Immigration system praised but it could be better: Jeffery

By Tony Poland, Associate Editor

An international report praising Canada’s immigration system is “good news,” says Toronto immigration lawyer Matthew Jeffery, who agrees with the assessment that it can be improved.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report finds Canada is a world leader in how it selects and retains foreign labour.

According to the Toronto Star, OECD, an intergovernmental economic organization with 36 member countries, found Canada has a points system to identify desired immigration candidates and “a displayed ability to monitor trends and make appropriate changes.”

“They are saying the system is working well overall and has been successfully bringing in highly skilled workers and integrating them into Canadian society,” says Jeffery, who operates the immigration-focused Matthew Jeffery Barrister & Solicitor office in Toronto. “This organization basically says Canada’s system is the most elaborate and long-standing skilled worker immigration system in the world.”

The report credits the Canadian system for ensuring that 60 per cent of foreign-born nationals in the country are “highly educated,” which is the highest proportion in the OECD, according to the Star.

Jeffery tells that much of the success can be attributed to the skilled-worker programs introduced by the former Conservative government and revamped by the Liberals.

“It is a system that allows the government to control the flow of economic immigrants by creating a pool of people who are interested in emigrating but cannot actually file an application unless they’re invited to do so by the government,” he says.

He says the government’s Express Entry program also expedites the immigration process.

“The former system allowed anybody to apply, and that application would have to be processed. It created huge backlogs over time,” Jeffery says. “Now the government only takes as many people as it wants to process.”

Jeffery says the program allows immigration officials to “cherry-pick” applicants who are “the best and the brightest.”

“There’s much greater competition in the Express Entry system, and the quality of economic immigrants is continuing to rise as more people join the pool, so the quality of new immigrants is getting better and better,” he says.

However, Jeffery agrees with the OECD, which found that the Federal Skilled Trades pathway comes up short.

“The report shows that the system is basically a failure,” he says. “Only about 400 skilled tradespeople were admitted in 2018, and most of those were cooks, which we don’t really need. That program could probably just be eliminated and save the government a lot of trouble.”

Jeffery notes that the program was intended to address a tradespeople shortage in Canada, but immigrants such as electricians, carpenters and plumbers are not really applying.

He also agrees that the government should restructure its Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program for those already in the country on work permits.

Jeffery says that class of immigrants must compete for entry to the Express Entry process with skilled workers who, in many cases, have advanced education and more work experience.

“People in the Canadian Experience class usually came here to go to school, graduated and then obtained one or two years of experience, so they don’t often have the same level of education or degree of work experience,” he says.

Jeffery says the Canadian Experience class is more about keeping those tradespeople who are already working in Canada.

“They’re already contributing to Canada through their work and their taxes, so there should actually be a lower standard in terms of retaining this kind of worker and allowing them to transition to permanent residence,” he says.

Jeffery says the OECD report “is right in the sense that having the two different systems in Express Entry doesn’t really work very well."

There are not as many people applying for residency under the Canadian Experience program, and it would make sense to remove them from the Express Entry stream altogether, Jeffery says.

“The CEC should be a stand-alone category that does not require initial registration in the Express Entry or the need to wait for an invitation to apply," he says. "People qualified under the CEC should be able to apply directly for permanent residence.”

“After all, the policy objective is to retain people who are already in Canada working. It doesn’t really interfere with the government’s ability to also select larger numbers of people through the skilled worker category.”

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