Firm Founder Raj Sharma Discusses Canada’s Commitment to Increasing Immigration Levels on CTV – Alberta Primetime
My thoughts -in an interview with CTV Alberta Primetime on Canada’s commitment to increasing immigration levels over the next three years.
Shawna Randolph: Canadian government plans to roll out the welcome mat to nearly 1,000,000 new immigrants by the end of 2020. It hopes to attract 1% of its population in three years.
Michael Higgins: The move is to meant to spur economic growth, but some wonder how services to help immigrants will keep up with the ambitious plan. We get the perspective of an immigration lawyer.
Shawna Randolph: This year Canada is expected to welcome 300,000 immigrants, and that number will gradually increase over the next three years rising to 340,000 in 2020. The federal government says it’s a necessity to keep the economy moving as baby boomers enter retirement.
Minister Hussen: It’ll help employers to be able to get the talent that they need here faster, and yes, it’ll also help us to provide more protection to the most wonderful people in the world.
Shawna Randolph: The opposition says the government needs to do a better job of integration to help newcomers thrive from language to mental health supports, and points to lack of details in the report of how Canada will welcome that many newcomers.Michelle Rempel: Simply put if the liberals’ failure to get the how right and they have failed, have led to a lot of Canadians to question if. This is unfortunate and dangerous.
Shawna Randolph: Joining us tonight is Calgary immigration lawyer, Raj Sharma. Good to have you back on Alberta Primetime, Raj.
Raj Sharma: Thanks for having me.
Shawna Randolph: You weren’t surprised by the increase we’ll see in the next few years, but you do wonder where the numbers came from, don’t you?
Raj Sharma: Well, I think that the numbers that we’ve seen in the last few years, or even more than a decade, is somewhat arbitrary. I think that the going forward numbers are somewhat arbitrary as well. Overall, we’re looking at a moderate increase in the number of permanent residents that Canada will welcome per year.
Shawna Randolph: These numbers didn’t surprise you?
Raj Sharma: No, I mean and again let’s be very, very clear. The increase in immigration numbers is more an exercise in political branding than it is anything that has to do with demographics or addressing our aging demographics and our current labor market needs.
Shawna Randolph: There have been plenty of concerns about the resources available for newcomers once they arrive. Jason Kenney, the former Federal Immigration Minister and current leader of Alberta’s UCP, suggests Canada is pushing its capacity to successfully integrate a large number of new immigrants and help them find jobs.
Jason Kenney: I do think there are practical limits to our capacity to integrate people. There’s no point in bringing immigrants to Canada to face unemployment or underemployment, and too often that is the case. I think they should be a little more careful about that.
Shawna Randolph: The liberals feel confident they can handle the new numbers, and say Canada is a world leader in settling immigrants. Raj, how do you think the increased number of immigrants will impact resources.
Raj Sharma: I’ll have to agree, and this is somewhat rare for me, but I have to agree somewhat with Jason Kenney, and that’s going to be simply put that we have underemployment in our immigrant populations. The so-called myth of the doctor driving the cab is no myth, and here’s the issue. The federal government can dictate or require or set the number of permanent residents per year, but it’s up to the provinces to allow skilled immigrants or professional immigrants for their credentials to be recognized. This is something that we’ve been struggling with for many, many, many years. I would expect that an increase in permanent residency or immigration levels should have been done in lockstep or at least in tandem with addressing the recognition of foreign credentials.
Shawna Randolph: It’s spreading the increase over a few years though, many do think will help. Will it not?
Raj Sharma: Only if there is a tangible or realistic progress in terms of recognizing those foreign credentials. Again, if we look at this, and again, I want to be very clear that when we debate immigration in this country, either one comes up against the outrage machine, or one comes up against this virtue signaling. I think it’s really important that discussions or debate on immigration, we should divorce both the outrage machine and of course, the virtue signaling from this debate.
Shawna Randolph: As we mentioned, there are so many concerns. To you, our viewers, we asked you for your opinions on the government’s immigration plan. Here are some of your responses on Facebook.
Olivia says, “As an immigrant myself, I think that’s amazing news.”
Alicia adds, “The majority of us are Canadian because our ancestors immigrated.”
Crystal asks, “What are the plans for fixing the skills gaps within our own population? First Nations kids are still underfunded and are a rapidly growing population.”
Christina says, “Not happy about this. Healthcare is already backed up. We have high homelessness and unemployment, families struggling to put food on the table. They come over and want to change our rules. Sorry, but Canada is full.”
Raj, mixed reactions to this plan. Let’s address though the concerns about newcomers becoming a burden on society and areas already struggling. Your thoughts on that from what we’ve heard?
Raj Sharma: There is a debate and there is a cost to immigration. I think that one can be very clear about that and understand that there’s studies both sides of the fence here. Immigration, if we have increased population, does drive up GDP for example. Also there is cost, and it does drive for example housing. How do we balance affordable housing with increased immigration? That is a debate that should have been done. Now, for example, the Minister provides an annual report every fall to Parliament about the immigration intake levels. This year there was a round table, a cross country round table, and I was asked and invited. I was honored to attend the Minister’s round table here in Calgary, and we discussed increasing immigration.
Now it’s an interesting situation because what I saw that as basically being an echo chamber. He had settlement agencies there, and he had an immigration lawyer there. Now no settlement agency, and I guess immigration lawyers themselves, no one’s going to bite the hand that feeds them. I’m a little bit concerned that the Minister’s cross country round tables took part and discussed increasing immigration with individuals and stakeholders that had a vested interest in increasing immigration levels.
Shawna Randolph: What would you like to see at this point, Raj?
Raj Sharma: Look, Doug Saunders has a great book out right now about Maximum Canada and how Canada has been hollowed [out] in the past by virtue of its nearsighted immigration policy, or its … minimalist let’s say viewpoint. There are valid points that are being raised on both sides of the fence here. I would like those concerns to be addressed by the Minister as well, not just this branding exercise, which is this liberal government is open and values and desires Canada to be open, inclusive, multicultural, pluralistic society that welcomes newcomers. I mean there’s a number of open questions in my mind. I used to be a refugee hearings officer and I’m an immigration lawyer. My office handles thousands of applications per year.
Are dollars better spent resettling 10 or 20,000 refugees resettled in Canada, or are dollars better spent going towards refugee host countries such as Bangladesh right now? Again, the Minister is saying, “Well, we want to make it clear that Canada offers this pathway to refugees as well.” Canada will never be able to address the hundreds of thousands or millions of refugees that are displaced individuals in the world today. Should we not look at providing greater support to refugee host countries at present rather than resettling a tiny minority, basically individuals that win the lottery and are able to come to Canada? It is a great thing. It’s a wonderful thing, but the greater good may well lie in a different direction.
Shawna Randolph: Raj, we really appreciate your insight. Thank you for this.
Raj Sharma: My pleasure.
Shawna Randolph: That’s Raj Sharma. He is an immigration lawyer joining us in Calgary tonight.