Speaking notes for Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship at a news conference on Canada's Immigration Plan for 2018

Speech

Toronto, Ontario
November 1, 2017

Thank you very much for that kind introduction. Good afternoon, and thank you all for being here.

I'd like to first recognize that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of New Credit. And I'd like to thank Tulip Retail for hosting us today.

Our government believes that newcomers play a vital role in our society. From coast to coast to coast, immigration in partnership with our welcoming society has truly shaped the country that we all call home. But the question is: why do we need immigration? Well, five million Canadians are set to retire by 2035. And we have fewer people working to support seniors and retirees. Immigration supports GDP growth by creating jobs, attracting investment, and driving innovation. Immigration is vital to all of us. And that is why today, I'm so pleased to share a historic and responsible plan to grow our future.

Our government has just tabled the Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, including Canada's historic multi-year immigration levels plan, which will responsibly grow the annual number of permanent residents that Canada welcomes over the next three years. In 2018 we plan to welcome 310,000 permanent residents to Canada. That number will increase to 330,000 in 2019, and 340,000 in 2020. This will move us towards one percent of the population. This plan will result in the most ambitious immigration levels in recent Canadian history, and represents a major future into Canada's prosperity now and into the future.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, in order to sustain a healthy level of economic growth across the country, we will need to increase our immigration levels to up to one percent of our population within the next few decades. Our current immigration levels stand at around 0.8 percent, and this historic, multi-year immigration plan that I'm announcing today will bring us up to around 0.9 percent by 2020.

Immigration has had an immeasurable effect on our country.

It's been a driving force in the progress that Canada has been able to make over many years. Generations of newcomers have come from other places in the world and have shaped and helped shape our prosperity, diversity, and our nation's cultural fabric. I look no further than Ali, our host, the son of immigrant parents whose mother fled persecution in Uganda. And his example and the example of his parents destroys the myth that newcomers and their families drain our resources and are a burden to our society. You can see very clearly that Ali and his parents have contributed so much to Canada by innovating, creating their own businesses, and hiring so many Canadians, thereby contributing to our common prosperity. And I'm proud that I was once one of those newcomers.

At the same time, immigration is key to our future success.

Immigration has played a significant role in Canada in recent years. Generations of newcomers have come from the four corners of the globe, contributing to our prosperity, diversity and culture. I’m proud to say that I myself was one of those newcomers. Immigration has been, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of Canada’s success.  

It strengthens our country and helps keep Canada globally competitive by spurring innovation and economic growth, and supporting diverse and inclusive communities. It'll help us to ease the great challenges of the coming years, such as the slowing labour force growth and labour shortages linked to Canada's aging population. For example, in 1971 there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior. By 2012 that ratio of worker to retiree had dropped to 4.1 to one. And projections put the ratio at two to one by 2036, less than 20 years from now. Five million Canadians are set to retire by then. And in two decades, almost 100 percent of Canada's net annual population growth will be through immigration. It already accounts for 75 percent of that growth today. If we're able – if we're going to be able to commit to keep our commitments for health care, for pensions, and all of our other social programs, and to continue to grow our economy and meet our labour market needs, in the decades to come we must respond to this clear demographic challenge.

In that spirit, our new multi-year immigration levels plan builds on our already historically high immigration levels. This ambitious plan will benefit all Canadians because immigrants contribute to our economic growth and keep our country competitive in a global economy.

These unprecedented plans will benefit all Canadians because immigrants contribute to our economic growth and help keep Canada at the forefront of the global economy.  

Immigrants drive innovation and help employers meet labour market needs. Higher immigration levels will also improve the operations of our immigration system by helping us to reduce and eliminate immigration backlogs and improve processing times for all our clients. This will help us to reunite families faster; it'll help employers to be able to get the talent that they need here faster; and yes, it'll also help us to provide more protection to the most vulnerable people in the world.

Our commitment to eliminating backlogs and reducing processing times is already evident in the last two years. When we took over government, we saw that the spousal program, for example, spouses and children had to wait for 26 months or more to be reunited. We reduced that processing time to 12 months or less. We also, while we were doing that, eliminated 20,000 cases from the spousal backlog. That means 20,000 families are now reunited because of our policies. Citizenship processing used to take 24 months or more when we took over office; citizenship is now taking 12 months or less. We're committed to continuing to eliminate the backlogs and keep working harder to improve client service because that remains a top priority for our government.

