Canadian government to conduct review of main immigration law

Edana Robitaille
Published: November 15, 2023

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says that there will be a review of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) as part of the recently released Strategy: An Immigration System for Canada's Future.

The Strategy outlines changes that IRCC intends to make over the coming years to improve processing and create a more comprehensive approach to immigration. The department says it can achieve this by actioning items that fall under three pillars:

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

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IRPA is the law that governs Canada’s immigration system and creates the framework for how IRCC operates. Potential changes to IRPA fall under the pillar of creating a more welcoming experience for newcomers when they are immigrating to Canada. IRCC says this means working to be modern, efficient, fair, transparent, predictable, and timely.

The department explains that it is time to assess the need for legislative amendments or reform because IRPA is the legislation that supports most of IRCC’s programs, policies, and procedures. It hasn’t been thoroughly examined since it came into force in 2002, 21 years ago.

IRPA’s last major update

IRPA did not exist in its current form until June 2002. Before that, Canada had the Immigration Act, which was established in 1976 and underwent several revisions throughout its period as Canada’s main immigration law.

IRPA was created to create clearer, more modern legislation that would ensure Canada’s immigration and refugee protection system can respond to new challenges and opportunities.

It also aimed to set out a clearer description of the major classes of foreign nationals — economic class, family class, and convention refugees and persons in similar circumstances.

How updating IRPA can help

IRPA contains legislation surrounding nearly every aspect of the immigration minister’s responsibilities and how they should be executed.

The Strategy says a review of IRPA will help remove barriers to welcoming the people Canada needs for the future

For example, IRPA contains legislation that makes the creation of new immigration pathways possible, such as the recent introduction of category-based Express Entry. A review and update could allow for the creation of more specialized pathways for newcomers with in-demand skills.

It also dictates how Canada’s federal and provincial governments work together to share responsibility for immigration. IRCC has agreements with the provinces and territories that allow provincial governments to nominate economic immigrants through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The federal government allocates a specific number of nominations to each province.

To decide on how many nominations a province receives, by law, the Minister needs to consult with the provinces regarding the number of foreign nationals in each class who will become permanent residents each year and their distribution in Canada. To do this, IRPA says IRCC needs to consider regional economic and demographic requirements through consultations with relevant partners and stakeholders.

An update to IRPA could make it mandatory to conduct more consultations with other stakeholders such as settlement services to gain a better understanding of Canada’s capacity to integrate newcomers. This falls under the Strategy's objective to adopt a whole-of-government approach to immigration.

Consultations also impact the federal Immigration Levels Plan, which sets Canada’s permanent resident admissions targets for the next three years. By law, the Plan must be released each year on or by November 1st in every non-election year. In the recently released Plan for 2024-2026, Canada will admit 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and 500,000 per year in both 2025 and 2026. Immigration Minister Marc Miller says the recent plan with grow and stabilize Canada’s economy.

Finally, IRPA also features legislation regarding how applications are to be submitted including the technology, format and processes to be followed.

By reviewing and updating the IRPA regulations surrounding how applications are submitted and processed, the department may be better able to meet the current rising demand now, and into the future.

Express Entry category-based selection

Despite the lack of a large-scale review, the act has undergone revisions to reflect the recent demand for immigration to Canada.

For example, IRPA was amended in 2022 to grant the immigration minister the authority to issue Invitations to Apply to Express Entry candidates who have a human capital attribute that aligns with one of the six newly introduced categories:

  • Healthcare;
  • STEM professions;
  • Trades;
  • Transport;
  • Agriculture and agri-food; and
  • French language proficiency

These categories are also in line with IRPA’s objective to permit Canada to pursue the maximum economic benefits of immigration. By selecting newcomers with in-demand still in high-vacancy sectors, IRCC can help support and strengthen the national economy.

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