Ottawa, February 13, 2011 - In 2010, Canada welcomed the highest number of legal immigrants in more than 50 years, at 280,636 permanent residents, Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and Parliamentary Secretary Dr. Alice Wong announced today in Toronto and Vancouver.
"While other Western countries cut back on immigration during the recession, our government kept legal immigration levels high. Canada's post-recession economy demands a high level of economic immigration to keep our economy strong," said Minister Kenney. "In 2010, we welcomed the highest number of permanent residents in the past 50 years to support Canada's economic recovery while taking action to maintain the integrity of Canada's immigration system with the introduction of the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act."
According to preliminary data, last year Canada admitted 280,636 permanent residents, about six percent more than the government's planned range of 240,000 to 265,000 new permanent residents for 2010. This is in line with Minister Kenney's announcement in June of last year that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) would adjust its 2010 immigration plan to meet the need for economic immigration. The 280,636 number is about 60,000 higher than the average annual intake of permanent residents the Government of Canada admitted in the 1990s.
"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, that number is 280,636, with the growth coming mostly from skilled economic immigrants," said Parliamentary Secretary Wong.
The high number of economic immigrants in 2010 has helped CIC decrease application backlogs in the federal skilled worker category, reduce wait times under the Action Plan for Faster Immigration, and better meet labour market needs. Before the Action Plan for Faster Immigration, which Minister Kenney announced within one month of becoming Immigration Minister in November 2008, Canada was obliged to process every immigration application it received, even if it meant creating large application backlogs in popular immigration categories. For example, in 2008 Canada had a backlog of over 640,000 people in the federal skilled worker category waiting as long as six years to be processed.
"Last year, the backlog of people who applied before the Action Plan was drawn down to 335,000 applicants, which represents close to half the number of people who were awaiting a decision in 2008," said Minister Kenney. "I'm very pleased that a higher number of admissions in 2010 means that more people are now out of the lineup and well on their way to beginning a new life in Canada."
A recent evaluation confirmed that immigrants selected under the federal skilled worker program are faring well in Canada and filling gaps in the work force. It found that skilled workers who already had a job offer when they applied for permanent residence fared best of all, earning on average $79,200 three years after arriving in Canada. About two thirds of those admitted in 2010 in the permanent resident category were economic immigrants and their dependants.
At the same time, we did our part to meet the needs of provinces and territories through a record number of immigrants in the provincial nominee program, representing an increase of 20 percent from the previous year.
"Since 2006, our government has allowed for the provincial nominee program to expand significantly, from 8,047 people in 2005 to 36,419 in 2011," said Minister Kenney.
Canada continued to welcome a high number of temporary residents, including 182,322 temporary foreign workers and 96,147 foreign students. That is 28,292 more foreign students than in 2005. And with the creation of the Canadian Experience Class in 2008, eligible foreign students can apply for permanent residency from within Canada. According to a study commissioned by the Government of Canada entitled Economic Impact of International Education in Canada, foreign students are estimated to contribute more than $6.5 billion to Canada's economy every year.
"We continued to admit an increasing number of foreign students to Canada last year through joint efforts among the federal government, provincial governments and other partners," said Minister Kenney. "Our government's initiatives such as the Student Partners Program have also helped to attract and admit a high number of foreign students, particularly from China and India."
In 2010, Canada also maintained its humanitarian tradition by welcoming 7,265 government-assisted refugees and 4,833 privately sponsored refugees. This represents 63% more privately sponsored refugees than in 2005.
"These refugees played by the rules and came to Canada through legal streams," noted Minister Kenney. "It is important to note that while Canada is maintaining its humanitarian tradition of providing a safe haven for legitimate refugees, we will not stand by while our immigration system is being abused by queue jumpers and human smugglers. 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."
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