Canada needs more skilled immigrants, says minister

Canada's future is dependent on immigration, says Canada's Minister for Citizenship and Immigration. Joe Volpe spoke in defence of the country's new Internationally Trained Workers Initiative in a speech on 28 April.

Volpe pointed out that Canada's birth rate is among the lowest in the western world, and its unemployment rate continues to fall. This means that Canada must recruit new immigrants to Canada.

"Let me promise you, we will not be alone in this recruiting drive," said Volpe. "Former emigrant-generating countries, mostly in Europe, are now net immigrant receivers and seekers; their economies are every bit as vibrant as ours, with birth rates every bit as low."

Today, he said, some 40 per cent of Canadians were born abroad or are the children of new Canadians.

He called Canada's immigration system "a story of tremendous successes." Last year, he said, Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued some 1.1 million permits: 236,000 permanent-resident visas, and more than 800,000 other decisions for temporary workers, visitors visas, student visas, etc. About 170,000 new citizens are approved every year, joining the 18 per cent of Canadian citizens who were born elsewhere, he said..

Volpe explained that the recently-launched effort to help internationally-trained engineers, doctors, pharmacists and others who are currently prevented from working in their field because their credentials aren't recognized, would help to attract talented people and help them use their skills.

A further challenge for Canada, he said, is to fill the labour void created by a booming economy in cities and resource-based centres across this country.

"One of the ways to fill that void is to use universities and community colleges to recruit young people to regional centres and keep them there," he said. "At the same time, we need to recognize the best support structure for integration is the family that many left behind. Canada must be a welcoming place for families if we are to continue the economic generation that comes from new Canadians."

Volpe also said he is committed to reuniting new Canadian immigrants with their families. He pointed out that, in welcoming new immigrants, he would continue to focus on security issues.

"Let me assure you: We take security and criminality concerns very seriously, as we focus on ensuring our country is a land of opportunity and not a safe haven for those whose intent is not in our interests," he said.