FIRST READING: Canada is scaring away its new immigrants
With rising numbers of newcomers already planning to move out, many new immigrants aren't bothering to seek citizenship
As Canada ratchets up immigration to the highest levels in its history, surprising new figures from Statistics Canada are showing that nearly half of all recent immigrants are no longer bothering to seek Canadian citizenship.The numbers were publicized this week by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. And according to the group’s CEO Daniel Bernhard, they may be a sign that the Canadian dream is no longer working out for newcomers.
“What’s changing is that people have decided that they’re less interested in being ‘Team Canada,’” Bernhard said in a statement, adding that the figures are a “wake up” call to the Canadian immigrant experience is treating new arrivals.
In 2021, of the permanent residents who had come to Canada within the last 10 years, just 45.7 per cent had become citizens. In 2001, that figure was 75.1 per cent.
It’s not the first time that evidence has emerged to show that new immigrants are not as enthralled with Canada as in prior decades.
A March Leger survey
— also commissioned by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship — found that more than one fifth of recent immigrants were already making plans to leave. Among under-34 immigrants, in particular, 30 per cent said they were “likely” to leave Canada within the next two years.
As to why, newcomers are citing the same concerns with the country as native-born Canadians: Skyrocketing housing costs and diminishing access to government services such as health care.
In the Leger poll, even among immigrants who wanted to stay, their number one reservation was “high cost of living.”
In a bid to boost GDP, the Trudeau government has already raised Canada’s immigration intake to the highest levels in Canadian history, and is on track to bring in 500,000 newcomers annually by 2025. Absent any dramatic policy changes, this influx will likely worsen many of the issues that are already beginning to scare away new Canadians.
On Tuesday, CIBC CEO Victor Dodig warned
that if Canada continued packing in immigrants without a viable plan to absorb them, it could spur an unprecedented “social crisis.”
“New Canadians want to establish a life here, they need a roof over their heads. We need to get that policy right and not wave the flag saying isn’t it great that everyone wants to come to Canada,” Dodig said at an event hosted by Canadian Club Toronto.
One other factor potentially driving down rates of immigrants seeking citizenship is that Canada’s immigrant stream is increasingly coming from countries that do not tolerate dual citizenship, thus prompting many newcomers to remain permanent residents in perpetuity.
The chief examples are India and China. Indian nationals are required to surrender
their Indian passport the moment they become Canadian citizens. Chinese prohibitions on dual citizenship were illustrated most glaringly in 2021
, when the Beijing government tightened its control on Hong Kong by forcing 300,000 residents with joint Canadian citizenship to either leave or tear up their Canadian passport.
Both countries now represent a significant share of Canada’s current immigrant influx. As per 2021 figures,
18.6 per cent of recent Canadian immigrants reported India as their birthplace, while 8.9 per cent reported being born in China.
For context, just three per cent of recent immigrants were born in the United States.
In 2022, Canada officially welcomed 431,645 immigrants. Notably, the last time in Canadian history that immigration levels were this high — during the settling of the prairies in the years preceding the First World War – it was also paired with surging levels of outmigration as many newcomers swiftly abandoned their new Canadian homesteads.
“A lot of people left; outmigration was as high as in-migration for a very, very long time,” Adele Perry, a researcher of Western Canadian history, told the National Post in 2012.