ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for the Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism at a news conference to announce that in 2010, Canada welcomed the highest number of legal immigrants in more than 50 years

Toronto, Ontario, February 13, 2011

As delivered

Thank you very much for joining us. Ladies and gentlemen, the Government of Canada is committed to maintaining Canada’s tradition of welcoming newcomers from around the world and supporting the strong economy. While other Western countries cut back on immigration during the recession, Canada’s government kept legal immigration levels high while taking action to maintain the integrity of our immigration system. Our post-recession economy, after all, demands a high level of economic immigration to keep our economies strong.

That’s why, as Canada emerged from the global recession in 2010, I took steps last summer to bolster economic immigration. After meeting with my provincial counterparts in June of last year, I announced that we were adjusting Canada’s immigration plan for 2010 to increase economic immigration and help ensure employers have the workers they need to supplement our domestic sources of labour.

And so today, I’m here to make a very exciting announcement. As a result of these changes, Canada – and according to the preliminary data that I am releasing today – Canada welcomed in 2010 the highest number of immigrants in the past 57 years – 281,000 newcomers. We welcomed 281,000 newcomers, a total exactly of 280,636 – we don’t want to miss one of those people – new permanent residents who were admitted to Canada last year.

This number is about 60,000 higher than the average number of permanent residents admitted on an annual basis during the decade of the 1990s. Overall, the Government’s planned range of new permanent residents for 2010 was exceeded actually by 6%. In the 1990s, we usually saw the targets being missed on the negative side, but this year, our department has exceeded actually the intake target for newcomers by 6%.

It’s important to understand that the ranges are for planning purposes only. The key number is how many immigrants Canada actually admits. For 2010, as I mentioned, that number is over 280,000, with the growth coming mostly from skilled economic immigrants who are going to help us build our economy.

This reflects the important role of immigration in supporting our growth and our prosperity. Now, the high number of economic immigrants in 2010 has helped Citizenship and Immigration Canada decrease the backlogs in the Federal Skilled Work Program, reduce wait times significantly under our Action Plan for Faster Immigration, and better meet labour market needs.

Now, before the Action Plan for Faster Immigration was put in place by our Government, Canada was obliged to process every immigration application it received, even if it meant creating a huge backlog which had swelled to 640,000 skilled worker applicants at its peak in 2008. But our Action Plan is paying off. Last year, in fact, the backlog in this category was drawn down to 335,000 applicants. So that backlog is down by about nearly 50%. This represents close to half the number of applicants who were awaiting a decision in 2008.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m very happy that a high number of immigrants were admitted in 2010 and this means that more people are out of that lineup and well on their way to a new life amongst us here in Canada. This is important, because Canada needs skilled workers. These are newcomers who have the right mix of skills, education and experience to meet the current and long-term demands of our economy. They also have the skills that can be transferred to adapt changes in our labour market.

In fact, we did a recent evaluation that confirmed that immigrants selected by the Skilled Worker Program are contributing significantly to the Canadian economy. The evaluation measured whether the program is selecting immigrants who are more likely to succeed economically in Canada. It showed that skilled immigrants are doing well in filling gaps in our labour force. The evaluation found that skilled workers – and this is very good news – that skilled workers who already had a job offer when they applied for permanent residence fared best of all, earning on average $79,000 three years after arriving in Canada.

And so we are turning the corner after a long period of time of seeing declining economic results for immigrants. We are now seeing increasingly better economic results for skilled workers and for provincial nominees and many others. We are turning the corner. About two thirds of those who were admitted in 2010 were economic immigrants and their dependents. I should note as well that last year, we continued to do our part to meet the needs of provinces and territories, with a record number of admissions in the Provincial Nominee Program, which were 20% higher than in 2009.

So in the past four years, our Government has allowed for the Provincial Nominee Program to expand significantly, from about 8,000 people to about 36,000 people this year, in 2011. And do you know what that means? There’s a much better distribution of immigrants across Canada. It used to be that 90% were settling in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and not necessarily going to where some of the best job opportunities were in the Atlantic and Western provinces, for example.

Now, thanks to the expansion of the Provincial Nominee Program, we see a much better distribution of newcomers, immigration increasing in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and that means more opportunities. And those people increasingly are staying in those communities, which are now benefiting from immigration in a way they did not in the past.

But while we welcomed more immigrants in the economic category in 2010 than we originally planned, we did so while also meeting our family reunification and humanitarian obligations to help refugees. In fact, the overall number of refugees offered protection in Canada increased last year. The 12,595 refugees who made successful asylum claims here in Canada last year, they played by the rules and came to Canada through legal streams.

While we continue to maintain our humanitarian tradition of providing a safe haven for legitimate refugees, we will not stand by while our immigration system is abused by those who seek the immigration queue and pay human smugglers to come here illegally. Bill C-49, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act, sends a clear message that the abuse of our immigration system will not be tolerated.

We also continued to admit an increasing number of foreign students to Canada last year through our efforts among the federal and provincial governments, and colleges and universities. For example, when I was in China last year, I announced the Student Partners Program. We already implemented that in India and this is helping to increase significant numbers of foreign students from those two countries.

The number of foreign students who came to Canada grew by over 10% last year, resulting in the highest number of foreign students ever admitted to Canada, and we expect it to increase even further in 2011.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Government of Canada is committed to using immigration to support Canada’s economic recovery and our prosperity, and I can assure you that we remain committed to family reunification and to upholding Canada’s humanitarian tradition of providing protection to those in need. Let me just add, we’ve made many other positive changes in the past year, including our measures to provide stronger protection to the rights of live-in caregivers by passing the Juana Tejada Law, easing the pathway to permanent residency for those individuals, and ensuring that those who become sick while they’re working hard here in Canada are not penalized for it.

We’ve also brought in as a government the Canadian Experience Class, which allows for temporary workers and students to become permanent residents from within Canada, because they’re already pre-integrated and it didn’t make any sense to tell them to go abroad. We’re now making decisions on skilled worker applications, new ones, in a matter of several months as opposed to several years, which was the case five years ago.

We have tripled the federal investment in settlement services, and yes, that’s true in Ontario and Toronto next year like it was last year. We are investing $600 million in settlement services in 2011 as opposed to $300 million back in 2005. And in Ontario, for example, in 2005, the federal government was investing $109 million in settlement services. This year, we will be investing over $300 million in helping give Ontario newcomers a strong head start.

We also passed the Balanced Refugee Reform Act unanimously through Parliament, which will help to curtail abuse of Canada’s generosity by false asylum seekers while giving faster protection to bona fide refugees who need our protection and adding procedural fairness through a new Refugee Appeal Division that refugee advocates have long asked for. We are also increasing, over the course of the next two years, the number of refugees who we resettle from terrible circumstances abroad. We will be increasing by 20% the number of resettled refugees that we receive in Canada. These are typically living in UN camps, victims of conflict, violence, warfare and ethnic cleansing.

We are increasing the integration support for those Government Assisted Refugees by 20% so that they can get a good start for their families when they arrive here in Canada. And no one should forget that one of the very first things our Government did in 2006 was to cut in half the right of landing fee for permanent residents, and so far, that measure has saved newcomers over $1.2 billion in their pockets, money that they’re now keeping to help their families.

So, friends, there’s a whole lot more to do and I’m looking forward to working with our immigrant communities and cultural communities as we continue to try to improve our immigration programs. But today is really about celebrating the fact that while other countries are closing the door, Canada’s door is open to those who want to come and contribute, to play by the rules, to work hard and build Canada’s prosperity, those who need our help, who are victims of persecution, and family members seeking to rejoin those who came ahead of them here in Canada.

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