Immigration Mailbox I

Welcome to the inaugural Immigration Mailbox column. In this space, we hope to address issues and answer questions related to the issue of immigration. We welcome readers to submit their questions on the Canadian immigration system. In later columns, I will attempt to answer the questions that have been submitted.


First, a little bit about my background: I have been an immigration consultant for over a decade. Previously, I have served as the National Vice-President of the Association of Immigration Counsel of Canada (AICC) and I am a registered member of the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants (CSIC). Most recently, I worked with the BC government where I managed the BC Provincial Nominee Program and held the position of Director of Economic Immigration Programs.


With a federal election quickly approaching, immigration is once again an issue that is in the news. This past fall, the Federal Liberals re-committed to increasing the annual number of immigrants to 300,000 by gradually increasing the annual total (now at 245,000) over the next 5 years. The Federal Immigration Minister, Joe Volpe, also made news by committing to increasing the number of sponsored parents and grandparents approved this year and by stating that the immigration selection system should do a better job of addressing the skill shortages that exist in the Canadian labour market. All federal parties, and many of the provinces, have expressed ideas on how to better utilize the skills that economic immigrants bring to the country to ensure that the doctors, accountants, engineers and other skilled individuals that are selected to immigrate here are not prevented from making the most of their skills and experience after they arrive.


Canada is a country founded by immigrants and we now accept more immigrants per capita than any other country in the world. Although our system is not without its flaws, it is important to keep in mind the things our country does right in this area. Virtually all advanced industrialized countries are entering an era where they are competing globally for skills and knowledge. Alongside this trend toward globalization, Canada and many other Western countries are facing demographic pressures that require we look beyond our borders to address shortages of highly skilled workers. Among these countries, perhaps none is better placed to benefit from its vast experience in selecting and settling large numbers of immigrants than Canada.


However, it is also important to keep in mind that those benefits are unlikely to be realized unless our immigrant selection system and settlement services are not properly modernized and enhanced. As someone who has had recent experience working within the immigration division of a provincial government, I can attest to the important role that the provinces must play in selecting skilled and business immigrants if these classes are to bring continuing economic benefits to the province and the country. Canada is simply too large and diverse a country to have one national selection system that can meet the needs of all regions. The provinces are much better placed to select the types of skills and experience needed by their local economies. This means that the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) that have developed across the country will need to grow and expand and that the federal government will in the future have to view the provinces as full partners in the realm of economic immigrant selection.


And once immigrants are here, it is the role of regulatory bodies, which are mostly provincial rather than federal, and Canadian employers to recognize the skills that these individuals bring and provide the opportunities that will allow their skills to be fully utilized. Currently, the Canadian labour market is far too closed to workers whose experience and skills have come from other countries. By contrast, the United States does a much better job of maximizing the economic potential of internationally-trained individuals.


These are some of the larger issues that the federal and provincial governments are currently struggling with and none of them have easy answers. However, I hope that some of your questions can be answered in this space in the near future. I look forward to receiving your inquiries and opinions.


Joe Kenney can be e-mailed at