It is time to explore how to sustain Canada’s position as a preferred destination for the world’s talent, and as a safe and supportive home for refugees. With this in mind, The Conference Board of Canada (CBOC) has convened a national summit, bringing together major stakeholders from across Canada’s immigration system to share the latest research findings, unique insights and perspectives, and contribute to the development of a National Immigration Action Plan for Canada. Vice President of Industry and Business Strategy at the CBOC, Dr. Michael Bloom, provides a sneak peak of the two-day Canadian Immigration Summit 2015.
NCM: What is the key motivation/objective behind this summit?
Bloom: The Conference Board has worked on immigration related issues for the last 20 years. Over that time, we have seen immigration as a theme become more and more important for Canada, [as well as for] countries around the world. We have come to realize that immigration affects Canada economically, socially and culturally.
In order for us to prosper in the future, we feel we need to do a better job by addressing immigration comprehensively. As an organization we are dedicated to building leadership capacity and providing sound empirically based evidence that will help future leaders make informed decisions. Therefore, we needed to set up a dedicated centre, which would take our research to a new level. Hence we created the National Immigration Centre at the Conference Board.
We think if we can create an event that leads us towards an action plan than can connect all the players that will be a great achievement.
We wanted to create an event that would allow us an opportunity to showcase this new centre and also to increase the dialogue among all the stakeholders involved in immigration. Government plays a major role in this, but also others, [like] employers, the education system, communities, immigrant serving organizations, all have prominent roles to play in what happens to the future of immigration in this country.
We hope this summit will attract media attention and begin the process of approaching the topic of immigration in a broader way. Most people will talk to you about immigration in one particular way, about some slice of it, but not typically about the big picture view. We think if we can create an event that leads us towards an action plan than can connect all the players that will be a great achievement.
NCM: How will this summit contribute to the understanding of the current direction of Canada’s immigration policy?
Bloom: We have already, in our initial research studies, identified a number of major themes to look at. We will be having a dialogue on some of those initiatives at this summit.
Six of the big topics being covered at the event will be: humanitarian class immigration; labour market success (of immigrants) –this includes attachment, advancement and leadership opportunities; attraction, selection and retention (of immigrants); learning and credential recognition; settlement and integration issues –particularly language services; and business immigration.
The National Immigration Action Plan will be a framework that sets out the issues in relation to one another and identifies not only the challenges, but also what we think will be viable workable solutions that will bring about change in the system as a whole.
The latter is a changing term [that] raises many questions. What should this term cover? Do we need to structure it further? These are not the only important issues in immigration, but they are six of the big ones. Roundtables on these issues during the summit will help us to further understand them in more detail.
NCM: What is the National Immigration Action Plan?
Bloom: The National Immigration Action Plan will be a framework that sets out the issues in relation to one another and identifies not only the challenges, but also what we think will be viable workable solutions that will bring about change in the system as a whole. We call it an action plan, because we feel it will only be successful when people agree with the system as it’s imagined. We must also agree that this change can be achieved and that we see ourselves in it.
NCM: How far are you in developing this National Immigration Action Plan?
Bloom: In the words of Winston Churchill, we are at the end of the beginning. We have done a number of previous studies and have been able to construct a multi-year plan for the centre over the next five years.
Research studies, convening leaders and practitioners every year, communicating our findings consistently through outreach, media and our own events, are all part of the action plan. Right now, we have about seven investors providing financial support. We hope to have 20 investors by the fall and ultimately 30 or more.
We are also building up a number of partner organizations that have agreed to share their expertise and data with us. It’s early days yet, as it’s only been a year in. But there is a high level of interest from the federal government and the private sector. We are trying to showcase this leadership and successful initiatives during the summit.
NCM: The summit is heavily focused on business and economic growth. What about the more social aspects of immigration integration?
Bloom: In total, a set of events will cover the whole range of issues in immigration. As an organization we have a lot of experience in working on economic issues in particular. But I expect to see more on social issues at the second summit next year. This year, we want to flesh out our understanding of such issues and bring that to the next event. The action plan will definitely be covering social issues as we do more research.
We recognize that security is important for Canada and Canadians, but we need to do more research on how to frame this in the context of immigration.
NCM: How do you see current events like the Syrian refugee crisis and emerging security concerns as shaping Canada’s immigration policy?
Bloom: We still have some work to do on this. We have substantial experience on working on security issues at the Conference Board. We recognize that security is important for Canada and Canadians, but we need to do more research on how to frame this in the context of immigration. We have not yet done enough work at the intersection point of these issues.
We know the security issue is not going away, but we need to understand this more clearly and do more research before we can address it. Once we have done our due diligence on this, we can expect to address this next year as well with all the right questions. The multi-year approach of the action plan will help us with this as we develop our research plan further over the coming years.
NCM: What will be your next steps after this summit?
Bloom: We hope to take what we learn from the summit and use it to enrich our research plan. We will be starting a major project to update a study we did in 2001 on brain gain. We will do a big piece on the credential issue starting June 1. This summit is also bringing together over 100people and we hope that we can engage them in our actual centre.
We hope to be doing more regional meetings; in the year ahead we will convene out East, in Toronto, Quebec and out West. We will also be starting to plan for next year’s summit and ramp up our communication efforts. Speaking to the media is an important part of getting the message out for us and we will be doing more webinars and online outreach to try and engage and inform a broader audience.
The Canadian Immigration Summit 2015: Towards a National Immigration Plan will be held on April 13 and 14, 2015, at the Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa. Registration is open. New Canadian Media will be providing full coverage of this event.