In close collaboration with other government departments, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently published a “consultation and review report” that proposed a review of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).
The paper – titled An Immigration System for Canada’s Future – was released in October 2023 as the result of a months-long endeavor by the immigration department to meet with stakeholders, identify areas for improvement in the Canada immigration system, and evaluate policies to achieve those improvements.
IRCC’s Key Takeaways from Public Engagement
After listening to 17,500 voices (including more than 2,000 organizations and 2,100 current or former clients, such as foreign workers in Canada on a temporary basis, international students, and permanent residents), the following are some of the takeaways that were gathered:
- Canada has a world-class and well-managed immigration system that has orderly pathways to bring immigrants to the country. The selection of immigrants is rigorous and evidence-based.
- The system is overly-complex and needs simplification with target audiences in mind. The application to come to Canada needs to be made easier, clear information needs to be provided on government websites, and more access to information about application status and additional information for employers needs to be implemented.
Immigration puts pressure on housing, healthcare, and infrastructure. It needs to be ensured that communities can absorb and support newcomers. Immigration can also be a part of the solution to addressing these pressures by adding workers in critical sectors.
- Fast and predictable processing times need to be put in place.
- Client service excellence needs to be achieved. This includes reducing duplication in the system, ensuring fairness, accountability and transparency in decision-making, with a focus on diversity, equity, and anti-racism. Support needs to be provided for navigating the system.
- It is important to have effective tools, mechanisms, and partnerships to attract and retain the skills and talent to grow our economy (especially, in small, rural, and Francophone communities), and take steps to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship to remain globally competitive.
- Newcomers are required to fill critical labor gaps in key sectors under pressure. Their access to the job market, via integrated job matching and improved foreign credential recognition process, is key to positive outcomes for immigrants and the country.
- Top students need to be brought to and retained in Canada, especially in areas with labor market gaps.
- Comprehensive planning for and information sharing on the arrival, settlement, and integration of newcomers, including planning for pressures on areas like affordable housing, infrastructure, and healthcare.
- Pathways for temporary residents to become PRs of Canada are important so that workers and students know there are opportunities to settle in Canada and become Canadian citizens one day.
- It is vital to be responsive to regional needs.
- Canada’s positive international reputation in responding to humanitarian crises needs to be maintained. Crises of the future need to be quickly and equitably responded to.
- Changes need to be made on an as-needed basis, to ensure the right tools are in place to support a decision-making process that is focused first and foremost on people. “The views and lived experiences of newcomers should help guide program and policy development.”
In response to the aforementioned suggestions, a plan was developed to realize a Canadian immigration system of the future that is “nimble” and able to “better meet the needs of our country and of newcomers.”
The following actions were suggested to address each issue:
- Reduce wait times and improve service standards
- Help remove barriers to welcoming in the people we need for the future
- Strengthen partnerships with employers and institutions that rely on immigration, while addressing fraud and strengthening student and worker protections
- Improve communications and ensure a human-centric approach
- Make applications more user-friendly, by using digital and virtual technologies
- Continue to advance reconciliation as we welcome newcomers
To help reduce barriers to welcoming immigrants, the department suggested an examination of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to assess the need for legislative amendments or reform.
IRPA came into force in 2002, being the legislation that lays the groundwork for most of IRCC’s programs, policies, and procedures. It provides the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) with jurisdiction to hear and decide cases on immigration and refugee matters.
It also sets out the core principles and concepts that govern the Canadian immigration and refugee protection programs, including provisions relating to refugees, sponsorships and removals, detention reviews and admissibility hearings, and the jurisdiction and powers of tribunals.
The department now says that IRPA needs to continue to reflect the goals of Canada’s immigration system and that it provides a sufficiently flexible framework to meet them while keeping Canadians safe.
IRPA’s inclusion of legislation that allows for the creation of new immigration pathways could be – through the suggested update – used by IRCC to allow more specialized immigration pathways for skilled immigrants.
Further, IRPA includes legislation on application submission, technology use, processing procedure, etc. An update could reform these legislations to align with present realities and rising demand, allowing for the department to meet its aim of simplifying the immigration system.
“This report, An Immigration System for Canada’s Future, and the engagement exercise it reflects marks the conclusion of formal engagement sessions, but the beginning of a transformation to Canada’s immigration system. As our society continues to evolve and new realities emerge, so too will our immigration programs and policies,” read the paper.
“In order to seize opportunities that come with change, we have to be nimble and continue to innovate and adapt. This cannot happen in isolation. It’s through partnership and staying connected that we share information, become aware of emerging issues and find solutions.”