"We have to also recognize that there’s been a lot of fear and misinformation spread about immigration and about refugees by the right wing in this country. Our job is to share with Canadians the success stories – personal stories of all the newcomers that have contributed so much to Canadian society."
1. Do you feel the government and your ministry have managed to make a difference in the lives of Canadians?
I think we’ve worked with Canadians to create a really good momentum and a good track record of growth in our economy, of a reduction of poverty, giving more opportunities to young people, to getting more help to families, and creating more jobs than ever before. Canadians have created over a million jobs since 2015; hundreds of thousands of children have been lifted out of poverty; businesses are doing well. I think we have a very good track record to present to Canadians. And we want to continue on that momentum to deliver real change for Canadians.
2. A recent poll suggests a majority of Canadians believe the federal government should limit the number of immigrants. How are you addressing this concern?
Let’s first recognize that 60 per cent of the permanent residents that are coming into Canada are in the economic category. They are people who are coming to fill unfilled jobs in Canada and they're coming to bring much needed skills to our economy, to create jobs for Canadians. So that’s 60 per cent of our immigration system. Twenty per cent is in the family reunification category, the remainder is in the refugee or protective person class. So it’s a small number within the larger picture, but it’s an important number because welcoming refugees is also a part of Canadian tradition. It’s part of our humanitarian tradition. I think that we have to listen to Canadians and pay attention to what they are telling us. At the same time, we have to also recognize that there’s been a lot of fear and misinformation spread about immigration and about refugees by the right wing in this country. Our job is to share with Canadians the success stories – personal stories of all the newcomers that have contributed so much to Canadian society; the Canadians who generously welcome them; the impact of immigration, not just across the country but in local communities; and finally just how much we rely on immigration.
3. Is immigration the solution to meeting labour and population shortages?
Our economy’s growing, there’s a severe worker shortage in many parts of Canada. And one of the ways to address that is through immigration. Canada is now a global leader in attracting talent and we do that through our immigration system. And when you attract that talent, investment follows that target. And that investment generates wealth and prosperity and jobs for Canadians. I think we have to do a better job to inform Canadians on just how much immigration has been important to us as a positive force, but also how much we will continue to rely on immigration moving forward to address the fact that we are an aging society that needs more people to enhance our productivity and meet our labour market needs, our skills, shortages and contribute to our economic growth.
4. How can new immigrants /refugees find jobs and adjust to the Canadian standard of living?
Affordability is a real issue for many people. I believe our government has been pursuing economic policies so that we can try to uplift everyone and don’t leave anyone behind. That is why we are helping seniors with more supports; we have been helping working families, middle-class Canadians with the raising cost of helping their children; we’re helping young people by doubling the number of Canada summer jobs. We’ve tried to do a lot to lift everyone up, but investing in newcomers is also part of our growth strategy because when you invest in newcomers and you give them the supports that they need, that means they can work faster, sooner and contribute to Canada sooner, which is good for all of us. And let’s not forget the skilled immigrants that are coming in, many of them create jobs for Canadians.
5. How is the government tackling the issue of housing unaffordability and unemployment?
We have a National Housing Strategy that will invest $40 billion over the next 10 years. That strategy will make a real difference in the lives of seniors and young families. At the recent budget we announced measures to help first-time home buyers to pay less in their mortgage, to make it more affordable for them to enter the housing market. We are investing more money to create incentives for builders to build low-cost rental housing. But the best antipoverty program is a job. How can we create more jobs? By attracting more investment into Canada, by attracting more skilled people who create jobs into Canada, by cutting small business taxes from 11 to 9 per cent so that that money can go back into the economy. And that is why I believe our policies are leading to a record amount of employment. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years because of the policies we are pursuing. But by no means are we saying that the work is done. There are people who are struggling, who are being left behind and we have to do a better job to include them in the economy. It means, for example, enabling Canadian adults to have a chance to obtain new skills so that they can compete in the global economy. It includes, including more women, indigenous people, and others who are not included adequately in certain sectors of the economy, like the construction industry. So we have a lot more work to do.
6. A study states that immigrants in B.C. earn less than third-generation Canadians. What is being done to increase immigrant jobs?
