Immigration Minister John McCallum announced a “significant shift” in the federal government’s immigration policy, aimed at reuniting more families.

Speaking in Brampton, Ont., on Tuesday, McCallum said that Ottawa plans to welcome between 280,000 and 305,000 permanent residents by the end of 2016, a 7.4 per cent increase from the 2015 admission target.

“Indeed, it is the highest number of projected immigrant admissions put forth by the Government of Canada in modern times,” he said.

According to a breakdown of the new immigration plan posted on the government’s website, economic immigrants will still make up the majority of newcomers. Approximately 160,000 of them, including high-skilled workers and caregivers, are expected to arrive in Canada this year.

But special attention will be paid to reuniting more families in 2016. The government says it will increase admissions for sponsored spouses, partners and dependents, and help reduce application processing times. Under the family immigration class, Ottawa aims to welcome 60,000 sponsored spouses, parents and children, as well as 20,000 parents and grandparents by the end of the year.

McCallum said that family reunification backlogs will be reduced as more individuals are admitted to the country.

However, in an appearance on CTV's Power Play later Tuesday, immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges said the government's shift in policy towards family reunification will come at the cost of other immigrants.

"Immigration is like a pie and the government often has to make really difficult decision on how to slice that pie and who gets a bigger piece -- economic immigrants, refugees or family reunification," said Desloges.

"I think the government, in this particular instance, has chosen to just bake a bigger pie, but even with baking a bigger pie they still had to make some difficult decisions to reduce economic immigration in favour of family reunification and refugees."

Desloges said this approach spells a "radical ideological departure" from recent years when economic immigrants made up about 70 per cent of the government's quota. She added that the government's new figures could see that percentage drop to as low as 54 per cent.

"I'm frankly quite astonished by this levels plan. If you look at it not in terms of just only numbers but also in percentages of overall immigration … that's a significant change," she said.

Deloges added shift in strategy will likely be "very controversial" because many pundits and some studies show that bringing in immigrants with lower skill levels tends to lead to "lower economic outcomes" such as "dragging down wages overall."

"I think that people who really emphasize economic immigration are going to be very unhappy with this decision," said Desloges.

"But at the same time, I respect the government's decision to emphasize more family reunification as well."

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said the plan wasn't "well thought out" and there has to be a "balance" between economic and humanitarian immigrants, as well as refugees.

"Economic immigration is important for the long-term and I think today's decision … (is) really short-sighted," Rempel said on CTV's Power Play Tuesday.

Desloges also said caregivers and parents in need of sponsorship are "two biggest losers" in the government's new policy.

In particular, she said the number of caregivers that will be accepted has been "cut" and predicted there will be an additional backlog. The government says it plans to accept 22,000 caregivers in 2016.

"Caregivers have extraordinarily long delays in processing their permanent residence applications, and most of these are women who are separated from their families during their processing too," said Desloges.

"So there are obvious humanitarian factors."

McCallum also said Tuesday that Canada remains committed to resettling refugees. The 2016 admissions target for refugees and protected persons is nearly 60,000. That includes nearly 25,000 government-assisted refugees, 44,800 resettled refugees and 17,800 privately-sponsored refugees.

At the end of February, the Liberal government reached its goal of welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.

McCallum acknowledged Tuesday that there have been “challenges” in the process, especially when it comes to housing.

But he said that 62 per cent of Syrian refugees have now gone on to permanent housing and the number of cities and towns accepting refugees has increased across the country.