Speaking notes for the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship: Keynote address at the C.D. Howe Institute on the 2023 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration Levels

Speech

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

Delivered November 2, 2024, in Toronto, Ontario

Good afternoon.

I would like to begin by acknowledging we are gathering on the traditional and unceded territory of a number of First Nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnaabeg, the Chippewa, and the Haudenosaunee peoples. We honour them as the past, present and future caretakers of this land.

Thank you, Bill and the C.D. Howe Institute, for hosting us today.

As Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, I have the honour of welcoming and swearing in new Canadians from across the country. These ceremonies are special events that I believe more Canadians should witness, so they can appreciate the hard work and joy that goes into becoming a citizen.

On days like today, when we speak about immigration policies, we sometimes forget the real, human impact of these decisions. Decisions like these will have impacts for generations to come.

With the exception of Indigenous Peoples who have been here since time immemorial, most Canadian families can trace their heritage back to those who travelled and settled here from all over the world.

Whether they came to Canada 200 years ago or 2 years ago, we can see their influence on the country we are today.

Newcomers to Canada—past and present—strengthen our country through their contributions to every facet of society—from business to innovation, academia, health, the arts, the trades, science and more. They enrich us all with their cultures and traditions.

Canada has been through a lot of changes over the last few years. Immigration has taken on renewed significance during that time.

As we saw from the 2021 Census, Canada’s population is aging. Immigration is now driving most of our population growth and labour force stability.

Just last year, Canada welcomed the most permanent residents in any year in its history. That’s partly because we need newcomers as much as they need us.

We need young families, students and workers from all over the world to come and settle in Canada. Our social programs were built on the promise of having more people working than in retirement.

With Canadians living longer and families having fewer children, our worker-to-retiree ratio has dropped from 7-to-1 fifty years ago to nearly 3-to-1 now.

If we don’t welcome more newcomers, that number will approach 2-to-1 in the decades ahead. That will put our infrastructure and key programs like health care and education at risk.

I’m pleased to share that Canada intends to maintain its targets of welcoming 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.

In 2026, the number of newcomers we aim to welcome will stabilize at 500,000—allowing for sustainable population growth.

These immigration levels allow us to bring in the skills and talent we need to fill labour gaps and ensure Canada’s economic prosperity, help families reunite, and help Canada remain a leader in refugee resettlement. They are in keeping with our long-term focus on economic growth, with roughly 60% of permanent resident admissions dedicated to the economic class.

We have consulted widely on both the number of permanent residents Canada should welcome, and the balance between categories of newcomers.

We seek out the perspectives and priorities of federal partners, regional representatives, Indigenous communities, stakeholders, as well as the general public.

The advocacy of stakeholders has been—and will continue to be—integral to achieving our goals.

These immigration levels will help set the pace of Canada’s economic and population growth, while moderating its impacts on critical systems such as infrastructure and housing.

They will maximize the economic and social benefits of immigration and spread them across Canada, including in Francophone communities outside of Quebec.

Earlier this year, my department undertook a Strategic Immigration Review. In collaboration with other government departments, we engaged with partners and stakeholders on how Canada’s immigration policies and programs can support a shared vision for our country’s future.

A key finding from this review is the need to develop a comprehensive and coordinated growth plan for Canada.

This means that for future levels planning, we will develop a more integrated plan to balance immigration with housing, health care and infrastructure needs between federal departments, while also working closely with provinces, territories and municipalities.

It also means we are working to even more closely align immigration with our labour market needs, both in the short- and long-term, and create a more welcoming experience for newcomers as they contribute to our communities.

We know that companies across Canada have struggled to find enough workers to fill important job vacancies. Their bottom line may suffer and their growth stagnate as a result.

We’ve also seen companies thrive when they hire newcomers with skills and talents that are in high demand across Canada—and indeed, around the world.

As we developed the Immigration Levels Plan this year, one of our key priorities was to tailor the plan to support businesses in achieving their goals, now and in future.

Newcomers continue to fill Canada’s labour gaps—and prosper themselves—through programs that Canada has implemented in recent years, in close consultation with employers and the provinces and territories.

For example, thanks to recent changes to the Express Entry program, we have been able to invite more than 1,500 trades workers from abroad, including those who can help build new homes.

