Canada’s new plan to welcome nearly one million immigrants over the next three years, has been hailed and flailed around the world despite the Liberal government assurances that it will help offset an aging demographic.
“This historic multi-year immigration levels plan will benefit all Canadians because immigrants will contribute their talents to support our economic growth and innovation, helping to keep our country at the forefront of the global economy, said Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
The new plan aims to build upon the current projections for 300,000 permanent residents in 2017 by increasing the number of new permanent residents welcomed to Canada over a three-year period, beginning with an increase to 310,000 immigrants in 2018, 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020.
“This is an important step in the right direction, which reaffirms Canada’s belief in immigration and citizenship as a principle which has helped to build, and which will continue to build, the country,” said the Institute for Canadian Citizenship
“We, probably in the world, have one of the best immigration programs not only in terms of our selection processes but also in terms of our settlement and integration programs where we work with immigrants,” said Debbie Douglas, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.
But not everyone shares the optimism.
The federal government’s own Advisory Council on Economic Growth had recommended upping levels to reach 450,000 newcomers annually by 2021. Hussen said the government is taking a more gradual approach to ensure successful integration.
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel was critical of the plan, suggesting the government needs to do a better job of integrating newcomers.
“It is not enough for this government to table the number of people that they are bringing to this country. Frankly the Liberals need to stop using numbers of refugees, amount of money spent, feel-good tweets and photo ops for metrics of success in Canada’s immigration system.”
She said the Liberals need to bring Canada’s immigration system “back to order” by closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that has seen migrants cross into Canada at unofficial border crossings only to claim refugee status.
She also said the immigration system should focus on helping immigrants integrate through language efficiency and through mental health support plans for people who are victims of trauma.
Dory Jade, the CEO of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, welcomed the news although he suggested the numbers should be higher.
“Canada will greatly prosper and grow once the 350,000 threshold has been crossed,” he said. “Nevertheless, we are witnessing a very positive trend.”
The Canadian Council of Refugees also welcomed the news, but wanted more, saying the share for refugees was only increased slightly from 13 per cent this year to 14 per cent in each of the next three years.
During the government’s consultation period, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance presented “Vision 2020,” what it called a “bold” three-year plan to address growing demographic shifts underway in the country, calling for increased numbers in the economic, family and refugee categories.
Chris Friesen, the organization’s director of settlement services, said it’s time for a white paper or royal commission on immigration to develop a comprehensive approach to future immigration.
“Nothing is going to impact this country [more] besides increased automation and technology than immigration will and this impact will grow in response to [the] declining birth rate, aging population and accelerated retirements,” he told CBC News.
Last month, Statistics Canada reported that based on 2016 census data, 21.9 per cent of Canada’s population is now foreign-born, reflecting the highest percentage of immigrant population in nearly a century.
Kareem El-Assal, a senior research manager specializing in immigration for the Conference Board of Canada, said it is “absolutely imperative” that Canada ups its intake in order to meet future labour needs.
But the system must become more adept at matching newcomers with local and provincial needs, he said, improving outcomes by selecting more people with pre-arranged jobs, recruiting more international students and giving provinces a greater say in who comes to the country.
Coming to Canada
• Immigration has had an immeasurable effect on Canada. In 2017, Canada stands as a country of 36.5 million people and a world leader on various scales. In fact, one in five Canadians is foreign-born, the highest among the G7.
• The aging of our population and a declining fertility rate will continue to have a significant impact on Canada’s economy. In 1971, there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior. By 2012, the worker-to-retiree ratio had dropped to 4.2 to 1, and projections put the ratio at 2 to 1 by 2036, at which time five million Canadians are set to retire. In recent years, more than 80 per cent of the immigrants we admit have been under 45 years of age.
• Immigration also helps to spur innovation domestically. For example, while immigrants account for approximately 20 percent of Canada’s population, they are a major source of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, representing around 50 percent of all STEM degree-holders in Canada at the bachelor’s level and above. These skills are important in a knowledge economy. Immigrants also have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than their Canadian-born counterparts.
• Canada is unique among immigrant-receiving countries in placing great emphasis on providing assistance to recently arrived immigrants to weather their migration transition period. Settlement services, such as language training, employment services and newcomer orientation are linked to immigrant success. In 2016-17, more than 412,000 permanent residents accessed at least one settlement service in Canada. When surveyed, 91 percent of Settlement Program clients reported being able to make informed decisions on a wide variety of subjects, including education, health care and housing. And 87 percent of clients who were in Canada for one year or more reported being able to use an official language to function and participate in Canadian society
Republished under arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post.
Marcus is a poet, editor and freelance journalist based in Toronto. He currently works with New Canadian Media as an Administrative Assistant.