As reported by CIC News last month, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is undergoing major changes to improve its operations.
The changes are being influenced in part by a series of recommendations made earlier this year in what is informally known as the Yeates report. Former IRCC Deputy Minister Neil Yeates was asked to write a report on how IRCC can become more effective and efficient.
Click here to read the report.
Yeates was commissioned to write the report by IRCC’s current Deputy Minister, Christiane Fox. As a federal government’s senior-most public servant, the role of the Deputy Minister is to manage their department in a technocratic and non-political way. They are the counterparts of ministers, who are politicians. In this case, Fox’s counterpart is Immigration Minister Marc Miller.
Both Fox and Miller have gone on the record over the past month to acknowledge shortcomings in how IRCC is serving newcomers. The recognition of the challenges at IRCC is why Fox asked Yeates to evaluate how IRCC can do a better job of achieving its mandate.
Yeates ultimately provided a frank assessment, writing “the current organizational model at IRCC is broken but is being held together by the hard work and dedication of staff.”
Some of Yeates’ recommendations are already being enacted such as a major reorganization within IRCC last month aimed at making the department a more client-focused organization.
Recent announcements also indicate IRCC’s desire to foster improvements. On October 31, Miller introduced IRCC’s new strategy, An Immigration System for Canada’s Future.
One of the three pillars of the strategy is to create a more welcoming experience for newcomers. Among the way IRCC seeks to do this include by reducing wait times and improving service standards, helping remove barriers to welcoming newcomers, and strengthening partnerships with employers and institutions that rely on immigration, while addressing fraud and strengthening student and worker protections.
The following day, on November 1st, Miller announced the Immigration Levels Plan 2024-2026. Unlike in recent years, when the federal government was celebrating rapid increases to permanent residence targets, this announcement took on a more muted tone, with IRCC stressing it was “stabilizing” immigration levels to allow more time for successful integration. The decision to gradually increase the immigration target from 465,000 this year, to 485,000 in 2024, before stabilizing them at 500,000 immigrant admissions in each of 2025 and 2026 is likely a function of several major factors. These include, but are not limited to, recent public opinion polling suggesting lower support among Canadians for immigration, and IRCC’s efforts to improve client experience and get processing standards back on track.
The department has been struggling with a rising application inventory since the pandemic, resulting in it periodically falling short of processing applications within its own expectations. One reason for the rise in backlogs is the significant hike to immigration levels during the pandemic, from a target of some 340,000 in 2020, to over 400,000 in subsequent years, even amid a difficult pandemic operating environment.
The rapid hikes in permanent residence admissions have also occurred as Canada has been welcoming record levels of temporary residents, as international students, temporary foreign workers, and visitors.
This led Yeates to observe that while the growth in newcomers has resulted in a more than doubling in IRCC’s staff over the past decade, the department’s operational structure had largely remained the same over this period. This observation was a major impetus for the subsequent October 2023 departmental reorganization.
Recent Statistics Canada data shows the country’s population increased by almost 1.2 million people (2.9%) in the 12-month period leading up to July 1, 2023. Some 98% of this growth came from foreign nationals.