Economic immigration to Canada – shifting focus to integration and families
Immigration has been fundamental to building Canada’s economy and national identity, says Prof. Harald Bauder, program director of the Graduate Program in Immigration and Settlement Studies at Ryerson University in Toronto.
“If you look at Canadian history, the Canadian economy has always relied on immigrants,” says Bauder. “Immigrants built the country, the skilled immigrants that came, almost like an economic elite, but also there were the workers that built the railways, the workers that really created the infrastructure that we have in Canada today.”
Since 2002, Canada’s immigration program has been based on the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its regulations.
Canada has three basic classes of immigration: economic class; family class and refugees.
The skilled workers immigration category in particular face a range of issues in Canada, says Bauder.
The first issue is calibrating the immigration point system and the selection criteria for the constantly changing needs of the labour market in Canada, Bauder says.
Then there is the problem of recognizing the credentials and the work experience of these selected immigrants by various employers and professional bodies. Many recent immigrants find themselves in a Catch-22 situation: employers demand Canadian experience to hire workers, but immigrants cannot get that Canadian experience unless someone hires them.
As a result many immigrants are forced to accept entry level positions with lower wages or give up on their profession altogether. But Bauder says those who do get hired based on their professional and educational background tend to do as well as their Canadian-born counterparts.
Immigrants: focus on the family
Bauder is proposing another change in the approach to immigration that he thinks can significantly improve the system. Instead of evaluating individuals, Canadian officials ought to take into account the applicants’ family networks and not just in Canada but globally.
“We have a very limited view of what family is, so there is the nuclear family with usually, if you use these gender terms, the primary applicant, husband and wife or spouses, and then there could be the children and the immediate dependents,” says Bauder. “The way that people understand their family is much more complex.”