CANADA: Migratory Horizons under a Minority Liberal Sky
Updated: Jan 25, 2022
After 40 weeks of tight campaign, last Monday, October 21, elections were held in Canada. Although many claim that on the electoral agendas the issue of immigration remained overshadowed by more pressing matters, such as climate change and the cost of living, many promises were made in this regard.
Deep blue-CP/Red-LP/Light blue-BQ/Yellow-NDP/Green-GP
The Canadians decided to put their trust once again in the Liberal Party (LP) and its leader Justin Trudeau. However, on this occasion the LP will govern on a minority regime. Out of the 338 electoral districts in Canada, only 157 elected an LP deputy to the Lower House. The rest of the seats were divided between the Conservative Party (CP), the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Bloc Québecois (BQ), the Green Party (GP) and an independent candidate. The LP was also surpassed by the CP in the popular vote. The current circumstance obliges the Prime Minister to seek common ground with the opposition parties in order to see his immigration proposals approved.
The People's Party of Canada, which out of all the participants in the 2019 election campaign, was the only one advocating to limit the entry of immigrants to the country, was eliminated by not obtaining a single seat. The other parties with representation in the House of Commons include in their programs measures aimed at increasing the entry of immigrants. In this regard, some stability in immigration policies is expected in the next four years, especially those related to economic categories that contribute to the development of the country. Another important issue is the fact that every year it becomes more evident that the emigration vote plays an essential role in a country where many citizens of voting age decide not to attend the polls. Let's keep in mind that for most immigrants, obtaining Canadian citizenship is a long-awaited dream, which in addition to granting them one of the most powerful passports in the world, also gives them the right to vote, the supreme act of democracy that perhaps they were never allowed to enjoy in their home countries. Besides, beyond separatist positions and exclusive criteria, everyone agrees that multiculturalism is one of Canada's most admirable features that distinguish the country from the rest of the Western democracies.
One of the main promises made by the LP was to increase the capacity to accept immigrants and make improvements to the Express Entry put into practice by the CP early in 2015. Liberals hope that, with the support of the opposition, the number of 350,000 new immigrants expected for 2021 will increase exponentially towards the end of 2023. According to the LP priorities and actions until today, it is expected that more than 50 per cent of these new immigrants will be highly qualified individuals, linked to economic migratory categories. However, the LP also plans an increase in the reception of new immigrants of other categories, such as family reunification, refugee and humanitarian reasons. In this regard, it allocated 1.2 billion dollars in its latest budget to enhance border security and to expedite the processing time of the more than 79,000 cases of asylum applications that have been accumulating in the Immigration and Refugee Board. Everything indicates that in the coming months we could witness a considerable decrease in the waiting period for the resolution of these cases, which at this time is 24 months.
Both the CP and the NDP, as well as the BQ, agree with the LP on this issue, so we can rule out unexpected surprises in terms of immigration levels set for the coming years. However, the Express Entry could raise controversy between the LP and the CP given the difference of criteria regarding the number of points awarded to a candidate for an eligible job offer. When the Express Entry was launched, the conservatives stipulated that 600 points would be allocated for a job offer that meets the Express Entry requirements; in this regard, the liberals reduced this number to the maximum of 200 points, aimed at attracting highly skilled professionals. The CP promised to restore the initial score if elected at the polls. On the other hand, the NDP advocates for the recognition of foreign academic credentials and the elimination of the cap to process cases in the family reunification category, particularly for parents and grandparents.
Lake Ontario, Toronto
Another of the promises made by the LP was to favour the economic development of the most affected regions of Canada through immigration. During its first term, the LP presented several initiatives that clearly show it, such as the Atlantic Pilot Program. Given its overwhelming success, the LP promised to make it permanent if re-elected. There is also the Rural and Northern Pilot Program that seeks to favour small and medium-sized rural communities in the country. The most interesting proposal for this second period, however, is to launch a new initiative: the Municipal Nomination Program, which would be similar to the provincial nomination programs, but at the community level. Statistics show that about 80 per cent of emigration in each province is settled in the main cities, leaving the rest of the cities in the same precarious demographic conditions. Details about this program are not yet known; however, the liberals have declared that it will be a way for chambers of commerce, communities and employment councils to directly sponsor candidates in obtaining permanent residence. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that this program may have several points in common with the Atlantic Pilot Program and the Rural and Northern Pilot Program, but in this case, intended for regions that do not benefit from the aforementioned programs.
The elimination of the federal fees for the granting of citizenship is among the migratory proposals of the LP during its electoral campaign. They claim that this is a government service that should not be charged. If the people born in Canada are Canadian citizens by right, those who earn this right through the permanent residence should not be charged any fees either. There are not two kinds of citizenship in Canada. Currently, to apply for Canadian citizenship, an adult must pay CAD 530, in addition to another CAD 100 for the "right of citizenship ". Obviously, this may suppose a temporary reduction of citizenship applications, followed by an avalanche of applications once the LP passes the aforementioned legislation in the coming years. The LP estimates that by 2024 the number of Canadian citizens can increase by 40 per cent.
Another migration issue that is generating a great debate is the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). This immigration agreement has caused great controversy due to the increase, in mid-2017, of the requests of possible refugees who may apply for asylum at the border, even if they entered the country through unguarded points. The numbers are around 50 thousand applicants who do not have legal immigration status in the United States. Liberals promised to modify the STCA between the US and Canada to strengthen border security and have a fairer Canada's asylum system. However, there are serious objections to this plan because, if the current president of the US, Donald Trump, is re-elected, he does not seem to be very inclined to accept a greater number of refugees. On the other hand, both the BQ and the NDP have made it clear that they are not willing to support such agreement unless the United States is not committed to ensuring a fair system for potential refugees. The province of Quebec particularly has been seriously affected by the increase of asylum applications with the consequent cost involved, since most of the asylum seekers enter Canada through Roxham Road in Quebec.
With regards to the province of Quebec, the BQ expects to enjoy greater control over the immigration levels received by the province, as well as the right to veto in terms of any decision concerning refugees and deportations. Furthermore, one of its priorities is the introduction of a legal mechanism that guarantees that both new immigrants and future citizens have good domain of the French language.