Canada set to boost `family' immigrants
Overall, immigration to remain steady next year as backlog of applicants has swelled to 850,000
Ottawa bureau chief
Nov 02, 2007 04:30 AM
OTTAWAThe federal government says it will allow more family members living abroad to join their relatives already here in Canada.
Canada will accept up to 71,000 immigrants in the family class next year spouses, partners, dependants, parents and grandparents of immigrants already here, according to the immigration department's newly released annual report. That's 2,000 more than will be allowed into the country this year.
Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said there are a lot of good reasons to open the doors to family members of immigrants already here in the country including politics.
“Nothing is more personal than immigration in terms of community,” Kurland said yesterday.
He said the increase, though modest, could help Tory fortunes in the multicultural ridings around big cities like Toronto and Vancouver, where residents have family members living overseas.
“It is not done willy-nilly, happenstance. It is a calculated political marketing move,” he said of the increase revealed this week. “It's a direct response to the challenge faced by a minority government lusting for majority. It's good politics to let Mummy and Daddy into Canada.”
The department's annual report reveals that 251,649 permanent residents were admitted in 2006. And 109,524 newcomers had been admitted this year up until June.
Overall, Ottawa intends to hold the line on immigration levels in 2008, accepting 240,000 to 265,000 people, the same range as this year, according to the report.
In a surprise move, it will allow fewer skilled immigrants to settle in Canada next year, despite a booming economy that has left some regions of the country begging for workers.
The cut to so-called economic-class immigrants a maximum of 154,000 next year, down from 158,000 this year is raising eyebrows among opposition MPs and immigration experts.
New Democrat MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) said Canada should set a goal of accepting 1 per cent of its population or about 330,000 immigrants a year to meet labour demand and the potential shortage of workers caused by an aging workforce.
“I think we need to take a bold step,” Chow said yesterday. “I think we need a national debate.”
But Kurland said that Ottawa is helping meet the labour needs by boosting the number of foreign workers allowed into Canada on temporary permits. And a new program known as the Canadian Experience Class, will allow those temporary workers as well as international students studying here to apply to become permanent residents, perhaps as many as 12,000 next year.
Also, the government is boosting the number of immigrants allowed in under the provincial nominee program, which allows provinces to fill specific labour needs.
The report shows that the backlog of immigration applicants has swelled to more than 850,000.
Kurland said the government needs to “come clean” and tell would-be newcomers about the long delay they likely face to come here, as long as five years for an economic-class immigrant, he said.
In 2006, according to the report, the 138,257 economic-class immigrants made up 54.9 per cent of the new arrivals. Just over 28 per cent or 70,506 immigrants were in the family class; 32,492 refugees and asylum seekers were admitted; and 10,223 were granted permanent resident status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
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