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January 15, 2000
Canada to Make It Easier for Students, Professionals Become Citizens
A P Kamath
Worried over its aging population, a slow birth rate and the shortage of professionals in areas as high tech, medicine and nursing, Canada is pledging to boost immigration to a dramatic high -- at least 300,000 a year.
Last year, about 170,000 people migrated to Canada and the previous year 180,000, against the 200,000 annual target. Pro-immigrant groups have accused the red tape at Canadian missions abroad, which they say, frustrate would-be immigrants so that they choose America or Australia than Canada.
Cities and provinces, which are slow to attract immigrants, will have a bigger say in the missions to draw qualified immigrants, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan said. She added she would discuss immigration incentive issues with provinces and cities and their business leaders in the coming weeks.
At a speech she gave in Toronto this week, Caplan quoted from a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which recommended that Canada raise annual immigration to 430,000 a year for the next two decades, so that the new immigrants could offset the negative economic impact of an aging population. She said she was personally not advocating the 430,000 bar, but wanted a public debate over the recommendation and concomitant issues.
A key provision of the new plan would be to make it easier for foreign students, temporary workers and foreigners married to Canadians to get permanent status from inside Canada, without having to go back home to apply, Caplan told the media.
The younger the new immigrants are, the chances of them staying back are higher, immigration studies have shown.
Qualified nannies and caregivers could work in Canada for two years, then apply for permanent residence from within the country.
Immigration changed the face of Canada at the beginning of the last century, she said, and she would want immigration to change Canada in the 21st century.
Sikh community leaders in British Columbia, in particular, welcomed her announcement and the acknowledgment that immigrants had shaped Canada into a dynamic society.
Many older Sikh immigrants in Vancouver, Victoria and other British Columbian cities recalled how Sikh immigrants in the early decades of the last century were mistreated and mobbed by white Canadians who demanded that they be deported to India. Today, British Columbia has three cabinet ministers of Indian origin -- one of them, Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh could soon become the first Indian Canadian premier. At the national level, Herb Dhaliwal, the minister for fisheries, is also a British Columbian.
Currently about 85 per cent of newcomers opt for Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Caplan, who made the announcement at a conference in Toronto, later told the media that a more flexible system than the present one will be used in selecting immigrants. But she did not announce a timetable.
"We need something that is responsive to the changing world that we are living in... and the labor shortages that are beginning to emerge,'' Caplan told The Toronto Star.
Asserting that she wants to help businesses frustrated with labor shortages or the fact that they cannot get the professionals fast enough, she said she wants to augment a pilot project that has been running in the computer software field. The project gives out fast track visas for highly skilled specialists.
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