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Immigration Minister Marc Miller says Canada is creating a way for many people who have been living and working in the country illegally for a long time to become permanent residents. They’re starting with construction workers. Currently, there’s a program in the Greater Toronto Area that allows up to 1,000 construction workers per year to get permanent residency.
Mr. Miller plans to create a program that allows people without the right paperwork to apply for permanent residency. About 300,000 to 600,000 people are believed to be living in Canada without proper documentation. Many have been here for a long time, working and raising families, but they’re at risk of deportation because they lack official status. This includes those who initially came to Canada as students or temporary workers and stayed after their visas expired.
In the spring, the minister plans to propose a plan to the government that would allow undocumented foreign nationals to “fix” their status. However, he acknowledges that there might be some resistance or disagreement with this policy.
“There’s no agreement in the country about allowing individuals who are here and, in my opinion, should be Canadian, to become regular citizens,” he said. “It’s something our nation needs to discuss more.”
Since shortly after the last election, Canada has been discussing the idea of a program for unauthorized workers. In 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked the former immigration minister, Sean Fraser, to explore ways to regularize the status of undocumented workers contributing to Canadian communities.
Mr. Miller suggested that anyone without the right paperwork, even those who recently arrived in Canada, would not be eligible for permanent status.
To solve the shortage of skilled workers in Canada for building homes, he plans to start a program soon. This program will allow construction workers who are living in the country without legal status to apply for residency.
According to Mr. Miller, allowing undocumented construction workers to settle in Canada is a way to test a larger program he plans to propose. He understands that some legally admitted immigrants may feel uneasy about this, acknowledging that these undocumented workers are already here, contributing, and have families. He emphasized that it doesn’t make sense for people who have been in Canada for decades and raised children, to lack legal status. He believes Canada needs to adjust its immigration laws to match the reality on the ground.
To ensure Canada’s immigration system stays strong, Mr. Miller plans to make more changes, like adjusting programs for temporary foreign workers and international students. The government has raised immigration goals, aiming for an annual limit of 500,000 new permanent residents by 2026. However, recent surveys show declining public support for this due to concerns about affordable housing. In response, Mr. Miller aims to address these issues by modifying various aspects of the immigration system.
Mr. Miller pointed out that the data shows widespread support for immigration in Canada. He mentioned that there’s a broad consensus that Canada has handled things well compared to other countries. However, he acknowledged that when mistakes are made in decisions and policies, it can be used against us.
He mentioned that some hard-right politicians in other countries, like France, Hungary, and Germany, have gained support by promoting anti-immigrant policies. Mr. Miller expressed his desire to prevent a similar situation in Canada.
He talked about the challenges faced by countries with a lot of immigrants, where there’s a risk of using immigration as a political weapon. He believes it’s crucial for Canada to avoid influential figures making careless statements or turning the immigration debate into a political slogan, as seen in other countries with negative consequences.
“Adjusting our public policies to make sure we’re being smart about the type of people coming to this country and what they can contribute,” he added, is what he hopes to examine.
He explained that the government had a strong debate about whether to keep, reduce, or increase immigration targets. Ultimately, there was an agreement to stabilize the targets and assess the situation given the challenges ahead. Mr. Miller emphasized the importance of immigrants, especially in fields like construction and healthcare.
“But once more, we simply need to exercise a little more caution in how we adjust these policies to the actual situation,” he remarked.
Last week, he raised the required amount of money that foreign students need to show in order to qualify for study permits. This change is expected to significantly reduce the number of people coming to Canada for education.
Mr. Miller is concerned about the exploitation of international students by middlemen who charge high fees to help them apply to universities. Sometimes, these middlemen direct students to low-quality institutions that operate like “puppy mills,” producing graduates of questionable quality.
After finding out that some students used fake college acceptance letters provided by agents to enter Canada, there is a risk of deportation for them. Mr. Miller mentioned that fraud is just one form of abuse, and it occurs not only in Canada but also in the student’s home countries. He emphasized that this issue has been overlooked for too long.
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