Who are the stakeholders IRCC consults when planning immigration levels?

Edana Robitaille
Published: February 23, 2024

CIC News recently obtained an Access to Information Request (ATIP) from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) showing that IRCC doubled the number of stakeholders it consults for the creation of the Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026.

The ATIP shows that between July 10 and August 4, 2023, IRCC invited 4,780 stakeholders to complete an online survey to help the department understand the impact of increasing the number of newcomers to Canada. This is a significant increase over the 2,867 who were invited in 2022.

In 2023, 633 invited stakeholders participated in an online survey that asked participants how they felt about current immigration levels and where improvements could be made. This is in addition to consultations with all provincial and territorial governments.

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Stakeholders are non-profit organizations, academic institutions, businesses, settlement service providers and many others. They are directly impacted in some capacity by immigration levels in Canada be it helping newcomers to integrate and settle into their new lives or employers looking to grow their business and hire new employees.

IRCC says it seeks stakeholder perspectives to evaluate the balance between the number of immigrants it welcomes to Canada and how to better support them. It also looks for a better understanding of labour force needs and what it can do to support Canada’s economy. This includes enhancements to Express Entry and other regional economic immigration programs.

The department says the expanded consultations are part of the more “holistic” and “whole-of-government" approach it is seeking to adopt as part of its Strategic Immigration Plan, the details of which were released in late October last year.

Who are the stakeholders?

Among the top three categories of respondents, the not-for-profit, charitable, and non-governmental organization categories had a response rate of 30%, the highest of any organization type.

Business and settlement and resettlement organizations both had response rates of just over 17%.

All these organizations work directly with newcomers to Canada and have different perspectives on the immigrant experience in Canada, as well as their impact on the country’s economy.

The report showed that most stakeholders believed that immigration targets for 2024 and 2025 were too high in comparison to the 2023 2024 Immigration Levels Plan. They called for IRCC to stabilize levels rather than increase them, a measure that IRCC said they had taken when the 2024-2026 plan was released.

Immigration Levels Plan

Each year the Immigration Refugees and Protection Act (IRPA) requires IRCC to release annual immigration targets for the coming year, alongside notional targets for the following two years.

For this year, IRCC has an overall target of 485,000 new permanent residents from economic immigration programs, family class sponsorship and refugee and humanitarian class

In both 2025 and 2026, there is a target of 500,000. IRCC says that by maintaining the same target for two years, immigration levels in Canada will be more sustainable and it will reduce some of the pressure on Canada’s shortage of housing as well as the current high cost of living.

This needs to be balanced with Canada’s ongoing need for skilled immigrants who can fill urgent gaps in several in-demand employment sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, tech and construction.

According to the ATIP, nine out of 10 stakeholders cited addressing economic and labour force needs as the top reason to bring more skilled immigrants to Canada.

Call for more economic immigration

Additionally, 62% of respondents said that if IRCC was increasing immigration levels, most newcomers should be economic class immigrants rather than arriving through family class sponsorship or refugee and humanitarian class pathways.

They also indicated that a “stronger focus on regional efforts would better support labour market needs in smaller and medium-sized communities."

They supported the introduction of category-based Express Entry draws for specific attributes, including occupations as a method of supporting Canada’s workforce and economic priorities. However, some respondents said that there was also a gap that needed to be addressed for targeting “lower skilled” occupations that are not eligible for Express Entry and that more permanent residence pathways were needed for temporary workers in Canada as well as international students.

Areas of concern

Canada is currently coping with a shortage of affordable housing that is impacting newcomers' ability to find a place to live. The report shows that 96% of respondents felt that Canada needs to continue investing in housing to make immigration sustainable.

Stakeholders also expressed concern about investment in healthcare services, which are strained due in part to population increase, alongside a rapidly aging population that requires more healthcare. It is expected that nine million Canadians will reach retirement age in just six years.

In relation to this, foreign credential recognition was singled out by stakeholders as an area requiring more support for settlement and integration of newcomers, with employment and career development seen as an equally high priority. Most healthcare professions are licensed, and newcomers must be accredited by the provinces in which they settle. This takes time.

In response to these concerns, In January, the federal government of Canada announced an additional $86 million in funding to 15 organizations to speed up the process for internationally educated health care professionals.

Notably, stakeholders also flagged a lack of accessible transit, including public transit, in non-metropolitan centers as an area requiring more investment. Many newcomers do not have access to a vehicle, which prevents them from commuting to jobs, settlement services and even healthcare.

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