Today (Jan 21), IRCC Minister, Hon’ble Sean Fraser gave an exclusive interview to Harjinder Thind on RED FM about current Canadian Immigration priorities and his take on backlogs as well as other challenges. Interview was in English, so we created the transcript for better understanding of our viewers in their own preferred language. You can select your preferred language below and read the transcript in your language to understand today’s interview better.
Harjinder Thind (Host): Good morning!
Sean Fraser (IRCC Minister): Good morning it’s a pleasure to be here and let me say “Sat Sria Akal” to you and your listeners today.
Host: Thank you very much “Sat Sria Akal” and I appreciate that you have given us time. First of all tell us now you had a little bit of opportunity to study these files. As a new immigration minister, what is your vision, like in which direction you’re going to take this department.
IRCC Minister: Look I think that’s an important question for a new minister to reflect upon and I have had the opportunity over the last few months to shape my own mindset as to how I want to approach the job and where I come down on the the overarching vision for immigration in Canada is that Canada needs more immigration to help grow our economy as we seek to recover from this pandemic to make sure that we address certain demographic challenges that are staring us in the face in the years ahead but that we also, uh put in some serious effort to improve the user experience, uh of Canada’s immigration system, uh the families I talked to who’ve been waiting far too long to be reunited with their loved ones is front of mind for me getting workers to jobs that are available in businesses across Canada is front of mind to me and and needing to continue to respond to humanitarian crises around the World immigration is is really important and when I look at the impact that COVID19 has had on Canada’s immigration system, uh you can imagine the challenges of trying to bring a record number of people to Canada at a time when our borders were closed to protect the the public against the spread of COVID19. It’s been challenging and though the impact of the pandemic on our immigration system has been severe but thankfully we’ve got a lot of work underway to help address some of those challenges in both the short term and the long term.
Host: Minister what is your target, how many people you’re going to bring into canada in 22 and 23.
IRCC Minister: Uh so there’s some final work being done, uh on this, uh this year’s levels plan which will be tabled very soon after the the members of parliament return for the next session in the house of commons, as it stands today the official target is 411,000 new permanent residents to canada, but i’m looking at increasing the ambition from there to make sure that we are providing communities with the ability to bring more, uh people to canada to grow ourcommunities and to grow our economy so from my perspective you’ll you’ll have your your firm answer, once wefinalize a few key details in the short term, uh but you can expect, uh that the target uh uhuh of 411 uh consider that as a floor and we’re looking at ways we might be able to increase it.
Host: LMIA’s black market is not a secret anymore and LMIA’s are being sold here for forty to fifty thousand dollars a piece, so at the same time a lot of genuine businesses are suffering due to backlog in the system. Uh work permits and other things are still stuck how do you plan to resolvethis issue this is very complicated.
IRCC Minister: It is and let me start by saying that fraud in the immigration system or in our economy is completely unacceptable and we will be working with the minister of employment and workforce development who’s responsible for LMIAs to ensure that there’s a rigorous framework of enforcement to crack down on those bad actors who compromise the integrity of the system for people who want to play by the rules. Uh in addition to making sure we take steps to enforce uh the uh rules around uh fraud in our uh in our public systems. We also need to improve the experience so people aren’t tempted to uh take part in those uh activities that are contrary to Canada’s law. The kinds of things that we’re looking at doing are speeding up the process of getting work permits.
I would point to a recent investment in the economic and fiscal update that’s going to have a short-term impact on processing times for work permits, but i’d also point to the work that’s now underway that I’m doing in partnership with minister, Qualtrough establish a trusted employer model to reduce the administrative burden on those people who have been playing by the rules that can make it easier for them to bring those workers to Canada particularly when it’s the same workers who’ve been coming back year over year, by making the regular pathway to securing access to workers through our immigration system by making that pathway operate more smoothly the temptation to go down an illicit pathway will be reduced and by enforcing and cracking down on those bad actors will be able to mitigate against this kind of behavior going forward. I do expect we’re going to see an improvement in the the months ahead as we roll out some of these investments that were made very recently just in advance of the the recent holiday season.
Host: Minister about these LMIAs, about this problem since uh minister Hussain – Ahmed Hussain has been telling, um you know minister Qualtrough to correct that system, but hasn’t been corrected. I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but at the same time this thing has been lingering on and on and on it needs a iron fist to resolve this.