Express Entry recently helped Sudbury welding shop Carriere Industrial Supply after their attempts to recruit experienced local tradespeople failed. Since hiring senior welders from Mexico, this family-owned business has grown exponentially and broken into new markets.

IRCC also launched the Tech Talent Strategy this year, which included spaces to recruit up to 10,000 tech workers from the U.S.

This builds on our success last year with companies such as ChainXY, a Canadian data solutions provider that worked with our partner, TalentLife, to recruit a skilled Palestinian refugee from Lebanon to fill a vacant software developer position.

Our New Brunswick Critical Worker Pilot has assisted companies such as Imperial Manufacturing and McCain Foods in recruiting abroad and helping newcomers settle here.

We are also acutely aware that many construction workers who immigrated to the Greater Toronto Area on temporary work permits later fell out of status and became vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. We’ve been bridging a number of these workers to permanent residence to support their future, and ours.

This past week, I announced new measures to strengthen the International Student Program to better support universities and colleges, while protecting students from bad actors and ensuring that they are set up for success in their journey in Canada.

Just as Canada’s economic immigration programs help ensure our country’s prosperity, our humanitarian programs ensure we’re living up to our values by upholding the rights and dignity of the world’s most vulnerable people.

This past month, we arrived at the milestone of resettling 40,000 Afghans fleeing persecution and oppression, two months ahead of schedule.

When Russia illegally invaded Ukraine in 2022, we stood alongside our allies to provide financial and humanitarian support. Canada is now a safe harbour for more than 185,000 Ukrainians and their family members. Last week, we launched a Ukraine pathway to permanent residence to help families reunite in Canada and rebuild their lives.

This year, Canada also committed to providing humanitarian and economic pathways for up to 15,000 people from the Americas, supporting them in starting a new life here while promoting safe and regular migration.

This builds on the work we are doing through the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot, which helps skilled refugees immigrate to Canada through existing economic programs and connects them with employers looking for qualified candidates.

We face historic numbers of asylum claimants in Canada, and while we must fulfill our humanitarian commitments to those fleeing violence and persecution, we must also do a better job of ensuring those who stay in Canada are connected with the right opportunities to rebuild their lives and contribute to Canadian society.

In this moment of global crisis and deep uncertainty, Canada will continue to be a leader in refugee resettlement.

Drawing on lessons learned from our responses to recent humanitarian crises, we are establishing an International Affairs and Crisis Response Sector to better position us to deliver on our international priorities, and provide a flexible and agile response to migration risks and crises.

We are also developing a crisis response framework. It will include an assessment mechanism to inform when to trigger a rapid immigration response for people in other countries who need urgent protection. It will include a playbook to support the government response as well as an incident response team working in close collaboration with Global Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence.

That will also help us share information among government and civil society partners who are critical in supporting response efforts on the ground.

As we continue optimizing our approach to immigration, we must ensure that Canadians and newcomers have access to affordable housing and to the health and social services they need.

Housing is of particular concern for Canadians. Unfortunately, this pressure has created a false narrative for some that immigrants are the cause of our housing crisis.

Canada’s housing crisis didn’t emerge overnight, and it wasn’t caused by immigration. Infrastructure demand has outpaced investments for several decades.

Newcomers are part of the solution for increasing housing supply. Through our Express Entry program, for example, we’re targeting candidates who can help fill labour shortages in the construction industry and build more homes.

We will continue engaging with Canadians and improving our immigration system so it remains fast, fair and effective, while supporting our country’s priorities in the years ahead.

I’d like us to look even further ahead when we think about these priorities.

We tend to measure immigration year-over-year, looking at the numbers and strategies first. That approach can box people in the silos of asylum seeker, refugee or economic immigrant.

The reality is that a newcomer’s potential is far greater than the sum of their current circumstances. The benefits of immigration should really be measured in generations.

A child arriving in Canada today could be tomorrow’s inventor, athlete, nurse, entrepreneur—or volunteer who supports and inspires the immigrants who come after.

My hope is that as you continue today’s conversation about immigration, you’ll help others look beyond the here and now and share stories about the past—how newcomers built this country. Let’s reflect on how they’ll shape and sustain Canada in the future.

Thank you.

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