Last week, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship was in Winnipeg and the Filipino Journal was privileged to chat with the him to get updates on the current immigration programs which are beneficial to the Filipino community being one of the country’s rapidly increasing immigrant demographics.
FJ: Any updates on the spousal sponsorship program?
AH: As you know, it’s the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his leadership that fixed the spousal program. Spouses were kept apart before for years. The process would take too long. It was complex. We simplified the process. And now, the vast majority of the spousal sponsorships take 12 months or less. So I’m happy to hear that within the Filipino community, just like many other communities, spousal sponsorship is going very well. Family reunification is really important to us. And just so you know, a lot of the changes we’ve made to improve the system came from Canadians themselves. They are the ones who told us what needed to be fixed. So if this is a proposal that many members of the community feel that we should look at, I’m happy to look at any proposals that they bring forward. So I would encourage them to inform us on what they envision to be that change.
FJ: The temporary foreign workers recent changes indicated that you have 2000 new spots. Don’t you think that number is too low?
AH: Well, it’s a start. And by the way, it’s 2000 principal applicants plus their families so you’re talking about higher number than 2000. Secondly, in January, I announced Canada’s first ever Rural and Northern Immigration program, the first in its kind for many years. That will also allow further 2,750 principal applicants plus their families to come to Canada and a lot of them can be recruited from the existing temporary foreign workers pool.
Finally, the provincial nominee program is expanding. We, the federal government, every year we’ve been in office, we’ve introduced high immigration level that has allowed us to also increase the spaces in the provincial nominee program by 33%. So some of the temporary foreign workers will also be made permanent through that stream, because there’s more spots. The rural and also the 2000 spots and we’re always talking to the industry. There are a number of industries including the meat cutters and the mining industry and others who’ve asked us to also do a little bit more. So we’re talking to them to see how we can help them as well. And a lot of that will come again from the temporary foreign workers.
FJ: Anything being done to expedite or assist the professional immigrants so that they can obtain equivalency of their profession back home and be able to use their skills and experience in finding jobs that will optimize their qualifications.
AH: As you know, the professional bodies that regulate these professions like doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers are under the province’s provincial jurisdiction. The provinces are responsible for these bodies so the Government of Canada, we don’t have direct jurisdiction over the regulatory bodies. Having said that, I can tell you that a lot of professional bodies have really moved to address this issue, some haven’t. But the problem is much less prominent as it was many years ago. In terms of what else can we do, in the ways that the Government of Canada can do something about this, we have. We have introduced a strategy in 2017 called the targeted employment for newcomers. It’s focused on professional newcomers and it’s to help them with all the other obstacles that are beyond the regulatory body like providing them income support so that they can sit for the exams, loans so that they can pay for the books, they can pay for the exam, they can pay for the application fees. And when they finish, and they get licensed, the other hurdle is people say to them, you don’t have any Canadian work experience. So we’re actually paying them to get that Canadian work experience. And there’s mentorship, job matching system. So it’s very holistic and comprehensive strategy. I urge you to look at it, $27.5 million targeted employment strategy for newcomers.
FJ: For parents and grandparents program, any specific updates that we can update our community?
AH: Yes. I just want to sort of tell you where we were and where we are now. When we got into office there were only 5000 spaces to sponsor parents and grandparents for the whole year. So, our team, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the time he wasn’t a prime minister yet, promised that if we get elected, we will double that number from 5000 to 10,000. We kept that promise. And then this year I doubled that number again from 10,000 to 20,000. As you know, the program is very popular. We took 27,000 applications ( to account for duplicates and other things). Even with that, it’s a very popular program with higher immigration levels projected next year, the year after that, I can certainly tell you that it’s very reasonable to expect that the program continue to increase, but the demand is just too high. So what I always tell people just try again next year, and the ones who didn’t get this year, they can try again next year, or they can use the super visa program which allows them to bring their parent or grandparent for periods of time for up to two years.. But we are very sensitive to family reunification. We’ve increased four times, and any opportunity to make it even better we will certainly do that.
Caregivers? Caregivers used to wait 5 – 7 years to sponsor their families. We have brought that time down to 12 months. The backlog is finished now. And my promise was I was going to finish 80% of the backlog, we did 94%. So there’s only 6% left and we will finish that.
To see the full interview, you can go to Filipino Journal on Youtube.