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|Written by Staff Writer|
|Friday, 06 April 2012 17:18|
Close to 300,000 foreign workers will have their immigration applications returned along with the $130 million they paid in processing fees, the federal government has announced.
Ottawa says the decision to scrap applications made under the Federal Skilled Worker program prior to 27 February 2008 is intended to eliminate backlog and prioritise entry of those immigrants with skills in current demand.
Making the announcement during the reading of the annual budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the reforms would make the system faster and more efficient.
"[The government] will ensure it is designed above all to strengthen Canada's economy. As a result we will be better able to fill gaps in our labor force," Mr. Flaherty told the House of Commons.
Despite an unemployment rate of 7.4 per cent, Canada is facing severe labour shortages, particularly in Western provinces where skilled tradespeople are in great demand.
But the promise of new, streamlined immigration systems is no comfort for the thousands of individuals and their families who have now seen their hopes for Canadian immigration dashed.
Some have been on the waiting list for a decade or more.
"It doesn’t come across to me to be fair, if I’m waiting for years and my number’s about to be called and they say, ‘here’s your money back...’" Liberal Immigration critic Kevin Lamoureux said to the Winnipeg Free Press.
Nevertheless, applicants who see their files returned but are still keen to come to Canada are by no means excluded from re-submitting an application, either through the Federal Skilled Worker program or one of the over 60 other available Canadian immigration programs.
However, prospective applicants through the FSW program should keep in mind that if their skills are now in less demand, their chances of acceptance will also be lower.
The federal budget, unveiled in Ottawa on Mar. 29, confirms moves outlined in recent weeks by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to shake up the way Canada accepts newcomers.
Other changes planned by the government include reforming the points system under which immigrants now qualify to come to Canada.
The government wants to place more emphasis on young immigrants who are fluent in English or French and whose educational credentials are best suited to getting them jobs.
At the same time, the government says it will seek to find a balance between bringing immigrants to Canada to fill open jobs and making sure regions with high unemployment look to Canadians first.
One way they say they'll do that is by building a system that would restrict employers from being able to bring in temporary foreign workers if there is local labour available.
Programs designed to attract investors and entrepreneurs are also being changed. The current investor class program has come under scrutiny for allowing people to essentially buy their way into Canada without a long-term benefit to the Canadian economy.
The government also hopes to beef up the current provincial nominee system, which gives the provinces the ability to cherry-pick the people they need to meet their own needs. Ottawa says it will work with provinces, territories and employers to create a pool of skilled workers ready to begin employment in Canada.
Opposition MPs have already raised some concerns about the reforms, saying that there needs to be a more holistic approach to the issue that takes into account immigrants long-term goals to bring over their families.
Earlier this year, the government froze applications for parents and grandparents, instead instituting a "super visa" that would allow them multiple entries to Canada over 10 years. ■