August 21, 2017 – The Canada immigration program’s ability to integrate newcomers is questioned in a federal government report.
The document reiterates the point that successful integration is down to both the new immigrant and the existing society. This highlights the importance of the role Canadians have to play in successful immigration policy.
With Canada on target to welcome 300,000 new immigrants in 2017, the speed at which these newcomers are integrated into society is crucial to the country’s economy.
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The 2014 report, named’ Evidence-Based Levels and Mix: Absorptive Capacity’, suggests more needs to be done to ensure new immigrants can get their lives together as soon as possible after arrival.
It highlights key areas including accessibility to housing, language problems, healthcare, religious difficulties and navigating transit systems.
Another key issue raised in the report is how a clear majority of immigrants settle in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The challenge of getting newcomers to disperse around the country is not new, and requires comprehensive joined up thinking at federal, provincial and local level.
To address the problem, the report calls for improved information gathering on exactly how provinces and cities are adapting to welcoming immigrants. This would allow the ideas that work to be replicated across the country, and those that do not to be discontinued.
Policymakers are doing what they can the limited information they have, with the Liberal federal government making several tweaks to immigration policy since coming to power.
Canada Immigration Program Tweaks
Tweaks to immigration programs by the current federal government have always held faster integration as a central target.
Under changes made to Canada Express Entry on June 6, 2017, candidates were given the chance to score points for having a sibling in Canada. Such family connections can be crucial when starting a new life in another country.
Previous changes enacted in November 2016 saw the 600 points for a job offer lowered in order to give more weight to core factors such as education and experience. The hypothesis is that better qualified, better experienced individuals will have longer-term integration success than a candidate coming in to do a specific job.
The new Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) launched by the federal government in partnership with Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island comes with the requirement for a settlement plan.
This includes a needs assessment before immigration, before each newcomer is given a plan with information about the community they are moving to and where they can get help after arrival.
Integration and Retention
The settlement plan is also geared towards ensuring AIP candidates stay in the provinces they move to. Integration and retention are undeniably linked in that an integrated immigrant is significantly more likely to also become a retained immigrant.
The majority of new permanent residents end up settling in big cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Although several Canada immigration ministers have tried to tackle the issue, they have all been unsuccessful.
There needs to be considerable joined-up thinking across all levels of government to make it happen.
Provincial policy makers need to create the right conditions and consider a variety of measures for immigrants to remain there.
Some possible policies include:
- Short term provincial tax credits for new residents.
- Offer residential land purchases in outlying areas at below market prices.
- Conditional property tax exemptions.
Given the need to rely on immigration as a tool to meet growing demographic challenges, policy makers in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere must consider the carrot approach.
The immigration tools are in place. They just need to be complemented with input from a much wider range of stakeholders to create the right conditions for immigrants to remain by choice.
This strategy will go a long way to helping ensure the success of Canada’s overall immigration policy objectives.
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