Immigration has always played a crucial role in Canada’s social vitality and economic prosperity. Since Confederation, Canada has welcomed immigrants into communities throughout the country and, in return, immigrants have helped foster growth and build a nation. However, improvements can still be made to our immigration system.
Social issues figure prominently in the immigration discourse of the day. The suggested abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program by some employers has not supported the notion that immigrants are here to supplement, and not supplant, Canadian workers.
Approximately 65 per cent of Canada’s annual net growth can be attributed to immigration. With a rapidly aging population, and one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, immigration certainly helps with Canada’s population growth and by 2035 is set to account for nearly all of it.
Due to its rigorous entry requirements for economic-class immigrants, Canada permits entry to some of the best and brightest immigrants the world has to offer. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, 34 per cent of immigrants hold university degrees compared with 24 per cent of the Canadian-born population. Conference Board research has shown that immigrants tend to be entrepreneurial, motivated, experienced, and enhance business and trade ties between Canada and international markets.
At a time when xenophobia is rising in some quarters of the globe, multiculturalism has been and remains one of Canada’s eminent institutions. In comparison to peer nations, Canada maintains a relatively generous immigration system. Each year, about 10 per cent of newcomers are granted permanent residence status on humanitarian grounds.
On the other hand, research shows that, on average, immigrants today do not make up the wage-gap with their Canadian-born counterparts. This is due to a combination of factors such as challenges in our settlement services, credential recognition issues, language limitations and discrimination.
Many employers and governments across Canada argue for a tailored approach to immigration that meets workforce and regional needs. In the absence of formal jurisdiction over immigration matters, municipalities and communities nationwide are seeking greater roles in attracting and integrating immigrants.
Identifying the best ways to attract immigrants who are able to integrate into the workforce and meet our labour market needs is another issue currently debated. While the new Express Entry system aims to address this matter, concerns are being voiced that it may unintentionally exclude some outstanding immigration candidates, such as international students, entrepreneurs, and other skilled workers already here on temporary visas.
Globally, other countries with demographic challenges similar to Canada’s are re-evaluating their existing policies to better attract skilled immigrants. Canada is already in competition for top-tier international talent with countries such as Australia, Germany, Japan, Sweden and the U.S., and this will only increase in the near future.
Immigration is crucial to Canada’s prosperity. Without immigrants, Canada faces labour shortages, a smaller tax base, and increased strain on our medical system and pension funds. Indeed, in the absence of high immigration levels, Canada’s population will shrink, our economy will suffer, and our standard of living will decline.
A multi-faceted approach to change that incorporates all three levels of government, employers, communities, immigrants, and other stakeholders, is needed to modernize our national immigration program and blaze a new trail.
The Conference Board of Canada’s new National Immigration Centre, a five-year research-intensive initiative, has been launched to develop a National Immigration Action Plan based on evidence and non-partisan analysis. From April 13–15, the Conference Board will host a major, three-day, Canadian Immigration Summit in Ottawa to explore the future of Canada’s immigration system.
Colin Singer Commentary:
Historically our per capita rate was .08%. But Canada’s per capita immigration rate has been declining under the current government. Canada will need to admit 285,000 new immigrants this year, which the government has recently proposed. But new policies call for participation of Canada’s employers to hire immigrants. This may prove to be overly ambitious and result in an under achievement of admission levels. Additional revisions to Canada’s immigration programs may be required.