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CIMM Committee Report

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Mr. Robert Oliphant, M.P. Chair
Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration
House of Commons
Ottawa ON KlA 0A6

Dear Colleague:

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for its Fourteenth Report, entitled Immigration to Atlantic Canada: Moving to the Future, and I am pleased to provide the Government's Response to the Committee's recommendations.

The Government recognizes the challenges faced by Atlantic Canada, including those related to rapidly shifting demographics, slow economic growth, and a longstanding trend of outmigration. These factors are further compounded by difficulties in attracting and retaining immigrants, who could help mitigate some of these challenges. The Government recognizes that action is needed to enable the region to develop a workforce that can drive opportunities for economic growth. This is why the Government, in collaboration with key partners such as the Atlantic provinces, has implemented a number of measures to help address the region 's challenges and to create economic growth for years to come.

In responding to the Committee's recommendations, the Government is striving to ensure that immigration programming and policies continue to be responsive and that evidence-based adjustments are implemented as required . For the purposes of this response, the various recommendations have been grouped into the overarching themes addressed in the Committee's report, including immigration growth; leveraging labour market information; settlement services; francophone immigration; international graduates; resettlement and refugee protection ; recognition of foreign qualifications ; the Atlantic Growth Strategy; the Atlantic Immigration Pilot; and operational capacity in Atlantic Canada.

Immigration Growth (Addressing recommendations 1 and 20 of the Committee report)

The Government of Canada is committed to addressing Atlantic Canada's interests in receiving more newcomers. That is why Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) works closely with the Atlantic provinces on all aspects of the immigration continuum.

A number of measures have recently been introduced to support immigration growth to Atlantic Canada. In the fall of 2017, the Government announced a multi-year immigration levels plan that  sets the highest  admissions  levels in recent history. Beginning with an increase to 310,000 permanent residents per year in 2018, annual admissions will trend towards one percent  of the population,  reaching  340,000 in 2020.

A key objective of the 2018-2020 immigration levels plan is to support local economies and communities. The Atlantic provinces will see the benefits of immigration growth over the coming years.  Of note, 40 percent of the overall growth in 2018 will be allocated to the Provincial Nominee Program, while over three years admissions in the program will grow by 33 percent.  In addition, immigration growth for Atlantic provinces   is also addressed under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (addressed below), by providing sufficient admission space to accommodate projected growth in the Pilot. In addition to immigrants admitted for economic reasons, the plan increases admissions of sponsored family members and permanent residents admitted on humanitarian grounds, who also make valuable contributions to Canada's economy and communities.

The Government of Canada appreciates the need for flexibility in the immigration system   to respond to emerging pressures. That is why each year provinces and territories are eligible to reallocate their Provincial Nominee Program and Atlantic Immigration Pilot nominations in order to address specific labour market needs and respond to demands of local stakeholders and employers.

The Government recognizes that there are associated needs with an increase in immigration levels to the Atlantic region, including settlement services. As such, the multi-year levels plan provides the planning certainty and the resources required by service providers and communities to ramp up their capacity and bolster programming.

Leveraging Labour Market Information (Addressing recommendation 3 of the Committee report)

The Government continues to integrate Labour Market Information, which is inclusive of projected labour shortages, as a key building block supporting the annual immigration levels planning process undertaken by IRCC jointly with all provinces and territories, including the Atlantic provinces.

On June 28, 2016, the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM) endorsed the implementation of the Labour Market Information Council.  Through the Council, governments and stakeholders are working together to ensure all Canadians, including students, businesses, workers, and educators, have access.to the information they need to make informed decisions.

The mandate of the Council is to improve the timeliness, reliability, and accessibility of labour market information to facilitate decision-making by students, workers, job searchers, employers, and policy makers  in support of a flexible, efficient labour market.