Yes, immigrants may struggle. Again, it depends on which category of immigrants because the folks who come through Federal Skilled Worker program actually end up obtaining employment faster than the Canadian average, and they end up making higher incomes than the Canadian average in a very short period of time. With the other categories, we've not been resting on our laurels. Our settlement and integration funding has gone up 30 per cent since we formed government. Part of that includes innovation in the settlement sector to give people the tools to succeed faster in Canada. It also means trying new things like language at the workplace, enabling newcomers to start businesses so that they can hire Canadians
7. Immigrants struggle to find work that matches their experience and credentials. What is being done to recognize past credentials?
On the issue of qualifications, the regulatory bodies that run the professionals in Canada come under the jurisdiction of the provincial government. We don’t have direct jurisdiction over them. We are always encouraging the provinces to work with the regulatory bodies to integrate these professional newcomers into the economy because ultimately we want them to practice in their own field. In 2017, we introduced a targeted employment strategy for newcomers which will help with all the other obstacles apart from the regulatory body. And that includes giving soft loans to people to take the exam, to become a nurse or a doctor or an electrician. It means mentorship, it means paid training, paid internships so that they can get Canadian work experience. And I’ve seen many professional newcomers who’ve actually benefited from that program. We want people to be aware so that they can practice in their own fields.
8. There are many immigration scammers duping foreigners for PR as well as international students for study permits. What is the government about it?
We sympathize so much with anyone who has been taken advantage of by an unauthorized immigration consultant. In the budget bill of C97, we have introduced a strategy to really solve this issue once and for all. It's a $52 million investment and includes more money for the Canada Border Services Agency to investigate and enforce the rules to tackle unauthorized immigration consultants. It doubles the maximum criminal fine from a $100,000 to $200,000 for anyone practicing immigration consulting in an unauthorized manner. We are also introducing an administrative monetary penalty to go after anyone who does unauthorized immigration consulting. We're setting up a new self-regulating College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants where the majority of the board of directors will be public interest directors appointed by the government of Canada to look out for the public interest. They will be for the first time in Canadian history a compensation fund to help anyone who has lost money to recover that money. Last but not least, part of the $52 million will go towards hiring and placing immigration officers to go to some of our busiest visa offices in countries like India, China, and some countries in Africa to inform people about not to use the crooked immigration consultants and to actually educate them about our system so that they’re in a more informed position. I hope that the measures we’re putting in place will create deterrence against people who take advantage of others.
9. Can you tell us about the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program?
Our government has been trying to work with provinces to meet their demand for more workers, more immigrants in rural areas by introducing the rural integration program. We have also listened to provinces by giving them 33 per cent more spaces in the Provincial Nominee Program. Almost 30 per cent of our GDP in Canada comes from rural Canada. Businesses there are doing very well, but they’re not getting the workers that they need. So we opened a competition for communities to apply, to be selected under this pilot program. And we were able to select 11 communities, two of which are in British Columbia – West Kootenay and Vernon. The employers in those communities that have been selected under the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program will be able to go out and recruit the workers that they need to meet their local labour market needs. It’s a permanent residency program and it includes the families as well.
10. International students tend to illegally work overtime to pay for their education or accommodation. Shouldn’t the government have made changes to the working hours for a student based on the growing inflation and housing crisis?
International students contribute a lot to Canada. They contribute a lot to our economy - $21.5 billion a year into our GDP. They enrich our classrooms after they graduate. Some of them stay and work in labour market and they help us meet the need for workers in certain sectors. At the same time it’s fair to maintain program integrity. If people are coming to study, they have to study. If you’re getting a student permit, most of your time has to be spent studying. We do allow for them to work, but only for 20 hours a week because we want you to study. Part of the expectation is that because we gave you a student permit, you should be in school and studying, and finishing your degree or diploma or certificate. If for any reason you’re interested in coming to Canada primarily to work and succeed economically, then apply for a work permit. Student permit is not the avenue to work full-time in Canada because that’s not within the requirements of the program. We have to respect the rules, we have to be a welcoming country to international students, but they also have to follow the guidelines.