Canadian Immigration Policy: Micro and Macro Issues with the Points Based Assessment System

Article excerpt


With the goal of attracting skilled immigrants who can address gaps in the national labour force, Canada has adopted a points based assessment (PBA) system as part of its immigration policy since 1967. In contrast to the United States, which pursues an employer-driven immigration policy, the Canadian policy allows potential immigrants to assess their prospects of success in the Canadian labour market using the PBA, and once accepted, to land in Canada without having first procured employment. I trace the historical and economic reasons behind the development of current Canadian immigration policy and the points based assessment system and examine the PBA's shortcomings in its adherence to the rubrics of assessment standards such as reliability and construct validity. I conclude that the micro issues of the PBA are reflective of an overall Canadian immigration policy that is unsustainable and inequitable in its approach to foreign skilled workers.


C'est dans le but d'attirer de nouveaux immigrants qualifies qui remplissent les besoins de la main d oeuvre dans tout le pays que le Canada a adopte depuis 1967 une politique d'immigration partiellement basee sur un systeme devaluation a points (EP). Contrairement a celle des EtatsUnis axee sur les employeurs, la politique canadienne permet a des immigrants potentiels d'evaluer leurs chances de succes dans le marche du travail domestique a partir de l'EP et, une fois qu'ils ont ete acceptes, de venir au Canada sans s'etre auparavant assures d'un emploi. Je retrace les raisons historiques et economiques sous-jacentes au developpement de cette politique actuelle, ainsi qu'a ce systeme base sur un calcul de points, et j'examine les defauts de l'EP dans son respect des normes devaluation tel les que la fiabilite et une validite conceptuelle. J'en conclus que les micro-problemes de l'EP sont symptomatiques d'une politique generale d'immigration canadienne qui n'est ni tenable, ni equitable dans sa demarche envers les travailleurs etrangers qualifies.


1967 saw extensive reforms in Canadian immigration policy. Whereas before immigration to Canada was open only to citizens of the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, the United States, and a few other countries in Northwestern Europe, under the Pearson administration, Canada opened its borders to the rest of the world. This was purposive reform, driven not only by an increasingly liberal Canadian culture and government policy, but also by a growing recognition that to meet Canada's economic challenges, more and more of its labour shortages and occupational gaps would have to be filled by hiring skilled immigrants. In this way, the new policies were intended to control and shape the flow of immigrants to Canada in a directed way so as to address occupational gaps in the economy (Green and Green 1995), and were a turn away from an existing policy that was uncomfortably focused on race, religion and ethnicity (Kelly and Trebilcock 1998). This new policy would profoundly affect the racial and cultural makeup of Canada, as would similar concurrent reforms in the United States.

A critical component of the new immigration policy was a Points Based Assessment (PBA) system that allowed applicants to self-assess their chances of success in Canada by assigning themselves points for different categories of eligibility like age, education and work experience. A prospective immigrant could apply to immigrate to Canada as a skilled worker provided they met the minimum threshold of qualification, currently 67 points of 100 total. Over the years, the PBA has come to define the immigration category for foreign skilled workers in Canada, the category under which it admits the most immigrants (CIC 2012); similar points based assessment systems are now used in the immigration application packages for foreign skilled workers in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark. …