Canada is no longer open to immigrants but needs highly skilled workers

Since ancient times, people have left their native countries in search of adventure, to escape despotism, to avoid military service/conscription and last but not least to improve themselves economically. These are just some of the reasons that make people think about migrating, and Canada has always and continues to be a popular destination for immigrants. Historically, Canada adopted an open door policy pertaining to immigration in order to seek rapid growth and economic expansion. During previous years, “there has been a grave concern towards enticing immigration.” 1

But that was once upon a time! For many Canada used to have or adopted an open arm’s policy; the influx of foreign nationals/immigrants have constantly kept the labor pipeline flowing. But this influx or boom has suddenly changed whereby Canadian immigration policies started to become restrictive.

Therefore, to answer the aforementioned question as to whether Canada is open or not? The answer is undoubtedly false; Canada is no longer open to immigrants, the tides have changed! But many might want to ask the question; what happened or to rephrase what made us reach to this conclusion? The answer to this question is without doubt clear;

“changes started in 2008, the intake of FSW applications has been limited to a few occupations”; moreover “further restrictions included capping the number of applications each year”. 2

There is no doubt whatsoever that the process of immigration enriches nations like Canada, many are aware of the fact that for Canada the need for immigration is becoming particularly acute; as we continue to encounter a labour shortage in Canada.

According to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce;

“a growing shortage of highly skilled labour is becoming desperate… threatening our ability to keep up in a global, knowledge-based economy”. 3

If this is the case, we don’t seem to comprehend why the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada continues to restrict immigration by putting or placing numerical limitations on the number of prospective applicants or immigrants?

We definitely don’t see the Tory government’s policies paving the way or path for immigrants, what is obvious is that ever since 2008, we have been experiencing a steady change and tightening in immigration laws and policies.

It is “predicted that over the next decade there would be shortfalls of 163,000 in construction, 130,000 in oil and gas, and 60,000 in nursing, 37,000 in trucking, 22,000 in the hotel industry and 10,000 in steel trades”. 4

The above figures/numbers clearly indicate a significant point; it is imminent that we will experience/encounter a labour shortage in Canada; so if this is the case and what many have anticipated; is that the way or method to tackle or handle the problem at hand by restricting the number of immigrants? The latest ministerial instructions published in 2010 introduced a cap/quota on the numbers to be accepted in each eligible occupation which is currently 500; the new list of 2011 has limited the total number of Canadian immigrant applications to 10,000 per years. So if Canada is in desperate need of 60,000 nurses and 130,000 persons in oil and gas and so on; do we accept or process only 500 per year?

According to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada Jason Kenney; the ordeal that the government is facing is the “backlog”; which instead of trying to figure out a way to deal with it and find a solution, the Tory Government decides to take an unprecedented stance/step by expunging all immigration files submitted prior to 2008!

So if this is what we define as an open door immigration policy; then I’m positive that many of us would not want to imagine or even see what a closed door policy would be! The answer is definitely zero immigration!

Since the Conservatives “took power in 2006… it has toughened the citizenship test and doubled the lump sum required to gain quick access as an investor. And it has presented bills to fine and jail people – traffickers and detain their clients, and to penalize unauthorized immigration advisers who charge fees”. 5

The list goes on; and it always seems to be that the government is using the word “backlog” as a pretext to justify its actions pertaining to restricting immigration or placing a moratorium on several programs.

It is noteworthy mentioning that many of us oppose a “plethora” of immigrants; but what aggravates or exasperates the current problem are the policies that are being adopted which clearly show that the government is restricting immigration. So the question that must be answered is what we are expecting or to rephrase what does the future hold for immigrants wanting/ wishing to land on Canadian soil?

To the dismay of many, as of July 1st, 2012 another pause has been placed on the federal skilled worker program (FSWP) and Federal Immigrant Investor Program (FIIP); the reason for the pause according to the Minister of CIC, Jason Kenny is that:

“we will take the next six months to do a lot of heavy lifting to set us closer to a fast and flexible immigration system”. 6

Opinions strongly differ pertaining to the policies that are being adopted; the current pause is to re-structure the whole FSW System and other immigration programs in Canada. Personally, I don’t consider myself a clairvoyant! But for the time being, the only thing we can do is wait and see what January 2013 will bring us and many prospective immigrants/foreign nationals. All of us are aware of the fact that the Canadian economy continues to encounter labor shortages/ dearth; moreover there has always been a consensus that economic immigration should be the primary focus of Canada’s Immigration programs; a question that emerges is what is happening then to the system?

All what we have seen for the past couple of years is cessation /pausing programs and restricting the number of potential/prospective immigrants to Canada by continuing to use the word “backlog” as an excuse; can it be a transformational change towards a better system?

Some might say that this change is more about moving from the slow and rigid system to the fast and flexible new system; if a fast and flexible system involves expunging or deleting the backlog of immigration applications as part of the government’s plan towards a better system; then I leave it to the reader to decide whether Canada remains to be open or not.

Ahmad Al-Azem
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku


1 Immigration History of Canada
2 Canada immigration closed till Jan 2013
3 Labour shortage ‘desperate,’ Chamber says
4 ibid
5 In Canada, a smaller welcome mat for immigrants
6 Minister Kenney Hits the Reset Button: Sets the Foundation for New, Faster, More Flexible Immigration System

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