Canada ranks as the world’s eleventh biggest economy, and is above the US and most European nations in terms of the economic freedoms afforded to its residents. Canada’s strong services in the manufacturing and energy sectors have propelled it up the global economic ladder, with its logging and oil industries making it one of the few developed countries that are net exporters of energy.
One contributing factor in Canada’s status as an economic powerhouse and member of the G7 is arguably its pioneering and successful immigration and integration policies. And these policies are a reflection of its attitude towards immigration.
Support for immigration in Canada has been consistently high over the past 15 to 20 years, with public support for immigration in 2010 being at its highest since 1957, according to research published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). The study shows that the majority of Canadians (58%) support high levels of immigration, a figure that has held steady over time and which has been relatively unaffected by economic recessions, the threat of terrorism and negative media coverage of specific immigrant groups.
Support is especially strong among educated Canadians and is consistent in rural and urban regions, irrespective of the levels of concentration of immigrants among the population.
This widespread support of immigration in Canada can be accounted for by two widely held beliefs on immigration. One is the belief that immigration is important to Canada’s economic growth, and the other is the high value placed on Canadian multiculturalism.
Despite being the second-largest country in the world in land mass, Canada’s population is less than 3% of China’s, while being larger in size. And with a population growth rate of 1.2%, Canada has long recognized the need to supplement its local workforce and aging population with the worlds’ best and brightest.
To that end, Canada’s integration programs have been tailored to attract economic immigrants by making the transition to living in Canada as smooth and successful as possible. While most other countries leave migrants to overcome the issues they face in settling in on their own, Canada has set up a significant formal support system for immigrants.
The Canada Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP) assists with the settling in and integrating into the Canadian workforce by providing free orientation to all economic immigrants and their families prior to their arrival in Canada. It provides useful information and online support through partners in Canada, and has offices in India, the Philippines, China and the UK.
The CIIP puts immigrants in touch with Focal Point Partners (FPPs) that act as the first point of contact for CIIP clients. These organizations are key immigrant-serving agencies and colleges set up in each province, and act as hubs, making onward referrals to other education institutions or organizations that serve immigrants depending on their individual needs.
For example, the Community Airport Newcomers Network (C.A.N.N.) facilitates the pre-settlement of all immigrants arriving in Canada at the Vancouver International Airport by offering individualized reception, orientation, information, and referrals to other organizations. The service is offered by a team who speak over 20 languages. A C.A.N.N. officer meets with each newcomer and provides orientation and information based on their unique settlement needs and anticipated challenges. Advice given covers medical insurance, education for adults and children, employment, accreditation, business, etc.
Other such initiatives include the Business Immigrant Integration Support and Active Engagement Integration Project. Advice and assistance is readily available to new immigrants starting their work life, with help provided in getting their credentials assessed, and advice given on professional regulation classes and exams prior to commencing work. Immigrants are also given guidance on Canadian banking, housing, social/national insurance and medical services, among other day-to-day things.
One major initiative for new immigrants is the foreign credential recognition loan project, which offers low-interest loans of up to $15,000 to foreign trained skilled immigrants to help them obtain employment in certain regulated professions in Canada. The loan covers tuition, exam fees, travel expenses, qualification assessments, books and course materials, professional association fees, and living allowance during the period of study, and has flexible repayment terms.
The government also has an online immigration information portal which lists the services from a variety of government and non-government departments, with similar provincial online portals available as well.
While most developed countries view economic migrants as second-class citizens who are a threat to their economy and security, Canada has long realized the true worth of economic immigrants for their economic and cultural value, and has developed a remarkable model that invests in immigrants and values their contribution to society.
And with the new Express Entry system, and a simplified and streamlined process that reduces economic migrant visa processing time from two years to six months, Canada is looking to consolidate its position at the forefront of global economic development. The latest immigration schemes have been developed to attract and bring in the most skilled and talented individuals from all over the world in order for them to contribute to the continued economic growth and social development of Canada.
Since 1991, Quebec has been the only province in Canada with full jurisdiction over its own immigration program. As provinces increasingly spar with the federal government over immigration issues, some experts are calling for similar powers for Ontario.
Looking to examples in Quebec and Prince Edward Island – where the provincial government has almost exclusive powers over its immigrant investor program – immigrant advocates Viresh Fernando and Tim Leahy argue that Ontario’s needs are not being met by the federal program.
While provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan are booming, in recent years Ontario has seen a dramatic decline of immigrants choosing to settle in Canada’s most populous province. Just a decade ago, Ontario welcomed approximately half of all newcomers. By 2012, that share had dropped to 38 percent.
If Ontario were able to implement and oversee it’s own provincial investor program, argue Fernando and Leahy, employers and governments would be able to not only target the workers needed in potential projects such as the Ring of Fire mining development, but also bring in the investment needed to boost these initiatives.
When the federal government closed its Immigrant Investor Program this year, a potential $8 billion dollars was lost. Ontario, and other provinces looking for investors, could benefit with a much more targeted and efficient program tailored to its own needs moving forward.
While Quebec’s powers are part of a larger and deep-rooted power struggle between the provinces, it could provide a strong example for the potential and success of immigration programs run at the provincial level.
Source: Toronto Star