Ottawa Plans The Canadian Citizenship for Undocumented Residents
Canada Considering Citizenship Path for Undocumented Residents: Minister Miller Plans Comprehensive Program
Ottawa is preparing to create a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of people who have lived and worked in Canada illegally for years, starting with construction workers, Immigration Minister Marc Miller says.
In an interview, Mr. Miller said he is preparing to create a “broad and comprehensive program” that would allow many without valid documents to apply for permanent residency. Among those included would be people who entered the country legally, as temporary workers or international students, and then remained here after their visas expired.
The minister said he plans to present a proposal to cabinet in the spring on allowing undocumented immigrants to “regularize their status.” But he acknowledged the policy may face opposition.
“The conversation on regularizing people that are here, and by my estimation – my belief – should be Canadian, is not one that’s unanimous in the country,” he said. “We have to have a greater conversation as a country about that.”
There are an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 people living in the country without valid documents, he added. Many have been working here for decades and have children, but risk deportation because they lack formal status.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has been considering creating a program for undocumented workers since shortly after the last election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to former immigration minister Sean Fraser in 2021 asked him to “further explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers who are contributing to Canadian communities.”
But he said he is planning soon to roll out a program that would allow construction workers living in Canada without legal status to apply for residency, to help address Canada’s shortage of skilled workers able to build homes.
Creating a path for undocumented construction workers to settle in Canada would be a “good way to test the narrative” of the wider program he is planning to present to cabinet, Mr. Miller said.
But he said he understands how some immigrants who came to Canada legally may feel about people they think “got a pass.”
“These are people that are already here, already contributing and have kids, “he said of undocumented workers. “People do get worked up about numbers, but the reality is that they are already here.”
He said it “makes absolutely no sense” that people who have been here for decades and have children have not been able to obtain legal status. He added that Canada’s immigration policy needs refining and “tailoring to the reality on the ground.”
Mr. Miller said he is planning further reforms to Canada’s immigration system to bolster its integrity, including changes to temporary foreign worker and international student programs.
The federal government has raised its immigration targets in recent years. It announced last month that it would freeze the number of new permanent residents it hopes to admit each year at 500,000 in 2026. Recent polls have shown public support waning for the scale of new arrivals, and some of those polls have linked the issue to a shortage of affordable housing. But Mr. Miller said the underlying figures suggest there is still broad support for immigration.
“Of all the countries in the world, Canada is seen, in a vast consensus, as having gotten it right,” he said.
“But when we get things wrong, and we get policies wrong, you create fertile ground for people to weaponize the issue.”
Miller Recommended a few things which will help from the exploitation
Several countries, including France, Hungary, and Germany, have seen an upsurge of support in recent years for hard-right politicians pursuing anti-immigrant policies. Mr. Miller said he does not want to see this repeated in Canada. He noted “the headwinds we’re seeing across the world with countries that have a significant influx of immigrants – a tendency and an ability to weaponize it.”
“I think the last thing we need as a country is a prominent leader to say something idiotic, or weaponize the issue of immigrants and make it into a campaign slogan,” he said. “We see in countries where it happens what it leads to.”
He said he plans to look at “adjusting our public policies to make sure we’re being we’re being smart about the type of people coming to this country, and what they can contribute.”
He added that there was “robust discussion on both ends of the spectrum” in cabinet about whether to freeze the federal immigration targets, reduce them or raise them further.
“The general consensus was to stabilize it and to have a look over the next year as to what that looks like and the pressures that we continue to face,” he said.
Mr. Miller said in areas such as construction and health care, immigrants are indispensable. “But again, we just have to be a little more careful in how we are in our tailoring these policies to the reality on the ground,” he said.
Last week, he doubled the amount of money international students need to prove they have to qualify for study permits. The reform is expected to significantly cut the number arriving here.
Mr. Miller said he is concerned about exploitation of international students by agents, who charge thousands of dollars to help them apply to schools, in some cases sub-standard colleges that he has said churn out graduates like “puppy mills.”
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