Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good evening, everyone.
It is an honour to be with you all today. Thank you as well, Mr. Chair, for dispensing with the introductions of my two colleagues, Dr. Giles and associate assistant deputy minister Natasha Kim.
Let me begin with the substance of my remarks, and then I'll be happy to take questions from our colleagues on the committee.
Canada remains deeply concerned about the imposition of the new national security law on Hong Kong, including recent developments in the legislative council. This country shares many close ties with Hong Kong, and we continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong.
Canada remains deeply concerned about the imposition of the new National Security Law on Hong Kong, including recent developments in the legislative council. This country shares many close ties with Hong Kong, and we continue to stand with the people there.
Accordingly, as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, I continue to work with all of my cabinet colleagues, and indeed all members of the House, especially Minister Champagne, to address the situation and coordinate any responses we may consider.
We have recently announced our new levels plan for the next three years, which will continue to attract the best and the brightest from around the world to help accelerate our economic recovery and drive Canada's prosperity going forward.
Over the course of Canada's history, immigration has helped us not only to grow but also to create jobs. In fact, one in three businesses with employees in Canada is owned by an immigrant.
As we've fought back against this pandemic, Canadians have been grateful for the service and sacrifices made by newcomers, who have played an outsized role in our response. A third of health professionals in key roles, like family doctors and pharmacists, come from abroad.
As we look to recovery and building the workforce that Canada needs for a prosperous future, we will continue to look for highly skilled people from around the world. In this context, I recently announced a number of measures for students and youth from Hong Kong, as well as a number of enhancements to Canada's existing immigration programs, which remain available to those living in Hong Kong and can provide pathways to settling in Canada.
There are three areas that I would like to highlight. First, we will seek to attract recent Hong Kong graduates and workers with the skills that we need to support our economy today and going forward. Second, we will prioritize existing immigration routes for family members, students and workers. Third, we have introduced several targeted measures to enhance the protections that are offered by our asylum system.
In totality, these measures support the objectives of our new levels plan as we seek to attract the world's best and brightest.
These measures support the objectives of our new levels plan, as we seek to attract the world's best and brightest.
To attract Hong Kongers from abroad, we are going to fast-track work permits for those with recent graduate experience who wish to come to Canada to work or continue their studies. This will allow recent graduates in Hong Kong to apply for an expedited open work permit valid for up to three years. Eligible applicants must have graduated from a recognized Canadian or overseas post-secondary learning institution in the last five years. If approved, their spouse or partner, as well as their children, will also be eligible to apply for a study or work permit.
Of course, we don't just want them to work or study in Canada temporarily. We also want them to consider staying on, which is why we will create two new permanent resident pathways under this initiative. I will highlight them now.
The first stream is open to Hong Kong residents in Canada who have graduated from a recognized Canadian learning institution in the last three years, having completed at least 50% of their courses in Canada. The second stream will apply to Hong Kong residents who are in Canada and who have graduated with a degree from a Canadian learning institution or a recognized post-secondary learning institution abroad in the last five years, and who have one year of full-time work experience in Canada within the last three years.
Once eligible under the three-year open work permit, Hong Kongers may then qualify under stream one or two or other existing PR programs. These measures represent an exciting opportunity to welcome Hong Kongers who can help to build our country going forward. We plan to welcome the first eligible applicants under this program in early 2021.
These measures represent an exciting opportunity to welcome Hong Kongers who can help to build our country going forward. We plan to welcome the first recent graduates under this program in early 2021.
Foreign nationals, including Hong Kong residents in Canada, continue to have access to our asylum system. All eligible asylum claimants are afforded due process and the opportunity to make their case for needing Canada's protection. In addition, due to changing conditions in Hong Kong that could put some individuals at greater risk, we have implemented an exemption to the 12-month bar on a pre-removal risk assessment, or PRRA, for Hong Kong nationals. Under normal circumstances, individuals who received a negative decision on their refugee claim or on a previous PRRA application would not be eligible to apply for a PRRA for at least 12 months.
Hong Kong residents at risk of persecution who have fled to another country may also be eligible under Canada's existing resettlement programs, including the private sponsorship of refugees program and the government-assisted refugees program.
Canada supports the right to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Taking part in peaceful protests is not considered an offence in Canada. As such, arrests or convictions outside of Canada for taking part in peaceful protests are not grounds for inadmissibility to Canada. No one will be disqualified from making a legitimate asylum claim in Canada by virtue alone of having been charged under the new national security law, and neither will they be hindered in any way from availing themselves under any other immigration route.
As you know, the Prime Minister has committed to a whole-of-government response to China's national security law in Hong Kong. The measures I recently announced complement measures the government previously announced. By introducing new immigration measures that also complement the efforts of our international partners, as well as building on our existing programs and pathways, we are providing options and opportunities for Hong Kong residents that are going to support Canada's economic growth and prosperity.
By introducing new immigration measures that also complement those of our international partners, as well as building on our existing programs and pathways, we are providing options and opportunities for Hong Kong residents that support Canada's economic growth.
We will continue to support the many connections and ties between Canada and the people of Hong Kong.
Thank you for asking me to join you today. I will be very happy to take your questions.