Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
As you've introduced, my name is Catrina Tapley, and I am the assistant deputy minister for strategic and program policy at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
My colleagues and I are pleased to appear before your committee. We hope that our testimony today will be helpful as you undertake your study on promoting economic prosperity through settlement services. This, of course, is an issue we are intently focused on within our department, and I'm glad to have the opportunity to outline the opportunities and challenges we have encountered, as well as some of the actions we've undertaken in this area.
As we formulate our policies and practices at CIC, we do so with the prevailing understanding that the work of immigration doesn’t end after we identify and select the immigrants we need.
We know we must also make sure that immigrants can then actually put their skills to use in our labour market as soon as possible after they arrive so they can fully participate in the economic, social, cultural, and civic life in Canada. Canada is recognized as an international leader in the settlement and integration of newcomers. This reputation has been built over time through positive immigrant outcomes and high public support for immigration.
Indeed, the success of our immigration system depends on ensuring that the hundreds of thousands of newcomers who arrive in Canada each year are welcomed, integrated into the Canadian family, and encouraged and supported so they can contribute fully to Canadian society.
As you know, this year we will have the highest planned annual level of immigration admissions in recent Canadian history. We plan to welcome between 260,000 and 285,000 new permanent residents, which is a notable increase from the planning range of 240,000 to 265,000 that we had in place since 2007. As well, almost 65% of overall admissions in 2015 will be in the economic immigration class, which reflects our focus on ensuring that the immigration system contributes to Canada's future prosperity.
At the same time, we are continuing our long-standing humanitarian tradition of protecting refugees. As you know, on January 7, 2015, Minister Alexander announced that Canada would resettle an additional 10,000 Syrians over the next three years and an additional 30,000 Iraqis in 2015.
Canada remains one of the most attractive places for people around the world seeking to build new lives for themselves in a new country.
Naturally, this high level of interest in Canada as a destination for immigrants creates challenges, but it has also opened up the opportunity to improve our integration and settlement systems. One expression of the improvements we have made is the fact that settlement funding has remained at record levels in recent years. Over the last decade, the government has tripled funding for newcomers' settlement services in jurisdictions outside Quebec, from less than $200 million in 2005-06, to almost $600 million in 2015-16.
Unprecedented steps have also been taken to facilitate the recognition of foreign credentials, as well as ensure that immigrants have access to microloans to allow them to bring their education and official language skills up to the Canadian standard.
Of course, we measure the true success of our settlement program in the outcomes we achieve in promoting and fostering integration and building welcoming communities. Let me talk briefly about the kinds of outcomes we look for at each stage of the immigration program.
We want newcomers to achieve economic success in Canada. We want them to thrive in our labour market, and in so doing, to contribute to Canada's future prosperity. We want them to develop a sense of belonging to Canadian society. We want them to become active citizens who make positive contributions to their communities and to our country as a whole. Whatever their background and personal history are, we want them to understand and respect our core Canadian values.
We want these successful outcomes for all immigrants, but of course we need to ensure that integration and settlement services are best targeted to those most in need. For example, refugees have specific settlement needs based on their pre-migration and migration experiences, and they are among the top users of these services. We recognize that resettled refugees in particular face complex needs that set them apart from other immigrants requiring specialized supports.
In Canada, resettled refugees are supported by private sponsors or the resettlement assistance program, RAP, which provides eligible refugees with immediate and essential services as well as income support when they first arrive in Canada.
Further, the Government of Canada supports settlement interventions that demonstrate the potential to effectively improve refugee outcomes, including services delivered pre-arrival or through a case management approach to provide more intensive long-term support.
Through the settlement program, the Government of Canada provides funding to a variety of organizations that offer programs and services that respond to the specific needs of permanent residents.
In 2012-13 more than 200,000 people used CIC settlement services. In a large number of these cases, service provider organizations were the first contact both pre- and post-arrival providing newcomers with culturally sensitive supports and links to community and social services.
Our settlement services are flexible and are designed to meet the needs of a diverse society. Information sessions, employment support, assessment of foreign education credentials, and referral services pre-arrival and in Canada are examples of interventions that help newcomers better use their skills and credentials in the Canadian workforce and prepare them for early integration into Canadian society.
My colleagues and I will be happy to speak in detail about any of these services in response to committee members' questions following the opening remarks. Of course it's important to talk about these services in the context of the many significant reforms to the immigration system in recent years to ensure that as we welcome newcomers to our country, we are also meeting Canada's economic and labour market needs.
As you know, the most notable and recent change we made was the introduction last month of express entry, our new application management system, which will enable us to select the most qualified candidates for economic immigration from a pool we have already confirmed as eligible to apply.
Express Entry will now help us to identify those potential immigrants who have the greatest chances to succeed in our labour market. This, of course, has many implications for our settlement and integration programs.
In selecting newcomers with the human capital that will maximize their long-term potential in Canada and become our future citizens, we expect to see more newcomers achieve great success and make positive contributions to Canadian society.
We also know that early settlement outcomes are best for newcomers who already have a job offer and are proficient in English or French.
We know the best way to integrate into Canadian society is to find a job for which one is qualified. With express entry, we expect that more newcomers will come to Canada with jobs, which means they will likely transition into their new life sooner and integrate more quickly and successfully. Consequently, we're in the process of determining how our integration and settlement services across the country can best adapt to this new reality. However, considering express entry was only implemented in January, more time will be needed to appropriately determine its impacts on the settlement needs of economic immigrants and their families.
We believe that a critical piece of this puzzle lies in the area of pre-arrival services, those that are delivered before an immigrant even gets to Canada. When we begin the settlement process for immigrants prior to their arrival in Canada, we help ensure that they arrive here better equipped for success and better prepared to begin contributing to our society and our economy. With that in mind, we recently launched a call for proposals for pre-arrival services targeting economic and family class immigrants, as well as refugees. This is the first step toward ensuring that a greater number of newcomers have access to such services either in person or online when possible, no matter where in the world they are originating. Through our settlement program we aim to help newcomers of all skill levels overcome integration barriers through services that provide general settlement information, language skills, employment-related supports, and support to build professional and personal networks within their new communities.
Finally, we continue to see settlement services playing a critical role in fostering effective integration to assist immigrants in fully participating in Canada's economy and society as this is key to our nation's ongoing prosperity.
My colleagues and I are happy to talk in more detail about any of these opening remarks or to answer any questions you may have on settlement and integration.