Canada will bring in 350,000 immigrants in 2021 — a 40,000 jump from this year’s target, the federal government announced on Wednesday.
As debate rages in the United States over immigration, with fear mongering around a “migrant caravan” dominating the lead up to midterm elections, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is signalling a different direction.
Refugees, however, will make up a relatively small portion of the 1.3 million newcomers being brought into the country between 2018 and 2021, according to Ottawa’s multi-year immigration plan.
Most new immigrants — 72 percent — will be brought in under the economic stream, helping to fill skill shortages and building a bigger workforce in certain parts of the country where there aren’t enough workers and where the population is getting older, said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.
The new target will also include 51,700 refugees — up from 43,000 this year.
“Growing immigration levels, particularly in the Economic Class, will help us sustain our labour force, support economic growth and spur innovation,” said Hussen.
"In certain regions the hunger for workers is huge," he said. "This plan is making us very competitive in the global market. It enables us to continue to be competitive, it enables us to continue to present Canada as a welcoming country and to position us to continue to be (a leader) in skills attraction."
The 350,000 figure still falls short of the 450,000 target suggested by the government’s own economic advisory committee in 2016. Hussen explained the increase has to be gradual because the government must also be able to handle housing, settling and providing integration services to newcomers.
"It's also a question of gradual increase so our immigration system can be able to process these things, communities can be able to absorb them and local immigration partnerships can do their work," he said. "We can't just go to 450,000 at once. You need to build up to that."
350,000 amounts to about 1 percent of the Canadian population.
Cover image of Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen speaks to reporters outside the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on Thursday, May 31, 2018. Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press