Ontario Charts its Own Course with Proposed Ontario Immigration Act

Province is  taking steps to strengthen its role in immigrant selection by introducing legislation  that would, if passed, help meet the province’s future labour market needs and support economic growth.

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

On February 19, 2014, Michael Coteau, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, proposed the province’s first ever immigration legislation. Bill 161 follows A New Direction: Ontario’s Immigration Strategy, released in November 2012.

The bill, if passed, includes parts that would allow Ontario to:

  • Select immigrants to Ontario, in collaboration with the federal government, and set target levels for the number of individuals selected for Ontario;
  • Establish a registry of employers that would be eligible to make job offers to individuals selected under selection programs;
  • Enact compliance and enforcement measures to protect people from fraudulent immigration services and to deter fraud in the immigration application process; and
  • Increase fairness for internationally trained health professionals.

The proposed legislation also includes a provision for the Minister to conduct research on permanent and temporary immigration, selection and settlement. If carried out, this would be a welcome recognition of the importance of gathering evidence to inform policy making on immigration in the province.

The government of Ontario also announced that it will redesign its Provincial Nominee Program and has called to increase the number of immigrants coming to Ontario through this program to 5,000, up from the current level of 1,300.

In addition, the bill aims for collaborative relationships with the federal government, municipalities and employers.

Valuing immigrants’ contributions to Ontario

Significantly, the proposed legislation affirms the importance of immigrants to Ontario, and the role that they play in shaping the provinces’ social, economic and cultural values. The bill also recognizes the province’s family and humanitarian obligations.

In these ways, the bill is part of the province’s effort to write its own immigration story – one that is positive, inclusive, and recognizes the contributions that immigrants and refugees make to Ontario.

The bill underwent first reading on February 19. It must now undergo review by committee, and second and third readings before possibly becoming law.

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