Canada plans to bring in over 1.2 million new immigrants over the next three years, the federal immigration minister said on Friday, as the country tries to fill gaps in its labour market and boost the economy, both hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the federal government aims to accept 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021, another 411,000 in 2022 and then 421,000 in 2023.
Canada needs more workers, he said, “and immigration is the way to get there”.
“Before the pandemic, our government’s goal to drive the economy forward through immigration was ambitious. Now it’s simply vital,” said Mendicino, who tabled the new immigration targets earlier in the day.
Robert Falconer, a refugee and immigration policy researcher at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, tweeted Friday that if the government meets its goals, the next three years will be “the highest years on record since 1911”.
In a notice outlining the details of its plan, Ottawa said it aims to welcome 232,500 newcomers from the economic class of immigrants in 2021, as well as 103,500 family members of people already in Canada, 59,500 refugees and other protected persons. Another 5,500 people will be accepted on humanitarian grounds, reports Al Jazeera.
Canada’s immigration system has long been held up as a model, as it has historically brought in skilled workers as well as refugees and individuals seeking to reunite with family members already in the country.
The country closed its borders to most immigrants in March due to Covid-19. Through August, it had settled 128,425 newcomers, Reuters news agency reported – less than half of the 341,000-person target it had set for 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic also has put glaring inequalities and longstanding problems with Canada’s immigration system under increased scrutiny.
Many asylum seekers and refugees face poor working conditions, while several key industries in Canada, such as healthcare, food processing and farming, rely on workers whose precarious immigration status places them at risk of abuse.
A movement has grown over the past several months demanding Canada grant permanent immigration status for these front line workers, many of whom are labouring under conditions that place them at risk of contracting Covid-19.