Minister Miller reveals strategy to improve Canada’s immigration system

Edana Robitaille, Kareem El-Assal
Published: October 31, 2023

Canada’s Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced plans to improve Canada’s immigration system today.

Miller noted that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been engaging with stakeholders and the public throughout the year to help shape the future of a stronger immigration system. As such, IRCC is in the process of incorporating this feedback to execute its new immigration strategy, entitled An Immigration System for Canada's Future.

He conceded that Canada's immigration system has not been particularly responsive in recent years and this is something IRCC wants to improve upon.

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Following Millers' announcement, IRCC released its new strategic report so that stakeholders are informed of the department's intentions.

Among the issues IRCC is pursuing include better aligning the needs of the labour market with the immigration system, modernizing the immigration system to allow newcomers to easily submit and track their applications digitally, improving IRCC's application processing service standard, helping smaller communities attract and retain more newcomers, and promoting francophone immigration in communities across Canada.

In the report, IRCC has identified three pillars and a number of actions to take to maintain Canada's status as a destination of choice for newcomers:

  • Create a more welcoming experience for newcomers
  • Align immigration with labour market needs
  • Develop a comprehensive and coordinated growth plan

Create a more welcoming experience for newcomers

The department says it is working to deliver a pleasant and user-friendly experience for all those who use its services. A new operating platform, Digital Platform Modernization (DPM) is key to these efforts. 

IRCC says the new digital platform will maximize efficiency and allow it to meet the record level of demand to work, study, visit, and live in Canada. Some of the new capabilities with the platform will include an online single window into immigration programs, enhanced automation and digital self-service. 

The department hopes the DPM will speed up application processing and improve program integrity, while making the immigration journey clearer and more human focused. 

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Align immigration with labour market needs

During his speech, Minister Miller highlighted the importance of ensuring that immigration meets Canada's labour market needs.  

To assist in attracting and retaining talent from across all in-demand sectors such as construction and healthcare, IRCC says it must identify the necessary skills, the newcomers that have these skills and how to best match them to available jobs in Canada.  It says this includes providing more opportunities for international students and temporary workers with in-demand skills to stay in Canada.  

The IRCC report also highlights the introduction of category-based Express Entry rounds of invitations for candidates with work experience in key sectors as one method of attracting top talent.  

IRCC is also creating the new role of a Chief International Talent Officer to align Canada’s immigration policies with a long-term skills and labour strategy.

The Officer will be responsible for collecting information about the skills Canada needs for the future and ensuring that immigration better aligns with Canada’s labour market and sectoral strategies. 

Develop a comprehensive and coordinated growth plan

IRCC says that beyond attracting top talent, they must also consider support and settlement services for newcomers, while balancing the needs of Canadians. This includes issues such as housing and healthcare.  

Minister Miller speculated that some newcomers leave Canada because of the challenges created by affordability, housing and getting their international credentials recognized.  

IRCC says that national and regional immigration programs, such as the Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP), are key to sustaining growth and supporting Canada’s economy.  

The department notes an increasing need to support both permanent and temporary residents. It says IRCC will explore more options to develop an integrated plan to coordinate housing, health care and infrastructure between federal government departments, and in close collaboration with provinces, territories and municipalities.  

IRCC restructuring

Earlier this year, IRCC commissioned a report from former immigration Deputy Minister Neil Yeates to evaluate IRCC’s current structure and if it is effective in helping IRCC achieve its mandate. As a former Deputy Minister, Yeates was at one time the most senior civil servant in the department and knowledgeable about how IRCC is managed.

Yeates’ report contained several recommendations related to reorganizing the department to a business line-based structure, reforming the governance system, introducing a stronger system for planning, and reporting and developing a supportive culture within IRCC.

Current Deputy Minister Christiane Fox was interviewed by journalist Paul Wells about the report and said that starting in June 2023 she began to gradually make changes within the department.

She said IRCC is following some of the recommendations. For example, it is now being organized across lines of business. This means IRCC employees will be divided across the various clients that the department services and in such a way as to be more responsive to world events.

Further, a recent audit from Canada’s Office of the Auditor General (OAG) found that in 2022, IRCC’s backlog of permanent resident applications was not acceptable and made recommendations to process applications more effectively to stay within service standards.

These recommendations included reviewing service standards (the amount of time IRCC says an application should take to process) and adjusting the workload in regional offices.

Immigration Levels Plan to be released on November 1

Today's announcement is ahead of the unveiling of the Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026.

The Canadian government is legally required to release the plan by November 1st each non-election year. The plan outlines the number of permanent residents that Canada aims to admit over the next three years from across all classes and further breaks down the permanent resident levels by program.

Minister Miller recently told the Canadian Parliament's Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration that he believes Canada’s high immigration targets need to be maintained. This means IRCC will likely continue to have a large workload while undergoing structural changes.

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