Although Ontario received over half of all new immigrants to Canada since 1987, it is the last province with which the federal government has penned an immigration agreement.
Canada once had a unified and comprehensive immigration selection system whereby it was only the federal government who decided who would get to live in Canada.
That began to change in 1968 when Quebec established its own department of immigration. Three years later the federal government allowed Quebec to have representatives in Canadian embassies abroad and then, in 1978, it was given a say in the selection of immigrants destined for that province.
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In 1991, after the Meech Lake debacle, the federal government signed the Canada-Quebec Accord, which for the first time allowed a province to select its own immigrants subject only to the right of the Feds to veto any prospective immigrant on medical or security grounds.
The accord was intended to be remedial in that one of its main objectives was “the preservation of Quebec’s demographic importance within Canada and the integration of immigrants to that province in a manner that respects the distinct identity of Quebec.” This caused many Quebecers, mostly Anglophones, to leave the province. The province wanted the right to maintain its population, its level of transfer payments, and the right to give preference to French-speaking immigrants.
It didn’t take long for other provinces and territories to seek equal treatment. Those that had trouble attracting immigrants wanted their fair share of the immigration pie and had relatively little trouble making out their case. Although the federal government never signed another “accord,” it easily signed “provincial nominee programs” (PNP) with every other province and one territory with the exception, until recently, of Alberta and Ontario.
On May 11, 2007 the Feds signed a PNP with Alberta that will run indefinitely and which will not include a limit on the number of immigrants the province can nominate for permanent residence. In sharp contrast, on May 24 a PNP was signed with Ontario but only on a “pilot” basis. Although Ontario took in 125,919 new immigrants in 2006, the PNP will allow it to nominate only 500 new applicants, 450 in the “Employer Category” and 50 in the
“Multinational Investor Category.” Fifty per cent of these nominees must be destined for employers outside the GTA.
This agreement is long overdue and is hardly the long-term commitment given to Quebec, Alberta et al. Although it is a step in the right direction, celebrations at Queen’s Park should be held off until the province is closer to parity with its sister provinces and territories.
Guidy Mamann practises law in Toronto at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Ontario Law Society as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org