IRCC Minister: You know you’re you’re not wrong about that, uh but the problem has been I’ve got some sympathy for my predecessors in particular uh minister Mendicino who was the minister of immigration uh for the duration of the pandemic more or less, um one of the things that i can’t stress enough is the impact that COVD19 has had on the capacity of the the department, uh because of uh the the uh, I pointed out where we were in a position where we both wanted to set a record in terms of the number of new permanent residents, but we couldn’t allow people to come into Canada because it was contrary to travel restrictions at the time we were in a position where the demand to bring people in was at a record high but our ability to bring them in was at a recent record low.
Uh this created a significant back significant backlog in our processing system that I do have faith, we will be able to resolve so in addition to cracking down on those bad actors we have to make sure that the regular pathway works well for people who want to play by the rules. I do have faith that in the months ahead some of the investments we’re going to roll out are going to incentivize people to take part in those regular pathways by speeding up the timelines under which a person can get access to a worker and bring them here which I anticipate will have a significant reduction in the rate of fraud that we’ve seen I can’t promise you today that we’re going to forever get rid of fraud in Canada’s public systems of immigration or employment. I think there will continue to be some bad actors but we can significantly reduce that not just by cracking down on them but by making it easier for people who want to play by the rules administer.
Host: The process of the parent and grandparent sponsorship program. There need to be a major overhauling I guess it’s labeled unfair. Many experiments were done, so are you planning to change it again
IRCC Minister: This is one of the most challenging aspects of being Canada’s minister of immigration. The number of people who are interested in sponsoring their parents and grandparents always exceeds the number of applications that the department can accept. Of course, we’re open to new uh new ideas or changes in how to improve the system but just to put it into perspective for you just a couple of years ago, the department received over two hundred thousand uh uh forms the the interest sponsor forms and we had space for ten thousand complete applications. Uh figuring out a way to accommodate uh that volume is going to be a real challenge and if I can be completely honest, I don’t think we’re going to being in a position where we can increase uh the total level for parents and grandparents to meet that demand. Uh so as it stands, now uh we’re always looking at ways to improve the system but I anticipate given the intense demand and the desire for so many people to come to Canada that this particular program is going to continue to present a challenge for for many families
Host: Minister, I want to bring that to your attention that the work permit holders working in Canada three to four years sometimes, they do not need the test of English. Some people have already cleared IELTS, then they have to do it again in order to apply for it. Would you consider setting different levels of english for different fields
IRCC Minister: Uh yeah this is something we’re actively looking at and it’s something I hear uh in communities across canada includingin in small rural communities in in Nova Scotia where I live, uh where employers are frustrated about their the lack of ability to find workers and the language levels presents a real barrier, the example that you’ve given is particularly about when we’re dealing with people who’ve been in canada potentially for years and have demonstrated that they are able to get on with life in in this country despite the fact that they may not meet the language requirements.
There’s been some really interesting lessons that we’rEe looking at right now from the experience of the TR to PR program that was instituted during the pandemic to help us welcome more permanent residents when the borders were closed. Some of those programs included are reduced language level recognizing that the people who may be here that we would like to have be permanent residents, didn’t qualify at the exact uh language levels that that programs would ordinarily demand, so we we haven’t made any firm decisions on how to deal with this quite yet but we’re actively looking at the uh the role of of the language um requirements in terms of access to people particularly those who’ve been in Canada for some time and have demonstrated a capacity to adjust well to life in Canada not withstanding any shortcomings they may have when it comes to the ordinary language levels that we require.
Host: Minister we’ve been hearing about this backlog since longtime. Why don’t you hire a whole bunch of people and flush the system clean it up that will look.
IRCC Minister: That’s part of the plan, um we we have been hiring over the last number of years and we are continuing to expand at the department, uh but that’s not the uh there’s no silver bullet that will cure this problem altogether. One of the things that we’re seeing is despite the fact that we are continuing to process more and more applicants every year the demand continues to increase as well and if the demand outstrips the supply the backlogs will continue to be a challenge. I think it’s important that we don’t just look at the backlogs, but we also look at the processing times that the department could improve upon some of the things that I’d point you to including in the short term are the recent investments of 85 million dollars that was given to IRCC to help process more files in the recent economic and fiscal update. This is going to see improved processing times on items such as the uh getting PR cards to people, reducing processing times for work permits, reducing the times that international students will be required to go through the process, improving the timelines for people to go through the citizenship ceremony and also enhancing the the process for spousal reunification.
All of this is happening in a context where we have much bigger reforms that are also underway that will result in a permanent improvement to the system and I am talking here about the flip towards a digital system that will allow us to process people more effectively by allowing offices around the world to process an application because it’s in a digital format not in a paper format. We’ve seen some real success with the introduction of digital applications for citizenship, very soon I anticipate that we’re going to have some functions come online for the spousal reunification, where people will be able to actually get a real-time update on their own file, rather than having to call the department and waiting for someone in office on in some instances on the other side of the World to dig out a paper file.