Further, at the request of the Forum of Ministers Responsible for Immigration, the development and implementation of a Strategy for Labour Market Information in support of Immigration has been initiated, aimed at augmenting the labour market information evidence base for policy and program development. This initiative will leverage existing resources, including predictions of labour shortages at all occupational skill levels, many of which are prepared by their respective provincial/territorial governments. Information gaps and methodological improvements will be considered as well. This work will be undertaken in cooperation with other federal and provincial/territorial government departments that are responsible for broader labour market information and policy and program development, and will leverage expertise in the private and voluntary sectors, including industry associations as well as other sector specialists. Enhanced predictions of labour market requirements will facilitate service providing organization labour market supports for all newcomers, including those in Atlantic Canada.

Settlement Services (Addressing recommendations 2, 11, 18, and 22 of the Committee report)

The Committee made several recommendations related to settlement services for newcomers, ranging from access to and provision of services, to developing a coordinated settlement strategy in partnership with several stakeholders in the region. The Government has made it a priority to support the settlement needs of newcomers in the four Atlantic provinces. In 2017-2018, the Government of Canada is investing over $34.3 million to support the settlement needs of newcomers in the four Atlantic provinces, which includes supplementary funding in response to the Syrian refugee effort. This is a 27 percent increase compared to 2016-2017 ($27 million). Funding will be increased further in 2018-2019 to over $38 million. The Government agrees that an increase in immigration levels to Atlantic Canada should include an increased focus on settlement services. Settlement services are provided to support immigrant success, and all permanent residents are eligible to access these services until they become citizens.

The Government also recognizes that all orders of government, communities, educational institutions, service provider organizations, and employers have important roles to play in helping newcomers overcome barriers to integration. IRCC recognizes that integration involves mutual obligations for new immigrants and Canadian society. To this end, IRCC's Settlement Program addresses the needs of newcomers while also engaging Canadian society to support the integration pathway. IRCC and Canadian Heritage currently fund a range of programming that promotes cross-cultural understanding and the value of diversity and inclusion. In addition, new settlement memoranda of agreement are in place or in the process of being negotiated with provinces and territories, including the Atlantic provinces, to formalize and strengthen bilateral relationships and better align programming.

The Settlement Program and related services aim to provide newcomers with the information required to make informed decisions, language skills adequate to their settlement and integration goals, employment-related services, and the support they need to build networks within their new communities.  IRCC partners with over five hundred organizations across Canada, 34 of which are located in Atlantic Canada, to deliver programming that supports the economic, social, political, and cultural participation of immigrants. The Department also provides funding to pre-arrival service provider organizations that provide information and orientation services and conduct needs assessments both in-person overseas and online. The full suite of federally-funded settlement services are available free-of-charge to permanent residents and individuals who have been selected to become permanent residents.

In most instances, international students, as temporary residents, are not eligible for federally-funded settlement services. However, in 2017, IRCC amended the Settlement Program's criteria to allow international students and other non-permanent residents participating in the Atlantic Immigration Pilot to receive federally-funded needs assessment and information and orientation services before they receive permanent resident status. As well, international students are eligible to receive provincially-funded health and social services.

Francophone Immigration (Addressing recommendations 4 and 5 of the Committee report)

The Committee made two recommendations that focussed on the experience of French-speaking newcomers in francophone minority communities, as well as recruitment and outreach to French-speaking populations. The Government has established two targets for Francophone immigration outside Quebec: 4.4 percent French-speaking immigrants by 2023 in all immigration categories, and 4 percent for French-speaking immigrants in economic categories by 2018.

To support these objectives, Francophone Immigration recruitment continues to be a priority for the Government of Canada, specifically as it relates to advancing policies and strategies to increase the number of French-speaking immigrants settling in Francophone minority communities outside Quebec, with the goal of strengthening the vitality of these communities. For example, Express Entry, which is Canada's flagship application management system for key economic immigration programs, has been successful in inviting French-speaking candidates to apply. Over the past year, IRCC has made several improvements to Express Entry that will enhance the selection of French-speaking immigrants. As of November 2016, certain Express Entry candidates can get job offer points without a Labour Market Impact Assessment. This includes candidates working here under "Mobilité Francophone". In June 2017, Express Entry candidates with strong French language skills, with or without English language skills, were awarded 15 or 30 additional points. A new functionality was put in place that allows IRCC to send messages targeted to candidates in the Express Entry pool who speak French, informing them of the possibility of living in a francophone community in Canada outside Quebec and the services available to them.

