Canada: The North Star of Immigration
Though often overshadowed by its larger neighbour to the south, Canada remains a dream for many seeking a better life – as it should be.
Among the factors making Canada particularly attractive to potential newcomers are its remarkable immigration policy and broad popular support for immigration.
Canada has always been a country of immigrants, although its record in the first 100 years since Confederation (1867) was admittedly mixed, with restrictive quotas against certain groups.
Nevertheless, even in these years, millions of immigrants poured in, building vibrant communities of Irish, Italian, Chinese, and Jewish Canadians, among many other groups.
In 1962 all racial/geographic preferences were eliminated and five years later, in 1967, Canada became the first country in the world to introduce an objective, points-based system for assessing economic immigrants, valuing factors such as education, experience, and linguistic ability.
Since 1967, several jurisdictions have followed Canada’s lead in implementing points-based systems, including Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Within the economic category, Canada has developed several streams that allow it to attract the best and brightest.
Canada also allows its provinces to create and implement economic immigration streams that respond to their aspirations and labour needs.
All provinces have created their own immigration pathways – a testament to the consensus on the benefit, if not necessity, of immigration – and Canada’s smaller provinces are particularly known for their aggressive courting of newcomers.
Since the 1960s, there has existed in Canada a predominantly pro-immigration consensus, reflected in the above policies. While the federal Liberal party has been known as particularly supportive of immigration, the rival Conservative Party has maintained strong, and in some cases increased, levels of immigration when in power.
Canada consequently does not host a strong or well-developed opposition to immigration, as exists in the United States or Europe.
The statistics bear it out: a recent Environics poll indicates nearly three times (44%) as many Canadians think immigration makes Canada a better place over those who believe it makes Canada a worse place (15%).
A considerable majority (59%) of Canadians disagree with the idea that immigration levels are too high. A grand total of three per cent of those surveyed believe immigration/refugees is the most important problem facing to Canada.
This is not to say that there are not areas of disagreement or dispute; in particular, the influx of refugees coming via United States has raised popular concern and ire. The majority-French and culturally distinct Quebec province grapples with the appropriate number of immigrants to take and the manner in which to absorb them.
While some advocate reductions in numbers of immigrants to Canada, no serious politician opposes immigration wholesale. Comparisons to the nativist or anti-immigrant rhetoric emanating from (some) conservative and leftist circles in the United States is not apt.
Generally speaking, the debate in Canada is not on the appropriateness of immigration, but rather the best way to attract and retain immigrants in ways that strengthen Canada.
Indeed, Jason Kenney, the new conservative premier of Alberta, served as Canada’s Minister of Immigration from 2008-2013 and was known for his outreach to immigrant and ethnic communities.
Doug Ford, the new premier of Ontario, leads a movement known for drawing support from the same. Both men are considered right-wing and populist.
What explains Canada’s hospitality to immigration and immigrants? Factors, among others, include:
A recognition that a low birth rate and concurrent ageing population mean that Canada’s economy and future well-being necessitate immigrants, who due to Canada’s progressive system, tend to be particularly situated to contribute economically.
A government policy of multiculturalism, enshrined in the Constitution of Canada and federal and provincial legislation, which encourages immigrants and their descendants to retain their identities and ways, while participating in broader Canadian society.
Canada also encourages newcomers to fully integrate into Canada by becoming citizens. Such individuals can, and do, of course vote, and consequently, politicians are required to be sensitive to the needs of immigrant communities and court new immigrants. Over one in five Canadians is originally from somewhere else.
The reasons to come to Canada are legion – and the pathways to do so, as well.
There are around 80 different streams through which immigrants may come to Canada.
That’s 80 different doors for entering Canada legally — all of which are open.
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