Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said on Friday that the role currently being played by immigration labour during the coronavirus pandemic is showing why strong immigration has to continue afterwards.
He added that the country can not open up as it was before until the health and safety of Canadian’s is where it needs to be.
“Immigration is fundamentally about people coming together to build a stronger country, and that is an enduring value that I believe in, that I have faith in Canadians that they believe in, that we will see endure long after COVID-19 is behind us,” he noted when speaking to the Canadian Press.
The Liberals’ three-year immigration plan was released by Mendicino just when border shutdowns and travel bans were being put into place as a result of the pandemic.
The plan called for 341,000 permanent residents to be admitted in 2020, along with 351,000 in 2021 and another 361,000 in 2022. The numbers are record highs.
The annual increases also follow the immigration levels set by the Conservative government in order to fill job shortages in parts of the economy.
As domestic unemployment is coming close to historic levels, some are beginning to wonder if the increases will be sustainable.
“Given that the economic crisis will linger long after the health crisis has passed, can Canada accommodate an additional one percent of immigrants and refugees added to our population in the foreseeable future?” asked Peter Kent, a conservative immigration critic when speaking to Mendicino.
Mendicino said that in the fall, an update on the immigration levels would be brought forward. He didn’t say on Friday whether the target levels are still attainable due to current travel restrictions put into place around the world.
He added that the work of newcomers has been showcased during the pandemic.
“We could not put food on the plate of Canadians at an affordable price without immigrants, we could not support our front-line workers without immigration,” he said.
“So it’s vitally important that we continue to immigrate today in a manner that is safe and orderly and also to drive that future that we all believe will be underpinned by immigration as it has been in the past.”
Temporary workers were shut out from the country as borders were closed though the decision was quickly reversed after outcry as the workers are a large part of the agriculture industry.
Mendicino pointed out that there is a new program that started on Friday aimed at people in livestock-raising industries, meat processing and mushroom and greenhouse production. It would allow the workers to permanently settle in Canada.
The program was initially announced about a year ago but was delayed as a result of coronavirus.
The continuation of the parent and grandparent program is on hold and the international student program’s future is also seeing uncertainty.
International students bring approximately $21.6 billion to Canada’s economy.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canadian’s health and safety must come first though Canada is still committed to its refugee resettlement obligations.
“We will always make sure we’re getting that balance right,” Trudeau said.
“But first and foremost, my job is to look out for the well-being of Canadians.”