Canada’s new immigration minister is Sean Fraser

Kareem El-Assal, Alexandra Miekus, Shelby Thevenot
Published: October 26, 2021

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has revealed his new cabinet this morning.

Sean Fraser is the country's new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Fraser is a 37-year-old former lawyer from Nova Scotia that was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2015. He was re-elected in 2019 and 2021. He replaces Marco Mendicino, who now becomes Canada's public safety minister. Mendicino had held the role since November 2019. Fraser represents the riding of "Central Nova" which covers a part of Halifax. Prior to entering politics, he practiced commercial litigation and international dispute resolution. He holds a law degree from Dalhousie University, a Master's degree in Public International Law from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and a Bachelor of Science from St. Francis Xavier University.

With cabinet set, the Liberals will continue the process of governing Canada and focus on leading the country out of the coronavirus pandemic. Parliament is set to reconvene on November 22.

The cabinet is the body of ministerial advisors that sets the federal government's policies and priorities. Each minister is given a mandate letter by the Prime Minister. The mandate letter outlines the policies and priorities that the Prime Minister would like each minister to pursue during the government's time in power.

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Trudeau's Liberal Party of Canada has governed since winning the 2015 federal election. They won a majority then, and have since won minority governments in 2019 and in the 2021 election, that took place in September. Majority governments can pass any law that they introduce in Parliament. Minority governments need the support of the opposition.

The Trudeau Liberals have continued the process of increasing immigration levels, a process that began in the late 1980s by the Conservative Party of Canada. The Liberals, however, have increased immigration levels more aggressively in recent years to provide even greater support to the Canadian economy. Shortly after assuming power in 2015, the Liberals announced they would look to welcome at least 300,000 immigrants per year, up from the roughly 250,000 annually welcomed in the previous decade by the Conservatives. Then, in October 2020, the Liberals made the stunning announcement that they would set the new baseline for immigration at over 400,000 newcomers per year. This higher goal is meant to help boost Canada's post-pandemic economy recovery.

What's next for Canadian immigration?

In the short run, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will continue to pursue its top priorities. In an October 21st meeting with associations representing Canadian immigration lawyers and consultants, IRCC said their three priorities now are achieving their 401,000 new permanent residents target for 2021, family reunification, and resettling Afghan refugees.

Meanwhile, IRCC and provinces and territories will also continue to invite immigration candidates through Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and Quebec's programs. Application processing will also continue.

The next major development will be Trudeau releasing new mandate letters for his ministers. The letters will guide the policy priorities of each federal department, including IRCC. In the 2021 election campaign, the Liberals made several immigration promises. For instance, they promised to end citizenship fees. They also want to reduce application processing times and make reforms to Express Entry such as offering more immigration pathways to temporary foreign workers and international students.

Based on recent precedent, the new Immigration Levels Plan will be unveiled by March 2022. This plan is usually released by November 1st each year, except following elections. The Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 should not contain any surprises as it will likely continue to articulate Canada's goal to welcome over 400,000 new immigrants annually.

Around that time, the federal government will also likely table Budget 2022, which may contain major government priorities on immigration.

Broadly speaking, stakeholders should expect a continuity of the Liberal party's ambitious immigration agenda that they have been pursuing since 2015. That being said, the Liberals will have major immigration issues that they will need to tackle during their new mandate. These include identifying how they will reduce application backlogs that have grown during the pandemic, potentially reforming Express Entry and the Parents and Grandparents Program, launching the Municipal Nominee Program, and waiving citizenship fees.

Despite having a lot of immigration priorities on their plate, it is relatively safe to say that the coming years will be less challenging for the federal government to manage than the previous and unprecedented 20-month pandemic period.

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