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Immigration Minister Marc Miller says the federal government will not yet be pursuing a potential federal program that would give immigrants in Canada illegally the right to stay amid backlash within its own party. 

Miller presented the proposed program to cabinet last week, which was met with strong opposition from some MPs, the minister said in an interview with the Globe and Mail

The program would offer former international students whose study permits have expired and rejected asylum claimants an application process to remain in Canada.

However, no such program has been finalized as the discussion between ministers remains ongoing and divisive. Miller said in the Globe interview that it may take months before anything is introduced.

In the meantime, Miller has chosen to take a pause on the matter as “views that I respect, people that care about these issues that are radically opposed and diametrically opposed, and not necessarily from people that (you) would necessarily think would have that thought process,” he said.

Migrants who have lived in Canada for several years and those with children born here would qualify for the proposed “regularization” program as a pathway to permanent residency. 

In 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructed then-immigration minister Sean Fraser to “further explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers who are contributing to Canadian communities.” 

While a program to do so was initially expected to be in play already, Miller said that it won’t be getting “rolled out soon,” likely in response to Canadians’ shifting attitude towards immigration. 

Numerous polls have indicated that many Canadians’ views on the current immigration levels have become negative. One poll recently found immigration has become a higher concern than climate change. 

In an interview with a French outlet last week, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said that immigration numbers will be “much lower” if he becomes prime minister.

“It’s impossible to invite 1.2 million new people to Canada every year. When you’re building 200,000 housing units, it’s impossible. There’s no room. Quebec is at its breaking point,” said Poilievre in an interview in French.

The federal government has frozen its target number of 500,000 new permanent residents per year for 2026, in addition to reducing the number of international study permits. 

“If there is a clear conclusion, I will be quite clear to Canadians about it, but there isn’t one right now,” said Miller. “What I do know is that given the ongoing discussions, and they are ongoing – they have not come to an end – it isn’t something that I have any confidence will be rolled out in the short term.”

According to Miller, the number of migrants living in Canada illegally is unknown, but estimates range anywhere from 300,000 to 600,000. 

However, he argues that if Canadians better “educate” themselves on the potential program then they would be more likely to support it. 

“I’ve seen polling of relative levels of sophistication, to be polite, that do show that Canadians are divided. I think what they also show is that when you educate Canadians, they seem to be more inclined to support regularization,” said Miller.

Perhaps that could also solve the issue for those who oppose the program within the Liberal cabinet.