Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen met with local business and education leaders, and he promised to take what he hears back to Ottawa and that it will help change federal policy.
Hussen was the guest of local non-profit business association ICONNBC at the Quilchena Golf and Country Club on April 26.
“These kind of events do not just disappear into the air,” Hussen said. “I take back what I hear to the government and it changes policy.”
Hussen pointed out that the current government has made a point of listening, to make sure immigration works well for the community. The present government has made family reunification a priority, going from a program that once allowed 5,000 parents and grandparents of Canadians to one that now allows 20,000 family members to be reunited with their Canadian families.
Hussen said the super visa program, a 10-year approval for long-term visits, does not negate the ability to also apply for family reunification.
On the skilled worker program, Hussen said the application process is heading for a 10-day approval process. The program, which offers permits to trades and professions that desperately require more employees, has fast-tracked permits for highly-skilled workers.
“The lack of immigrants is impairing (rural) economic growth because they just don’t have the numbers,” Hussen said of the rural skilled workers program, citing the 30 per cent of the Canadian economy flowing from this area that rarely attracts immigrants.
Hussen said Ottawa has eliminated more than 80 per cent of the backlog to help speed up the process of caregivers being reunited with their children and spouse.
“We now have the processing time down from seven years to 12 months.”
A new caregiver program will be announced in the fall, so caregivers can bring their spouse and children with them.
“The second spouse will arrive with a work permit and the children can go to school here.”
Hussen said Ottawa needs to tighten the rules and oversight on immigration consultants.
“Most of them help people but there is a small minority who exploit immigrants and who are not authorized,” he said. “We plan to tighten the rules and establish a college, like doctors have, to offer more oversight. And we hope to offer more enforcement options by the Canada Border Services Agency.”
The federal government’s faster processing time related not only to those applying under the skilled workers, caregivers, or family reunification programs but also for those needing refuge in Canada.
“We have committed the money to process claims faster and to also faster remove (from Canada) those who do not qualify. The safety and security of Canadians are our biggest concerns.”
When asked if he would consider dropping the requirement for even basic English or French before an immigration applicant can come to Canada, the minister replied that Level 4 English is the most basic, meaning a person is able to navigate public transit for instance.
He said Canadians have been clear that they want immigrants to be able to interact with our society and for them that means having some basic language skills when they arrive.
“To help that, we are offering more pre-arrival services—online English and French, for example—so that immigrants can have access to language skills and arrive here with this basic ability.”
Olympic-level fencing coach, Igor Gantsevich said he cannot get enough internationally-ranked coaches into Canada.
Gantsevich said he could have expanded his one facility into three or four, if he had the coaches.
The minister said that the federal government will look seriously at adding this category to those eligible for the skilled-worker program, that his ministry is working to get the approval process down to a couple of weeks.