As the coronavirus pandemic enters its third calendar year, Canada is pursuing the most ambitious immigration plan in its history.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is looking to welcome over 400,000 new immigrants per year under its Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023.
The only time Canada managed this level of immigration was in 1913. Immigration plummeted in the years to follow due to the onset of the First World War.
Prior to the introduction of the 2021-2023 levels plan, Canada was aiming to welcome around 340,000 immigrants per year, and previously sought around 250,000-300,000 newcomers annually. According to the federal government, they are now doubling down on immigration to support Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery.
However, the lack of an immigration application backlog reduction plan is undermining Canada’s recovery efforts.
A November 2021 CIC News article shows the backlog stands at 1.8 million applications, up from the 1.5 million reported by the Toronto Star in August.
While the growth of backlogs during the world’s largest pandemic in 100 years is understandable, the lack of a publicly available plan by IRCC on how it will address this major challenge is less understandable.
Canada’s prosperity depends on it.
Statistics Canada research shows Canada’s population grew by just 0.5 per cent in 2020/21, the slowest pace of growth since, you guessed it, the First World War (1915/16).
Weak population growth is contributing to slower economic growth due to lack of new arrivals from overseas to help stimulate the economy through their work and consumer activity. Employers across Canada are facing labour shortages, which comes as no surprise. Prior to the pandemic, immigrants were comprising as much as 100 per cent of Canada’s labour force growth in a given year.
Temporary residence backlogs are also hurting the economy. Foreign workers are waiting longer for their work permits to be processed. International students are also waiting longer, even though they contribute some $22 billion annually to the economy and support around 170,000 Canadian jobs.
Economics aside, the growing backlogs are also creating social and cultural challenges. Immigrants are not able to get their permanent residence cards renewed in a timely manner, which is hindering their ability to travel. Sponsors are being kept apart from their loved ones. Refugees are being asked to put their lives on hold even longer. Future citizens are unable to vote or enjoy the benefits of a Canadian passport.
All of this to say, there is a tremendous financial and human cost to the backlogs.
With a new federal mandate in place, it is incumbent on IRCC to fulfil its duty to its clients and the Canadian public by outlining what steps it is taking to overcome the backlogs. This includes answering key questions such as:What staffing and resources does IRCC plan to devote to tackle the backlogs?
Just as concerning as the backlogs is the lack of communication by IRCC towards its clients. Keep in mind that IRCC has a mandate to communicate with its clients, who spend significant money to have their applications processed in a timely fashion.
Unfortunately, many clients are not receiving updates and are being kept in the dark since IRCC is reporting on its website it is no longer able to give accurate processing times.
Fortunately, thanks in large part to the federal government’s leadership, year three of the pandemic should mark the near end of COVID-19 in our country. Greater leadership by IRCC is needed to put an end to COVID-induced immigration backlogs.
The solution is simple. IRCC should release a COVID-19 Backlog Reduction Plan to complement its Immigration Levels Plan. The two plans go hand-in-hand with Canada’s post-pandemic recovery.