As of October 2, 2017, 2.6 percent of all invitations were issued to French-speakers (refers to candidates who have French as their first official language tested by the Test d'évaluation de français).  Since the introduction of the new points, 4.6 percent of all invited candidates received the additional points for French language proficiency. Furthermore, as of September 2017, 1,515 confirmations of permanent residence have been issued to French-speaking principal applicants and their families, and 1,184 were admitted to Canada in 2017. This represents 2.9 percent of Express Entry admissions.

The Government shares information with provinces and territories about the characteristics of candidates in Express Entry to support their selection decisions. This includes information about candidates' language proficiency in English and French, as well as the language that candidates specified as their preferred official language. This allows provinces and territories, including those in Atlantic Canada, to select French-speaking candidates through Express Entry to meet their regional labour market needs, as well as francophone immigration targets for those who have them. The Government of Canada promotes immigration programs and francophone communities outside Quebec to potential French-speaking candidates for immigration so they are informed of opportunities to live and work in these communities.

To increase cohesion and accountability for Francophone immigration, the Government is working on a federal strategy on Francophone Immigration.  Several federal departments are also working with Canadian Heritage to develop the next Action Plan for Official Languages, which will be informed by national consultations that identified the successful integration of French-speaking immigrants in Francophone Minority Communities as a key priority. The Government is also working closely with provinces and territories on the development of a Federal-Provincial /Territorial Action Plan to attract, receive, integrate, and retain French-speaking immigrants. This is an outcome from the historic March 2017 Ministerial Forum on Francophone Immigration.

The Government is working to ensure that settlement services are available to French-speaking immigrants within Francophone Minority Communities, and continues to examine ways to enhance these services in a way that is comparable to those offered to the majority community. Furthermore, language programming is designed to be flexible and widely accessible t6 address the unique challenges and diversity of all adult newcomers. Settlement language programming is an integral part of the Government's Settlement Program. Language training is offered in both English (through Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) and French (Cours de langue pour les immigrants au Canada (CLIC) across Canada, outside Quebec) and is available from literacy to advanced levels. CLIC en ligne is also available to Francophone newcomers settling in the Atlantic region.

The Government of Canada is also implementing a number of additional measures to support recruitment efforts through initiatives such as the Economic Development Initiative, whereby the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) provides assistance to Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs) to enhance the vitality of these communities, assist in their development, and foster the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.

Francophone immigration objectives within bilateral immigration co-operation agreements with provinces and territories include a high-level commitment to enhance the vitality of the OLMCs through promotion and recruitment strategies. The objectives aim to increase the number of French-Speaking Immigrants and to strengthen settlement and integration supports for French-Speaking Immigrants, thereby improving the capacity of OLMCs to receive them and to facilitate the economic, social, and cultural integration of French-speaking immigrants into Canadian society. As an example within Atlantic Canada, on March 31, 2017, IRCC and New Brunswick signed a bilateral immigration agreement that includes a "French-Speaking Immigrants" Annex. This Annex sets out bilateral collaboration with respect to promotion and recruitment, selection, and integration of French-speaking immigrants in New Brunswick.

All of the changes made over the last year have been implemented in recognition that French-speaking newcomers contribute to the growth, vitality, and prosperity of Francophone minority communities across Canada. The Government will continue to monitor results and explore other potential improvements.

International Graduates (Addressing recommendations 12 and 17 of the Committee report)

Collaborative efforts are currently being undertaken to increase international student immigration to Atlantic Canada. ACOA, in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada, is working with provincial partners to support key stakeholders, such as the Association of Atlantic Universities, to implement a social media campaign pilot to attract and retain students from the United States to study in Atlantic Canada and remain in the region after graduation. The Agency also supports regional efforts by not-for-profit organizations and educational institutions in attracting and retaining international students to each of its Atlantic provinces.

