Speaking notes for the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship: Announcement related to the International Experience Canada program


Delivered Thursday, December 1, 2022, in Banff, Alberta

Hello and welcome, everyone. My name’s Sean Fraser, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today to make a great announcement that supports the tourism sector and tackles the labour shortage.

It’s great to be back here in Banff. We had an opportunity this summer to do a round table with certain players in the tourism sector from this region and discuss with the business community more broadly the need to continue to advance immigration measures to help ensure we could bring workers into the economy. It’s good to be back to demonstrate that we’re doing our best to take feedback from the industry to understand how we can advance policies that are going to continue to help players in the sector grow.

Before I get too far, I do want to acknowledge that we meet today on Treaty 7 Territory, the traditional lands of the Stoney-Nakoda Nations of Wesley, Chiniki and Bearspaw, 3 nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy, and of the Kainai, Piikani, Siksika and Tsuut’ina First Nations. I also want to acknowledge some of our guests who’ve joined, in particular André Quenneville, the General Manager of the Mount Norquay ski area and the Banff Train Station, who will be sharing a few words in a minute.

Before I get into the details of today’s announcement, I do want to make you aware of a very positive policy change that’s going into effect today, targeting affordability. Though we are here to discuss measures to combat the labour shortage, today’s an important day for families who are earning less than $90,000, as a new federal program will provide a direct cash supplement to allow children under the age of 12 who don’t have dental coverage to have their teeth looked at, regardless of how much their parents earn.

It’s important that we continue to focus on making sure that we’re supporting families. As we know, the prices of things have increased over the last number of months, and this is just the latest in a series of measures that are designed to make sure that we’re supporting families who are in need, and we’re doing our best to build an economy that works for every Canadian, not just the wealthiest members of society.

Today, I think it’s important to acknowledge the economic context in which we sit. It’s important to me that we all get behind the idea that Canada’s in need of more people, for economic reasons and for demographic reasons. When I look back at the last couple of years, it’s been challenging for a lot of businesses, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sector. But, it’s also useful to understand that Canada has had one of the strongest economic recoveries of any advanced economy in the world from the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve now seen GDP is well in advance of pre-pandemic levels. We’ve seen jobs that were lost during the pandemic since return. Despite these successes this summer, there are close to a million job vacancies in the economy. With a million empty jobs and a labour force that has been disproportionately growing through immigration strategies over the last couple of years, it’s pretty clear we need to continue to bring people from other parts of the world to make a contribution to our communities here in Canada.

We also want to continue to bring young people into our communities to combat the demographic trend of an aging population. If you go back 50 years in our history, you’ll see that there were 7 workers for every retiree in this country. Today, that number’s closer to 3, and within 10 to 15 years, if we remain on our current trajectory, that number’s going to be closer to 2. If we don’t do something to correct this trajectory, the conversations we’re going to be having 10 or 15 years from now are not going to be about labour shortages—they’ll be about whether we can afford to continue to fund schools, hospitals and other basic public services.

And, that’s one of the reasons we need to continue to bring workers into our community to help contribute to our economic growth. It’s really important that we leverage every tool we have in the toolbox. We’ve increased our immigration levels. We’re continuing to invest in processing to speed up timelines for employers who are trying to get workers here. We’ve lifted the cap on hours that international students can work. We’ve expanded the occupation codes for Express Entry through federal immigration streams, welcoming 16 new sectors and making them eligible to bring permanent residents to Canada.

Today, we’re announcing another change to an important program that supports the community here in Banff, and the tourism sector more broadly, right across the country: the International Experience Canada program. This program allows people under the age of 35, from 36 different countries around the world, to come to Canada through a few different, unique streams. It allows people to come on working holidays. It allows them to pursue internship opportunities, and there are young professional programs that allow people to get targeted experience that allows them to grow their careers and potentially transition to stay in Canada for the long term.

I’m so thrilled to share that we are increasing the scale of the International Experience Canada program by 20%, which means that there will be close to 90,000 participants this year who will be able to come to work in the sector through the program. This is going to have a major impact on seasonal employers, giving them access to the workers they need to continue to grow.

This is not just a benefit for the employers or the people who are coming to Canada to work—it’s also going to help sustain the employment of the workers who depend on seasonal employment for their livelihoods and who have grown up their entire lives in Canada. I come from a part of the country, Atlantic Canada, that depends heavily on seasonal industries.

If it weren’t for the ability of people to come in and supplement our labour force, our traditional industries—I’m thinking in particular of fisheries and agriculture—wouldn’t be able to continue to employ the Canadians who’ve long depended on those sectors for growth. Workers come from abroad to help support the employers, to help them remain open.

This is probably true in the tourism and hospitality sector more so than in any other sector in Canada, after what the last 2 years have done to that sector. When you lose your customers for a couple of years, it’s hard to hang on and stay open. But, as a result of different programs that were advanced by different levels of government, and the sheer will of players in the sector, we’re still here as a sector.

By continuing to invest in immigration strategies to bring more people into the country, including the expansion of the International Experience Canada program, we’re going to make sure that you continue to have access to the labour you need, not just to stay open, as we continue to see visitors come back, but to thrive going forward.

New applications under the various streams are going to open on January 9, 2023, just a few short weeks away. We hope that we’re going to see significant uptake with almost 15,000 additional spots open this year for workers who are going to come and make a positive difference to our community.

I want to conclude by inviting someone I met this morning to share his thoughts on his experience with the program: David, who comes from Slovakia. We met while we were in town this morning, and I saw he was wearing a name tag that indicated where he’d come from. I started asking a few questions about what immigration programs he used to come to Canada, and he knew to the very last detail how to use the International Experience Canada program because that’s the experience that he’s personally lived.

David, if you want to come and share some of your experience, we’d be pleased to have you join us at the microphone. Thank you very much, everyone. 

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