Marco Mendicino shared several updates this morning on how the coronavirus will impact Canada’s immigration system in the near future.
In a 60-minute discussion with the Canadian Bar Association’s Immigration Law Section, the immigration minister touched on topics such as immigration levels, temporary foreign workers, and international students.
“Immigration will absolutely be key to our success and our economic recovery,” Mendicino said.
“We continue to rely on immigration, it will be an economic driver and this will be the North Star of our policy going forward.”
Mendicino observed that COVID-19 will not change Canada’s long-term demographic trends. Canada’s worker-to-retiree ratio is declining, which means that the country will continue to need immigrants to drive economic growth.
He also noted that this is not the first time Canada has faced a pandemic and economic challenges, however, Canada has continued to grow in spite of such challenges thanks in part to welcoming immigrants.
The minister said the federal government will consult with stakeholders on the future of Canada’s intake levels in advance of its annual immigration levels plan announcement this fall.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) staff are working remotely which is impacting the department’s ability to process immigration applications. Nonetheless, IRCC has setup remote operations to enable its staff to access the tools they need to facilitate processing. This period has enabled IRCC to innovate and improve its processing in some regards. For example, IRCC has been able to expedite the processing of seasonal agricultural workers under its Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
The minister said that IRCC is staying close in touch with the agricultural sector and seafood sector employers in support of the federal government’s efforts to strengthen Canada’s food supply.
“Is there more that we can do? Absolutely. And we are always looking at ways to create some additional flexibility around work permits, really removing any barriers that exist abroad,” the minister said.
Mendicino also pointed out that one of the greatest challenges in getting foreign workers into Canada is often the set of circumstances that are within the purview of the source countries from where they are coming. The other thing beyond IRCC’s control is market demand, where certain sectors, the minister anticipates, will see reduced demand in certain products.
The minister stated that IRCC is extremely grateful to various stakeholders who have provided feedback on how the federal government can adjust its international student policies in response to the pandemic. He noted IRCC’s recent Post-Graduation Work Permit reform which enables international students who take online courses to remain eligible for the PGWP.
IRCC remains in consultations with post-secondary stakeholders on how it can help international students that will be enrolling in Canadian designated learning institutions during the September intake period, which is typically when most international students begin their programs in Canada. The minister said “stay tuned” for more information.
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