Both Canada and the U.S. are countries that have been built by immigrants but Canada’s immigration system has a better functioning system than the United States.
While Canadian immigration is designed to welcome newcomers as future citizens, the U.S. underground economy sees millions of illegal non-citizens unable to fully join American society, vote or become citizens.
Unfortunately, the past few years under the previous government have seen the Canadian immigration system start to resemble the U.S. system and look less like the Canadian ideal.
In the mid-2000s, during a period of high unemployment, the number of temporary foreign workers coming to Canada began to increase. By the end of 2014, over 353,000 people in Canada were admitted under the Temporary Foreign Worker and International Mobility programs. In recent years, the temporary worker population was greater than the annual number of immigrants.
In 2014, the Harper government shut down the program due to a wave of public outrage after companies refused to hire Canadians for service jobs by bringing in non-Canadians to “temporarily” fill what should be permanent positions.
The Liberal government recently rolled back some of those Conservative fixes, but only temporarily. Seasonal industries are now free to hire temporary foreign workers, even in areas of high unemployment.
The Trudeau government plans to spend the next few months studying the issue and drafting an improved policy on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). In order to understand what Canada’s rules on temporary foreign workers could look like, I it is important to adhere to some of the principles that have made immigration policies a positive force for the economy and society.
It is also important to acknowledge that there will always be certain businesses that genuinely need short-term help from overseas, some in highly-skilled fields and some for recurring but short-term work in areas such as agriculture. As much as possible, temporary foreign workers should be encouraged to become Canadians. Additionally employers should not be able to keep wage levels low by bringing in workers who enjoy fewer rights than Canadians.
In 2014, Canada accepted 260,000 new permanent residents under all categories as our per capita immigration rate rose to just over 0.7 per cent of the Canadian population. This is consistent with levels in previous years.
The Trudeau government plans to accept between 280,000 and 305,000 newcomers, in 2016, close to .85 per cent of the population featuring an increased intake of refugees.
In comparison, in 2013 the U.S. saw just over 990,000 newcomers become “lawful permanent residents.” With a population that is nine times the size of Canada’s, this makes the U.S. rate of legal immigration 0.31 per cent – less than half the Canadian level.
These figures cover only legal immigration which in the USA is not the entire picture. According to the Pew Research Center, there were also 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. in 2014. Unauthorized immigrants are believed to make up 5.1 per cent of America’s labour force.
The Canadian numbers of undocumented workers are believed to be far lower and unlike the U.S., this is not a political issue –probably because the numbers are so small, and the path to legal immigration and full citizenship for skilled worker, more open.
It is clear that while both Canada and the U.S. are high immigration countries – the Canadian model has given rise to a higher rate of immigration with far less social dislocation. Canada welcomes large numbers of newcomers into the Canadian family, in a legal and orderly manner, whereas the U.S. only accepts relatively small numbers of legal immigrants, while simultaneously being home to huge number of long-term, illegal entrants.
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