These major reforms of the digitization of the system are going to make a really big difference, but in the short term we also have money now in places as of just a few weeks ago. It’s going to start to have an impact by reducing processing times. I do think we’re going to see serious improvement over the course of this year and in the years ahead. I think we’re going to have a complete renovation and a rejuvenation of the the user experience when it comes to coming through Canada’s Immigration system. I’m very optimistic that we’re on the right track but we do still have continued challenges as you see the Omicron variant shutting down the operations in certain offices in Canada and around the world. We’re not through this pandemic yet but with these new investments in place, I’m very optimistic that the experience will dramatically improve over the course of the next couple of years.
Host: Minister you know that we need more people you said yourself that you’re bringing 400,000 more people there. Why don’t you get the blessing of these dawn trodden poor people, working poor people who are already here in this country, have no status. Why don’t you declare general and mostly just like the legend Pierre Elliott Trudeau and get their blessings and that way you know we can fulfill our needs and I understand that you had an immigration committee that recommended the same. Sukh Dhaliwal told me so
IRCC Minister: In addition to uh to to what Sukh may have told you about the immigration committee, I would also point you to the recent mandate letter that prime minister, Trudeau has issued to me. It asks me specifically to explore pathways to permanent residency for undocumented workers who’ve been making a contribution to our communities for years now. This isn’t going to solve all of our problems when it comes to growing Canada’s population but allowing people, who have been here, who are often working under the table, who are often vulnerable because they won’t seek access to services for fear they might be discovered as being an undocumented person and being deported. This is the kind of thing that we are looking at right now to identify the best way to offer a right a pathway to regularization so people who’ve been here making a contribution for years, can become permanent residents. We have to make sure that we do our homework to do it in the right way, that will result in people actually taking up the program. There’s a lot of distrust for government for people who are fearful that if they’re discovered they may be deported and we want to design a program that will give them faith, that if they reach out once we design a framework to uh offer some pathway to permanent residency, uh that they’ll uh they’ll be able to participate in that process in good faith uh knowing that it won’t result in their deportation. I think it’s an opportunity for us to be looking at people who’ve been here being making contribution. We had a great pilot program over the course of the pandemic in particular with undocumented construction workers and we’re looking at the lessons from those experiences right now to understand what the right path forward looks like but this is an issue that I’m actively looking at the direction of the prime minister
Host: Minister my last question is about nannies, they’ve been waiting for renewal of work permits. What’s being done in that issue
IRCC Minister: So uh we’re looking right now at how to address this issue and I would point out that we did meet our goal of processing 6,000 applicants in in the past year as we were on our way to setting an overall record of the the number of newcomers who come to Canada, uh exceeding the goal of 401,000 but by achieving more than 405,000 last year, uh the kinds of things that we need to be considering that we’re looking at include whether there’s some easier pathway to the renewal of permits and we are trying to uh communicate to folks uh who are facing a potential expiry that uh through uh providing them with a letter um to to demonstrate that they will have an implied status uh to remain in Canada. Um these are are challenging things to work through and for people who are in a position where they’re feeling very vulnerable uh because they’ve came in and are are fearful that their permits may expire, but we’re working with those individuals who come here now and continuing to process them in record numbers to make sure that both the individual feels comfortable about their status in Canada, but also the people they’ve come to be providing care to know that they won’t be losing out on an individual who’s increasing their quality of life. It’s the very kind of thing that the program is designed to provide and we want to make sure that the administration of the program pursues those ends rather than working against them
Host: Minister anything you’d like to say in closing
IRCC Minister: Uh I’d like to say thank you for the opportunity to chat, I think it’s important to engage with uh with media that that speaks to different audiences across Canada. I know that yours is keenly interested in in Canada’s immigration system, but if I could reiterate my priorities include increasing the ambition for Canada’s Immigration system to welcome more newcomers to make sure that we can get workers into jobs in our communities and to make sure that the experience for families who are trying to reunite with their loved ones is more tolerable and operates more quickly and that people have faith that when they apply so long as they qualify, that it will be able to come to
Host: Canada minister thank you very much and please remember to discuss with the prime minister about general amnesty, because a lot of people are being exploited into the sweetshops here from Nova Scotia to Brampton to Surrey. Please do something about them
IRCC Minister: I appreciate it very much and thank you again for the opportunity to chat today
Host: Minister thank you, take care!