Published on: Jan 28, 2020
One of the most notable characteristics of Canadian immigration policy over the last decades has been the trend toward a greater degree of control for provincial governments. But there's more to increasing local involvement in immigration than just the Provincial Nominee Program. Two local immigration programs demonstrate the wide range of different ways in which local governments are involved in immigration. These can range from providing fast-track status to applicants in selected industries to encouraging immigration in communities that have historically not attracted high numbers of immigrants.
One example of a provincial program that serves a specific labor market need is the British Columbia Tech Pilot. British Columbia is home to a fast-growing tech sector that produces high demand for workers with specific skills. As part of its normal Provincial Nominee Program, British Columbia implemented a special program for immigrants and employers in the high-tech industry, making 29 selected jobs in fields like software development, engineering, biotechnology, equipment maintenance and more eligible. This pilot program provides additional services for employers in the sector looking to hire skilled immigrants. Features of his program include faster processing for applicants in the sector -- most applications are processed within two to three months -- as well as more frequent invitations to apply for permanent residence.
The tech pilot has proven popular with employers, and this trend shows no sign of slowing in 2020. The first few weeks of January have seen a high level of activity, with the draw on January 14 producing 70 invitations issued to applicants in the tech sector. In addition, British Columbia issued a further 25 invitations in its entrepreneur immigration scheme, designed to attract business owners and managers to the province. This draw follows a busy last week of 2019, in which the tech pilot resulted in 83 offers to qualified candidates.
With demand for a range of different tech jobs intended to remain high in 2020, British Columbia has extended its pilot program to June. Meanwhile, Ontario has introduced a similar tech program to encourage immigration in high-demand tech-sector jobs. If these programs are considered successful -- and there's every indication that the British Columbia one has met expectations -- expect to see similar programs arising to deal with local labor market needs in other areas of the country.
In addition to immigrants in high-demand employment sectors, some local immigration programs focus on encouraging applications from immigrants with particular linguistic or cultural backgrounds. This is particularly the case for French-speakers; Francophone immigrants are an important resource for provinces that want to provide services for their Francophone residents and preserve their French linguistic heritage.
One example of this type of program is the job fair for immigrants held in Moncton, New Brunswick on January 24. The largest city in New Brunswick, Moncton is an officially bilingual city, with about a third of its residents speaking French. It's also home to the French-language Universite de Moncton, the largest French-speaking university east of Quebec. This high concentration of Francophone people and institutions gives applicants who speak both English and French a substantial advantage when looking for work in the area. Moncton plans to more than double its annual number of new immigrants by 2024; many of those new immigrants will come from Francophone or bilingual communities.
Unlike programs like the British Columbia and Ontario tech pilots, local initiatives like Moncton's immigrant-focused job fair don't have any effect on the residency application process, although they can help candidates find the job offers they need. However, there are a number of ways in which the federal government is supporting regional efforts to encourage Francophone immigration. Among these is the Welcoming Francophone Communities initiative, which provides funding for activities to help new Francophone arrivals integrate with their new communities. Other advantages include the additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points accrued by applicants who can demonstrate proficiency in both of Canada's official languages, as well as possible exemptions from Labour Market Assessments for employers seeking to hire French-speaking immigrant workers. With these and other incentives, the federal government hopes to encourage Francophone immigration and revitalise French-speaking culture, especially in areas outside Quebec, which tends to attract the majority of new arrivals.
What all these programs have in common is that they represent a Canadian immigration policy focused on addressing the varied needs of Canadian businesses and communities. By using targeted programs specific to local cultures and job markets, the government can be sure that it's getting economic-class immigrants to the places that need them, rather than simply funnelling them into large cities. The success of these policies so far suggests that we can expect to see a higher level of regional involvement in future policy.