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Canada: Quotas Hold The Line On Immigration

Ottawa, 31 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Canada is holding the line on immigration. Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard told Parliament on Tuesday that the targeted level of immigration for 1997 will not increase.

Canada expects to accept between 195,000 and 220,000 people next year -- the same as this year's target. That's far short of the government's 300,000 target for 1997 set when the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien came to power in 1994. A federal election is expected to be called in the spring.

Robillard told Parliament that Canadians are not ready to accept more immigrants, although she acknowledged that immigration is necessary for Canada's growth.

"We must be sensitive to the need to balance our demographic and economic needs with our capacity to settle and absorb immigrants," she said.

Robillard went on to say that there is a perceptual problem in the country: while some people believe immigrants are taking jobs away from Canadian citizens, others do not subscribe to this view.

In addition to regular immigration, Canada expects to accept about 26,000 refugees in 1997 -- again, the same level as projected for this year. Family immigrants -- a program under which landed immigrants may sponsor close relatives -- is also expected to remain the same, at about 61,000.

The only category in which Canada expects to accept more immigrants next year is under the economic immigration category, where would-be immigrants pledge up to half-a-million dollars for setting up a businesses and creating jobs.

In this area, Canada hopes to accept some 113,000 people in 1997, well in excess of this year's target of about 94,000 people. Immigration lawyer Howard Greenberg says meeting the target could be a problem because Canada has been cutting the number of visa offices it has overseas as well as budgets for promoting emigration to Canada. As a result, he says, Canada is fighting for the cream of the crop.

Nancy Worsfold of the Canadian Council of Refugees says Canada "is setting complex immigration targets on the basis of public opinion polls, and that amounts to uninformed consent because people cannot distinguish between a refugee and an immigrant, let alone between family class and independent class."