For example, ACOA and the Province of Nova Scotia's Department of Labour and Advanced Education support EduNova, a not-for-profit education and training cooperative in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that is recruiting and selecting up to 50 international students from China, India, and the Philippines to study and stay in Nova Scotia. This four-year project will focus on providing the supports necessary to persuade students to remain enrolled in their post-secondary institution of choice with the help of settlement services, and will enable students to fully integrate in the workforce by providing participants with socio-cultural adaptation workshops, language and communication training, meaningful professional connections, and career support, leading to increased post-graduation retention. The overall goal is to retain 80 percent of "Study and Stay" participants (40/50) one year post-graduation. Immigration officers in overseas missions also regularly conduct outreach on permanent residence options in Canada.

Furthermore, the Atlantic Immigration Pilot has a stream specifically for international graduates, enabling employers in the Atlantic provinces to hire international students directly from a Canadian educational institution and endorse the student for permanent residence.

It is important to note that there are several immigration pathways for students to obtain permanent residence in Atlantic Canada, including through the Provincial Nominee Program. After the completion of their studies, international students graduating from eligible Canadian education institutions can work in Canada for up to three years,   depending on the international graduate's length of study. Post-Graduation Work Permits allow holders to work in any occupation for the length of their work permit. Skilled work undertaken with a Post-Graduation Work Permit can provide the Canadian work   experience needed to earn points under Express Entry.

International graduates of Canadian educational institutions are a key source of candidates in Express Entry. Changes were made to Express Entry in November 2016 to award points for study in Canada above high school. Early results have indicated that with these changes, even more former international students have been invited to apply for permanent residence via the Express Entry system, from 30 percent of all invitations prior to the reform, to approximately 40 percent post-reform.

Amongst comparative countries, Canada has among the most  generous policies with respect to allowing international students to work while completing their studies. Indeed, international  students, including those  in the Atlantic provinces, may automatically receive the right to work on or off campus during their studies. Students who pursue co-op or internships as part of their course of study can receive a work permit as part of their study permit to allow them to pursue work experience required as part of their curriculum. Additionally, the Government also recognizes the need for supports for the family members of international students, and thus spouses or common-law partners of international students enrolled in full-time studies at a post-secondary institution are eligible for an open work permit. After the completion of their studies, international students graduating from eligible Canadian educations institutions can work in Canada for up to three years, depending on the international graduate's length of study. Post-Graduation Work Permits allow holders to work in any occupation for the length of their work permit.

Resettlement and Refugee Protection (Addressing recommendation 14 of the Committee report)

Family reunification is a priority for the Government of Canada and is one of the principal objectives of Canada's immigration programs, as set out in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Refugees resettled under Canada's Refugee Resettlement Program are referred for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency or private sponsors in Canada. Under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, private sponsor groups may sponsor extended family members of refugees who, themselves, have recently  arrived in Canada. According to a 2016 Evaluation of Canada's Refugee Resettlement  Program,  close to  two thirds of privately sponsored refugees were sponsored by a member of their family. In addition, the One-Year Window Program allows refugees to apply within one year of their arrival for their family members to join them in Canada.

In 2018, Canada will welcome 18,000 privately sponsored refugees, which quadruples average admissions prior to 2015, and by 2020 this number will increase to 20,000 refugees. In this way, the Refugee Resettlement Program, in addition to achieving its humanitarian objectives, can support the reunification of extended family members and, for private sponsors in Atlantic Canada, the sponsored refugees settle in the same or nearby communities in the Atlantic region.

All newcomers, including refugees, are eligible for services under the Government's Settlement Program to support their integration and settlement in Canada. Available services include employment-related programs designed to equip refugees with employment-related skills and to support their access to the Canadian labour market. These services are delivered by service provider organizations across the country, familiar with local labour market needs.

