British Columbia

'It's a drop in the bucket': expert says Ottawa's immigration plan falls short

A group dedicated to harnessing the expertise of immigrants and helping them integrate into Canadian society says the new federal immigration plan isn't as good as it hoped.

Immigration settlement group hoped for more ambitious targets

The Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance says it would like to see Canada bring in more immigrants than Ottawa has outlined. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

A national group dedicated to integrating immigrants into Canadian society says Canada's new immigration plan isn't all it had hoped for.

The Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance says the multi-year immigration plan laid out by the federal government on Wednesday falls short of targets it sought from Ottawa.

The Liberal government's plan to welcome nearly one million immigrants over the next three years will see 310,000 people arrive in 2018, up from 300,000 this year. That number will rise to 330,000 in 2019, then 340,000 in 2020.

But the alliance, which represents the immigrant settlement sector in Canada, says those numbers should be higher.

"Given the challenges that we're facing in this country, we feel this number is far too low," said Chris Friesen, a member of the alliance and the director of settlement services for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. 

Instead, Friesen said the alliance would rather see an increase of 50,000 every year. He said this would better address problems surrounding Canada's aging population, declining birth rate and accelerated retirements.

(Government of Canada)

The government has acknowledged its numbers are lower than expected and says that's partly due to the plan's commitment to ensuring immigrants are given the tools they need to be successful in Canada. 

Friesen agreed bringing someone to Canada is only the beginning of an immigration process, but he said with an increase in numbers, there should also be an increase in resources made available.

"The devil is in the details and we don't know exactly what budget increases there will be to support these increased levels," he said.

Friesen said it's hard to predict the new plan's effect on the Lower Mainland and to predict how many of next year's immigrants will settle in B.C.

For the past decade, he said, the number of immigrants to the province has stayed at around 34,000 a year.

Global crisis

On a broader scale, the growing world refugee crisis remains a top concern.

"Given the crisis ... we would have thought the government would have had more ambitious targets," said Friesen.

Friesen said when weighing the one million-refugee target against the almost 17 million displaced refugees in the world, it's a "drop in the bucket."

Friesen lauded the government's plan to increase the number of privately sponsored refugees admitted into the country, but said the private sponsorship program was meant to be in addition to a greater federal program.

He said Wednesday's announcement shows the Liberals are leaning on the private sector to help respond to the growing global crisis.

With files from On the Coast