Calls for consultation as Sask. pushes for autonomy rather than immigration

“In a case like this, and I’m sure other ethnic groups would say the same, they would like to be included in some way so that there’s just some clarity, so that we know what is going on.”

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As Saskatchewan pushes for Quebec-style autonomy in immigration, stakeholders say consultation is essential.

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“In a case like this, and I’m sure other ethnic groups would say the same, they would like to be included in some way so that there’s just some clarity, so that we know what’s going on,” Terry Kuzyk, president of the Regina Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said in an interview Thursday.

The province announced Thursday that it has presented a “comprehensive proposal” that would give Saskatchewan similar immigration authorities to Quebec.

The Saskatchewan Immigration Accord would give the province exclusive power to nominate newcomers moving to Saskatchewan, control of family immigration class, a transfer of federal resources for settlement resources and a guaranteed provincial stipend of nominees each year proportional to the population of Saskatchewan, a news release said.

According to the press release, Immigration and Skills Minister Jeremy Harrison met with federal and provincial ministers to present the proposal.

Saskatoon Open Door Society CEO Ali Abukar said anything that improves the lives of newcomers is welcome.

“It’s not about who, but how and it needs to be improved,” Abukar said in an interview Thursday afternoon. “I think we all know there are challenges that impact immigrants.”

Saskatoon Open Door Society CEO Ali Abukar said newcomer advocates, nonprofit organizations that provide immigrant services, institutions like universities, businesses, employers and even school boards should be consulted if the Saskatchewan Immigration Accord comes to fruition.
Saskatoon Open Door Society CEO Ali Abukar said newcomer advocates, nonprofit organizations that provide immigrant services, institutions like universities, businesses, employers and even school boards should be consulted if the Saskatchewan Immigration Accord comes to fruition. Photo by Michelle Berg /Star Phoenix of Saskatoon

He said that organizations like his are often consulted, especially by the federal government when it establishes its immigration plan each year, but also by other levels of government.

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“I can’t stress enough that this should continue and we need to make sure that we all hear carefully what newcomers, new Canadians are saying, their voices and their needs,” he said.

Saskatchewan. NDP Leader Carla Beck said opening up immigration could help fill vital labor shortages in the province, particularly in health care. She also said the government should consult with immigrant communities when developing new rules to ensure the criteria are clear and fair.

The Leader-Post contacted the Saskatchewan government for an interview Thursday, but did not receive a timely response. In the press release, Harrison said Saskatchewan needs more flexibility “in order to meet its economic needs and address gaps in the labor market.”

“Provinces should not be limited by economic categories or caps on provincial nominee programs set by the federal government,” he added.

According to the release, Saskatchewan is expected to meet and exceed its current cap of 6,000 under the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) this year. Without an increase to that cap, the province says international recruiting by employers will be delayed.

“There are a lot of businesses that are understaffed, and that’s a lot of industries, so I can see why the government would like to have a little more control over that in order to make it more attractive for people to stay here in Saskatchewan,” Kuzyk said.

Terry Kuzyk, President of the Regina Chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
Terry Kuzyk, President of the Regina Chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Photo by Michael Bell /Michael Bell

The agreement would “reduce confusion” among new Canadians, according to the province, and help create “a continuum of services” from settlement to integration.

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“We have a system in place, it’s not perfect,” Abukar said. “There are a lot of challenges and anything that improves those challenges and improves the lives of newcomers when they are here or before they arrive and makes this process smoother is welcome.

“This will be a benefit not only for immigrants, but also for Canada, its businesses and its people.”

— with files from Zak Vescera, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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