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Canada urged to admit more immigrants, refugees

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : Even as the Canadian government implements the new tighter immigration law, the independent Conference Board of Canada says more immigrants are needed to meet looming labour shortage. Canada lets in about 250,000 immigrants each year, with India and China being the two top sources.

But in a report released at the weekend, the Conference Board of Canada, which is an independent research organization, said that the country will actually need about 360,000 immigrants annually by 2025 to meet labour shortage.

Currently, about 15.3 percent of Canadian workers are above 55 years of age and set to retire. With only 2.7 workers entering the labour force for every five retirees now, the country is set to face a massive labour shortage in the near future.

Immigrants already account for one-fifth of the 17-million Canadian work force, and the will meet much of the future shortage.

In 2006 and 2007, Canada admitted about 56,000 new immigrants from India. This year, India is likely to surpass Chinas as the number one source of immigration despite the waiting period of up to six years in New Delhi.

The board report said the Canadian government should allow more temporary workers to become permanent residents. It also urged that more refugees be allowed into the country.

Last year, half of the 475,965 newcomers to Canada were temporary workers, including 75,000 international students.

Though the government has decided to admit 12,000 to 18,000 foreign students and certain categories of skilled temporary workers already here as permanent residents, the board says these measures are not enough to meet the long-term labour shortage.

On the other hand, the Tory government has tightened the immigration law togive sweeping powers to the immigration minister to fast-track immigration in the skilled category or cherry-pick immigrants.

This has led to resentment in immigrant communities who fear the new law will affect their family members still waiting to be admitted into Canada under the family-class immigration.

Under the current family-class immigration category, it takes just months for a relative to come to Canada to join his family.

But in the skilled and other categories, it takes years for the application to be processed.