In addition to these efforts to help refugees in Canada connect with employment opportunities in their communities, refugees with in-demand skills, like other foreign nationals, can also be recruited from abroad when employers are unable to find qualified individuals locally. The Department is currently exploring the use of complementary pathways for refugees, specifically how economic immigration programs could be used both to provide protection to refugees as well as to meet local labour market needs across Canada, including in the Atlantic region. Providing opportunities to access economic pathways would give refugees access to protection in a safe country while also supporting economic development and growth in Canada, including by filling specific labour market gaps.

Recognition of Foreign Qualifications (Addressing recommendation 15 of the Committee report)

The Government agrees with the need to simplify the recognition of foreign qualifications. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) collaborates closely with its provincial and territorial counterparts through the multilateral Mobility and Qualification Recognition Working Group to advance the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications. The framework was adopted in 2009 and articulates the joint vision for federal, provincial, and territorial governments to work together to ensure fair, consistent, transparent, and timely foreign credential recognition processes across the country.

ESDC invests $21.4 million annually to provide strategic financial support to regulators as well as to provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders, including those in the Atlantic provinces, to support skilled newcomers find employment commensurate to their skills, experience, and credentials. In total, over $14.6 million was provided to the Atlantic provinces in 2016-2017.  This includes a $6.6 million contribution to the Council of Atlantic Premiers for the harmonization of standards across the four provinces for sixteen trades, allowing Atlantic provinces to assess foreign­trained apprentices in a more timely and consistent manner, and to accelerate the entry of foreign-trained individuals into the job  market. Another example includes an active project with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador that is helping develop the capacity of regulators in the province to assess and recognize the foreign credentials of skilled newcomers.

The 2015 Summative Evaluation of the Foreign Credential Recognition Program   concluded  that foreign credential recognition  systems have improved  for many  occupations.  For example, the delay for an initial credential recognition response from the regulators to newcomers was reduced to one year for a list of 20 priority occupations. A more ambitious timeline  of six months  was recently  set by the FLMM, and is now  being met by  all priority  occupations  in Atlantic Canada.

To help address the remaining barriers, ESDC is currently implementing the new Targeted Employment  Strategy for Newcomers  announced  in Budget 2017.  This strategy is refocusing federal efforts around three priorities: improving pre-arrival supports and services, the launch of a new Foreign Credential Recognition Loans Program, and the pilot testing of innovative approaches to help skilled newcomers gain their first Canadian work  experience  in their professions/field  of study.

ESDC plans to continue working with the Atlantic provinces, regulatory agencies, trade unions, and other stakeholders in the region to make it easier for skilled newcomers to have their credentials recognized.

Atlantic Growth Strategy (Addressing recommendation 6 of the Committee report)

The Atlantic Growth Strategy is a pan-Atlantic, whole-of-government  approach that commits several federal departments and provincial  governments to work together  to advance inclusive growth  in Atlantic  Canada by focusing on five key pillars.  These  include: innovation; clean growth and climate change; trade and investment; infrastructure; and skilled workforce and immigration. This collaborative approach seeks to stimulate the region's economy, support both innovative  and traditional  industries, increase job opportunities for individuals residing in Atlantic provinces, and focus on persistent and emerging regional challenges. The Government continues to work with partners in advancing the objectives of the Strategy and coordinating efforts across each pillar. For example, IRCC is working with partners to ensure that immigration policy considerations are incorporated  under the various  pillars  of the strategy,  including through participation and support in forums such as the Atlantic Growth Strategy Leadership Committee and Atlantic Growth Advisory Group's engagement sessions and roundtables to ensure joint actions are launched and implemented.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada, notably ACOA, is promoting immigration programs to industry and trade associations as well as exploring ways to attract and retain immigrants through other activities, such as tourism promotion initiatives, business incubators, and entrepreneurship opportunities. To more broadly support businesses in need of top talent, the Government launched the Global Skills Strategy, which includes an ambitious two-week processing commitment for select work permits, as well as new work permit exemptions for highly-skilled workers and researchers. Additionally, Start-Up Visa helps to support the Atlantic Growth Strategy by attracting innovative entrepreneurs to the region who have the potential to build high-growth start-up companies that can compete on a global scale. A 2016 evaluation of the program found that 18 percent of Start-Up Visa entrepreneurs have settled in Atlantic Canada (compared to one percent under the former Entrepreneur Program).

