Immigration policy is ailing

Auditor-General Sheila Fraser’s report on immigration in Canada has exposed some flaws in the system, the Globe and Mail reported Nov. 3.

Fraser said responsibility for immigration decisions is being increasingly handed over to the provinces and employers, rather than being federally regulated. As a result, there’s a shift in the kinds of workers gaining admission to Canada.

Professional immigrants are being outnumbered by participants in the Foreign Worker Program, which brings low-skilled employees into the country on temporary permits.

Low-skilled foreign workers can be vulnerable once they immigrate, Fraser said, adding that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration has been hasty to make decisions without considering the costs, benefits and risks to the Canadian labour market.

Canada’s original immigration vision was to accept skilled, intelligent workers, giving the benefits of Canadian living to people who would work hard to improve our society. This vision seems to have gone awry, as skilled workers with qualifications from other countries still struggle to find employment in Canada.

The rise in the number of low-skilled workers being admitted to the country correlates with Canada’s shift to a service-based economy. In the service industry where many jobs require few advanced or professional skills, international workers with temporary permits can easily fill job openings. But with the economic downturn and the rise in oil prices, we can expect the service industry to see a rapid decline. It would be wise to re-evaluate Canada’s immigration strategy to keep up with these changes in the market.

Canada lets in the highest number of immigrants of any Western country, but has a disappointing track record of protecting them once they get here. Developed health, education and social services to support new immigrants should go hand-in-hand with an open-arms immigration policy.

Accepting fewer immigrants while working to improve the quality of life for new Canadians would be a proactive step.

It’s also concerning immigration decisions were made without a detailed cost-benefit analysis.

Canada’s decentralized federation, where Ottawa heads immigration but many services essential to new immigrants are provincially run, is problematic. Consolidating responsibilities under one policy would make the system easier to administrate, with fewer loopholes for fraud and inconsistency.

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