And to be blunt, Canada is in a unique position now to leverage what some are calling our immigration advantage. And as can be seen in the global environment, there are more and more countries that are closing their doors to people, they're closing their doors to talent, to skills, and yes, to those who are seeking protection from persecution. We are emphatically and unapologetically taking the opposite approach. We welcome the innovation, the innovative perspectives, the entrepreneurial spirits, and the unique skill sets of skilled newcomers. Immigration stands to be an economic difference maker for Canada, both for our current needs but also in the long term. That is why 60 percent of the growth in the immigration levels plan that I'm announcing today over the next three years will come through our economic immigration programs.

Prominent among these programs is the Provincial Nominee Program, which helps meet regional labour market needs and distributes the benefits of immigration all across our country. I heard very loud and clear and unanimously from provinces and territories about the importance of the Provincial Nominee Program to particular regional labour market needs and how the Provincial Nominee Program has been a great success for provinces and how they would like to see growth in that program. As well, the number of skilled immigrants we select through the federal Express Entry System will grow over the next three years, which will mean that more highly skilled talent will be able to arrive in our country faster for our labour markets.

At the same time, as someone who was a former refugee, I'm proud of the fact that our government will continue to uphold our humanitarian traditions and maintain Canada's leadership role, global role in resettling refugees and offering protection to the most vulnerable. Our commitment to providing protection to the world's most vulnerable people is fundamental to our identity as Canadians and helps us meet our international obligations, thereby securing our international reputation. Indeed, for example, Canada's unique Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program has recently been identified by a number of countries as a model for them and as a potential key element in the international effort to create more resettlement spaces for refugees.

Our model is now being used by other countries. For example, I had the great pleasure of going to the United Kingdom to launch the UK Community Sponsorship Program, which is modelled after the Canadian Private Sponsorship Program of Refugees. Other countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, and Australia, are seriously considering this program. We're proud that our model can be a foundation for other countries to support the most vulnerable people.

As we increase our immigration levels over the next few years, we'll continue to ensure that our immigration system remains well managed and operates with the safety and security of all Canadians as a top priority. In fact, the adoption of a multi-year planning approach helps us, and our key partners, better plan to meet the challenges and opportunities of immigration growth. And Canada stands out among all immigrant-receiving countries in the great emphasis that we place on assisting newcomers to integrate quickly into our country. Canada stands out as a country that welcomes immigrants and invests in newcomers to help in their transition after they immigrate.  

Our settlement services, such as our recently expanded pre-arrival services, language training, employment supports, and newcomer orientation courses, are linked to immigrant success. For example, 93 percent of newcomers who use the settlement services are able to capture and learn English or French, and more than 85 percent pursue citizenship. Initiatives have been implemented to take on emerging challenges in supporting newcomer youth, for example. We, as part of Budget 2017, launched a 27.5 million targeted employment strategy for skilled, professional newcomers, which allows them to start the licensing process before they even arrive in Canada, and helps them to make that transition to their profession once they arrive here.

We have made record investments every year for the last two years in settlement and integration funding to support newcomers to integrate into Canada because we know that those investments will pay back so much more. And the faster we can enable that newcomer to restart their life in Canada, the faster that they can contribute to our society. This is precisely why this historic growth is being managed through a gradual increase over three years. This will allow our settlement and integration partners the time that they need to plan and work with all levels of government to ensure that our world-class results for newcomers continue.

An increasing number of people we select for immigration are already here – temporary foreign workers, international students. These are excellent candidates for permanent residency because they've already formed an attachment to Canada; they know our country well; they speak one, if not both, of our official languages; and, generally have work experience. So we have confidence that they will integrate well.

Canada also stands out by emphasizing that citizenship is the end point in a continuum that begins with settlement and continues with integration. Indeed, most people, about 85 percent, who are eligible to become Canadian citizens take up that citizenship. We believe that welcoming immigrants to Canada, helping them settle and integrate into our society, and ultimately seeing them become Canadian citizens provides our country with great opportunities and a competitive advantage. And as I have travelled across the country since being named to cabinet, I heard a similar message from a variety of stakeholders, including businesses, employers, labour leaders, provincial and territorial representatives, municipal leaders, families, and advocates. They've all said that increased immigration is necessary to ensure economic growth, community sustainability, and keeping Canada globally competitive.

Canada has a tremendous opportunity to leverage our strong, well-managed immigration system, our welcoming society in support of our country's future. This historic, multi-year levels plan will help us to do so by addressing the impact of our aging population, by supporting economic growth and innovation, by meeting our real labour market and skills shortages, by reinforcing our global leadership on immigration, and by upholding our humanitarian commitments.

Thank you very much. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have. 


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