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2017 Was Another Eventful Year in Canadian Immigration

Dec 06, 2017

Kareem El-Assal
Senior Research Associate and
Senior Network Manager, Immigration

As we near the end of Canada’s 150th anniversary year, it is worth reviewing what was yet another eventful year in Canadian immigration. In 2016, the defining moment for Canada’s immigration system was the country’s warm embrace of Syrian refugees. While there was no such moment in 2017, several recent developments will—just like the Syrian refugee initiative—have lasting impacts on Canada.

Atlantic Immigration Pilot

In response to the region’s demographic, economic, and fiscal pressures, the federal government and Atlantic provinces launched the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (“AIP”) program in March.1 Data obtained by The Chronicle Herald2 show that the AIP is off to a slow start, which partly stems from the fact that it takes time to raise awareness about any new immigration program. But if it proves successful, the AIP could support a significant increase in the Atlantic region’s population and improve its long-term economic and fiscal prospects.

Global Talent Stream

The Global Talent Stream (GTS) launched in June to help the Canadian tech sector recruit high-skilled workers. The GTS’s 10-day processing standard makes Canada’s immigration system more globally competitive, as it helps to address the common concern within the business community that processing times for global talent are too slow to meet their operational needs. The GTS’s early results appear promising: according to CBC, over 2,000 applications have already been submitted.3

Revised Citizenship Act

The Citizenship Act was revised in June, restoring some of the key features that had  been in place prior to amendments that were made to it by the previous federal government. Generally speaking, the changes can be characterized as widening the accessibility of Canadian citizenship.

Rising Asylum Claims

Since 2016, Canada has experienced a bump in asylum claims. As of October, the Canada Border Services Agency had processed over 17,000 claims in 2017, more than double the number that is typically processed in a calendar year.4 This surge has rightfully caused concern on many fronts including from security, human rights, and public opinion perspectives. However, this is not the first time Canada has dealt with a spike in claims; for example 11,500 claims were processed in 2011.

Tackling this challenge entails continuing to communicate to prospective claimants that Canada is a country of laws and only those with bona fide claims will be eligible to gain permanent residence. It also involves encouraging those with legitimate claims to arrive at official ports of entry, rather than circumventing the Safe Third Country Agreement by entering Canada through unregulated channels. Equipping the Immigration and Refugee Board with adequate resources to expeditiously process claims is also part of the solution.

Multi-Year Levels Plan

Following much public debate over the past two years about the future of Canada’s immigration levels, the federal government announced in November that Canada would indeed increases its levels in 2018 and beyond,5 tabling just the second multi-year plan in Canadian history. It will see Canada welcome some 340,000 immigrants by 2020, an increase of 40,000 immigrants compared with this year’s target.

Canada’s levels are high by historical standards, but a gradual increase in immigration is wise for several reasons:6 a higher intake will help alleviate the economic and fiscal challenges posed by Canada’s aging population and low birth rate; moreover, it gives Canada the flexibility and time to adapt to a larger population and help ensure that immigrants integrate successfully.

COIA 2.0

In November, the federal and Ontario governments announced the successful conclusion of the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA). The agreement marks the end of a six-year period in which Ontario was the only province that did not have a comprehensive immigration agreement in place with the federal government.

What to Expect in 2018

While 2017 marked Canada’s 150th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the immigration points system, several other significant milestones are on the horizon. In 2018, the Provincial Nominee Program turns 20, the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program and Canada’s business immigration program turn 40, and Quebec’s immigration ministry turns 50; back in 1968, it was the first province to launch a dedicated ministry for newcomers.

The Conference Board’s fourth annual Canadian Immigration Summit will cover the implications of these milestones and more as over 300 delegates convene to learn, dialogue, and network. Be sure to join us in Ottawa, May 30–31, 2018.


1     To learn more about immigration to Atlantic Canada, see our new report Immigration to Atlantic Canada: Toward a Prosperous Future.

2     Infogram “AIPP by the numbers.” The Chronicle Herald, accessed: December&n4, 2017.

3    Filippone, Renée, “New Immigration Program Helping Canada in the Global War for High-Tech Talent.” CBC, November 8, 2017, accessed: December 4, 2017.

4    Government of Canada, Asylum Claimants Processed by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Offices, January 2011–October 2017.

5    Prior to the announcement, we released a study forecasting the economic impacts of higher levels.

6    Read our assessment of the 2018–2020 immigration plan here.

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