During a press conference last Wednesday, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, announced the government’s new immigration plan. Over the course of three years, the government will admit a total amount of 980,000 immigrants and refugees — 310,000 in 2018, 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020. The details of the new plan were delivered alongside a strong economic argument: Canada’s population is aging, therefore, immigrants are needed to offset future employment shortages and to contribute to our growing economy.
However, what’s been self-described as a bold and unapologetic plan — when dissected, falls short on a few key areas. In addition to implementing an immigration plan that allows us to uphold our humanitarian commitments and progressive approach to attracting newcomers, Canada urgently needs a robust immigration strategy to counteract dangerously low future population rates.
Here are three areas where the government missed the mark on in its new immigration policy.
1. The numbers are not enough
The government’s own Advisory Council on Economic Growth recommended that the government admit 450,000 immigrants and refugees a year by 2021, in order to meet impending economic demands. The current numbers put forth in the Wednesday’s announcement fall more than 100,000 short of this recommendation. This is important to note for several reasons. For one, the current intake number will only increase the population by 0.9 per cent — only a 0.1 per cent increase from our existing targets. This is merely the tip of the iceberg, and hardly merits the government’s boast about the boldness of this plan. Secondly, according to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, author Doug Saunders outlined some important data that shouldn’t be discounted. It is expected that by the year 2035, 25 per cent of the population will be 65 years of age or older. Furthermore, by 2026, approximately 2.4 million Canadians will be in need of elderly care. Ignoring these labour demands and ignoring the advice of the advisory council hinders Canada’s ability to thrive.
Note: The quality of such jobs deserve further attention in the future.
2. Minimal detail on support services that will be allocated to immigrants and refugees
Myths and inaccurate facts continue to portray immigrants and refugees as a burden to society. In Canada, immigrants continue to experience barriers such as systemic racism and a devaluing of their foreign education and skills. Recent data released by Statistics Canada show the persistent wage gap between racialized Canadians and those who are White — confirming the discrimination in employment that leads to income inequality and disparities for many first and second generation immigrants. Hussen did a great job of debunking many of these myths during his announcement, however, funding commitments to support the resettlement of refugees is actually what is needed.
3. Failed to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement
Progressive immigration reform requires bold moves and the government’s willingness to recognize when existing immigration policies are no longer beneficial to society. During the press conference, the minister made no mention of either the Safe Third Country Agreement or the influx of asylum seekers who seek refuge at unauthorized Canadian-U.S border crossings. Over the course of this 3-year immigration plan, the number of refugees to be accepted only result in a 1 per cent increase from the previous year, at 14 per cent. This current plan places too great an emphasis on the economic, rather than the human value of immigrants and refugees. In a time when those with precarious immigration status are facing threats from the current U.S administration, the Safe Third Country Agreement puts many lives at risk, while bringing about unnecessary border delays and system backlogs. A demonstration of the Liberals’ commitment to creating a welcoming country that is a safe haven for those who face persecution, requires that they suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.
This new immigration plan is a good first step. By some, it could be viewed as a bold in comparison to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s approach to immigration. But our standards for progressive reform should be much higher — not in relation to the shortcomings of the previous government.
Brittany Andrew-Amofah is the Policy and Research Manager at the Broadbent Institute.