Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It is a pleasure for us to be here today, to give you an overview of our operations and provide some background on our activities and policies at the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Our presentation contains 12 or so slides and will take 30 to 40 minutes.
There is a lot of material here, so we will make sure we leave time for questions at the end.
Before we go into the detail of the slide presentation—and I apologize that it was a table drop—let me say that I think it will be useful reference material for committee members as we see a lot of you over the course of the next few months, and it will help situate some of the challenges and opportunities the department has.
On the opening slide we have the historical overview of immigration levels to Canada. These are the permanent admissions to Canada for the last 100 years or more, looking at some of the trends we have seen.
The spikes on the far left-hand side are really about immigration to western Canada in the early part of the last century. The big dip is World War II and the depression. Following that are a couple of spikes, notably post-war, but there is the Hungarian uprising—that one spike in the middle of the page—the Czech uprising further on, and the Indo-Chinese movement in the early seventies. More recently, since the early part of this century, we have the highest level of sustained immigration to Canada historically, whereby we have welcomed traditionally between 225,000 to 250,000, and now between 250,000 and 265,000 immigrants to Canada every year.
There are three broad streams of permanent immigration to Canada. The first is the economic movement, with a number of subclasses, including federal and provincial programming. There is family reunification—spouses, dependent children, partners, as well as parents and grandparents. Finally, there is the class of refugees and protected persons.
Given the various streams and subcomponents within these three broad categories, setting a levels plan is a challenge for the minister as he tables his report every year before November 1, in that we need to find the right balance between the various priorities that many stakeholders and other groups have and the government's priorities for immigration—more recently, ensuring that our economic needs are supported through permanent migration as well as temporary migration.
I think as well it's interesting to note that there is a considerable temporary movement to Canada. This includes temporary foreign workers, international students, and also individuals who seek admission as simple tourists or business visitors, many of whom require a visa from Canada. This requires our officers overseas to make more than a million decisions every year. My colleague, Ms. Edlund, will get into that a little later on.
One of the key elements, which I would reinforce this morning, is that in setting the levels plan—and we hear media reports or other commentary about caps on certain parts of the program—it's important to understand that what we're talking about is providing a levels plan that balances the various components I've mentioned, and that we are quite limited, in any given year, in the number of immigrants we can bring in. Striking the right balance is our challenge. Effectively, all streams within the levels plan have certain limits, as we look at meeting the trade-offs and the balances across streams.
More generally, historically the program has not had intake controls. We introduced some in 2008 with C-50 that have proven to be quite effective. But as you can imagine, without intake controls, backlogs accumulate, as the pipe is only so big. If we have a levels plan of 240,000 to 265,000 admissions in any given year and applications far outstrip that number, backlogs are inevitable and then lead to processing time delays and concerns, and likely to representations to your offices.
With that, perhaps we can get into the substance of the presentation. I'll ask Dawn to take you through slide 2, which is an overview of our operations.