On October 30, 2020, Marco Mendicino, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), tabled Canada’s 2020 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration. In this annual publication, Canada’s immigration department summarizes Canadian immigration statistics of the previous year and provides immigration levels planned for the future. This year’s report was especially anticipated because of uncertainty over how Canada’s planned immigration levels would be impacted by COVID-19.
Where we are coming from
In 2019, Canada welcomed 341,180 permanent residents, the third highest level of immigration in the country’s history, exceeded only by 1912 and 1913. Of this, 74,586 were individuals who transitioned from temporary resident status to permanent. The economic immigration class continued to be the largest source of permanent resident admissions, at approximately 58 per cent of all admissions in 2019. Overall numbers were also up for Canada’s family reunification, protected person and humanitarian classes.
In 2019, IRCC also approved 404,369 work permits and 402,427 study permits. When accompanying family members are factored in, this means that the number of people who entered Canada with temporary status greatly exceeded the number of permanent residents admitted.
To briefly digress, when it comes to the impacts of immigration on Canada’s economy, housing prices, social cohesion, etc., the media often focuses on the number of permanent residents admitted to Canada. However, as can be seen in the above statistics, the admission of permanent residents only tells part of the story regarding who is coming to Canada and is not reflective of the total number of people actually admitted to the country.
In the 2019 Report to Parliament on Immigration, IRCC stated that its goal in 2020 was to welcome approximately 341,000 people as permanent residents. This will not happen because of COVID-19. Although the official numbers will not be out till the end of 2020, it is anticipated that the number of permanent residents admitted to Canada will be roughly half of what was planned. There have been similar decreases in both work permit and study permit approvals.
Where we are going
The 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan appears to take the 150,000 “missing immigrants” as a result of COVID-19 and distribute them evenly over the next three years. As a result, the previous goal of 351,000 immigrants for 2021 is now 401,000. In the 2019 Report to Parliament on Immigration, IRCC stated that it planned on welcoming 361,000 immigrants in 2022. It is now 411,000. The plan for 2023 is now 421,000.
There are several things to note about these projections.
First, IRCC has not stated if planned annual admissions of permanent residents exceeding 400,000 is the new normal, or if this is just a temporary bump to make up for the 2020 shortfall.
Second, the range in the number of expected immigrants is massive. Normally, IRCC immigration level forecasts have a range of about 50,000 immigrants. In 2021, meanwhile, IRCC is expecting to welcome between 300,000 to 410,000 permanent residents, with a target of 341,000, an uncertainty of 110,000. This is likely the result of COVID-19.
Third, the proportion of economic immigrants who are destined for Quebec is expected to continue to decline. Quebec is responsible for setting its own economic immigration levels and establishing eligibility criteria. The increase in their levels have not kept pace with the rest of the country. In 2015, for example, Quebec welcome 28,787 out of 170,384 economic immigrants. In 2021, the target is for them to welcome 27,700 out of 232,500 economic immigrants. If Quebec changes its immigration policies to reflect the rest of the country, the overall number of permanent residents that Canada welcomes will greatly increase.
Fourth, the largest component of Canadian immigration will continue to be economic immigrants, which at 232,500 are expected to comprise over half of Canada’s new permanent residents in 2021. This number is expected to steadily rise from 2021-2023. As well, IRCC from 2021-2023 is not anticipating either a significant increase or decrease in the number of people claiming asylum. It also does not plan on increasing the number of refugees that are resettled in Canada, either through private sponsorship or government assistance. This means that the proportion of refugees to Canada’s immigration system will decrease from 2021-2023.
Finally, and as is always the case, there are no planned admission levels for foreign workers or international students. While the government is responsible for setting permanent resident targets, the private sector and post-secondary institutions largely dictate how many temporary residents are admitted this year. The number of foreign workers and international students each typically exceeds the number of permanent residents, especially when you factor in dependents. As such, it is important to remember and reiterate that when it comes to Canada’s economy and housing market that the number of new permanent residents tells only part of the story.
A growing tension in Canada’s immigration system is the gap between the number of people in the country with temporary resident status and those who can transition to permanent residency.
It is going to take much greater increase in the number of new permanent residents to close that gap.
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