Canadian PM favours aggressive immigration policy

April 19th, 2008 - 11:04 pm ICT by admin  

Toronto, April 19 (IANS) Scotching fears that proposed immigration changes will reduce annual intake of immigrants, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said his government “favours an aggressive immigration policy”. Speaking at a Canada-India Foundation gala dinner here Friday night, Harper cited figures to point out how during his tenure the number of immigrants has gone to record levels.

“We are bringing in more immigrants than any previous government. You can see this has been an upward trend in the past four decades.

“The Mulroney government had higher immigration levels than (the previous) Trudeau government. The Chretien government had higher immigration levels still.”

He said, “Since we were elected in 2006, actual immigration across categories has risen yet, including I might add 56,000 new immigrants from India alone.”

Since the proposed immigration changes give sweeping powers to the immigration minister to decide the annual numbers or who decides who is let in or not, these have come under fire from the opposition parties. They fear the government may slam doors on some categories of immigrants on racial or ethnic grounds.

But the prime minister reiterated that the changes were aimed at fixing the immigration system by reducing the 900,000-plus backlog and current waiting time of six years.

He said, “Canada already has the dubious distinction of having the largest immigration backlog in the world. You can see (from charts) how much worse this is going to get if we don’t act. Without the changes, the backlog will explode to 1.5 million people in the next five years. Wait times will rise to an average of 10 years.”

In a few years, he said, Canada will be solely dependent on immigrants for labour, and proposed changes were the only way to “get skilled workers into the country earlier, help families get reunited sooner, provide the Canadian economy with the human capital it needs”, he said.

The prime minister said the immigration system is in a crisis and his government is prepared to face elections if the immigration bill is defeated.

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