Amid a choppy sea of international populism and protectionism, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says Canada will continue steaming on its established course when it comes to attracting skilled tech talent.
“We are open to ideas. We are open to people. We are open to talent,” said Hussen Monday, during a brief visit to Communitech, where he attended a roundtable on talent issues and met with representatives from companies like D2L and Clearpath Robotics. “I’m not going to comment on the immigration policies of other countries.”
With a wave of anti-immigrant, anti-free trade sentiment sweeping through Europe, and uncertainty in the U.S. with regard to its H-1B visa program, Hussen said the federal government’s response is simply business as usual – carrying on with policies already implemented or in progress that are designed to make it easier for Canadian companies to get the skilled people they need to grow.
“The plan that we had to launch express entry [in Canada] preceded the election in the United States,” said Hussen, asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last week to sign an executive order directing Congress to review the process of granting H-1B visas, which companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook use to bring in talent from around the world.
“We’ve always been ambitious as a country to try to attract the best and the brightest. Global Skills Strategy and express entry changes and the startup visa program, all those things show that this is something we’ve been working on. It was always part of our strategy.
“We continue to refine those programs.”
Canada’s welcoming, inclusive policies stand in stark contrast to the nervous sentiment sweeping Europe and the U.S., and that contrast has generated a number of high-profile stories recently, including one in Time, pointing out that Canada potentially stands to benefit as workers worldwide seek a safe, inclusive place to live and raise families.
Hussen said that Canada’s policies are made with the aim of strengthening the country’s social and economic fabric, not as a response to worldwide events.
“What I can tell you is we have been dedicated from the get-go to continue Canada’s tradition of welcoming people and making sure immigration continues to be a key Canadian value that allows people to come here who need protection, but also uses immigration as a key ingredient for our economic growth and our prosperity.
“And the way to do that is to facilitate and make it easier to attract and retain talent and skills from all over the world.”
To that end, the government will launch its Global Skills Strategy on June 12. The program will give participating employers a streamlined procedure designed to process worker applications for in-demand professions in as little as 10 days.
In addition, in the recent federal budget, the government pledged $280 million over five years toward delivery of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program, both of which allow Canadian companies to hire foreign workers.