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot (Addressing recommendations 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 23 and 24 of the Committee report)

The Committee made several recommendations related to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot focusing on process harmonization, digitization of applications, employer support, and program design and assessment.

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot was one of the first pillars of the Atlantic Growth Strategy to launch. The Pilot is an innovative immigration tool designed to test new approaches to recruitment, settlement integration, and retention. These concepts have been purposefully integrated into the design of this immigration program in order to experiment with approaches to better respond to labour market needs in Atlantic Canada. Specifically, employers are viewed as partners in the Pilot, playing a leading role in recruiting and retaining international candidates who can help grow their businesses and address regional labour market needs. An innovative and unique feature of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot is that, for the first time, a connection to settlement services is a mandatory component of the immigration process. Inaddition to guaranteeing employment for the principal applicant, employers must ensure that each newcomer receives an individualized settlement plan from a service provider organization and help newcomers address the needs identified in their plan. As well, employers are expected to ensure their workplaces are prepared for the arrival of newcomers (including the possibility of workplace diversity training) and provide early settlement supports (e.g., housing and transportation assistance) that help newcomers transition into their new community.

To fulfil their settlement obligations, employers are expected to work with service provider organizations and leverage their expertise to provide services to newcomer employees and their family members. Employers can work with 22 federally- and provincially-funded designated domestic service provider organizations located across the Atlantic region. For employers recruiting employees overseas, they can choose from among five federally-funded pre-arrival designated service provider organizations, including two that are based in the Atlantic region, to complete the initial settlement needs assessment and settlement plan.

The Government of Canada recognizes this is a new role for employers in the immigration process and has provided additional supports available under the Pilot, such as the Dedicated Service Channel, where Account Managers with specialized immigration knowledge assist designated employers in navigating the immigration system and associated strategies for success. The Government is continuing to improve process and services to its clients, and will continue to work with employers and provinces to simplify processes and respond to feedback.

The Pilot was designed to allow employers to select from a wide range of skills, including intermediate- and high-skilled pathways to programs for international graduates to help fill labour needs. For example, workers in National Occupational Classification C occupations (which include intermediate jobs such as clerical or service delivery workers) are eligible under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot's Intermediate-Skilled Class. It is important to note that there also are existing pathways for both National Occupational Classification C and D occupations through the Provincial Nominee Program. Provinces and territories design their Provincial Nominee Program stream criteria and nominate candidates based on their specific labour force needs. Provinces and territories can use their base nomination allocation spaces to nominate workers across all skill categories, and have the flexibility to increase their use of these spaces for workers in National Occupational Classification C and D occupations. Workers in National Occupational Classification C and D levels are currently eligible in at least one Provincial Nominee Program stream across all four Atlantic provinces.

Furthermore, there are no National Occupational Classification restrictions under the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program. Specifically, the TFW Program has streams that assist employers seeking foreign nationals for occupations under all National Occupational Classification occupations, including C or D (upon completion of a Labour Market Impact Assessment). A Labour Market Impact Assessment may be issued with a duration of employment of up to one year for low-wage positions (below the provincial median wage), while the duration of employment for high-wage positions (at or above the provincial median wage) and all other agricultural positions (either low- or high-wage) is up to two years (and in rare cases a bit longer). In addition, ESDC is undertaking sector reviews in collaboration with government representatives from the Atlantic provinces as well as with industry and labour. It is expected that these sector reviews will assist in the development of workforce strategies to recruit, retain, and train a Canadian workforce in key sectors, such as agriculture, construction, fisheries, tourism, and transportation.

