Canada's Immigration Minister spoke with Envoy about the success of the country's immigration initiatives
Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino recently joined Envoy CEO Dick Burke for an exciting behind-the-scenes look at the country's bold immigration plans in 2021 and beyond. During the conversation, Minister Mendicino discussed the successes of Canada's Global Skills Strategy as well as other initiatives aimed at attracting both high-skilled talent and employers to the country.
Four highlights from our conversation with Minister Mendicino
On maintaining Canada's immigration levels during the pandemic:
Minister Mendicino said that although the country does have restrictions in place on non-essential travel through its borders, the government has worked to "reimagine the way we do immigration in a pandemic context" by instituting pre-arrival testing and additional quarantine requirements.
"This approach has allowed us to keep open the corridors that will help generate growth and spur on new jobs in some of the most essential parts of our economy such as the healthcare sector, as well as when it comes to building infrastructure," Minister Mendocino said.
He added that immigration will continue to play an important role as the country recovers economically, noting that 60% of the immigration levels in its three-year plan will be reserved for economic-class workers.
On efforts to attract foreign talent to Canada's regional provinces:
"Even if we never said another word about Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, Edmonton or Calgary, there would still be immigrants attracted to those large city centers because they've gained prominence around the world," Minister Mendicino said, "but there are also other pockets of the country that equally want to access those talent pools so that they can spur on their own growth."
To address these needs, Canada has launched programs such as the Atlantic immigration pilot. Similar in nature to proposals for a "Heartland visa" in the U.S., Minister Mendicino and his department work with local employers and governments in Atlantic Canada to identify their unique talent needs and bring in the right workers. These workers are encouraged to stay in the area, further contributing to economic growth and supporting an aging population. Due to the success of the pilot, Minister Mendocino says it will now become a permanent part of the country's immigration approach, and a similar pilot is now launching in rural northern Canada.
"Innovating in those ways has really demonstrated to Canadians that immigration and bringing in really bright, hardworking people who want to add to their communities actually creates economic opportunity and growth," Minister Mendicino said.
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On Canadian government collaboration with the private sector:
Minister Mendicino noted the importance of building partnerships with the private sector in the success of its immigration strategy. "When you create that space for a constructive conversation and alignment, you get a much better overall approach to immigration," he explained, pointing to the Global Skills Strategy (GSS) as one example.
"We're working closely with blue chip CEOs and tech CEOs who need a very specific or niche skill set and want to attract that talent from abroad into the job. Under GSS, we've welcomed over 70,000 into Canada with very fast turnaround times on visas."
In addition, Mendicino explained, collaboration with the private sector can help spread a more positive narrative about immigration more widely.
"Governments of every political stripe have sometimes had to bear too much of the burden of having to promote the story of immigration," Minister Mendicino said. "If we really want to succeed, we need to reach across not only partisan lines, but also into the private sector and into our settlement services sector who do incredible work and really take up this mantle together."
On the digitization of Canada's immigration system:
Minister Mendicino explained that much like the U.S., the Canadian immigration system historically consisted of paper-based applications, with different routes for students, workers, visitors and other applicants.
"Today, certain applicants are able to upload your personal data to secure and remote servers for the purposes of filing an application, which we then hope to turn around as quickly as possible," Minister Mendicino explained. "Where we want to be going forward is that each and every line of business is entirely digital."
According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitization of these processes.
"Coming out of the pandemic, we are going to be far more efficient than where we ever were prior to COVID-19, because the pandemic has really taught us, at breakneck speed, how to learn some of these lessons and incorporate them."
Minister Mendicino added that by moving citizenship ceremonies and residency interviews online, "we are really increasing the rate at which we can transition people into our economy and our communities."
Originally published 26 March 2021
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