The rise of Canada’s provincial nominee programs

June 5th, 2019

Canada is often described as a country of provinces.

This statement testifies to the importance and power of the constituent parts of what is a strong but highly decentralized country.

This diffusion of power extends to the domain of immigration. Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867, grants each province of Canada the ability to make laws on immigration to that province, as long as such legislation is not contrary to the laws the federal government has established on immigration.

For over a century this particular provincial authority lay mostly dormant, with the federal government dominating the setting and implementation of immigration policy.

Even today, most immigrants to Canada arrive under solely federal programs, and all immigrants in the provincial programs must also satisfy federal requirements.

This said, the past recent decades have seen each of Canada’s ten provinces and two of its three territories sign agreements with the federal government allowing each province to take considerable control over immigration to that province or territory.

The first province to conclude such an agreement was Quebec, which is majority French-speaking, culturally distinct, and has a history of asserting its autonomy, which it did with the 1971 Lang-Cloutier Agreement.

The 1991 Canada-Quebec Accord gave Quebec the right to select all its economic immigrants using criteria Quebec set, subject to meeting certain federal standards. It also gave Quebec the responsibility (and compensation) for integrating such immigrants.

This agreement serves as a model in many other ways to the agreements the federal government has concluded with the Rest of Canada (ROC) with the caveat that Quebec’s agreement is the most extensive; the other agreements provide for provinces to select some, not all, of the economic immigrants arriving.

The fruits of these federal-provincial (or territorial) agreements with the ROC are the provincial nominee programs, or PNPs.

The idea is for each province to use a certain number of allotted spots and develop programs customized to the individual province’s identity, aspirations, and needs. Thus, a province may identify a specific profession or skill in which it has needs, encourage population growth or investment in a particular area of the province, and retain persons who have studied or worked in the province.

While the PNPs facilitate a minority of immigrants to Canada, the numbers are still significant: the 2019 target is for 61,000 permanent residents to arrive in Canada through PNPs; this number is a notable increase over the previous year’s amount of 55,000.

Of the provinces and territories excluding Quebec, Ontario’s program is the largest, with an allocation of 6,900 permanent residents. Many smaller provinces, however, have made aggressive use of their PNPs.

Manitoba was the first province to inaugurate a PNP, which it did in 1998. Since then, more than 130,000 economic immigrants have arrived in the province, and over 90 per cent have stayed. Twenty per cent have settled in small-town or rural areas, sometimes doubling the previously-struggling population of the locales where they have settled.

The opportunities to immigrate under PNPs are considerable. To help you learn more about your possible PNP options, Canadavisa’s sister publication, CIC News, will be taking a more in-depth look at Canada’s various provincial nominee programs over the coming weeks.

The series begins this week with an overview of how PNPs work. I hope you find it useful.

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