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Cross-Canada consultations underway to determine immigration priorities

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Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Minister Diane Finley has begun her cross-Canada tour through which CIC will develop the framework for the new amendments to Canadian immigration legislation.  Critics are asking why these consultations were not held months ago, before the Conservative government issued the changes to be applied to all applications received on or after February 27, 2008.  In the meantime, these applications have been piling up at visa offices and will remain untouched until Minister Finley issues her instructions.

The goal of CIC’s consultations is to identify critical occupational shortages, the role of immigration in responding to them, and how to deal with any barriers to foreign credential recognition for these occupations.  By way of meetings and video conferences, provincial and territorial governments, as well as representatives from business, labour, and academic and non-government organizations are being consulted.  Once completed, a national roundtable will take place on August 15th.

“I believe this inclusive approach will help identify the categories of workers who get priority, and will allow us to prepare instructions that reflect the knowledge and expertise of the provinces, territories and stakeholders,” stated Minister Finley.

According to Olivia Chow, the Immigration Critic of the New Democratic Party (NDP), the type of skilled workers needed across Canada is already well known.  This information must be constantly updated, she says, not determined through one round of consultations.  Ms. Chow is quite concerned that the consultation sessions are not open to media or the general public and that the results will not be made public until CIC delivers its Annual Report to Parliament.

Maurizio Bevilacqua, the Liberal Immigration Critic, has called the process flawed and backwards given that consultations are only being carried out now, while applications received since the end of February remain frozen in the system.

The changes to Canadian immigration legislation, which were passed in June, allow the immigration minister to issue instructions on which categories of applications are to be prioritized, which should be held for future consideration, and which ones should be returned outright.

The legislative amendments do not affect Provincial Nomination applicants or Quebec Skilled Worker applicants, which are being processed as usual.  Also, Federal Skilled Worker applicants who have a job secured in Canada will also have their applications processed as usual.

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