mirror, it is a good chance to take stock of the changes we saw to Canadian immigration policy and practice. Overall we saw a lot of positives for those interested in coming to Canada and the proof is in the numbers. Canada received approximately 250 000 new permanent residents in 2006, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada has approved a new target of up to 265 000 for 2007. We have also seen increases in temporary workers and foreign students.

In particular however the dominant trend of 2006 was a shift towards tailoring immigration to the labour market needs of different provinces. One aspect of this is in expansions of the Provincial Nomination Program (PNP), which began in 2002. The program allows provinces to nominate individuals to immigrate who will contribute to the province’s economic development, allowing these immigrants to move to Canada more easily.

Complimenting this pre-existing program is the introduction earlier this year of regional Occupations Under Pressure lists. Employers seeking to hire foreign workers in the occupations specified for their program face reduced bureaucratic requirements, and the individuals’ applications are expedited. The program began in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, and has since expanded to Ontario.

The past year also saw some changes for immigrants who have already arrived in Canada. In Ontario, the Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act was recently passed, including measures to improve the recognition of foreign credentials, along with funding for retraining. International students have also seen welcome changes, in the form of work-permits that allow them to qualify for employment at any organization, where previously they were restricted to on-campus jobs.

A Look at Things to Come

What will 2007 bring for Canadian immigration? In the absence of a crystal ball, there are a few trends we can expect. One is a continued rise in immigration to Canada, as Citizenship and Immigration Canada has already approved a rise in the target range for permanent residents. With the programs mentioned above such as Provincial Nominee Programs and Regional Occupations Under Pressure list, we may also expect a surge in temporary workers.

Some structural changes to the government departments that handle immigration are expected to result from the Arar inquiry. The report by Justice O’Connor recommended that Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, along with several other departments regulating the flow of people in and out of Canada should now be overseen by an independent review board. While this change would not have any immediate implications for immigration, it represents an increasing integration between security and immigration agencies.

Lastly, with a minority government in power, we can expect a federal election sometime in the upcoming year. While only immigrants with Canadian citizenship may vote in the election, as the parties vie for votes within their communities, elections are a good opportunity for immigrants to have their voices heard by government. Ontario, home to half of the immigrants who arrive in Canada each year, has moved to a system of fixed election dates and will go to the polls in late 2007.