A record number of immigrants entered Canada last year, Citizenship, Immigration & Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced at a press conference in Toronto last Sunday.
Canada welcomed 280,636 permanent residents which is the highest number admitted in the past five decades and six per cent above the maximum 265,000 target. The average intake of newcomers in the 1990s was nearly 220,000.
Last year, Kenney said his ministry would adjust its 2010 immigration plan to meet the need for economic integration.
“While other Western countries cut back on immigration during the recession, our government kept legal immigration levels high,” he said. “Canada’s post-recession economy demands a high level of economic immigration to keep our economy strong.”
Kenney noted that the high number of economic immigrants last year has helped Citizenship & Immigration (CIC) Canada decrease application backlogs in the federal skilled worker category, reduce wait times under the Action Plan for Faster Immigration and to better meet labour market need.
Prior to the Action Plan for Faster Immigration which Kenney announced within a month of becoming immigration minister in November 2008, Canada was obliged to process every immigration application it received, even if it meant creating large application backlogs in popular immigration sectors.
“Last year, the backlog of people who applied before the Action Plan was drawn down to 335,000 applicants, which represents close to half the number of people who were awaiting a decision in 2008,” said Kenney. “I am very pleased that a higher number of admissions in 2010 means that more people are now out of the line-up and well on their way to beginning a new life in Canada.”
In addition, 182,322 temporary foreign workers and 96,147 foreign students came to Canada in 2010. With the creation of the Canadian Experience Class three years ago, eligible foreign students can apply for permanent residency from within Canada.
“We continued to admit an increasing number of foreign students to Canada last year through joint efforts among the federal government, provincial governments and other partners,” Kenney said. “Our government’s initiatives such as the Student Partners program have also helped to attract and admit a high number of foreign students, particularly from China and India.”
Canada also welcomed 7,265 government-assisted refugees and 4,833 privately sponsored refugees last year.
Kenney also announced that the government plans to raise the language requirements for immigration applicants with professional designations to ensure they are successful when they come here.
“We need to be more flexible,” he acknowledged. “Skilled trades people who don’t have university degrees or who have very limited English or French language proficiency typically cannot make it through the points grid, but we have a huge and growing need for skilled trades people. “Rather than locking them out of the skilled worker program, I am looking at ways we can accommodate people who don’t have university degrees and who don’t have full language proficiency to come through that program.”