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The political climate less conducive to immigration and dissensions within the Trudeau Cabinet have changed the initial plans of the government, which has given up on its draft massive regularization, Radio-Canada learned.

No historical regularization of undocumented immigrants in Canada

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Undocumented immigrants, who are often found in the construction field, should ultimately not benefit from a very broad regularization program, such as this was once mentioned by the Trudeau government.

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The announcement was to be historic. This program was even seen, in the corridors of parliament, as a future legacy from Justin Trudeau. But everything has changed.

Massively regularizing hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants is no longer in the liberal government's plans, according to information obtained by Radio-Canada.

The context and the political climate have changed, says a federal source close to the matter.

For several years, however, several immigration ministers have been working on this idea, initially proposed by Prime Minister Trudeau. While the precise number of undocumented immigrants in Canada remains unknown, we were potentially talking about half a million people affected, or even more.

These include, for example, rejected asylum seekers, foreign students or temporary workers who remained in the country after the expiration of their permit or visa. These people without status are forced to work undeclared, in sometimes dangerous conditions.

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ELSE ON INFO: We investigated re-flation for a year. Here is the result

This measure would help resolve the labor shortage crisis and regularize people who have been here for a long time, Justin Trudeau even confided on Radio-Canada at the end of 2022.

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Justin Trudeau had asked, from 2021, his ministers to 'Immigration floor on massive regularization of people without status in Canada.

Instead of a very broad program, Ottawa is now banking on regularizations on a small scale, Radio-Canada learned.

According to our information, the federal government is now considering a sectoral approach, as is already the case with a project underway in the Toronto region, in the field of construction.

The Minister of Immigration, Marc Miller, had also given indications of this change of course last month.

The proposal will not be as comprehensive and ambitious as many want, he declared during a session of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

This regularization project, he added, should be presented during the spring [parliamentary] session.

But this is not guaranteed. The announcement, already mentioned for the summer of 2023, could be further postponed until next fall, the time to obtain a consensus within the Council of Ministers, where divergent opinions are circulating.

The idea of ​​massive regularization would no longer be popular within the Trudeau Cabinet, even if, officially, Immigration Canada ensures that it is still studying the possibilities of regularizing the status of undocumented migrants who contribute to Canadian communities.

[Immigration Canada] is in contact with academic experts and stakeholders to support this work. During our work, we will continue to listen to experts as well as undocumented people themselves.

A quote from Julia Lafortune, spokesperson for Immigration Canada

This looming change of course was also caused by the turmoil created by Ottawa's latest policies related to immigration.

The targets of Permanent immigration and the historic number of temporary migrants have been openly criticized by several provinces. The Trudeau government has also promised to cap the number of foreign students (New window) in order to reduce pressure on housing demand.

These possible regularizations should therefore be integrated into future federal immigration levels, we told Radio-Canada.

In Quebec, the Legault government has never publicly supported this federal desire to regularize migrants without status. “We are still awaiting details regarding this program. Once they are known, we will analyze them,” explains the spokesperson for Christine Fréchette, Quebec Minister of Immigration.

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Among those currently without status, we find agricultural workers who remained in Canada after the expiration of their work permit.

Since 2017 and the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers via Roxham Road, the number of undocumented immigrants would also have increased significantly.

According to a compilation produced by Radio-Canada, nearly 97,000 asylum seekers saw their applications rejected, withdrew their applications or did not appear at the hearing examining their possible refugee status, between 2017 and 2023 .

These data do not take into account the approximately 144,000 asylum seekers who arrived last year, a record in Canada, since their files do not has not yet been processed by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

In the event of a refusal – asylum seekers can often appeal this decision – an enforceable removal order is issued by the Border Services Agency (CBSA), although stays may be granted depending on the circumstances.

To date, nearly 51,000 foreign nationals, including approximately 46,000 rejected applicants, are subject to enforceable removal orders, says CBSA.

In addition, nearly 18,000 rejected asylum seekers benefit from a legislative reprieve from removal, specifies the CBSA, which does not know whether all of these people are still living in Canada.

With no exit controls, it is difficult to confirm that they are still in Canada.

A quote from Guillaume Bérubé, CBSA spokesperson

While thousands of people are currently wanted by Canadian authorities, others are also stuck in the country due to a moratorium. This is the case, for example, of Haitians who cannot be expelled to their country of origin due to local conflicts.

Some have also been able to leave Canada clandestinely towards the United States, sometimes through these criminal networks which have multiplied at the land border or thanks to “humanitarian smugglers”, as revealed by Investigationthe fall past.

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