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Controversial Canadian immigration reforms to be made law

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After much deliberation on Parliament Hill, the Conservative’s amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) survived a final vote in the House of Commons and received support from Senate. The budget implementation bill, which included the immigration reforms, has been adopted and the new immigration laws will come into effect in the coming months. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Minister Diane Finley has not yet announced what the specific implications will be on immigration to Canada.

“Our next step is to launch consultations with provinces, territories and other experts to ensure we accurately define the priorities for immigration,” stated Minister Finley. “Once we’ve determined Canada’s immigration needs, we can develop a set of instructions to guide the processing decisions of immigration officers, including whether applications are prioritized, retained or returned with a refund.”

The changes will only apply to applications submitted on or after February 27, 2008. Applications submitted before then will be processed under the old rules.

A greater emphasis will be put on admitting immigrants who have the skills that are in high demand in Canada. Canada has been suffering from labour shortages from coast to coast and across industries. Immigration and foreign workers are seen as the solution and, by 2010, will be the only source of labour force growth in Canada. When asked, in a recent poll, what Canadian immigration policy should focus on, 84.9 per cent of Canadians responded that it is important to select immigrants whose skills match the needs of Canada’s labour-tight work force.

Regardless of how the reforms play out, there are still many viable options for Canadian immigration. The Provincial Nomination Programs (PNP), which have been growing in scope and popularity over the years with the support of the federal government, are attractive options for Canadian Permanent Residency. Not only do these programs entitle applicants to priority processing of their immigration applications, but it also opens the door to applicants who may not have qualified under the standard Federal Skilled Worker program. Canadian immigration is no longer a one-size fits all system. There many different categories to suit many different kinds of applicants. Though several PNP programs are job offer-centric, many of the programs cater to lower skilled occupations as well as high skilled. There are also specific programs for family members, international students, investors, farmers, and more.

Though the focus of the amendments will be on immigrants who can contribute to Canada’s labour shortage, the reforms will respect the objectives of IRPA, ensuring a balance between economic, family-reunification ,and refugee protection goals.