Calgary agency 'not in a panic' over immigration influx plans

Having dealt with the influx of Syrian refugees in recent years, Anila Lee Yuen says her organization is ready for the promised increase in immigration announced this week by the federal government.

'We're getting the information ahead of time, unlike with the Syrian influx,' Anila Lee Yuen says

The federal government is expected to welcome at least 300,000 newcomers to Canada in 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Having dealt with the influx of Syrian refugees in recent years, Anila Lee Yuen says her organization is ready for the promised increase in immigration announced this week by the federal government.

Canada has set a goal to accept nearly 1 million immigrants over the next three years, with 60 per cent of those newcomers coming in as economics migrants, in order to offset a shrinking workforce due to an aging population.

That means 10,000 more newcomers will be allowed into the country in 2018 compared with this year. The numbers will rise to 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020, the government has said.

"We're not in a panic about this because we know it's gradual," Lee Yuen, who is the CEO of the Centre for Newcomers, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.

"And we're getting the information ahead of time, unlike with the Syrian influx coming in where we had very little time to prepare — and we really needed to figure out what we were going to do in a new way."

(Government of Canada)

Alberta brings in the third most immigrants of all Canadian provinces, she said, and is expected to rise to second place in the coming years. Her organization and others in the province have met with Canada's immigration ministers in recent years, planning for expected increases in how many people are brought in. 

The numbers as they're set out should provide enough flexibility to scale back if there's a recession, and to scale supports to meet the needs of newcomers, Conference Board of Canada says in response to the announcement.

"Without immigration, we wouldn't have enough workers to keep our economy moving and also to pay taxes to fund important social services," Conference Board of Canada immigration researcher Kareem El-Assal told Alberta at Noon on Thursday.

"We know that because our population is aging, health care costs are only going to rise. And so we're going to need a big enough tax base to fund important social services."

(CBC)

What would help, Lee Yuen says, would be if the provinces improved supports for skilled workers coming to Canada.

She says some struggle to find jobs in their fields, and professional associations could do more to help them requalify in Canada. That could mean taking a test to become a Canadian-qualified accountant, for example, or taking a course to fill in any skill gaps, she said.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and Alberta at Noon