Immigration policy: ‘Committed to changes’

| September 30, 2013 | 0 Comments
Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander attends a citizenship ceremony in  Surrey, B.C.

Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander attends a citizenship ceremony in
Surrey, B.C.

When I came home from working in Afghanistan in July 2009, Canada’s future looked uncertain. With hundreds of thousands out of work, with an economy sideswiped by market collapse right next door, Canada needed to get back on track. Just four short years later, the country is on a clear path to recovery.
We have created more jobs per capita than our international counterparts, made our streets safer and our armed forces stronger. Canadians have stepped up to renew infrastructure, tackle the deficit, and take prosperity even further.
Earlier this summer, I was honoured and humbled to be appointed Canada’s citizenship and immigration minister by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. With our government’s continued focus on what matters most to Canadians — jobs, growth, and economic prosperity — I am committed to continuing the changes to our immigration system that will support these priorities. It is essential for all Canadians that newcomers integrate quickly into Canada’s labour market in ways that allow them to realize their full potential. The generations of immigrants who helped build this country understood this better than anyone. As minister, I will work hard to ensure that new Canadians have the skills and tools they need to succeed.
Canada is proud to welcome the highest levels of sustained immigration in our history and one of the highest per-capita levels of immigration in the developed world. We are rich with diversity and better as a country for it. To ensure Canada reaps the full economic benefits of immigration, our government remains committed to building a fast, flexible and fair immigration system focused on economic streams and responsive to Canada’s dynamic labour market needs.
One of the key areas we are focused on is addressing serious labour shortages some regions of the country are facing. In January 2013, we launched the federal skilled trades Program (FSTP) to facilitate the immigration of skilled tradespeople who meet Canada’s economic needs. In response to requests from Canadian employers to fill labour shortages — particularly in the resources and construction sectors — the FSTP attracts and retains skilled workers, while strengthening our economy.
We are in a global competition to attract the best and the brightest, and the economic potential they bring. In recognizing the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship, we have introduced initiatives such as the new start-up visa to attract foreign entrepreneurs, and the Canadian experience class (CEC) to retain skilled professionals.
For too long, newcomers have found themselves unemployed or underemployed despite excellent educational qualifications, work experience and language skills. This has deprived immigrants and the Canadian economy. Our government will improve the process of foreign credential recognition and help newcomers better integrate into the labour market.
We also want to explore, with provinces, territories and employers, approaches to developing a pool of skilled workers ready to begin work. Through our expression of interest (EOI) program, potential immigrants can  submit an online application, matching their skills with available jobs. Previously, immigrants might wait in line for eight years, only to be placed in the labour market to “sink or swim.” Our EOI program enables immigrants to arrive, confident they will find a job that suits their skill level. By engaging employers, this program will match labour-market shortages with eligible immigrants who possess the necessary skills, creating a more responsive immigration system.
Application backlogs have kept the best and brightest away and held Canada back. Since 2008, our government has reduced the backlog of permanent resident applications by approximately 40 percent, paving the way for a faster and more effective immigration system. One of my first actions was to change the approach toward dormant citizenship cases so permanent residents who are keen to become Canadian no longer have to wait behind individuals who have missed multiple appointments for tests and interviews.
Our Conservative government is committed to uniting families and we have taken measures to ensure they no longer have to wait close to a decade to be reunited with their loved ones, as was the situation under the previous Liberal government. With the introduction of our successful Super Visa Program, parents and grandparents have the freedom and flexibility to travel easily between Canada and their home country, enabling them to stay connected with family and friends in Canada and at home without the hassle of reapplying every time. With more than 1,000 super visas issued monthly at an astounding 85 percent approval rate, this has become one of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s most popular programs, and serves as another example of how our government is bringing families together.
We are working to bring record numbers of international students and more tourists to our country, while also improving passport services to Canadians. We are modernizing our visa regime, facilitating legitimate trade and travel and also working with our partners to keep Canadians safe.
Canada’s economic potential depends today on a delicate balance of deeper capital markets and financial regulation; specialized skills and responsive training and education; export-oriented industries and local services. This stability was not achieved overnight. This standard of living was not achieved by accident. It is due, in large part, to the tremendous contributions of centuries of immigrants and their descendants who together built a prosperous country. They did so by making peace with neighbours, establishing rule of law, securing their freedom through institutions, unleashing the spirit of enterprise and ensuring unity and tolerance.
Today, we are continuing their traditions by settling new Canadians, reuniting families more quickly, strengthening the value of citizenship and upholding our humanitarian traditions at home and abroad,  even as we crack down on fraud and abuse, and work together with our partners around the world to ensure the safety of all those who call Canada their home.

Chris Alexander is minister of citizenship and immigration.

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Chris Alexander is minister of citizenship and immigration.

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