“Immigrants have been a driving force in Canada’s nationhood and its economic prosperity—as farmers settling lands, as workers in factories fuelling industrial growth, as entrepreneurs and as innovators helping Canada to compete in the global, knowledge-based economy.”
~Report on Plans and Priorities 2014–2015
Immigration is often associated with negative consequences, but the truth is, increased immigration can greatly benefit a country through economic gains, cultural diversity, and a higher standard of living. In addition, the instability of some countries suffering from civil war or ethnic cleansing, creates an immediate need for countries to accept these migrants as a matter of basic humanity. Canada continues to step up to the plate.
The world is seeing the largest number of refugees since World War II, from war torn countries like Syria and Iraq, looking for a better life. Countries historically founded on the promise of a better life, such as Canada, are implementing strategies and policies to make these refugees’ pathway to permanent residency easier than ever before. It’s become more than simply a change in legislature, but rather an extension of the population’s culturally diverse and inclusive mentality; one that should be mirrored by other countries.
This trend of extending its nation’s hospitality is not a new phenomenon for Canada, a country that has welcomed those being persecuted from their native land, dating as far back as 1776 during the American Revolution. The Canadian people are warm and generous as well as welcoming to newcomers.
Chris Alexander, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration recognized Canada’s more recent immigration track record stating the country has, “…an overall admissions range that has remained consistent since 2006, and represents the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history.” An accomplishment that warrants highlighting and should be applauded.
Unfortunately, refugees seeking asylum in this world is at a record high with 51.2 million people seeking refuge from conflict or persecution. In fact, if displaced people had their own country, it would be the 24th most populous in the world. Middle Eastern countries are particularly in disarray right now with civil war forcing an average of 32,200 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, either within the borders of their countries or in other countries. Developing countries host over 86% of the world’s refugees, compared to 70% ten years ago.
Canada shows a continued commitment to providing the opportunity for people of all nationalities and need to settle within its borders.
In 2011, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6,775,800 people representing 20.6% of the total population (1 out of 5), the highest proportion among the G8 countries and in 2012, Canada had the highest immigration rate per capita in the world. But, not even these statistics are the most notable. In fact, in 2013, Canada and the United States was home to only 5% of the world’s people, yet hosted almost a quarter of the world’s migrants according to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB). That’s an astounding point of reference.
And, the data continues to impress. Remarkably, Canada annually takes in roughly one out of every 10 refugees with countries worldwide resettling about 100,000 refugees from abroad each year. As of July 2014, there were 160,279 refugees and 17,468 asylum seekers residing in Canada. In addition, Canada routinely works with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to prevent emerging refugee situations from escalating in the first place. Also, by launching initiatives like the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program, which matches refugees identified for resettlement by the UNHCR with private sponsors in Canada.
Alexander has commented that, “Our refugee program will remain one of the most generous on earth. The new asylum system that came into effect in December 2012 will continue to provide genuine refugees with timelier protection, as it curtails abuse of the system. With a large drop in asylum claims from designated countries of origin that do not normally produce refugees, we will be able to devote more resources to refugee claimants who truly need Canada’s protection.”
The Migrant Integration Policy Index, or MIPEX, has even taken notice ranking Canada sixth among 38 developed countries in providing migrants with equal rights, support, and opportunity.
While new immigration policies have made becoming a permanent Canadian citizen a more stringent process, acceptance rates continue to grow for refugees from countries seeking safe haven. The Migration Policy Institute ranks Canada as the eighth leading destination for immigrants in the world with the U.S., Russia, and Germany taking the first three spots. But, the world’s refugees aren’t as spread out as one might suspect. The top 10 refugee-hosting countries combined, hosted 58% of all refugees in 2014 and by mid-2014, Canada had 177,747 refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and internally displaced persons.
This is a trend in Canada that is expected to only continue. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced in November that the country will welcome between 260,000 and 285,000 new permanent residents in 2015, up from 262,000 permanent resident visas issued in 2014.
Most of these migrants (63%) will come under economic categories, 26% under family class, and about 11% under humanitarian need. The fact is, Canada remains one of the leading countries in the developed world for labor market integration, anti-discrimination, and creating a sense of belonging for newcomers.
In his opening statement of the 2014–2015 Report on Plans and Priorities for CIC Alexander, made continuing this success a top priority, “We will continue to move forward with our Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification, which will reunite families more quickly while reducing backlogs and improving processing times.” Speeding up processing times and bringing families together can only enhance the immigration process and lead to even more interest by foreign-born people to permanently reside in Canada.
Alexander also saw settlement as an important avenue to build upon in order to improve Canada’s immigration system through proactive means, “Building on our National Settlement Conference in the fall of 2013, we are planning improvements to our integration and settlement systems. A particular focus is on finding innovative ways to begin the settlement process overseas, before immigrants arrive in Canada.”
This pre-departure program Alexander is referring to enables migrants to have a better chance of integrating into a new culture prior to making the move. Also, visitors are now automatically considered for a multiple-entry visa, an option that allows qualified visitors to enter and remain in the country for six months at a time for up to 10 years. Programs like these have countries such as Sweden taking a hard look at possibly replicating them in their own country.
Enhancing the country’s immigration process not only provides an environment of goodwill among Canadians, but is beneficial for Canada’s economy and fiscal future. Alexander notes, “We plan to welcome 63% of newcomers via our economic immigration programs. This includes record levels for two of our most successful and fastest-growing programs: the Canadian Experience Class and the Provincial Nominee Program.”
The Canadian Experience Class allows those with Canadian work experience to become permanent residents and under the Provincial Nominee Program a province or territory can nominate people to immigrate to Canada that have the skills, education, and work experience needed to contribute to the economy of that province or territory.
More than 50% of Canadian immigrants are highly educated, putting the country at the top among the 34 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. As well, a significant number of the almost 100,000 foreign students visiting Canada each year decide to stay after getting a degree from one of the country’s world-class universities.
One reason, Canada’s labor market offers a great deal of mobility to its workers and provides a positive work environment that’s desired by immigrants. The increase in foreign-born laborers continues to help rebuild Canada’s population between the age of 20 and 44 years-old that was previously declining. This age group accounts for the majority of any country’s workers. According to a survey by Canada’s Federation of Independent Business, one out of 20 jobs remains unfilled because of an inability to find suitably skilled labor. Ultimately, without immigration, Canada’s natural population growth would not be enough to sustain economic growth and welfare.
Canada is a shining example of acceptance and collaboration through its immigration system. Its diverse programs that enable migrants to seek permanent residency easily and quickly are a testament to the openness of the country’s natural born residents. According to the Better Life Index, Canada ranks above the average in housing, subjective well-being, personal security, health status, income and wealth, social connections, environmental quality, jobs and earnings, education and skills, and civic engagement. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Canadians gave life in their country a 7.3 grade. Thus, it’s no wonder residents of other countries would be interested in making a new start there. Opportunities are boundless and the hospitality one of a kind. We should all be so lucky as to make a go of it in Canada.