A key goal of the Pilot is to ensure the long-term retention of newcomers in Atlantic Canada. Under the Pilot, every principal applicant will arrive in Atlantic Canada with a job offer and an individual settlement plan that connects them to services known to support successful integration. There have also been efforts made to facilitate the transition of temporary residents in the region who wish to remain as permanent residents through the Pilot. Additionally, Canadian work experience is a requirement across most of the Atlantic provinces' Provincial Nominee Program streams, and facilitates the nomination of temporary migrant workers already in Canada as permanent residents. Over the years, the share of Provincial Nominee Program principal applicants with prior temporary resident status has generally grown, from 52 percent in 2010 to 76 percent in 2015. These programs have contributed to a higher number of immigrants arriving in Atlantic Canada in recent years.

When the Atlantic Immigration Pilot was launched, the Government committed to processing permanent resident applications within six months in the majority of cases, matching processing times under Express Entry to bring people to the region as quickly as possible.

The Government of Canada supports providing electronic access to immigration and citizenship applications. A prioritization exercise is currently underway that will lead to a coherent and effective plan for digitizing the remaining paper-based application processes for immigration and citizenship programs in the future. The Atlantic Immigration Pilot is included in the prioritization exercise.

The Government of Canada supports an evaluation of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot in 2018 and an assessment of the Pilot in its third and final year, including a Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) of the Pilot. Furthermore, tools and additional supports are continuously being developed throughout the duration of the Pilot to respond to feedback. The Government will continue to provide updates, perform ongoing data collection, and report on the results of the Pilot. The Government also supports the Committee's recommendation to have the House of Commons conduct a review of the Pilot after March 2020.

Gender-Based Analysis and Diversity Factors

Several of the themes discussed above have important gender-based, official languages, and other diversity factor implications that the Government has considered (as part of policy and program development).

The Department's settlement efforts were a key focus of the Committee's report and, as such, it is important to indicate gender-based considerations pertaining to delivery and responsiveness of settlement services. As a whole, settlement needs and the mitigation of the systemic barriers for diverse groups of newcomers based on age, culture, gender, gender identity and expression, and circumstances of migration have been embedded into the Department's Settlement Program since its modernization in 2008. This has led to more flexible, responsive, and holistic programming for newcomers to Canada. In terms of refugee resettlement and family reunification, Canada's refugee resettlement program provides crucial protection to the more vulnerable, including different groups of people at risk of being victims of violence based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Being that the Pilot is employer-driven and foreign nationals are identified by Atlantic employers, the Government continues to consider key areas of impact regarding equitable hiring and employment practices, as well as disproportionate benefits for men due to a predominantly male workforce, among others.

Operational Capacity in Atlantic Canada (Addressing recommendation 21 of the Committee report)

The Government of Canada will further consider recommendation 21 of the Committee's report.  At this point in time, the Government does not have plans to reopen the Charlottetown, Moncton, and Saint John offices.  However, since the closing of these offices in 2012, IRCC has continuously reviewed the allocation of resources throughout its Atlantic offices to ensure the level of service provided matches the needs of the Atlantic region's clients.  The Government commits to an efficient delivery of immigration programs in Atlantic Canada, especially as immigration increases.  In addition, we commit to reviewing our operational footprints (we are currently located in Halifax, Fredericton, and St. John's) by including options such as utilizing existing Government of Canada offices to respond to additional resource demand.

Presently, the Government of Canada offers roaming services on a continuous basis to clients located far from IRCC offices. The Government provides itinerant citizenship and immigration services at a pre-determined frequency in Prince Edward Island, in other parts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. This frequency is continuously monitored to deliver programs effectively.

The Government of Canada supports and appreciates the involvement and engagement of multiple partners, including the Atlantic provinces and other federal entities, in supporting immigration efforts in Atlantic Canada. The Government of Canada will continue to work in collaboration with key partners in ensuring our suite of immigration programs continue to serve the needs of clients as well as deliver solutions that help us reach our goal of attracting and retaining skilled immigrants.

I thank the Member of Parliament for Fundy Royal for bringing forward Motion-39 on immigration to Atlantic Canada, which passed the House of Commons unanimously.

I would like to also take this opportunity to, once again, thank you and the members of the Standing Committee for your work.

Yours sincerely,

Ahmed Hussen, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship