Immigration hike spawns opportunity for business
A recent Conference Board of Canada report that calls for a 30 per cent increase in immigration over the next decade presents both opportunities and challenges at the local level, says Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman.
According to the report, factors such as an aging Canadian population, retiring baby boomers, and lower birth rates are shrinking the labour force, and that poses a threat to the economy in the long-term, she tells AdvocateDaily.com.
“The Conference Board points to higher immigration levels as a key solution, saying it will both strengthen the labour market and support economic growth,” Seligman explains.
Seligman, a Certified Specialist in immigration law by the Law Society of Upper Canada, says it makes sense to focus efforts in areas that can generate positive impacts, such as giving priority status to candidates already working or studying in Canada.
“The system should give preference to people who are here on work permits or student visas; they have already demonstrated their ability to establish themselves,” she suggests. “That’s fair to them and great for Canada.”
Under the current system, international students and others here on work permits are thrown into the same pool as everyone else, says Seligman, principal of Seligman Professional Corporation.
“If we gave priority to those groups, it would be a boon to the labour market,” she says. “It would encourage companies to be more open to transferring employees here because they would have a path to permanent residence. It would also make it easier for international students to investigate their options for staying in Canada once their studies are over."
Seligman says the Liberal government’s commitment to expand the immigration program, including those applications under the family reunification banner, are a welcome change from the previous regime.
“Sunny ways is happening, and I’m seeing it with my clients,” she says, noting her consultation with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s team and the multimillion-dollar effort to upgrade immigration detention centres across the country.
CBC reports the number of new immigrants has jumped dramatically since the Liberal government came to power: Between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016, more than 300,000 immigrants arrived, including approximately 30,000 Syrian refugees.
The broadcaster's story of one new family illustrates that regardless of how immigrants make their way to Canada — as students, workers or refugees fleeing desperate situations — once they're established, they make positive contributions to their communities, Seligman says.
Before the Hadhad family settled in a small town in Nova Scotia late last year, they ran a once-thriving chocolate factory that shipped product all over the Middle East, the CBC reports. The community of Antigonish helped the family quickly launch a new business — Peace by Chocolate.
“Volunteers in Antigonish helped build the tiny shed-turned-factory and they bought his chocolates at the local market and through special orders,” the article states.
“The community rallied around a family who had lost everything to help them rebuild,” Seligman says. “And when the fires raged in Fort McMurray earlier this year, the Hadhads donated profits from their business to the victims, knowing that many of the affected came from communities on the east coast.”
The Liberal government’s expanded immigration program has met with some backlash from those who suggest would-be immigrants should be tested on their Canadian values, but Seligman says that argument is divisive and that testing people on their values would be difficult, if not impossible.
“When we talk about Canadian values, we’re talking about the universal human values of being kind, caring, law abiding and helping your community,” she says.