PARLIAMENT HILL—Immigration Minister Jason Kenney continued to pump expectations for a significant overhaul of immigration during his testimony at Parliament’s immigration committee on Tuesday.
In an interview afterwards, Kenney said the changes will be incremental rather than implemented in any one specific dramatic change.
“There are many improvements that will be implemented through statutory, regulatory, and operational changes over the next year,” he said.
“Frankly, it’s a work in progress, so we will be constantly making improvements but there would be significant reforms to our economic immigration programs throughout the course of 2012. Some of them would require statutory changes, some of them will require regulatory changes, so not all of this can be just implemented overnight by fiat.”
In his testimony earlier, he emphasized the need to get Canada out of immigration backlogs and strengthen border security.
While Kenney has yet to introduce legislation to directly address the current backlog or change the application process that allows the backlog to form, he said legislation he previously introduced has given the minister the power to issue directives to address specific immigration issues.
Without that, the backlog that already cracks a million people would be much higher, he said.
Backlogs, he added, run counter to Canada’s interests and undermine the goals of immigration by hurting both the economy and immigration applicants.
Canada also needs to shore up confidence in the immigration system by strengthening border security—with biometrics to play a major role in that effort, he said.
But there are multiple goals of immigration, with family reunification at one time playing a larger role. But as the focus of immigration centres more on feeding the needs of the economy, NDP immigration critic Don Davies is worried family reunification will fall by the wayside.
Davies said the government has shifted too much towards economic immigration at the expense of family reunification.
He said skilled immigrants want to bring their parents, so lowering the rates of parents and grandparents will affect economic immigration.
Kenney said the government will continue to respect its obligations to reunite families and welcome refugees to Canada.
“We will continue to have a balanced system, but we will put an emphasis on immigration as a tool for prosperity, for economic growth, for filling our labour shortages. I think that we can do all of those things,” he said in an interview.
Kenney said the government has started consultations on redesigning its parent and grandparents program to make it sustainable in the future.
“So far the response I have received is huge support for our efforts to better manage the program.”
He said there is also wide support for a super-visa that will allow family members to come for extended stays.