Speaking notes for Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship: An Update on the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program
Halifax, Nova Scotia
March 1, 2019
Thank you for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
It's really great to be here at Pier 21, a place that is a great symbol of the story of Canada intermingling with the story of immigration. I also want to thank my Parliamentary Secretary, Matt DeCourcey, the Member of Parliament from Fredericton, who has always helped me to advance the Atlantic Immigration Program in Atlantic Canada and to bring an Atlantic perspective to our work.
Immigration is vital to sustain the workforce and to support health care, public pensions, and the culture of this region.
In 2017, the Government of Canada came together with the Atlantic provinces to launch the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program, an employer-driven program that really emphasized not just the attraction of skilled workers to Atlantic Canada, but the retention of those skilled workers and their families, as a way to fuel economic growth and address labour market and skills shortages. In year three of the pilot, which is where we are now, I'm happy to tell you that we are on the right track. More than 1,800 Atlantic employers now participate in the pilot program.
We've made, under the program, 3,700 job offers to skilled workers and international graduates right here in Atlantic Canada and we've approved applications for more than 2,500 permanent residents and their family members destined for the Atlantic region. Roughly 60 percent of them have already landed in communities right across this part of Canada.
Two examples of our success: Ubisoft, one of the world's largest video gaming publishers, came to Halifax in 2015. They now have used the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program to employ four people. HGS Canada has hired 15 workers through this program. One of them is Tanya Mukhaji from India who arrived in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, with a settlement plan in place, ready to integrate into this society and hit the ground running. More Atlantic region employers are looking to immigration as one of the ways to fill their labour market challenges and also to attract the skills that they need to grow and create more jobs for Canadians.
At our last AGS meeting, and in response to the clear growing demand and use of the program, the Government of Canada announced an increase in the spaces – a 500 increase in the number of spaces in the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program. And I'm happy to report that, in 2018, all the 2,500 spaces were used. This is in addition to the allocations given to Atlantic Canada under the Provincial Nominee Program, and the highly-skilled immigrants who come through the Express Entry system who land in Canada.
So while the program continues to gain momentum and growth, the Government of Canada and the Atlantic provinces have together agreed to make some targeted adjustments to the program, based on the early lessons that we've learned but also some feedback that we got from the employers. We've seen numerous examples of how this program is helping employers. As I've said, it's helped businesses to prosper, it's helped to create real good quality middle class jobs for Canadians and, of course, it's helped Atlantic Canada to grow.
That is why I'm really pleased to join you here today to announce that the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program, which was initially meant to run till December 2019, will now be extended by an additional two years to December 31, 2021. This will give the Government of Canada and Atlantic provinces more time to experiment with different approaches and to assess the program's medium and long-term impacts in this region of Canada.
I'm also pleased to announce today that we will extend, after listening to the provinces, we will extend the timeframe available to international graduates from universities and colleges in Atlantic Canada. We will extend, from the current 12 months to 24 months, the time that they have to apply to become permanent residents. This should increase the number of international graduates applying for full-time permanent jobs in Atlantic Canada, and then in the next step, applying to become permanent residents. So the 24 months will give them more time to do that, to find those jobs and then to apply for permanent residency under the Atlantic Immigration Program.
And given the region's aging population and high health care needs, we will also now allow, for the first time, health care employers more staffing flexibility to hire internationally-trained nurses to come to Atlantic Canada and work as continuing care or home care support workers. That flexibility did not exist in the past, but as of tomorrow, it does. And as well, the provinces will now have more flexibility to prioritize which jobs they wish to fill through the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program, to allow them to have the flexibility to better allocate their pilot spaces to in-demand labour market needs. So provinces will also be able to de-designate employers who are not complying with the Immigration Pilot program's requirements.
Finally, to help foreign nationals to transition from temporary work permits to permanent residence as quickly as possible, IRCC will assess their language, education and work experience before issuing a work permit to them.
This will help to ensure that these candidates who are being given the work permits possess the necessary language and job skills that they need in order to successfully integrate into Atlantic Canada society and become permanent residents very quickly.
I'm really convinced, as I look at the program's progress up to date, that the Atlantic Immigration Program will continue to help immigration fuel the economic development of Atlantic Canada. And I see that this is an example of the great collaboration between the Government of Canada and the Atlantic Region.
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