Marco Mendicino, the Canadian Minister of Immigration, delivered up to date information regarding travel to Canada during the pandemic in a Q&A session with the Canadian Bar Association on the morning of May 5th, 2020.
Immigration During and After COVID-19:
“Immigration will absolutely be key to our success and our economic recovery,” Mendicino said. “We continue to rely on immigration, it will be an economic driver and this will be the North Star of our policy going forward”.
Mendicino made clear that coronavirus will not change Canada’s long-standing policy of welcoming immigration. He noted the importance of immigration to invigorate the Canadian economy, specifically citing the declining worker to retiree ratio as a potential economic threat in the future. He remained optimistic in his economic outlook, reassuring the country that Canada has faced economic and demographic challenges in the past, and Canada’s tolerant stance on immigration has bolstered the economy’s strength in those trying times. The annual immigration levels plan will be presented this fall, and the minister made clear that the government will consult with relevant stakeholders before the announcement.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Operations
Immigration application processing has slowed as the IRCC adjusts to working remotely. However, this period has enabled IRCC to improve its processing systems to some extent. For example, IRCC has been able to expedite the processing of seasonal agricultural workers under its Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
Temporary Foreign Workers
Agricultural and seafood employees are being prioritized under the TFWP in a collaborative effort with the federal government to secure Canada’s food supply.
“Is there more that we can do? Absolutely. And we are always looking at ways to create some additional flexibility around work permits, really removing any barriers that exist abroad,” the minister said.
Mendicino noted that part of the challenge of bringing vital foreign workers to Canada lies in the circumstances of the foreign countries from which the workers are being brought. Moreover, the IRCC cannot control volatile market demand which, the minister anticipates, will decline in certain sectors.
International Students: Minister hints at more flexibility
The minister expressed gratitude on behalf of the IRCC for the stakeholders who have provided invaluable feedback on how the government should tailor its COVID-19 international student policies. He cited, for example, the recent Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) reform, which allows international students who take online courses to retain eligibility for the PGWP.
The IRCC is still discussing the best course of action to help international students who are poised to return to Canada for the fall semester in September. The minister said to “stay tuned” on this front.