Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/8/2017 (316 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Recently, there has been much discussion about immigration into Canada, particularly as it relates to refugees — both crossing from the U.S., or those from Syria. It is important to note that every country has its own unique capacity to accept immigration, which is called the absorption rate. This is not the ability of a country to assimilate people, but rather to allow these new groups to obtain jobs, find housing and obtain education — in short, to build a life.
In Canada we celebrate our diversity, and no one expects immigrants to give up their culture. For the most part, newcomers work harder and are involved in less crime than native-born Canadians.
There are several countries that are outstanding in their ability to accept and absorb new immigrants and refugees (not just temporary foreign workers): Australia, where 27.7 per cent of the population is foreign-born; Canada, with 20 per cent; New Zealand at 24 per cent; and the U.S. at 14 per cent (the U.S. accepts by far the largest number of immigrants).
It is worth noting that all of these countries are predominantly English-speaking; Germany is the highest-ranking non-English-speaking country, at 14.9 per cent; however, this includes their guest workers and those "Germans" who were repatriated after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Very few countries in the world can come close to matching Canada’s generosity and openness to newcomers.
There are two elements to the absorption equation. One is the accepting country: do they embrace diversity (which Canada clearly does), do they have settlement programs and are they open to newcomers? With the exception of our rather regressive official language policies, we do a very good job in all categories of helping newcomers, spending billions every year on programs.
The other side of the absorption equation is the newcomers themselves. Those who can find their way more easily allow any country to accept more immigrants and refugees. There are some basic parameters we use in Canada, such as newcomers having reasonable language skills, education and training equivalent to ours, as well as a good work or business background, adequate funds for settlement and strong family connections in Canada.
People who meet these standards successfully establish themselves quickly. Selecting these immigrants and refugees has made us the envy of the world. It is when we deviate from this that we create problems for ourselves — and our newcomers.
On the flip side are those who don’t adapt well. There are two groups that have difficulty. The first is Quebec investors. This cohort is selected by Quebec, but only 10 to 20 per cent of them live there. The largest portion migrate to Vancouver. Members of this group generally have low language skills and substantial connections, assets and business interests in their countries of origin.
They tend to pay minimal income tax (as a group they pay less income tax than live-in caregivers), buy up properties and spend most of their economic efforts outside of Canada. The Canadian passport is a passport of convenience for them. This is causing strain on B.C.’s lower mainland, but sadly, the Quebec government continues unabated with this program.
The second group of note are government-assisted refugees. Since 2002, Canada surrendered its right to select refugees partly based on their ability to become economically established. This led to a situation where only 10 per cent of Syrian government-assisted refugees are working; by any standard, this is a problem, and will only lead to discontent among the Syrian population.
Both the Quebec immigrant investor program and our refugee programs should require applicants to demonstrate their adaptability. For Quebec investors, there needs to be greater focus on ensuring that the investors settle in Quebec and pay income tax. If Quebec cannot find a way to do this, then their agreement with the federal government must be renegotiated.
Quebec has the right to select its own immigrants, but does not have the constitutional right to select B.C.’s immigrants.
Refugees selected before 2002 have established themselves remarkably well in Canada. The change of policy to dispense with any measure on who can become economically established has put pressure on our system. Isn’t it better to select refugees who can adapt more easily than ones who don’t?
The current refugee selection process is not sustainable and will lead to an increasing outcry by Canadians.
Canadians should be proud of our role in accepting large numbers of immigrants and refugees every year. But we need to protect our openness and not fall victim to the noise of nationalism. To do so requires Canada to select immigrants and refugees who will do well — something that is not too much to expect from our governments.
Almost all Canadians are proud of our diversity, our inclusiveness and our acceptance of a multicultural society.
Almost every day, as I interact with people, I marvel at our amazing country where people from around the world live in peace and harmony. No longer selecting immigrants and refugees who adapt well can and will lead to problems down the road.
Randy Boldt is the owner of Visamax Ltd., a licensed immigration company in Winnipeg.