For the much-disliked Conservative government, the announcement that Canada would allow more immigrants into the country generated some rare praise. Immigration Minister Barbara McDougall announced on Oct. 25 that the level of immigration to Canada will increase to 250,000 people by 1992 from a target of 175,000 in 1990. The new goal represented the largest number of newcomers since 1957, when 282,000 immigrants came to Canada. But more significant than the expansion in numbers was the change that McDougall promised regarding who is let into the country. Her plan: fewer extended family members of people already living in Canada, and more independent settlers who possess skills needed in the country's economy. As well, McDougall pledged to spend $525 million on programs to integrate new arrivals into Canadian society—including $200 million for language training. “It’s definitely a good plan,” said Howard Adelman, director of York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies in Toronto. He added, “There will be cries about why they’re doing it in a recession, but in fact immi-
grants are a stimulant to consumer demand.” The immediate jump in the number of people actually settling in Canada may be small. According to Adelman and other experts, the number of immigrants and refugees to Canada this year will reach 220,000—a figure closer to the new 1992 target than to the existing one for 1990. But the five-year plan that McDougall unveiled last week will have a sweeping effect on the rest of the immigration system. For one thing, immigrants will be increasingly admitted on the basis of whether their skills and education are in demand in the economy, rather than on their family connections. McDougall’s department has already targeted one new potential talent pool in Eastern Europe, a region where Canada has recently
opened five new offices to issue visas.
At the same time, McDougall moved to limit the number of relations that earlier immigrants may sponsor under guidelines governing family reunification. Describing her new restrictions as flowing from a more ‘■Canadian” concept of the family, she said that settlers already in Canada will be permitted to sponsor only clearly dependent family members for entry, instead of extended family members. That change, noted Courtney Betty, a Toronto immigration lawyer with many Caribbean clients, could strike Third World immigrants with wide family circles the hardest. Said Betty: “Family reunification has been the central focus of our immigration policy for humanitarian reasons. The government should not back away from that now.”
The new policy may also stumble with voters. According to Gallup Canada, 78 per cent of 1,051 respondents in a mid-September poll opposed increased immigration, compared with 17 per cent who supported it. Last week, workers at Conservative party offices in Toronto said that they had received several angry calls complaining about the increased quotas. Although McDougall has satisfied many professional critics, she must now satisfy the public.
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