Immigration has, historically, had a positive impact on the Canadian economy, in terms of job creation, improved labour-force turnover and economic growth that has helped to sustain social programs for Canadians. Immigration also contributes to the diversity of cultures, traditions and languages that form the social fabric of our society. This paper examines federal and provincial immigration policy and explores some important issues relating to the process of admission of immigrants to Canada. It also analyzes areas where changes are needed to maximize the benefits from immigration to the Canadian economy faced with the challenges of aging population and changing labour market conditions. The paper emphasizes that immigration policy must be focused not simply on bringing in more people, but people who are likely to adapt to the Canadian lifestyle, contribute economically, abide by laws in the country, and become self-supporting.
The federal government and, recently, provincial governments have been making efforts to attract more and younger economic immigrants to alleviate labour shortages, provide for a smooth labour turnover, and promote investment and entrepreneurship. These efforts come at a critical time in Canada, when the labour force is aging and governments anticipate pressures on publicly funded programs. Given the projected labour shortages and the strong competition for skilled workers from other countries, Canada must follow an aggressive policy to attract immigrants.
All levels of government must work together on a comprehensive strategy that responds to both federal and provincial needs. Such a strategy would address a number of issues in the immigration system, but it must recognize that Canada currently underutilizes foreign students as a potential source of skilled workers. Encouraging more foreign students to remain in Canada on a permanent basis provides an opportunity for governments to alleviate some of the current and pending labour market and demographic changes and help to meet immigration targets for the skilled worker category. It might even help to address the current geographical imbalance in immigrant settlement.