Statement by Goldy Hyder, President and CEO of the Business Council of Canada: 

This week the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) confirmed that it is currently processing over 2.4 million applications and that more than half, 1.3 million, are caught in a backlog resulting in significant and unacceptable processing delays. To put this number in context, there are 1.3 million Canadians living in Manitoba – our fifth most populous province. This backlog represents a national crisis. 

The Immigration Minister confirmed that clearing the backlog is a question of manpower and committed to hire up to 1,250 new employees in the coming months. Canada does not have months. International students scheduled to start school in a week do not have months. Farmers in need of help to collect the fall harvest do not have months. Ukrainians and Afghans fleeing for their very lives do not have months. 

This is a crisis, and it demands a crisis response. Just as the federal government took extraordinary measures to address the COVID-19 emergency, a comparable all-of-government response is direly needed. Until the new hires are made and trained, the government must – in the coming days – temporarily identify and reassign from other departments or agencies the 1,250 public servants required to eliminate the backlog.  

To be clear, this is not simply about the lives and livelihoods of the 1.3 million people caught in a backlog not of their making – though that would be enough. The lives and livelihoods of Canadians are at stake due to a shortage of nurses and doctors. New homes are not being built because of a shortage of skilled trades – the construction of which must start before the winter. Jobs are being lost due to business closures. 

IRCC needs more people processing applications now, not in the coming months.