An exclusive interview with Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen
Marco Polo: Canada, along with Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, has a characterisation that links immigration with nation‐building. By comparison other developed countries, Canada is welcoming large numbers of immigrants. Could you explain to our readers why, after so many years of immigration, Canada continues to welcome very significant numbers of newcomers?
Hon. Ahmed Hussen: Our immigration system has helped make Canada the nation it is today – one that is diverse, prosperous and welcoming to those in need. Immigration spurs innovation and economic growth and supports the development of diverse, dynamic and innovative businesses and communities across the country.
Economic immigration, in particular, helps Canada stay competitive and attract talent from around the world. Immigrants bring unique skill sets, innovative ideas and global experience, which help our economy grow and prosper.
With an aging population, it is important that we have a robust plan in place to address demographic changes and labour market shortages.
Marco Polo: Canada could accept more refugees through economic immigration programs. Why Canada is a very attractive destination for immigrants? What is the truth here?
Hon. Ahmed Hussen: Canada is known for its leadership in developing innovative programs that support refugees seeking protection and a chance to rebuild their lives. Canada has increased resettlement levels and supports resettlement capacity abroad, but millions of people remain in need of protection.
While refugees will always be selected on the basis of vulnerability, many refugees have the skills needed to be eligible for economic immigration.
Which is why were proud to support Talent Beyond Boundaries to help refugees access Canada’s economic immigration streams and help grow our economy. This will help us better understand how to eliminate some of the barriers for skilled refugees seeking to immigrate to Canada.
Marco Polo: Let’s come back to Italy. In the next years do you have a has a special plan for the Italians which plane to immigrate to Canada?
Hon. Ahmed Hussen: Italian immigrants have played an important role in helping shape Canada into the country that it is today. In cities and towns across the country, you see the influence of Canadians of Italian descent in the food, art and culture around the world.
Canada’s immigration system is welcoming to people around the world, regardless of country of origin. Those who have the talents to meet our labour market needs are invited to apply to come to Canada to start a new life and help our economy grow.
Canada and Italy share a Youth Exchange Program, which allows Canadians and Italians aged 18-35 to visit each others countries. While on the exchange, participants can work and study to help pay for their trip. Programs like this one allow our two countries to strengthen the ties that unite us, while allowing young people to learn more about the world.
Marco Polo: Your immigration policy has been very popular with the refugees. Canada has received a lot of attention over how it resettled 40,000 refugees from Syria. How the Minister deal with this problem?
Hon. Ahmed Hussen: Refugees represent approximately 10 % of overall immigrants that come to Canada. The majority of newcomers are economic immigrants or family class.
As we mark the three year anniversary of the first Syrian refugees arriving to Canada, it gives us the opportunity to look back on the generosity of Canadians that made this effort possible. Canadians from all walks of life joined in what was truly a national project to resettle Syrian refugees. Every effort, big and small, from volunteers, service providers, sponsors, corporate Canada and so many others, combined to make an enormous difference.
The enthusiasm, dedication, support and engagement of Canadian organizations and individuals continues to make all the difference in providing refugees with a smooth transition to life in our country. Our efforts to help Syrian refugees down the road of integration is ongoing, and we continue to monitor our success.
Resettling refugees will continue to be a proud reflection of Canada’s humanitarian tradition. It demonstrates to the world that we have a shared responsibility to help those who are displaced, persecuted and most in need of protection. All Canadians should be proud of this historic effort. It is a true demonstration of who we are – a diverse, strong, compassionate and welcoming country.
Marco Polo: What immigration rules would you change immediately?
Hon. Ahmed Hussen: Our Liberal government is very proud of the many achievements that we have had over the past four years to help solidify our immigration system. We have made some significant improvements in family reunification. Under the Harper government, applications to sponsor spouses had reached 26 months, and we have dramatically cut these wait times to 12 months. We also slashed backlogs for the Parents and Grandparents program which had reached 167,000 under the Conservatives to less that 25,000.
We know that family reunification is an important part of building communities and helping newcomers integrate in their new home. Which is why we continue to work towards improving these programs.
Marco Polo: What is your message for our readers?
Hon. Ahmed Hussen: Canada is a country of immigrants, and people from all backgrounds have helped shape this country into the great place that it is today. Canada’s Italian community has played an integral role in its history and today has blossomed into wonderful part of Canada’s identity.
In my riding of York South Weston, I am lucky to have a large Italian community which has made it a destination for people from the entire region.